State of Play: Part 4, The Race Team
After a stellar racing career that included winning the prestigious Mister Motocross series an unprecedented four times on the trot in the late 1980s, Craig Dack retired in 1992 and set up his own race team the following year. And that team, CDR Yamaha, has gone on to be the longest-running and most successful racing outfit in the country, amassing more than 40 national championships! In the process, Dack has forged a reputation for loyalty to sponsors, and for never shying away from the opportunity to offer an opinion about the sport. Which is why he’s the perfect next candidate to reflect on the State of Play for the industry in Australia amidst the current Covid-19 drama. If you missed earlier instalments of this series, you can check them out here:
What have been some of the immediate impacts on your business – ones that you expected and perhaps were unexpected, for good or bad?
The impacts to CDR [Craig Dack Racing] have been financial cutbacks from Yamaha, but it was done in a very sympathetic and fair way so there were minimal financial disruption. We were able to make some cutbacks internally, but I must say the way our Federal and State Governments have conducted themselves through the crisis has been nothing short of amazing. So with Government support – like JobKeeper, etc, and some other cost-cutting initiatives – it seems like we are sailing through the storm with maybe a torn sail and some damage, but okay. At this stage, anyway!
How quickly did they come about?
It took longer than I thought for us to be affected. I guess it took a couple of months for us to get our heads around what is going to be a realistic timeframe for us to get back to racing. It has been and still is ambiguous, but the re-start [of the 2020 MX Nationals] has been touted for some time in August.
What is your current situation with staff and business operations in general?
Like any other race team in Australia, CDR gets no monetary assistance apart from what that team brings in through sponsorship. I’ve been hearing comparisons of our sport to Supercars, AFL, NRL, regarding salary cutbacks, etc. But that’s a completely unrealistic comparison, and I’ll tell you why. CDR gets no financial assistance from our governing body through TV rights or any other income they may have generated – which is not how other sports work. We get no revenue from a percentage of gate takings for events, like most other sports do; we actually pay to race! That’s not a criticism; it’s just a fact I’m pointing out. So, for example, whatever income comes into CDR is from sponsorship dollars only from our partners with whom I have had a long and successful relationship – most of them for over 30 years. As long as I communicate with my partners, as I am doing, then we can understand each other’s issues. Because we have worked through this with our partners, there has been little affect on our staff and contracted riders. We have been taking this crisis very seriously and following all Government recommendations and rules.
What initiatives are you or your business working on to adapt to the situation?
Our number one priority has been to follow the Government’s rules and recommendations. After that, I’ve been having a phone link with my two riders every Tuesday so they feel comfortable and clear on where things are at. I believe communication is very important in any crisis because when people are unclear, it can create a lot of anxiety and misleading thoughts. As far as CDR staff, we have been working when we can by following the Government suggestions and rules.
How have you been affected by international markets (product availability, currency etc)?
I guess the only issues we have felt regarding this question is some of our special part orders from overseas have been affected by the exchange rate, which has dropped substantially since the start of this crisis. So some things have cost a lot more than initially budgeted for late last year.
What do you see as the biggest challenges over the next six months?
Well, obviously for the Government – with the help of the public – to get this Covid-19 Virus under control. And not just for the short-term; the long-term is more the issue I see because if it gets out of control again, then we will have much bigger issues than we have now. For our sport and industry, it’s about surviving right now, I guess, as we have taken a big hit.
How will this experience change the way you do business in the future? What does April 2021 look like, for example?
That’s yet to be fully seen. I think that question is very much hypothetical for many people, but CDR has adapted through many problems over its 28 years. For example, we didn’t do the Australian Supercross Championship series at all one year because the team and Yamaha Australia were not happy with its direction. We survived the financial crisis, which was a big hit for CDR. We had about a 40 percent cutback overnight, which took several years to recover from. As far as what April 2021 looks like … who knows where the Virus is at by then? That’s the first question, I guess. But one thing I know for sure is that Motorcycling Australia will need to pony up and take a leading role in the recovery and direction for the sport. You can clearly see the devastation this has done to many sports and how much pressure CEOs, general managers, etc, from other sporting codes have been under. It will be the same for our sport, so let’s wait and see.
How do you see this all playing out (work and community) before we return to some kind of normality?
I’m not an infectious disease expert, and even if I was I still don’t think I could give you a definitive answer. But one thing is for sure: the fallout from this is happening on a day-to-day basis at many levels.
Any other thoughts about the wider moto community industry in general?
Motocross and Supercross have been, and always will be, an important part of our industry growth as we create the inspiration for kids to start nagging Mum and Dad for a Pee Wee 50. So if we don’t keep inspiring the next lot of motorcyclist, then we will have no industry in the future. There is a strong adventure market that has been developing here and around the world. And I can tell you firsthand (because I have ridden and spoken with many of them) that most of them started with a motocross bike and have been fans of dirt bike racing, and that stays in your blood forever. We ALL know that. The greatest challenge I think the sport faces is getting some unity between all the invested parties. That means having the manufacturers, teams, riders, importers, promoters and governing body all pushing in the one direction and showcasing the sport for how good it can be. It’s the biggest challenge facing us, and our biggest hurdle to overcome.