The doors to the track swing open at 7 a.m. Many of the attendees have been up since 5 a.m. to get to the track on time, and a hardcore group has been up most of the night working on their ride. The mandatory riders meeting is at 8:30 a.m. and by 9 a.m. the first group of riders is out on the asphalt, honing their skills.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nyone who approaches their sport with this amount of dedication is a true devotee. Many spend thousands of dollars a year on everything from top grade oil to machine work. Don’t you want these folks to know and like you?
“Four percent of the public rides motorcycles,” says Brian Nilsen of Brothers Powersports, Washington State. “A dealer wastes money advertising to the general public. With track days, your dollars go to enthusiasts.”
Involvement in track days is controversial among dealers, with more than a few believing that the expense and time involved do not justify the return on investment. Conversely, the dealers MPN spoke to who regularly sponsor track days are positive that track days give a major boost to their business. Carl Peshoff, Northern Ohio Ducati and Triumph, points out that there are both short-term and long-term benefits. The short-term benefits stem from service department work preparing bikes for the track and doing suspension and performance upgrades. Track days also sell merchandise.
The long-term benefits are in customer loyalty and enthusiasm and in eventual bike sales. “Every time you put on an event at a track you are making a close friend,” says Bill Cameron, partner in Skagit Powersports, a multiline dealership in Northwest Washington State. “Your friends will buy from your dealership, and skip the online retailers. Closed course events build loyalty.”
“We don’t see immediate bike sales from track events, but very often people will come in a month or two later to buy a higher performance bike,” says Peshoff. “More importantly, rider training available at the closed course events makes for a happier customer who is more likely to continue riding.”
Roy Cadoo runs Absolute Track Day, a track day organization in the New York area. He says: “I do many seminars yearly at dealerships. I tell dealers that, when riding on the track, service intervals are cut in half, which means that you sell more brakes, tires and oil changes. Dealers can also provide a “pre-technical inspection,” given our guidelines, for a before and after the track day service.
The rider and the track day provider receive a track day on a well inspected machine, and the rider also receives a post inspection after the track day, where a dealership can point out what was used, worn down, or needs replacement. If a dealership can be at the track with a rep that can explain the new machines and represent the brand while “sponsoring” a day, that can mean future sales. Club riders usually remain very loyal to those who help out their organization, and if treated fairly will tell 10 more people about the dealership. It’s the “pack effect”, because normally you do not see one rider alone. On a track day, you see 200 riders on any given day at one time.”
1. Be clear why you are sponsoring an event.
Carl Peshoff suggests that you determine what your objectives are before going any further. Ricky Orlando, a well known Colorado based racing instructor, points out that renting a track is expensive. “You need enough people to cover the costs,” he says. “What is the primary reason you want to sponsor a track day? Do you want to build good will? Do you want to increase your client base? Do you want to sell motorcycles?
There are three varieties of track day. The first is the traditional track day, where riders show up on any brand of sport motorcycle that passes tech inspection, the organizers divide the attendees into three groups of differing speed and experience levels and the groups are sent out, one a a time, for twenty minute practice sessions. Carl Peshoff puts on track days to increase his customers’ interest in his dealership and performance motorcycling. An experienced track day promoter, he rents a track himself, and sells participation, first to his customers, and, if there are spots left over, to the general riding public. Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph customers volunteer to help with the effort.
There is also the one-brand track day, usually with OEM involvement on some level. Lastly, Bill Cameron has pioneered a “Get To Know Your Bike Day,” where a rider with any street legal motorcycle can spend the day riding a closed circuit course and benefit from instruction in cornering, braking, and other techniques of proficient riding.
“It’s important to target your audience,” says Brian Nilsen. Do you sell a lot of sport bikes? What brand are they? If you are running a multiline dealership and your sportbike sales are over four or five different brands, the traditional track day event may be your best option. Conversely, if you only sell one brand of sportbike, you want to reward your customers, and not someone else’s. Ideally, you want your OEM to bring bikes to the event. “Getting OEM buy-in is nice,” says Brian Nilsen. Bill Cameron has worked with Kawasaki on a pilot program for the Pacific Northwest, where a free track day is part of the goodie bag that comes with a new Kawasaki sportbike.
Bill Cameron’s “Get to Know Your Bike Day” event is intended as a confidence and skill enhancing event for any street motorcycle. “Closed course riding is no longer the realm of sportbikes. Only about 5-10% of all riders ride sport bikes, and the tracks don’t reserve many days for motorcycles any more, so we have to make the best use of the days we do get. In order not to put off potential attendees, I don’t advertise the event as a track day. I call it a “Get to Know Your Bike Day.”. I never have a problem getting enough people.”
