After the excitement of the World Time Attack Challenge died down some, I made my way to Melbourne from Sydney and paid the men at Martini Racing Australia a visit in their main office at Rowville. With a significant number of cars at Eastern Creek running on Martini Racing products that weekend, including the renowned Japanese drifters from Team Orange and three WTAC podium finishers, there is much potential for the brand.
Second and third place winners of the Clubsprint class Daniel Farquar (IS Motor Racing/Royal Purple Oils Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8) and Darrin Morrice (Road Track Rally Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10), as well as Alif Hamdan (Chaser Motorworks Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6) in second place of the Open class, were all using Martini Racing products. Naoto Suenaga of Team Orange won the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge too.
Dan Cuschieri, son of the business owner Tony Cuschieri, shares the past, present and future on Martini Racing.
Q: How did Martini Racing come about?
A: It started with my father Tony Cuschieri some 30 years ago when he was distributing oils then and he saw the opportunity to improve on existing products. That led to the forming of Martini Motor Oils, which catered to the general servicing market. It was only about 11 years ago when I came onboard and introduced race fuels to the brand, hence the birth of Martini Racing.
Q: Oh, you only joined about a decade ago? What were you doing before that?
A: I come from a marketing background. I wasn’t brought up to take over my dad’s business – Before I came over to join my dad in the business, I had a couple of different jobs in marketing and retail sales. I just turned 18 when my dad asked me to work for him.
Q: What is the biggest challenge now?
A: The biggest challenge is in building the brand name. Martini Racing is positioned as an upmarket brand and consumers perceive us as being expensive and out of their reach. We are a premium brand but we are not unreasonably priced. There are other brands in the market that overprice due to the perceived value of the brand.
Also, previously we were mainly a trade supplier but the expansion into race lubricants has created a retail presence for us and made us more consumer-oriented and hence a greater need for stronger branding.
Q: What is the strategy then?
A: It’s all about the testimonials and word of mouth. We try to produce products to the best that we can physically do and then it’s about getting the products to the guys, ideally to the high-profiled drivers and teams. Currently, some of the prominent names in motorsports that are on our products are Harop Engineering, Peter Kittle Motorsports and Team Orange. Beyond top-level motorsports, a lot of the club day drivers are also on our products.
When these guys use our products in their racing and produce results, it helps the brand a lot. We derive a lot of enjoyment from seeing our product work for them. They are also helping us to test our products under extreme pressures and high heat, pushing the limits and testing the benchmarks of the products.
Q: Martini Racing caters to the racing drivers as well as the average drivers on the streets. How different are these two groups of customers?
A: It is probably a lot easier to deal with the motorsports guys. Although in terms of volume, the numbers are less, but they know what they want and are not as price-sensitive as the average driver. Motorsports guys want good quality products in their cars, so as to achieve maximum performance. This means they will be more willing to pay for a better product that works, but at the same time they are also more cautious about brands that they have not heard of before, hence this brings us back to the need of strong branding and awareness.
Q: How does having a physical presence at WTAC, other than just having drivers and teams use your products, help?
A: Being there and having an exhibition booth really helps because it gives direct access to our target market. It’s been some time since we last had a major presence at a huge event like this. It helps customers know that we are approachable and affordable, creating accessibility to the brand and educating them at the same time. Retail presence aside, we were also providing track support, such as supplying products at the last minute to help cars get back out on track.
Q: What’s new for Martini Racing?
A: We have just released our RE85/116 race fuel for competition, sporting and race engines that operate best on E85 type fuels. This is not available in Asia yet [at time of interview]. It has a Research Octane Number (RON) of 116 and a Motor Octane Number (MON) of 108, with an emphasis on being green and sustainable for motorsport technology. Basically it gives you more horsepower, increases engine reliability, lowers engine temperatures and prevents internal component corrosion while reducing CO2 emissions.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: We maintain a consistency of chasing for better products, such as being one of the first to swop over to the latest oil rating. We understand that the cost of rebuilding engines in motorsports is extremely high so it is essential to use good products to prolong its life. People do believe in spending that bit more for a good product.
Q: I understand Martini Racing is moving into the Asian market, having seen some of your products being used at events such as Formula Drift Asia for example. What are the plans?
A: Yes we are moving into the Asia market with Cosmic Performance. It is very different from the Australian market and we are learning how things like product image matters, that is, the packaging and labels. We are studying the Asian market and seeing what works in the Australian market that might work in the Asian market and vice versa.
*This was first published in Wheels Asia.