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IMSA Car Corrals Provide Insider Access and Great Perks at Race Events

Sharing a Weekend with Fellow Brand Enthusiasts and the Chance to Turn Laps on the Racetrack Are Highlights of Program

By Mark Robinson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – IMSA fans are well known for being brand loyal. That’s never more in evidence than at the manufacturer car corrals taking place at every IMSA race weekend around North America.

On a typical weekend, up to eight manufacturers have corrals set up around racetracks. They serve as a community within the IMSA community, allowing insider access to the fascinating facets of sports car racing while also giving enthusiasts the opportunity to share the passion for their brand with other like-minded people.

And the perks are plentiful. From prime trackside parking to hospitality areas with splendid views of racing; from driver meet-and-greets to exclusive pit and transporter tours; from expert advice on how to improve their car performance to the prized chance to take it for laps around the racetrack; car corrals offer experiences like no other at an IMSA event.

“We live and breathe this and love the opportunity to come together and talk cars,” says Meagan Quinn, Cadillac V-Series marketing manager who helps direct the GM brand’s corrals. “Add in the IMSA race component and we have the perfect formula for an adrenaline-filled weekend. This is a really excellent forum to bring our most enthusiast customers along for the ride with us – literally.”

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As part of the IMSA Event Marketing team, Diezel Lodder oversees the monster logistical task of setting up the corrals. Working hand-in-hand with each racetrack, he schedules placement of each manufacturer’s corral at the track, sees to it that each manufacturer has what it needs to host a successful corral and works to schedule to coordinated ballet of launching each manufacturer’s precious track time for parade laps – several times over the course of a weekend with some corrals boasting hundreds of cars at an event.

Hooked when he volunteered to help at a Porsche car corral at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2006, Lodder has been orchestrating it for all makes with IMSA for more than a decade. The military veteran sees firsthand every race weekend the excitement and attachment the corrals engender.

“It’s pretty neat from the enthusiast’s perspective,” Lodder says. “All the people in there share the same passion. It’s great for the OEMs to be able to give back to their owners in this way. For IMSA, if you have that brand loyalty, the brand that it’s under is the IMSA sports car umbrella. You’re getting fans that are repeat fans and they’re knowledgeable about the sport, and they share their experiences. That generates new fans.”

Direct Link from Racetrack to the Street

For the manufacturers, it’s all about that connection made between what their customers drive on the streets and what their race teams achieve on the racetrack. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” yes. But even more.

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“One of the great things about it is, being a Porsche corral, you’re with other Porsche owners and you get to meet a lot of great people who have the same passion for a great brand.” says Aaron Ambrosino, national vice president of the Porsche Club of America. “There’s no better way than to spend the day surrounded by a bunch of Porsches and Porsche fans at the racetrack and seeing some good racing and Porsches winning.”

The iconic Corvette brand has played host to popular corrals for years. They offer the immersive experience that strengthens the bond between manufacturer and customer, according to Todd Christensen of Chevrolet Motorsports Strategic Marketing and Operations.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to engage with our owners and thank them for supporting not just the racing effort but also the Corvette brand as a whole,” Christensen says. “The experience goes beyond just parking and hospitality.

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“Our owners are able hear from a number of Corvette insiders at each event: Corvette Racing drivers and race team management, plus subject matter experts from the Corvette engineering team, key technical partners and more. These types of engagements are fantastic for us, as it gives us a direct opportunity to hear from our owners and customers with their Corvettes only feet away. It’s a true win-win.”

At Lexus, the car corrals have grown and evolved as the success of the brand’s IMSA program has grown in recent years. Jeff Bal, Lexus motorsports manager, says their corrals embody the same experience of Omotenashi – to wholeheartedly look after one’s guests – that comes directly from the company’s Japanese culture.

“It creates advocacy and makes people feel like they’re part of something special and unique,” Bal explains. “The return on engagement is undeniable when we see first-time attendees catch the fever and excitement of the racing action. And when they see the spindle grill of the (No.) 12 and 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3s fly by in black and yellow, it gives our guests a heightened sense of belonging and sends them home with a renewed level of excitement each and every time they get behind the wheel of their own Lexus.”

‘Spirited’ Parade Laps Provide Ultimate Thrill

Hanging out with other owners of your car’s make is great, as well as the great race vantage points, meeting the race drivers and advice on how to get the best performance out of your car. But it’s the chance to drive your own performance vehicle on the same circuit where the racing takes place that elicits the most excitement and memories for corral attendees.

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IMSA tends to make the experience more memorable, Lodder says, because several parade laps are completed at a “more spirited” pace behind a safety car than is normally allowed on a typical lap day offered by tracks.

“They come off the track with big grins on their faces and it’s just the coolest thing,” Lodder says, and the OEM reps agree.

“With the hot laps, they’re just elated. Most of the time, they don’t even know what to expect,” says Lynn Friedman, Porscheplatz and car corral hospitality chair for the Porsche Club of America who’s worked at IMSA corrals for the marque for nearly a decade. “That is one of the big things they love.”

“The most popular experience is the parade lap,” says Bal from Lexus. “Our guests absolutely love it!”

“Parade laps are a highlight of the weekend,” says Cadillac’s Quinn, “with a special plaque (given) to commemorate the experience of driving on the track.”

It’s easy for interested car owners participate in IMSA car corrals. Contact the car clubs or dealerships of your manufacturer to see what information they can provide. Many manufacturers allow owners of their brand to join in corral activities at a track, even if not part of the corral, with proof of brand ownership.

Volunteers do all the on-site work for the corrals at events, so join a car club and ask to work a race weekend. It’s how IMSA’s Lodder got started 16 years ago, and he’s among the strongest proponents of car corrals today.

“For the enthusiast, it’s a great value,” he says. “It’s a great program within the IMSA paddock.”

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