Fast cars, gourmet food and a whole lot of style in a building straight from Architectural Digest; if 007 was to design an attraction, it would be I-WAY. Located in Lyon, France, I-WAY was created by Pierre Nicolas and in the three years since opening has been the setting for 155,000 high tech, high class simulated motor races.
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In an exquisitely designed building guests pay a premium to experience motor racing in professional standard simulators: 6 Formula 1, 6 Rally, 6 Endurance Prototypes and plans to introduce a “moon race” simulation. As well as the opportunity to compete against other drivers, visitors are able to work out in a state of the art gym, indulge themselves in a luxurious spa or enjoy gourmet meals. The experience offered is aspirational and unique and is taking off not just with individuals, but to a greater extent than anticipated with companies who have been keen to book the facilities for events.
Blooloop talks to Pierre Nicolas (see image left) about the secret to the success of I-WAY:
Blooloop: How did you get involved with I-WAY?
Nicolas: I am the creator of the I-WAY concept. The idea was very simple. To allow people to access a dream almost inaccessible: driving a racing car challenging other pilots.
Blooloop: What is the basis of the I-WAY business model?
Nicolas: Our customer are living the experience of a professional pilots with briefing, equipment, qualification and race with other pilots, onboard of our 18 simulators (6 F1, 6 Rally cars, 6 Endurance Prototypes).
Our visitor demographics are 50% Corporate and 50% Private: mainly men from 25 to 50 years old.
The key aspects are the reality of the experience we propose our clients to live. Driving a Formula 1 is unique experience, so we had to give this feeling. The design of our building is also part of this unique experience, with a building created specifically for this activity.
The prices are:
• F1 : 90 € / Rally : 75 € / Endurance : 75 €
• If the races are done during the week, the prices are : F1 : 75 € / Rally : 60 € / Endurance : 60 €
• And if you come with a group of 6 friends, the prices are : F1 : 45 € / Rally : 37,5 € / Endurance : 37,5 €
• The entrance in the I-WAY building is free and visitors purchase a ticket for one session
Blooloop: What's a visit to I-WAY like – the facilities include 3 types of racing simulators but also a gym, bars, spa? What do people typically do on a visit?
Nicolas: Almost everyone experiences the simulators, but not everyone can race at the same time. However, you can follow the races live with giant screens in every simulator area. Thanks to our restaurant and Spa, we also have customers coming in couple (man in the simulator, the woman in the Spa, and then together in the restaurant).
Blooloop: The racing simulators are top of the range. Please can you describe the simulator experience in a little more detail?
Nicolas: The simulator experience starts with the equipment (suits, gloves, shoes, helmets). Then there is a 10 minutes briefing. The people are then installed in the simulators to take part into 3 minutes qualification session and then a 7 minutes race challenging other pilots. We have people coming regularly, some almost once a week.
Blooloop: Why did you choose Cruden to supply the racing simulators?
Nicolas: When your business is based on a technology, you have to be sure that the technology you use is the best in terms of quality. At the time we created the I-WAY concept, Cruden already worked on simulators, so they had an experience. And after 3 years from the day we opened the I-WAY concept in Lyon, we have never had a major problem. So we chose Cruden because they are the best.
Blooloop: The Cyrille Druart building design is stunning (see image above). Why was having such a cutting edge design an essential part of the whole concept?
Nicolas: Because the all I-WAY concept has been created to have a unique experience. And the building was part of it, as well as the simulators. The building is part of the experience to understand that what we are going to discover is unique.
Blooloop: I-WAY offers a very high end, pretty unique experience. What has the reaction of visitors been like?
Nicolas: Very surprised and excited. They couldn’t imagine taking part in a Formula 1 race even once in their life. So it is almost a dream coming true.
Blooloop: How big a part of your business comes from corporate events and what do companies look for in their visits?
Nicolas: 50% of our business comes from companies. All types of company are coming, from 6 to 1000 people. Some come for incentives, others for seminars.
Blooloop: Have there been any surprises?
Nicolas: More corporate visitors. At the opening, we thought we would have 70% Private and 30% Companies. The reality is 50% - 50%. So we had to adapt our organisation, notably with an adapted sales force.
Blooloop: Where did the funding come from and how much did it cost?
Nicolas: The total investment is 12 M€, financed by 5 banks.
Blooloop: How have you performed against the original business plan?
Nicolas: Our Turnover in 2010 has been 4, 8 M€ for simulation and 1 M€ for the Restaurant. From the opening, more than 3,000 companies organized an event in I-WAY and d more than 155,000 races have been launched. We are well in advance on our objectives.
Blooloop: It seems like a really interesting concept that would work in other city locations. Are you looking at developing other sites and if so what are the criteria that you’re looking for?
Nicolas: Yes, this is part of our development strategy. But this is a very confidential point on which I cannot tell you more for the moment!