Asian races ‘a big deal’ for V8 Supercars teams

Kelly's four-car team includes multi-nationals Jack Daniel's, Toshiba and Nissan

Kelly’s four-car team includes multi-nationals Jack Daniel’s, Toshiba and Nissan

Nissan Motorsport owner/driver Todd Kelly is confident that V8 Supercars’ push into the Asian market will help strengthen partnerships between the category’s teams and global sponsors.

Confirmation on Wednesday of a heads of agreement for the V8 Supercars to race in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 2016 is seen as the first step in the category’s expansion plans.

Like previous offshore races, the KL street event will provide a direct financial benefit to teams, which receive a portion of the sanctioning fee paid by the promoter.

Asian races however promise to have more relevance for many sponsors than recent trips to the Middle East and the USA, where even local arms of global brands largely failed to embrace the category.

Kelly says that his team received immediate positive responses to this week’s news from its partners, including manufacturer Nissan, underlining the long held belief that Asia will be a better fit for the championship.

“We’re involved with a long list of global brands and to get the news out to those sponsors and say that we’re heading to Asia is a pretty big deal,” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.

“The responses back from all of those guys have been extremely positive and they’re all quite excited.

“Each sponsor is different, but within the (Asia Pacific) region, there’s a lot of instant, turn-key relationships there to activate and get corporate guests and customers involved in the event.

“It’s extremely important that it’s in our timezone as well, which is one of the things that made the Texas round a little bit challenging with our sponsors.

“If we had a choice to just do one or do three (races in Asia), everyone in our team would definitely be pushing for three.”

With Asia unlikely to ever make up more than a small portion of the calendar, teams must continue to justify season-long sponsorships based on their effectiveness in the Australian market.

Kelly however stresses that the trend over recent decades towards Australian marketing budgets being controlled by global headquarters makes regional relationships more important than ever.

Nissan Motorsport lost two-car primary backer Norton at the end of last year following an offshore decision by the brand’s parent company.

“Unfortunately in this day and age as everything globally becomes tighter and tighter, the marketing spend with the local arms of companies are dictated more and more by global head offices,” said Kelly.

“We’ve had a lot of good, global brands in the past where the relationships have been fantastic but have unfortunately been ended by the global strings being pulled in, even though the local support has been outstanding.

“So to be a category that is a little bit more global certainly helps justify and maintain those relationships when it’s not just hidden away in Australia.

“It’s not just about being on TV in other regions, the fact that we’re in there under their noses, it’s a whole other level.”

In addition to increased relevance for their own sponsors, teams are hopeful that the KL City GP can buck the trend of failed international V8 Supercars events and prove sustainable for the local promoter.

The fact that the KL race will take place in the heart of the city and shares top billing with locally flavoured GT categories will undoubtedly help create more impact than previous V8 sojourns.

Kelly will get his first look at the KL City GP course when he takes part in a five-car V8 Supercars demo this August.

The 35-year-old, who won V8 Supercars’ only previous Asian event at Shanghai, China, in 2005, says he’s looking forward to trying out a new venue.

“From a driver’s point of view, to go to a new track and try and adapt and learn how to get around it is quite exciting for me,” he said.

“It’s one of the things about the sport that I quite enjoy and, as a team owner, it’s a good thing to be able to take your crew overseas as well.

“There’s lots of apprentices and young people in the teams up and down pitlane and to be able to travel to another country as part of the job is a huge eye opener for some of them.”

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