PRI Magazine September 2012 : Page 34
WC VISION & PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIPS This month we interview Scott Bove, who came to WC Vision (WCV) with more than 20 years experience in motorsports, including partner-ship development. WC Vision owns the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. As president and CEO, Bove continues to build an environment where both Pirelli World Challenge sponsors and competitors receive value from their involvement. The purpose of the Pirelli World Challenge is to provide teams, manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers with a com-petitive production-based race series where they can prove their products. The Pirelli World Challenge features four sepa-rate classes of competition: Grand Touring (GT), Grand Touring Sport (GTS), Touring Car (TC) and Touring Car B-Spec (TCB). The series is one of North America’s top production car-based championships. Each event is a maximum of 50 minutes in length, with standing starts and many prominent car manu-facturers. The series began in the mid-1980s as the SCCA Endurance Championship and then evolved into the World Challenge in 1990. As a driver, Bove has multiple championships in Porsche club racing, SCCA club racing and NASA. He’s also run com-petitively in USRRC and Grand-Am, where he has competed in three Rolex 24-hour races and was awarded rookie of the race in 1999. Bove drove in the World Challenge GT Championship in 2000 and 2001, helping Porsche win the manufacturers championship in 2000. Bove’s off-track accomplishments motivated SCCA Pro Racing to award him the coveted Jim Cook Award in 2000, for having made signiﬁ cant contributions to the overall success of the World Challenge series. Most recently, Bove utilized his engineering degree and expe-rience in race applications of plastics and foams to develop a safer cockpit environment for the Indy Racing League, along with a safer wall system for oval courses. Performance Racing Industry SCOTT BOVE Scott Bove provides an inside look at the operations of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships, its different divisions, and how the organization adapts to changing market conditions for continued success. 34 | September 2012
Industry Insights: Scott Bove, WC Vision & Pirelli World Challenge Championships
Scott Bove provides an inside look at the operations of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships, its different divisions, and how the organization adapts to changing market conditions for continued success.
This month we interview Scott Bove, who came to WC Vision (WCV) with more than 20 years experience in motorsports, including partnership development. WC Vision owns the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. As president and CEO, Bove continues to build an environment where both Pirelli World Challenge sponsors and competitors receive value from their involvement.
The purpose of the Pirelli World Challenge is to provide teams, manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers with a competitive production-based race series where they can prove their products. The Pirelli World Challenge features four separate classes of competition: Grand Touring (GT), Grand Touring Sport (GTS), Touring Car (TC) and Touring Car B-Spec (TCB). The series is one of North America’s top production car-based championships. Each event is a maximum of 50 minutes in length, with standing starts and many prominent car manufacturers. The series began in the mid-1980s as the SCCA Endurance Championship and then evolved into the World Challenge in 1990.
As a driver, Bove has multiple championships in Porsche club racing, SCCA club racing and NASA. He’s also run competitively in USRRC and Grand-Am, where he has competed in three Rolex 24-hour races and was awarded rookie of the race in 1999. Bove drove in the World Challenge GT Championship in 2000 and 2001, helping Porsche win the manufacturers championship in 2000.
Bove’s off-track accomplishments motivated SCCA Pro Racing to award him the coveted Jim Cook Award in 2000, for having made significant contributions to the overall success of the World Challenge series.
Most recently, Bove utilized his engineering degree and experience in race applications of plastics and foams to develop a safer cockpit environment for the Indy Racing League, along with a safer wall system for oval courses.
In the following interview, Bove explains in detail numerous successful applications of WC Vision’s five-year strategic plan, including sponsor goodwill, entry cost of all four Pirelli World Challenge classes, how to “over deliver” in marketing agreements and much more.
Sit back and enjoy a candid and informative discussion with an executive who has experience behind the wheel as well as from behind the corporate motorsports desk.
PRI: Scott, can you tell us about WC Vision LLC, and its approach to running the Pirelli World Challenge series?
