Mid-Ohio: SCCA, WCVision press conference

SCCA Pro Racing / WCVision Press Conference Transcript Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course July 18, 2008 Eric Prill , VP Marketing & Communications SCCA: Thank you all for coming to this exciting opportunity to learn a little bit more about what's ...

SCCA Pro Racing / WCVision Press Conference Transcript
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
July 18, 2008

Eric Prill , VP Marketing & Communications SCCA: Thank you all for coming to this exciting opportunity to learn a little bit more about what's happening with SCCA SPEED World Challenge. We are in one of the most exciting times of the series' 19-year history. We are joined by five gentlemen and I will allow each of them to comment about what was announced July 2 and elaborate a little more about what will be happening with World Challenge moving forward. We'll then open it up for some question and answer. Later today we will have both a written hard copy and soft copy of today's press conference transcript.

Onto introductions: to my immediate left, a founding WCVision member and SPEED GT competitor Mike Davis. To his immediate left is SCCA Pro Racing President and CEO Robert Wildberger. To his left, WCVision co-chairman and the winningest North American road racer, Peter Cunningham. To his left, his fellow WCVision co-chairman, team owner Bob Woodhouse and to Bob's left is WCVision founder and SPEED Touring Car driver Nick Esayian.

I will start the press conference off by asking Mr. Davis to give us an overview of WCVision and the new agreement that was announced with SCCA Pro Racing on July 2.

Mike Davis: A group of investors got together with the SCCA officials. SCCA does an outstanding job of running Club Racing, putting together packages for clubs and they are a nonprofit scenario. A number of us looked at an opportunity in the marketplace right now, and with a package, that being World Challenge, decided to put a team of investors together and draw up a marketable story in the for-profit environment. We figured, hell, stock market's not doing anything, real estate's not doing anything, might as well put our money somewhere. So that was the intent of it; to invest in this commodity, go out and try to realize its potential. All of us own businesses and are in business for profit, so we understand that commodity. So that is the goal of this group, is to work in concert with SCCA to take World Challenge and brand it and turn it out and try to turn it into a very profitable series.

Robert Wildberger: Speaking on the part of SCCA Pro Racing, I think there's three points that need to be made. The first is that this new agreement fortifies the long-term success and integrity of an already proven product: the World Challenge race program. Second, it allows SCCA Pro Racing to focus 100 percent its energy on what it does best and that's as a sanctioning body and race operator. Third, we believe this is the most important announcement for World Challenge in over a decade and we are very, very proud of this program.

Peter Cunningham: I'd just like to add that a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes, before and after July 2nd, for the last several months to try and get this deal to fruition. We've got a lot of ideas that are in the pot right now to implement some good initiatives to help build this thing and grow it. It is my pleasure to make an announcement that one piece to that puzzle, a very important piece, a gentleman that has been hired as our Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He's a guy that's been involved in World Challenge for many years. He's been involved on the media side as part of the Modified group, Modified magazine and two other books by that company, and he helped do wondrous things with those magazines and he's also responsible for doing the fan guide for the series for the last few years and we'd like to introduce him at this time: David Drimmie. He's a guy that is totally a part of the culture and we really feel that he's going to play a key role in reaching out to the fans that we already have and to the people that have yet to discover our series, so we're very excited. Welcome David.

Bob Woodhouse: In my role in this little project that we have going here, the toughest part is the ability to endure Cunningham's goofy jokes. He's the only guy that gets'em.

I think the three goals that we're going to try to accomplish as quickly as possible; grow the fields as quickly as possible, growing the Touring Car and GT car count, elevate the series in the eyes of the world, and secure good sponsorship.

Davis: Turn a profit!

Woodhouse: Yeah!

Nick Esayian: I'm in the Mike school of thought, in that if you create demand, profit will follow. The reality is, we have a lot of components; we have SCCA Pro Racing that's done a fantastic job of running races and will continue to do so, then we've taken a team of roughly eight folks, put them together, our resources, our time, financial resources, to be able to take the marketing of SCCA Pro Racing and take it to the next level. I've only been doing this for maybe 15 years now, racing, and World Challenge for five years and I think that the comment from everyone has always been 'man, I wish more people knew about this.' You'd bring someone new to the track and they'd be excited and say 'this is fantastic. I've got to go tell my friends about this. I've got to bring more people to the track and get them involved.' When you have a fan you have a lifelong fan. Our job is to get the word out on the series and whether that's TV or other forms of media, etc., we need to take it to the next level. The way to do that was to put together WCVision. This is really one entity with two segments working together toward a common goal. I think we can do a great job.

Prill: Before we open it up to questions, some common comments we've gotten since the announcement on July 2nd: it's no secret that SCCA has licensed racing series before. It licensed the Trans-Am name and racing series and we all know that Trans-Am is not currently running. The main question that has come back is: how is this different from that deal?

Davis: I'll take that one because I was part of Trans-Am and it was taken over by a for-profit group. The first one was Don Panoz, the next was Paul Gentilozzi. The biggest thing is we're trying to do a separation of church and state if you will, where you've got competitors in the board of directors that compete against each other and the SCCA is going to take care of the rules and the sanction body. The investors are primarily concerned about the marketing aspect of it. Again, we've got a hard separation between those two because otherwise you're going to show favoritism and that's not what we want to do in this series.

