Friday, November 6, 2009

Death Coming for Auto Racing According to MSN Commentary

According to an MSN Commentary written by Douglas A. McIntyre, a financial writer for 24/7 Wall St., professional auto racing is heading into a doomsday scenario. If accepting the headline, this report definitely a threat constituting a eventual dark age for auto racing caused by a wide-spanning exodus of auto companies' financial and technical support. In reality, it was only drawing on the official announcement that Toyota withdrew from Formula 1 racing on Wednesday, cautioning that the support for the major North American auto racing series NASCAR could be next.

Relating to the past year of corporate reorganization by General Motors and Chrysler, Mr McIntyre believes that both companies are being heavily-pressured to pull out of the sport as a cost-savings move proposed by the United States Government. Investing more than $80 billion US through a course starting almost 11 months ago to rescue both corporations, acquired government ownership is allegedly expected to damage support for auto racing. While backdoor talks could affirm the put of the commentary, the only real notice that the Obama-led US Government threatened to shut down factory support to NASCAR turned out to be an April Fool's joke.

Tracing back to Toyota's departure from Formula 1, the MSN commentary accurately eluded to the Japanese auto maker's budget being over $300 million US. In fact, during their initial season, Toyota spent $445.6 million dollars to fast track their competition in Formula 1. In return from the excessive spending to succeed, the factory-supported Panasonic Toyota Racing team could never propel a driver to the top spot of the F1 podium. While Toyota Motor Corporation's stated finances were the reason for leaving Formula 1, being winless in 8 seasons probably weighted heavily on the ego of Toyota Motorsports as well as the past financial investment of what could be 2.4 billion dollars. In comparison, that money was near enough to bailout the Chrysler Corporation this past year. To spend that type of money and go winless is certainly not a popular proposal for renewal for Toyota execs to digest. However, one manufacturer dropping support over a money-draining venture for themselves doesn't mean that other automakers are need benefiting from the fruits of motorsports.

Honda's exit from Formula 1 after the 2008 year also came with recent years of under-performance. But Honda did not withdraw from motorsports. This Japanese company has devoted their full dedicated to the American-based Indy Car series providing engines to the grid of 20-plus cars. The series itself is beginning to show signs of a renaissance marked recently by the additional of apparel company Izod as a title sponsor. Clearly Izod believes a few more years are left in auto racing.

By to NASCAR, concerns about the American auto companies' commitment has been threatened several times in the sports history. In 1957, a voluntary ban was placed against American auto manufacturer's involvement in any kind of motorsport as a result of 80 deaths resulting at the 24-hour of Le Mans crash 2 years prior. Following a period of reduced, secretive assistance from auto companies, factory support officially returned into the 1960s. As the oil crisis and looming economic problems of the 1970s again drove factory proceeds to little to nothing for NASCAR teams, the stock car series continued to run. But then again NASCAR must keep in mind that they are running their series for the fans, not necessarily for their money. With NASCAR's growth since 1990, they might have lost sight of it but they are now beginning to accommodate the sport to the fans hard hit by the economy.

As for the NASCAR teams, diminished factory support from stronger auto companies could be better than overwhelming support from a weakened industry. Perhaps this means that NASCAR Sprint Cup teams will need to accept tighter budget constraints but it will not take the fire out of racing engines. Just like support to the Indy Car series, non-automotive corporations still see the enormous value of NASCAR racing putting down up to 20-30 million dollars a season in Sprint Cup simply to have their name adorn sheetmetal.

Even during the great depression that consumed the 1930s, the world stage eventually heated up with the finest pre-war racing as auto manufacturers were not ready to let money beat them from improving the four-wheeled breed. Granted, auto companies' motorsport programs are just a form of marketing and these strategies are prone to change. But motorsport marketing operates centrifugally with car makers coming and going from a particular form of auto racing. Mercedes-Benz factory left racing after the 1955 Le Mans disaster but eventually returned to almost every form of motorsport in just from 1989 to 1999.

There has also been a case study in the automotive industry where auto racing is not only an enhancement of brand profile but a profitable venture. Porsche, who like most sports car builders, has used motorsports to add luster to their vehicles since the earliest rear-engined creations. Maintaining a near constant level of factory support, Porsche has success to speak of on the track and a growing prestige with their street cars through 60 years. In claiming this achievement, the German company skillfully built race programs to cater to racing customers allowing a rarely tapped revenue center to balance racing and business.

With all respect to Mr McIntyre article "Death of car racing?", I must speak as a motorsport fan that while competition exists within humanity, auto racing will thrive.

No comments:

Post a Comment