Bove: Sure. The foundation of our business plan was based on us purchasing the marketing rights to the World Challenge Series from SCCA, which had been the sanctioning body and owner of World Challenge. About four years ago, six investors got together and purchased the business from SCCA. Now, when you run a business as a business, it’s run differently than as an extension of a club. It’s not a negative thing, but it is the reality of it. The Pirelli World Challenge is now being run by businessmen. These guys were owners of numerous other endeavors, including race teams to car dealerships. These are the guys who own WC Vision. We set out this business-like task of running the organization, and we don’t do anything unless it has a short-term/ long-term advantage/profit.
PRI: Who are your customers?
Bove: Our customers are teams, drivers, sponsors and fans. So, if you take care of your customers, you’ll make the weekend a fun weekend for all. You try to be fair in the tech process, which is always challenging. You try to be fair in the deliverables for our sponsors, and you give the fans a great show that they will remember. This combination, even in the difficult time we are in with the economy being soft, proves you can still succeed.
PRI: How are things going, car count and fan wise?
Bove: We have been growing our entries at a rate of 15 20 percent a year for past four years. Today, we have more teams coming to the table, and some now bring two and three cars. As for fans, our race weekends became sold out, notably the Long Beach Grand Prix, which has been sold out four years in a row.
PRI: And what about this year?
Bove: Record entries and most events have been sold out. An example of the trend is 2012 at Miller Motorsports Park. To date, no pro series in the history of the track has brought 55 cars, yet we did at Miller.
PRI: You have four specific classes in the Pirelli World Challenge. Tell us about the GTS class, which was new in 2010, and its evolution to where it is now.
Bove: GTS was developed for the driver that wanted more performance than a touring car but did not have budget for a GT car. Our original Touring Car Class car counts were dwindling to less than 10 and we needed to create a new lower cost Touring Class and open opportunities for the existing Touring Cars to still compete. So GTS was created. It is now our fastest growing class with over 25 entries at Mid Ohio for our IndyCar/ ALMS event. Today’s GTS cars are about 350–400 horsepower with cost targets of $100,000–$150,000. We have a broad range of makes and models racing in GTS, from Ford Mustangs and Chevy Camaros, to Porsche Cayman S to Acura TSX to Kia Optimas and BMW M3. To have all those cars race so close all year is a testament to our Competition Director Geoff Carter.
PRI: I’m sure your ‘car count’ meetings were difficult.
Bove: Our meetings were a reality check. Why did the class die? The answer is it died because of costs, because if you look at every single motorsport class, I’ll guarantee the classes that are dying are the ones that did not control costs, and the ones flourishing are the ones that do. It’s a fact of life.
PRI: So, the new 2010 style GTS class was born?
Bove: It was. It was sort of a thunder of GT Light, if you will, and it created an opportunity for the grandfathered Touring Cars, whether they were the BimmerWorld BMWs or the RealTime Acuras or the TriPoint MazdaSpeed cars. It was created as a performance benchmark (lap times) of the grandfathered cars for the new GTS class.
PRI: And then the growth started?
Bove: Yes. It brought in Mustangs, Camaros, Porsches and other street stock classes similar to a T1 class in an SCCA club environment.
PRI: And for the sake of our readers, how about telling us what a T1 class street stock racer is?
Bove: A street stock style class car is exactly what you drive on the street with some aero bits and safety bits. So, we created the GTS field, and in 2010 we struggled to get two or three Mustangs. Fortunately for us, or I guess you could say unfortunately, too (for the Mustang owners), Ford was dropping its Mustang Challenge Series. Thus, Ford contacted us and asked if there were a place for their guys to race, as Ford told us they had built a bunch of cars and had a bunch of clients. So, at Mid Ohio in 2010, we brought in Mustang Challenge cars to run in GTS both as a GTS car and in our created ‘Mustang Challenge’ trophy, which allowed the Mustang competitors to race against themselves in the Challenge races. And, they could also race for the overall win in GTS.
