Editor’s note: John Kilroy, currently the very successful Vice President/General Manager of the Performance Racing Industry and Publisher of its monthly magazine, which has historically deeps roots in the motorsports community. Over his 23 years of involvement with motorsports, he has been directly and indirectly responsible for many of the improvements that have evolved during his tenure, certainly in the field of print communications and trade shows. This month, he shares some of his views about our industry, its direction, and some specific commentary on certain aspects of its future.
As an industry, we’ve just experienced a highly-successful PRI Show in December. How do you describe the tone of that event with respect to the health of the motorsports industry?
There was a very positive atmosphere in the exhibits and exhibit aisles of the 2013 PRI Trade Show. The racing industry today has it challenges, but I believe there’s more of a sense now that these challengers are part of doing business. The challenge in 2009 was dealing with a sudden and significant loss of revenue in a single year. Many owners of racing businesses had to take some extreme actions in order to stay alive. We’re getting back to more of a “business as usual” kind of mode. There’s more of a sense of stability, I believe, and that’s a welcome change compared to just a couple of years ago.
The tone of the event was also positive for reasons that had to do with the Show itself. With the help of SEMA’s leadership and resources, we were able to combine the IMIS Show and the PRI Trade Show so there were hundreds of exhibitors who saved quite a bit of money exhibiting in one trade show versus two. Plus, we printed up more credentials than ever before, so buyer attendance went up. For the attending buyers, the number of exhibiting companies grew so they were able to shop and compare the widest array of new racing technology that’s been assembled all in one place in years.
And there were some outstanding events at the PRI Trade Show. The Grand Opening Breakfast was packed with nearly 3000 motorsports professionals, and I never heard this crowd so quiet as when Richard Petty was interviewed on stage by Dave Despain and Ken Schrader. It was great fun.
Given your current observations within the motorsports industry, how do you characterize the relationships between parts manufacturers and the engine building community?
The downturn in the economy put great pressure on every racing business to perform better. If you talk to parts manufacturers, a lot of their focus in recent years has been in securing their special niche in the racing marketplace, delivering quality products, innovating strategically and providing excellent customer service, all at the best price possible. There’s no room for fat in the system, or serious mistakes. So, parts manufacturers are definitely motivated to deliver a terrific package of values to the engine building community. In addition, credit issues seemed to have tightened up just about everywhere throughout the racing industry.
Over time, parts manufacturers seem to have trended more toward aligning the design of their parts with the requirements of engine builders, as opposed to producing more “generic” designs that allow builders to modify them for their particular needs. Can you comment on this?
Many manufacturers enjoy sharing stories of the connections they’ve made with individual race engine builders, and how they are able to supply them with components that help win races. There’s a lot of engineering innovation in racing that shifted from the racers and race teams decades ago to the parts manufacturers today. It’s a challenge to provide smaller quantities of parts for very specific applications on a timely basis in racing, but many suppliers find this is a direct route to securing long term business from bigger accounts. Also, the CNC and CAD/CAM revolution in manufacturing has helped in a big way to make this possible.