With the recent high-profile signings of legendary racers Chris MacClugage and Dustin Farthing, Sea-Doo and Yamaha appear to be taking a greater interest in personal watercraft racing as, once again, a means to move product. But are the moves indicative of an increased presence on the racing front, or just business as usual? And either way, what does the signing of high-profile riders say about the adage of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday?”
We asked company representatives from both brands to offer their thoughts and give insight into how these personalities may ultimately help move dealer inventory.
Appealing To Segment
While there appears to be some behind-the-scenes drama surrounding MacClugage’s switch to Sea-Doo and Farthing’s move to Yamaha, the public spin from both manufacturers is that both riders simply wanted to ride superior product. What’s more interesting is that, in an era when PWC racing enjoys but a sliver of its previous popularity, two manufacturers would sign such high-profile personalities.
“BRP has always supported racing,” explains Sea-Doo spokesman Tim McKercher, “and 2012 isn’t really any more than in the past few years. But with Chris MacClugage riding Sea-Doo, now people have a different perspective. BRP has supported racing more than the other OEMs for the past eight to 10 years through the Sea-Doo X-TEAM Bounty program and Sea-Doo Promoter support program. If it wasn’t for BRP’s promoter support there may be half as many races as there are.
“As far as Chris moving to Sea-Doo, that is a byproduct of the introduction of the RXP-X. I think he is at a point in his career where he has accomplished everything there is to accomplish and at this point with no big sponsorship deals, he simply wants to have fun racing and ride a watercraft that suits his riding style. Plus, with his performance company MACC Racing, he sees a big business opportunity to work with Sea-Doo watercraft for the coming years.”
For Yamaha, racing is just one more way to display the brand’s strengths, and bringing in Farthing echoes the company’s leadership role. “Racing plays right into the key Yamaha product strengths of performance and reliability,” explains Yamaha’s Bryan Seti. “Racing is a testament and showcase for our bulletproof engines from Japan and the durability of our WaveRunners produced in the U.S. Dustin is one of the pre-eminent PWC racers in the world, and bringing him to the Yamaha team further highlights Yamaha’s leadership in these areas.”
According to McKercher, MacClugage will contest several local West Coast races, a portion of the National Tour events in the Pro Stock class, and the World Finals. Personal obligations, including the recent birth of the rider’s first child, will prevent him from competing at the full National Tour. Farthing’s schedule includes the entire National Tour series in the Open class (where he is currently six for six) and the World Finals.
Translate To Sales?
As to whether either rider’s presence and name recognition will help his respective brand move product for dealers, both McKercher and Seti agree that, though perhaps small, racing remains part of the overall PWC picture. And the image it brings with it is important to that segment of the PWC audience.
“Racing is still a very important aspect of the watercraft business as it is a ‘use’ of the product, and we want to support all uses that our customers can do to enjoy their Sea-Doo watercraft,” says McKercher. “The majority of owners and potential owners don’t know anything about racing or the racers, but the fact the possibility of competition exists and Sea-Doo is the most popular brand at the races speaks loudly to the performance enthusiasts.
“This is also why we are promoting the guys who race on Sea-Doo, to help them be more known and increase their inter-sport Q-scores (a measure of the appeal of a brand or celebrity).
Says Seti: “There are a number of factors that go into creating a racing brand image around products, and winning over the weekend can certainly be a part of it. We are focused on building a great product, not just a great image. Quality products come from listening to the customer, innovating on the things they want the most and a focus on solid manufacturing.
“If you build a great product, then a great image will follow.”