2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:36
Which automaker wouldn't want a little more sportiness in the model series? Potent sports versions are one thing, but many manufacturers rely on their own racing series for image building.
By Stefan Grundhoff
No other brand has positioned itself through its image in the past few years as Mini. The small BMW offshoot has developed into a real bestseller. In Europe, Asia and the USA, the small Bavarian with production facilities in Oxford, UK, is considered a true money printing machine. The affluent customers do not look to euros, yen or dollars. The image is brilliant.
Valuable building block
The tradition of the old Mini is far less important than the new brand image. Anyone who buys a Mini is trendy and sporty - that's the simple thesis. The Mini Challenge seems to have made a not insignificant contribution to this. Because for years the mini fans have been out and about on German and European racetracks on summer weekends.
“The Mini Challenge is a valuable component in the communication mix around the Mini brand,” says Mini spokesman Cypselus von Frankenberg, “It is an excellent tool to get people excited about Mini. Of course, we also convey certain content - for example that the Mini is much more than a trendy vehicle."
It's no different with Seat, the sportiest brand at Volkswagen. Here, too, efforts have been made to establish a presence in motorsport for years. A separate racing series with the name Seat Leon Super Copa starts as part of the DTM. This secures spectators and the financially strong media presence through the wide-ranging race weekend. “For us, the Copa racing series is the ideal platform to show the sportiness of the brand,” says Rolf Dielenschneider, Managing Director of Seat Germany, “the Seat Leon is clearly underrepresented in its segment. We are trying to do additional advertising with the racing versions."
Eight races are supposed to help. “For certain vehicles with a sporty image, practice has to do what the performance data promise,” reports Nick Margetts from industry expert Jato Dynamics."
The examples Renault Clio Cup, Seat Leon Super Copa and especially the Mini Challenge show how great the effort is to put an effective advertising racing series on the wheels. Renault was one of the first manufacturers to bet on a brand cup with the Renault 8 Gordini as early as the mid-1960s.
Since 1974, when the Renault 5 Cup was born, the nimble French have been racing on German racing circuits. But image transfer has stalled in recent years. With sporty series models such as the Renault Twingo RS Cup, which costs just 14,800 euros, Renault wants to reflect more of the sportiness from the racing series and Formula 1 in its product range.
Expensive leisure activities
Racing series after racing series the same picture: week after week the entourage moves from track to track, country to country. The results of the individual races are far less important for the manufacturers than the advertising value itself. In contrast to formula racing, aspiring pilots rarely try to move into higher classes in these racing series.
For most pilots it is an expensive leisure activity that has to be financed through contacts with often local sponsors. If you want to start a year in the Mini Challenge, you should calculate with at least 120,000 to 150,000 euros. Nick Margetts: “It's not so much about the race itself, but about the lifestyle confirmation that you get when you participate or watch. The distance from the production vehicle is generally pleasantly close."
Supervised by dealer teams
Often the involvement in clubsport and racing series also depends on dealers with a particular brand affinity. "Almost all vehicles in the Mini Challenge are looked after by dealer teams who, in turn, invite their customers to the races and use the series as a platform for advertising and customer loyalty," confirms Frankenberg's mini spokesman.
At Seat there is light and shadow when it comes to sporty dealerships. "Some of our dealers are very involved in the racing series, others are not yet enjoying this sportiness," says Dielenschneider. One or the other manufacturer tries to weave the web between motorsport and series models particularly tightly and brings cup models onto the market. With vehicles like the VW Polo GTI CUP, a Porsche 911 GT3 or even the small Renault Twingo RS Cup, you have a vehicle that is road legal and that is already suitable for the race track.
Real effect in salesrooms
Other manufacturers bring out special series that are based on sport versions in terms of optics and technology. But not only the small manufacturers want to miss out on more contour definition with their own racing series. Porsche has been running the Porsche Cup for years. Internationally it goes with the figurehead 911 and renowned drivers on the racetracks of the world. Lamborghini, one of the sportiest premium brands in the world, is also working flat out on a small and exclusive racing series.
The northern Italian neighbor Ferrari has been running this under the name Challenge Trofeo for years - with success. Industry expert Margetts: "The racing series does not have to show any profit for the brand, because the real effect can be seen afterwards in the salesrooms of the brand dealers."
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