PRI: What about the new B-Spec class? There is already lots of chatter about this very reasonable cost class of racing with the Fiat 500, Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, and Mazda2.
Bove: OK, let’s discuss the Fiat 500 as a good example. A dealer Fiat 500 cost to you is about $13,000 to $14,000. Then, you add the kit, which includes the roll bar, shocks, suspension and aero bits, cooling bits and so on. The kit might be another $5000, so you’re in for about $20,000 to $25,000 including labor. We are slowly building the class as the introduction date was last October and November, before PRI, and teams didn’t have a chance to develop cars and plan their budgets. Right now, both Grand-Am and World Challenge are attracting six to eight B-Spec cars, but we haven’t had any crossover due to scheduling conflicts (which means we have at least 16 B-Spec cars out there looking to compete in a pro series). For example, Kinetic Motorsports has four Kia Rios, two race in Grand-Am and two race in World Challenge. Next year, we’re going to work the schedule better to cut down on conflicts.
PRI: And the B-Spec manufacturers?
Bove: We’re working closely with manufacturers who are helping us develop relationships with the teams who have bought the kits. Some are club racers and some are pro racers. We’re reaching out to them to get them to come to the track and try out the series. Once a driver comes to a Pirelli World Challenge weekend and they have a good time, the scary part is over. They’ve done their registration, met all their competitors, shaken hands with the others and then they’re hooked.
PRI: How about Grand Touring (GT)?
Bove: Well, here’s the challenge with Grand Touring. We are a small business here. Our marketing department has two people, our tech department is two or three, we utilize an outside engineering firm for all our competition engineering adjustments, and we do an awful lot of work in a relatively small amount of time. So, we’ve been focused on growing GTS. As for GT, we have 12 to 15 cars per event. We’re shooting for 20 cars for next year, and, for example, are in discussions with two new teams that are building two cars each to join our series. We’ve identified performance envelopes of various cars that could fit into World Challenge GT.
PRI: Can you expand on your GT ‘performance envelope’ theory as it relates to actual race cars?
Bove: Right now, our performance envelope includes an FIA GT 3 car, an Audi R8 or a McLaren. These are built as factory cars. Let’s say, for someone to go out and build a GT car, you have to find a race shop and get engines and transmissions and do all the engineering. Now, the average person is not capable of pulling all that together. However, going to Porsche and buying a Cup car with a roll cage is easy when you have the money. It’s done. Completed. Easy.
PRI: And today, more manufacturers are building factory race cars?
Bove: Several are. But no one else was doing that until maybe two years ago. Now, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Audi are building factory race cars (in addition to the aforementioned Porsche). You buy one and show up at a World Challenge event and race. That’s our focus in growing GT next year as many cars are now available and ready to race right from the factory. We’ll end up with a variety of different cars in our GT class and bring them into the performance envelope of Pirelli World Challenge.
PRI: How did you deal with aero advantages of one make compared to another, with the Audi A8 in mind?
Bove: That is one of the challenges we had. The factory Audi R8 is built around aerodynamics, and it is superior to the specifications of the other Pirelli World Challenge GT cars. But the engine and weight are about correct. So, we pulled all of the aero off the car, put on a standard World Challenge spoiler and splitter, and that is the car that races today in our series.
PRI: Finally, the Touring Car class. I know there have been some changes.
Bove: Again, another challenge we’ve encountered is the cost of a Touring Car, which has rules similar to the Grand-Am ST rules. Unfortunately, the cost of these cars is in the $80,000 range on the minimum. The Ford Focus that races in Grand Am is about $120,000. Now, if you are a driver looking to run in a series, are you going to race in GTS in a Porsche or in a Ford Focus in Touring?
PRI: No offense to Ford, but I’ll take the Porsche, thank you.
Bove: Exactly. As will all the others. You can also race in GTS in a Mustang or Camaro V8, too. It has to do with dollars spent and value returned. The Touring Car costs as much as the GTS car, so the GTS field is growing because of that and the Touring Car field isn’t.
