“Social media abuse is on the rise this year” ”
Being active on social media daily, you tend to pick up a range of content – both useful and useless – within the barrage of posts whenever you log on. I have a lot of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, more than I could ever lay claim to outside of the virtual realm, and having done this job for the best part of a decade, the majority are motor racing people through and through.
It’s a great tool for keeping in contact with the community I write about and respect, and more than the odd story is generated off a conversation started by a post or picture that’s caught my attention.
However, while social media can be a superb communication channel and a benefit, it can also have a much darker side.
On page 13 of this issue you can read a rather stark warning from Motor Sports Association general secretary Simon Blunt about the governing body’s stance when it comes to anti-social media.
The explosion in online communication over the last decade has brought more voices than ever together, but when some of those voices become less than constructive, it can be a powerful weapon.
The rise of the keyboard warrior has been stark, and during high-profile events such as Formula One grands prix, World Endurance Championship rounds or British Touring Car and British GT events, my feeds are chocker with people having their say. That’s great as it makes for an immersive experience for everybody involved. But where it goes wrong is when opinion takes the place of fact, or when things turn nasty toward a single individual or body.
Now, you can’t silence the masses, especially those with little real life connection to the sport, but social media abuse from active licence holders – or their family – toward another just isn’t on.
Sadly the MSA has encountered a rise in cases of harassment, threatening behaviour or general abuse in recent years, but particularly worrying is the ‘trial by social media’ aspect, where people without real knowledge or connection to an incident posted online will instantly condemn someone for something they may, or may not have done. It’s like a virtual lynch mob.
Most posts like this are put up in the heat of the moment after an incident, without thought. It’s particularly bad when done toward younger drivers in karting or junior formulae, who are in the early stages of their careers and often more impressionable. A parent wouldn’t call an eightyear-old something unrepeatable in person at an event, so why should they do it on social media sites?
The MSA has been proactive this year, and repeat offenders have been contacted to warn of the consequences. A little thought into the impact of words before putting them out there in a public forum goes a long way to stamping out the problem. The simple rule of thumb is don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to somebody’s face.
Don’t get me wrong, everybody is entitled to their opinion and voice, but even on the internet there is a line that is sometimes better just not to cross.
The Mini Challenge will benefit from increased manufacturer backing next season, with its top JCW category moving onto the British GT support package.
MINI UK, which is part of the BMW family, has agreed to increase its support of the single-make series from next season to provide factory technical assistance, parts supply as well as financial and promotional backing.
As part of the deal, MINI UK will help the JCW grid, which runs for the latest generation of 255bhp two-litre turbocharged John Cooper Works model, move onto the SRO race package full-time to run alongside the headline British GT Championship and BRDC British Formula 3 classes.
The JCW championship will expand to run over eight rounds as opposed to seven this year, but will also continue to form part of Motorsport Vision Racing’s Mini Festival events. As a result it will skip SRO’S annual European British GT fixture. MSVR will continue to administer the Mini Challenge.
Mini Challenge promoter Antony Williams said: “This is a fantastic deal for the championship and to have the JCWS running alongside British GT and F3 on one of Britain’s top motorsport packages will be superb.
“We’ve built a relationship with MINI UK over the last few years and the Challenge suits the brand’s marketing platform. MINI wants to affirm its sporting credentials and sees motorsport as the way to do that.”
MINI UK and series organisers are investigating live TV deals, while MINI UK will also fund a guest car in the championship. The Challenge currently has highlights shown on Channel 4 and Motors TV.
MINI UK’S head of product Nicolas Griebner said: “Motorsport is MINI’S heritage, and it started out in circuit racing in the British Saloon Car Championship even before the famous Monte Carlo rally successes. It is very important for the modern MINI brand to be seen on the circuits for this reason.
“During the development of the new F56 JCW car we have seen things move forward two steps, both in terms of performance and popularity of the championship. Grids are very strong and we believe the old mantra of ‘win on a Sunday and sell on a Monday’ still rings true. Racing alongside British GT next year is a very exciting step up.”
The deal also has implications for the lower-tier Cooper Championship, which will continue to run on MSVR meetings for seven rounds next season, meaning the Mini Challenge will expand to run over 13 weekends in total.
“We’re aiming to run separate grids for the Cooper and forced-induction Cooper S fields, and we’re targeting 80 drivers across the three classes,” added Williams.
“It would mean that the Challenge should be around four-times bigger than it was four years ago.”