Roland’s View: What Supercars could do with the 26th Teams Racing Charter
By Roland Dane
Wednesday 28th June, 2023 - 6:00am
Last week there was a story posted on another site suggesting that Supercars is looking to buy back two Teams Racing Charters from existing teams in order to create a 24-car grid for 2024, on the basis that the Blanchard Racing Team would then buy one of them and the other would be cancelled.
There’s nothing like letting it slip that you’re in the market to push up the price!
That aside, RACE (as owners of Supercars) could have acquired one of the Team Sydney TRCs for peanuts at the end of 2021 and given themselves a 24 car grid. That would have more than paid for itself within 12 months by virtue of not having to pay appearance money to the 25th TRC. Whoever was responsible for missing that opportunity is presumably long gone, you’d think.
According to the story, the 24-car maximum is to ensure that the complete grid can be more easily shipped by air to far off destinations. I thought that the plan was to have another complete set of cars hovering around the world waiting to be used rather than sending the Australian based ones overseas. Clearly a fluid situation.
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Anyhow, this rumour together with Shane van Gisbergen’s trip to NASCAR, got me thinking…
There’s little doubt that there will be huge interest in the NASCAR Chicago race this coming weekend across Australia and New Zealand whether you’re an SVG fan or not. The Trackhouse/NASCAR initiative with the 91 car program (having run Kimi Raikkonen several times already) is a great way of increasing the awareness of their category internationally.
I’ve long suggested that the only real pathway to substantial revenue growth for Supercars itself is to grow international TV revenues. That doesn’t mean that Supercars has to race overseas, but it does need to put some stars in the cars in Australia. It was, in my mind, a real shame that the international co-driver format for the Gold Coast event was dropped just as it was really starting to gain the category ongoing visibility abroad.
So, once again, I’d urge Supercars to drop their misguided plans for overseas racing (NZ apart) and, instead set about putting in place a strong strategy to grow interest in some key markets with the aim of, in due course, being able to charge real dollars for media rights in those markets. Fish where the fish are and where motor racing is keenly followed.
Supercars has a product that is different enough from anything local in the UK, for instance, to be attractive to that fan base as long as those fans have a name or two of their own to pique interest.
Having parked the notion of racing overseas, the TRC issue becomes a different one; turn the fact that there is a 26th TRC into an opportunity as part of that strategy.
Make the TRC available to be run as a wildcard at selected events through the season but only using overseas driver(s) from whichever market(s) Supercars targets. If the calendar consists of 14 events, then perhaps there are eight higher profile ones that could be chosen.
The endurance races should be included and seen as an opportunity to put two well-known, market-relevant, drivers together.
Supercars would be responsible for the financing of the programme, and they could use different teams through the year (although the four-car teams should probably not be eligible) at different events.
Alternatively, they could do a deal with the Blanchard Racing Team, as the only single-car team, to permanently contract to run the car. That’s effectively what happened with the car for Simona de Silvestro and Kelly Racing. Supercars was instrumental in putting the financial package in place.
Clearly, Supercars could go to market and offset much of the cost against sponsorship. For instance, maybe Peter Adderton would see this as an opportunity to bring over relevant drivers that are a marketing fit for him as well as Supercars.
Of course, the choice of drivers from whichever market in the world would still be a matter of sensible selection by those involved. For instance, Bathurst history shows that Triple Eight got it right in 2013 with Mattias Ekstrom and Andy Priaulx whilst WAU was rather less successful in 2019 with Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.
Basically, my suggestion is a different means to the same end for Supercars. They want to grow revenue and they think, wrongly in my opinion for reasons of sustainability (or the lack of it), that taking the circus overseas is the way to do it. I want to see revenue grow by bringing stars here to race. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to put a few people on flights than it is to put 24 cars on a plane.
The right names can also bolster the category locally. Just look at the Valentino Rossi effect at the Bathurst 12 Hour this year.
For a lesson in how to increase the value of media rights outside home territory you only have to examine the English Premier League. Not one competitive game is played outside England or Wales, but huge income is generated from around the world by virtue of international players stoking interest in markets far and wide.
Motor racing isn’t the same of course, but there are parallels that can be drawn. Turn the TRC issue into a positive situation and use the 26th one wisely to grow new markets.
It’ll be a hell of a lot better investment than trying to buy one or two back just to go on a jaunt somewhere that won’t stand the test of time.