Prill: Obviously there's a lot to be done in the coming months. What are some of the things we can expect for 2008 as well as moving forward to 2009 with regards to schedule, television, things such as that.

Woodhouse: Schedule then television. On the schedule we hear the competitors loud and clear as all of our investors are competitors. A schedule needs to be out there where a team can build sponsorship. So, the schedule needs to be there earlier, we need to evaluate it not just from the convenience that we're going the shortest distance from race to race, that would be great, but of all things, making sure the television fits, making sure that the places we go give your sponsors something back that provides value for them. There's another half a dozen things, but we'll keep moving.

Esayian: In terms of the television side of things, we have a great partner in SPEED right now. Currently the relationship between SCCA Pro Racing and SPEED is a short-term deal. We're going to look at SPEED as well as other options. I don't want to think we're the Green Bay Packers comparing an Aaron Rogers to a Brett Favre, a long time veteran, but like Mike [Davis] said, we're here on a for-profit basis and we need to do what's best for the series as well as from, an economic stand point, the sponsors that are going to get involved, what's good for them. We know that SPEED will put a fantastic package forward, when we get to that point, and we'll be interested in looking at some other options. It'd be too early to say that we're leaning one direction or the other, but we're excited to be moving the chains to get things solidified early enough where we can get Dave to start making plans for us as well.

Prill: Questions? [Repeating question from the audience] If WCVision is handling the marketing side and SCCA Pro is handling the rules, how do the two entities work together toward addressing costs and increasing the fields?

Woodhouse: Let me give you a little bit from the new guys on the block side of it and let Bob [Wildberger] finish it off. What we see is the way the series been operated in the past, it's a pretty good cost-side operator. It's very inexpensive in comparison in some of the things we do. We went to all the other sanctioning bodies, NASA, IMSA, etc. and asked 'what do you have and how does it compare?' We got back to SCCA and we knew that the most efficient system out there. The issue was revenue coming in and we're here to help create that.

Wildberger: There's a couple things relative to the car count. There's an effort already underway to re-look at some of the rules. Over time you always get creep with sanctioning any race series and current costs start to go up. So there's a number of things that we're working with competitors on right now to help reduce some of those costs. But also, let's not forget that we now have a very substantial marketing effort behind all this with the WCVision program and that's going to attract more racers as well. I think that's something that they've been looking for.

Prill: [Repeating question from the audience] Elaborate a little more on the comment of improving the production value time for the series.

Cunningham: Obviously within the limitations of a live to tape program and anything where you spend five minutes after the race or 10 hours to do post production, we'd like to look at different ways to enhance the show. We also understand that we need to walk before we run, so we'd like to do a lot of different things that will make the TV program a better program itself and have it on at the best possible times that our fans would like to see it. Make it something beyond what the current viewership would want to tune in for because it's that exciting of a program.

Esayian: And to expand on that, going out and getting business partners involved that are going to participate in the show themselves is a big part of it. I'm sure that people have seen "The Deadliest Catch" on TV, a bunch of guys fishing on a crab boat, or "Ice Road Truckers." No one would have thought five years ago that those shows would have garnered the attention that they are from all different demographics. We want this show to be expanded, to be able to take people outside of the core race base watching the show now, we want to expand it. We want to focus on improving demand. It's like what came first, the chicken or the egg? We'll try to bring business partners in that will financially be able to help us do that, but at the same time we still need to market to people to build the demand to get the business partners. It brings up a point we were going to mention earlier. We need everyone's support here from the standpoint that this is an event. Success of a race series isn't a one week or a six month period. There's going to be some small improvements and then some breakthroughs along the way and we need everyone's support. From the competitors, to the people that have been with the series a long time, from SCCA as well as the tracks and our business partners like SPEED. We look forward to working with everyone to expand that.

Prill: [Repeating Question from the audience] Will WCVision have any influence over the broad scope rules, format etc.?

Davis: Yes. I'm not going to go into detail. I'd love to pick your brain to hear the things you'd like to see from the media standpoint, but yes, WCVision is going to have some control over the broader vision of the whole series. Without making specific comments or suggestions right now, we're going take those things to bear and make decisions as time goes along.

Woodhouse: Just to clarify the end of that. That entails the direction that we want to take the series that doesn't entail competition adjustments.

Prill: I'd be remiss if I didn't introduce a couple individuals in the room. WCVision is a group of seven individuals at this point, the four individuals you see up here, Jim Haughey, who is also in the room is a member of WCVision, as is Dennis Carlton and Dino Crescentini.

Esayian: Everyone that's invested in this and involved in this project is busy. Certainly the goal in this is to make this a real business and be profitable, that's one of the primary things in our charter, but also the seven people involved are passionate about racing and the best interest of the series. If we just wanted to go racing we could have continued along the path that we were. Certainly, as you can see by the crowd that we've got here, and the other series that are here, that there's a lot people here this weekend to get good media coverage. We think that World Challenge can become a bigger player in the sport. With the resources and the time that we're going to put in, we hope that you're patient with us, we welcome your input and we look forward to moving this forward. In terms of the input, I'd like point out that there is going to be a competitor forum. Obviously, we're competitors just like you and our ears are going to be to the ground. Whether it's media people or anyone else, we're looking forward to getting that and continuing to improve the series.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Paul Gentilozzi , Peter Cunningham , Nick Esayian , Don Panoz , Bob Woodhouse , Mike Davis