ROB LAD­BROOK

“So­cial media abuse is on the rise this year” ”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - Pho­tos: Gary Hawkins, Jakob Ebrey By Rob Lad­brook

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.”

The JCW field will race along­side Bri­tish GT Grieb­ner

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