“I rent the track. I call the shots. I get motorcycle instructors from the local military bases and adventure riding companies. I tell people they can come no matter what level they want to ride at, and no matter what they ride. I had a guy come with a Gold Wing and his wife riding passenger. I got an instructor to work with them. I had two couples on V-Stars. The two women were so timid they could barely ride. At the end of the day, they were smooth and confident. They are now going on rides together if the guys can’t go.”
2. Get the word out.
Brian Nilsen says: “When I want to promote a track day, I put a flyer in every new bike packet. I put flyers on the parts counter. I announce it on Facebook. I send direct mail to my customer list – mail, not email. I can sort my list, so I can target everyone I have sold a sport bike to in the last three years, or if I am doing a dirt event – we have a lot of motocross participation – I can target my dirt bike people.”
Roy Cadoo says that the most effective way to promote track days is through your dealership. “You can promote track days at the sale. At the parts counter. Through seminars that we are glad to provide at the dealership. Through promotions such as purchase here and receive a your first track day on your new ride for free. I have expanded my track day company ten fold in ten years in the worst economy by word of mouth, and social media only.
I have spent next to zero on traditional marketing.”
MPN Spotlight: Slow Down On The Track And Make More Money
How is that even possible? Usually going to the track is about speed and you have to be a real pro to make money there, but if your dealership stocks the right product and bring them to the local trackday, you will see what we’re on about.
SBS Brakes have some of the best racing products available for riders and racers alike. From regular street bikes to pure thoroughbred race bikes. The common denominator for all SBS brake pads is, that they are developed in racing with the highest quality as the ultimate goal.
Dealers offering SBS brake pads as part of their trackside inventory will benefit from the fact that most racers can use
a performance upgrade and eventually also a simple replacement of their brake pads. If you sell SBS brake pads, you can actually offer the most
cost-efficient improvement of track times! Riders spend thousands of dollars on engine upgrades, suspension improvement and then a lot times neglect the fact that when fitting the best brake pads available, they will be able to brake later than the competition and eventually this means climbing the podium.
Fortunately stocking racing brake pads is fairly easy. 10 different pads in two different compounds will have you setup for covering the most popular bikes on the tracks. Most of these bikes comes with somewhat similar brake calipers which
allows for this broad coverage with few part numbers.
SBS Brakes offers the most competitive product line with two different trackday and clubracing compounds – RS and DC – topped by the World Super
Sport and Isle of Man winning pure race choice – DS.
These brake pads are available from Parts Unlimited in the USA and Motovan in Canada and besides the second-to-none quality and performance, the manufacturer and distributors have built in the industry’s most attractive dealer margins.
3. Make it easy for your customers to get to the track.
Bill Cameron, whose dealership is some distance from the nearest roadracing track, charters a bus and a truck driven by an experienced motorcycle hauler. For a reasonable fee, track day goers load their bikes at 5 a.m., board the bus and snooze as they and their bikes are driven to the track. Many track day promoters arrange special room rates with a local hotel or motel.
4. Ensure your customers have a wonderful time.
If you partner with an experienced track day company, the track day organization will provide cornerworkers, equipment rentals, and track officials. Instructors and a photographer are often part of the mix. If there is more than one organization working with local tracks, get references from other dealers or customers. Talk to your OEM. Are they willing to provide demo bikes? A racing star to do a demonstration or sign autographs? Promotions, such as buy a sportbike and get a free or lower cost track day?
“You are going to change their lives,” says Bill Cameron. “It’s fun to watch as customers gain confidence, ride better, and learn that the journey is the fun part.”
Yamaha Champions Riding School Sportbike Demo Program Launched
Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS) has announced that it will be bringing an all-new Yamaha sportbike demo program to numerous track-day events across the country starting this year.
The demo program will be offered free of charge to track day customers and consumers, and will feature a complete line of Yamaha sportbikes, including the all new 2015 YZF-R1,
YZF-R6, YZF-R3, FZ-1, FZ-09 and FZ-07. Riders will take paced laps behind instructors.
The free Yamaha Champions Sportbike Demos program will operate out of New Jersey Motorsports Park from May through September and Inde Motorsports Ranch near Tucson, Ariz. from October through March but provide demos at many more tracks across the country.
“We are currently scheduled to perform demos at select Absolute Cycle Experience, N2, TrackDaz, and XCEL Track Days events but are open to any and all clubs,” says YCRS COO Keith Culver. “Dealers can, and should get involved, by contacting the track day clubs who are kind enough to host us… certain race tracks will give us some time outside of the track day (i.e. during lunch) where regular street riders can get a few paced laps aboard a new Yamaha motorcycle.”
YCRS will offer a 10% discount to any rider that demos a bike and ends up buying a Yamaha. YCRS encourages any and all clubs interested in hosting Yamaha demos or offering YCRS coaching to contact Keith Culver for details.
Photos courtesy of racing instructor Ricky Orlando, Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph, Yamaha, Brother’s Powersports and Brendan Baker.