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Mazda goes for F1 round two

Left: Television presenter Lauren Phillips will steer in the Mazda3 Celebrity Challenge at the 2014 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix next March.

Mazda to return to F1 Celebrity Challenge, but takes steps to cut the damage bill

Mazda logo4 Oct 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

MAZDA will return to the Australian Grand Prix for a second successive year, announcing plans to again sponsor the Celebrity Challenge in 2014 Last year’s fleet of turbo-diesel Mazda6s will make way for a fleet of 20 new-generation flagship 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre SkyActiv Mazda3s, as the company ramps up the promotion of its most popular car.

But it’s not just the cars that will change: the company also tells us it is taking steps to ensure the hefty damage bill it acquired from the 2013 event will not be replicated.

The new-generation 3 will launch in Australia in late January, and the timing of the Grand Prix, which runs between March 13-16, will give the crucial new versions a welcome publicity fillip.

“With huge crowds watching both trackside and at home, the 2014 Mazda3 Celebrity Challenge provides us with a great opportunity to showcase all-new Mazda3,” said Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak.

As we reported from the event earlier this year, Mazda’s first run at the Challenge resulted in panel damage to all but one of the fleet of 6s, resulting in a hefty repairs bill.

But plans are in place to make sure lighting doesn’t strike twice, says Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver.

“There was more damage than we would have liked to have seen (last year), we did expect it but there was more than we’d have liked,” he told GoAuto today.

“We’re going to put some things in place that we hope will reduce the amount of damage... Working with CAMS and driver trainers.”

While Mr Maciver said it was too early to outline specifics, he said incidents from this year such as “panel rubbing (between contestants) from ninth and tenth” would not be tolerated.

“We’ll still encourage people to race and have fun,” he said, adding that the driver training team for next year’s crop of celebrities would be announced soon. Last year, the head trainer was V8 Supercars luminary Mark Skaife.

Mr Maciver said the company had learned more than one lesson from its first crack this year, and said it was clear that the damage had been worth the extensive publicity the company had received, once Mazda had sifted through the data.

“From our point-of-view we generated a significant amount of coverage across TV, print and online,” he said. “Research has shown it, we noticed good publicity.

“We had to make sure and understand what last year did for us. Research took some time. The decision to do 2014 has become clearer in the past few months,” he said.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott said he was thrilled to welcome Mazda back in 2014.

“We’re delighted to welcome Mazda back on board for the 2014 Mazda3 Celebrity Challenge. The race adds so much excitement and glamour to an already action packed weekend of racing,” he said.

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