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Bash and crash in Mazda6 Celebrity Challenge
Mazda happy with Formula 1 Celebrity Challenge, but hasn’t yet signed on for 2014
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18 Mar 2013
MAZDA Australia says it “couldn’t have asked for more” from its first year as sponsor of the Formula 1 Celebrity Challenge, which saw mainstream media exposure tempered by scenes of carnage and a rather hefty damage bill.
However, it has stopped short of guaranteeing it will sponsor the popular event again in 2014, saying it needs to do the sums and see if the promotional benefits justify the outlay.
The company this year made the decision to take the reins to the crowd-pleasing celebrity spectacle, which was last run in 2011, from previous sponsor Lexus, putting a host of famous faces behind the wheel of new-generation Mazda6 diesels.
Each vehicle was fitted with a bolt-in roll cage, a racing seat and bedecked with company decals.
None of the 21 famous participants were paid, and each were given a week-long crash course from Australian racing hero Mark Skaife in the lead-up to the event.
Mazda said it was attracted to the promotional value of aligning its new mid-sized car with the glamorous Grand Prix road show, but with driver’s bragging rights on the line, there were times where the Albert Park circuit more closely resembled the ring at a demolition derby.
This year’s challenge consisted of three races held over three days, after which almost every car in the field sustained panel damage – at the least.
Three vehicles failed to start in the final race, sustaining mechanical damage rather than just dents and scratches.
Only 17 of 21 finished all three races, and almost none emerged unscathed. Although, as Mr Skaife pointed out to GoAuto, all of the celebrity drivers themselves thankfully emerged without dents or scratches of their own.
Former Australian test cricketer Brad Hodge continued his strong form in practise by winning all three races by comfortable margins. Chef Shane Delia and actor Jonathan LaPaglia rounded out the aggregate podiums.
Mazda Australia national marketing manager Alastair Doak was philosophical about the car damage, telling GoAuto after race three on Sunday that it came with the territory.
“Look, you have to come into this expecting a lot of damage, and that’s what we got,” he said.
“Is it more than we expected? I don’t know, we’ve never done it before so, we’re a little bit unsure.”
Mr Doak said the company was still confident it got good promotional value from the venture, but that it was too early to commit to another year.
“So far, so good, but we still have to add up the cost, and add up the exposure,” he said. “But the event went very smoothly, very happy how it went and couldn’t have asked for more so far.
“Fundamentally you’ll look at how much exposure you’ll get of the car and of the nameplate, versus the cost to put on the event, from that point of view its a relatively simple equation.
“That’ll be the decision, that will be made around those numbers. You have to take the emotion out of it, everybody’s had a great time and a fun event, but you really need to make sure you get a return on your investment.”
Mr Doak also said there would need to be a suitable new model in Mazda’s fleet that could be tied-in to the event, as the recently released Mazda6 was this year.
As we have reported, the new Mazda3 – which in its current guise is Australia’s best-selling new car – is due to appear overseas towards the end of this year and launch in Australia in 2014.
Meanwhile, the fleet of Mazda6’s used in the event likely face a variety of fates. The company told GoAuto many could be easily repaired and sold – plus the roll-cages were designed for simple removal.
Others may be sold to dealers as promotional tools. The company said it was too early to say if any would be written-off, and could not yet provide a provisional damage bill.
A glance at the field afterwards, however, suggests to GoAuto it will be a figure with six numerals.
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