PRI: How are you handling this?
Bove: We decided to put further financial barriers between the classes and significantly reduce the cost of entry in 2013 for all Touring Cars. We want to go from the $80,000 level down to the $50,000 level of entry. Now, it is a big move down, but it’s still a lot of money. So, instead of having a Honda Civic with an HPD race motor that costs $15,000 or $18,000, we’ll have a Civic with a stock Honda engine. The stock Honda Civic engine brand new in the box is $6000. Next, we’ll remove the electronics off the cars, which will save another $5000 to $7000 in electronics that are not needed. We’re also going to remove some other race components that are not needed, and find a way for the average guy to go racing in a touring car.
PRI: Sounds like a proper ladder.
Bove: Yes. For example, we want a place for the B-Spec driver, who spent $25 grand, to move up for $50 grand. The Touring Car and B-Spec cars run in the same class, so now the driver can go for an overall win when he moves up. Just like GT and GTS run together. Then, they can move up to the GT and GTS classes.
PRI: Let’s talk some marketing. You have a great TV series.
Bove: We do. Back in 2010, we were on Tuesdays at noon on Speed TV because the weekends were filled with NASCAR. So, we took a bold step and looked at our alternatives and decided that Versus was the channel to go with. They were owned by Comcast, and there were rumors of Comcast purchasing NBC. Thus, we wanted future growth and here we are today, rumors confirmed, on NBC Sports Network. We’re on Saturdays or Sundays in great timeslots, and it has worked for the better. NBC Sports Network is a true partner of ours. We went from limited viewership on Speed to better timeslots and greater viewership on Versus. And now with the rebranding to NBC Sports Network we are averaging higher viewership with every broadcast for the Pirelli World Challenge.
PRI: Who produces the show?
Bove: IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) productions, one of the very best production crews out there. They do all of the IndyCar shows, as they are true professionals. The quality is outstanding. Second to none. We can now bring deliverables to our sponsors, for example, the “Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race” and all the other bits in working with our sponsors. Many of our sponsors have already re-upped for two, three and five years thanks to the quality production and on-track racing. Ron Stukenberg (Senior Manager, Motorsports Marketing Communications, Nissan Motorsports) looked me right in the eye and told me that Pirelli World Challenge was by far the best value in motorsports. When a sponsor says that, it coincides with our objective to create value.
PRI: And how would you tell our readers to create value?
Bove: By under-promising and then over-delivering. And that’s in every single aspect of our business, whether you are a fan who pays $20 for a ticket, and you get to meet with Johnny O’Connell (noted Corvette/Cadillac racer), and he lets your kids sit in his car. We will overdeliver for the fan. Same with our sponsors and drivers. If you look at the Joyce Julius reports (the company that independently evaluates sports and special event programs related to corporate sponsorship), the television value for our sponsors is second to none, and we’ve been told so. Go to www.World-Challenge.com, click on the sponsor section and you’ll see over 25 series sponsors, and 100 percent of them are financial sponsors. None give us free hubcaps, if you will. We don’t trade sponsor promotion for valve stems. Granted, some may have different deals than others based on how much they can spend, and we can put together sponsor packages that deliver for $25,000 or one’s that are priced at over $100,000 for a marketing association with the series.
PRI: Let’s end with your success. How do you perceive it?
Bove: It’s twofold, Greg. One, create a place for drivers to come and race, and feel important. They might not be able to afford ALMS, or run in an endurance series. Or they want a single-driver, sprint race format (the Pirelli World Challenge is based on 50-minute sprints, with no driver changes). Second, the sponsors. They create financial security for us and our teams. When our teams win a race, they are happy with the payouts. We can run down the list of what makes our teams and sponsors committed to our series and we think we are delivering on all fronts. It all has to do with marketing and partnership with our sponsors.
PRI: Thanks much, Scott. Great talk.
Bove: It was my pleasure, Greg, and I’ll see you at the PRI Show.