On the occasion of the rebirth of The Bulletin, this is a review and summary of our Spring 2016 racing season. It is my intention that this article be followed by more event-specific articles, beginning with the SEDIV meetings in February and progressing through the most recent SARRC/MARRS Challenge.
First of all, let me thank all who have contributed to what has been a very successful start to our year. Ultimately the mission of NC Region’s racing program, as I see it, is to provide a rewarding and positive experience to participants in all areas of involvement (drivers, crew, and volunteers), while returning a sustainable financial return that allows us to continue to do the same for the foreseeable future. The formula is really quite simple. Charge a fair and reasonable entry fee, watch your costs, and treat people well. Do that consistently and the positive word will spread. “Build it and they will come.”
If you were to just look at numbers of drivers, entries and volunteers though, you’d think we didn’t grow much at all this spring. In fact, we only served 10 more drivers with 6 more volunteers, increases of less than 2% each over 2015. Entries were also up less than 4% over year prior, even with the return of the Carolina Cup Pro Series and adding the combo enduros. But, based on the hugely positive feedback from participants, and based on the very positive financial turnaround, we have succeeded on both counts. Growth can’t always be measured just by numbers.
I credit our renewed success to four factors, in no particular order:
First, we are paying attention to our numbers better. 2015’s dismal financial outcome proved once and for all that slashing entry fees to below cost doesn’t insure more entries. The reality is simply that we operate at one of the most expensive racing venues in the country. At the start of 2016, out of necessity, we were forced to adjust entry fees back to competitive market levels. As shown above, there has been no drop off in drivers or entries. In most cases however, our entry fees are still at or below our nearest competition. VIR costs more because it’s a ‘destination’ facility and is worth more. We have to recognize that fact and manage accordingly.
Second, we are communicating our plans better. We now prepare event budgets in advance and put them in the hands of the Race Chairs, so they have guidelines to adhere to with respect to the items over which they have some control. The budgets are based on historical averages with targets for revenues and costs. Every event should have a reasonable chance of paying for itself. I’m happy to report that it appears we have been consistently coming in under budget on the cost side, and meeting or exceeding our revenue targets. I give credit to our Race Chairs for pulling together.
Third, I credit Marketing. You can fuss over entry fees and create all the budgets in the world, but in the end none of it matters if you don’t reach your target audience. The Marketing committee continues to deliver quality eAds to our driver audience as in the past, but they have stepped it up this year. We now have the ability to reach just about every SCCA-licensed driver east of the Mississippi with a message. We are also working to develop a social media presence, and they’ve even branched out creatively by recently making a video at our Spring Sprints that has been picked up by National. Our Hospitality tent concept has also been enjoying success with distributing merchandise, gifts, T&S results, and providing general goodwill to our participants. The prominent players in Marketing have been Eric Danielsen (Chair), Blair ‘Opie’ Deffenbaugh (Social Media), and Jean Quick (Ms. Hospitality). In all, there are about 20 members now actively ‘selling’ NC Region in various areas of specialty. The positive feedback is beginning to show and they’re just getting started.
Fourth is an item we unfortunately have no control over, but that is outstanding weather. If you don’t think that’s a factor remember when it snowed north of VIR in 2013, we had many competitors unable to get out of their driveway for our March event and we lost badly. This year we enjoyed 70 degree weather in March, and along with the factors outlined above, we turned a positive for the first time in seven years. But remember, what Mother Nature gives, she taketh away, and she always wins.
So what’s next? Our fall schedule has both challenges and opportunities in store. For Goblin’s Go I’m excited to announce that we have been selected to serve as the host for the season finale for the V8 Road Racing Series. Nothing can get the adrenalin flowing like a large field of ground-pounders. This will be in addition to the 12th running of the Production Car Festival, along with our usual complement of SARRC and mini-enduros. Add the fall colors, and this year’s event should be another winner.
For the enduro, we all know 2016 is a turning point. We are actively working on some innovations and marketing strategies to turn this event around. Make no mistake – 2016’s event is certain. We have a contract and a date. It’s up to us to make it work. I am confident we can do so if we pull together. I’ve seen us in action.
That’s it for now. Hope to see you soon. Small steps, always forward.
Sam Fouse, RE