Hawk Performance has a responsibility to its clients. Whether it’s an IMSA team or a group of Spec E30 racers, the obligation to its customers goes far. Hawk strives to make sure that those who swear by its brand are not only happy with the product, but that they’re driving well out there. After all, it helps to have your customers perform — there aren’t many billboards more appealing than that.
Frankly, it’s a nice reminder that there’s an urge from one company to support folks of all stripes so long as they speak speed. That isn’t always the case.
Obviously, the demands of a professional team differ from those of a grassroots outfit, but that’s not a problem for Hawk Performance, a company made up of employees who all own some form of performance vehicle. Their own cars range from tuned street cars to dedicated racecars, and this broad range of experience with different levels of focus allow the company to sufficiently accommodate an array of folks, vehicles, and racing formats.
Casting a Wide Net
It all starts with outreach. John Butler, Hawk’s Marketing Manager, makes sure he’s a fixture at the HPDEs and race weekends in the greater Midwest. For club events on the West Coast and big name events nationwide, Edwin Mangune is Hawk’s traveling application engineer, schmoozer, and PR whiz. Wearing many hats has helped him act as an intermediary between engineering types and the shoot-from-the-hip sorts he deals with on a regular basis.
Both make a point to be a presence at the track, which helps them form a genuine bond with their clientele. With combined decades of experience, they’ve gotten quite efficient, sometimes sweeping the entire pits several times in a day.
Aside from their red, white, and black-attired employees roaming the pits looking for confused customers or potential clients, they make their presence known with their own setup. They attend most of the larger race weekends with two enormous tents, under which they service their clients’ cars and form new partnerships.
Building a Dependable Foundation
There’s a basic sort of support they offer their novice clients, and it starts with giving them a few pointers on how to run a bed-in procedure. Once the driver comes in after a few casual laps, John will measure the heat at the outer edge of the rotor as well as the backing plate.
In addition to that, Hawk happily provides all users a basic inspection to not only evaluate the safety of the braking system, but to determine wear rate by measuring pad thickness at stages throughout the weekend.
Still, there are plenty of experienced teams using Hawk products who still struggle to get the most out of their stoppers. With these outfits, Mangune will study the brake and its various components. Rotor paint, an infrared temp gun, and a few other measurement instruments allow Mangune to check the brake temperatures and wear rates and determine how the car can be optimized.
Addressing the Human Element
Assuming all looks safe and satisfactory, one of the Hawk men will send their client back out and find a point to begin observation, typically beside some of the corners that require heavy braking, or corners that require a long trail-brake. The two will reconvene back in the pits, where Butler or Mangune will add to their observations with a series of questions posed to the driver.
Further diagnosis will require the involvement of a mechanically sympathetic and meticulous driver — and one who can communicate well with Butler or Mangune, both of whom have the ability to discuss complex matters in simple terminology.
“Usually, I’ll start by asking them about the behavior of the car under braking. ‘Did you have to fight the car under braking?’, ‘When did the pad start to fade?’, ‘How comfortable were you releasing the pedal during a long trail-brake?’ and so on,” Butler said.
Obviously, not every driver can convey exactly what the car is doing, and Mangune has to respond by observing and working with a hunch.
But “hunch” doesn’t quite do Mangune’s diagnosis justice. Years spent attending races mean his experience, fortified by data, gives him a clear sense of which cars should use which products and the wear rates and potential issues with various combinations. “Educated guess” gives credit to the scope of his experience.
One common occurrence is a driver unknowingly resting his foot on the brake and accelerating wear. If the wear rates seem unreasonably high, he’ll consult the driver and query whether they’re resting his left foot on the dead pedal or riding the brake slightly.
Ego defenses aside, it’s hard to get an honest answer simply because there are plenty of things anybody immersed in driving is unaware of. One’s so occupied with curb hopping, they don’t realize everything else they’re doing. If the driver denies making such an amateur mistake, Mangune can consult the data. More often than not, the data confirms his suspicion.
Novice drivers get that kind of basic support and the more experienced outfits may get more. Oftentimes, Edwin will stay late into the evening with the seasoned vets, running through all the data recorded that day to provide them with more specific data.
Though these debriefs will have a general impact on the way Hawk designs products once they make their way back to Cleveland for the compound engineers to study, the debrief is designed to serve the customer. The field representative’s first responsibility is ensuring their clients see some improvement over the course of the weekend.
In addition to helping current clients, Mangune and Butler have to grow the Hawk family. This means keeping an ear to the ground, engaging with potential clients, and thinking of a cost-effective, appealing response to competitors’ products.
“Before I make a pitch, I have to understand the market trends and major players in this field — this is critical when it comes to shaping my plan,” Mangune described.
To have a good understanding of the environment, he must spend many weekends attending basic track events with a journalist’s eye. The traveling is often exhausting, but the pain is mitigated by seeing his friends succeed.
“Here’s a good story: our Blue-90 pads were the desired pad in Spec Miata a few years back,” Mangune said. “Eventually, a competitor stepped in with a product that edged ours out, just ever so slightly. After the competitor’s pads started winning over some of our former clients, we responded by releasing our DTC-60s and 30s.
“My job was to spread the word without bad-mouthing our competitors,” he continued. “I’d spent time talking to everyone interested, and, just by being there most weekends, I had built relationships with all those involved, all the big teams, and anyone else who could help us increase our influence. Eventually, our presence made some of them curious and, sooner or later, they’d sample a set of our new pads. More often than not, they’d move to our camp!”
Though his pitch varies depending on the audience, he always highlights a pad’s distinguishing qualities to sway a potential customer. In the case of the previously covered ER-1 endurance pad, he could sell them, partially, on their ease of use.
“The Hawks typically require less pedal pressure than the competitor’s products do. Everyone understands how less leg strain will help them over a long stint, but I have to make sure they’re aware this pad can make their lives easier.” It may seem like a simple sell, but it’s nevertheless extremely compelling.
In reality, that sale is only possible due to the extent of Hawk’s experience. Had it not been for the thousands of weekends spent at the track, the years of conversation, the urge to help, and the desire to see its products reach their potential, such a “simple” sell would not be possible. Anyone who links up with this brand can soothe themselves with the knowledge that, come race weekend, they’ll have the support everybody needs to get the most from their binders.