MY PERSONAL GOAL FOR 2022 IS TO INTRODUCE MORE OF MY FRIENDS TO LIVE MOTORSPORT
THERE IS A TERM in the water skiing fraternity called ‘pass the handle’. It reaches beyond the literal physical act of passing someone a ski handle and is a way for current enthusiasts to help keep the hobby alive. The premise is that at least once a year you should teach someone new how to water ski. That’s it. It’s a low effort movement that promises big rewards in helping maintain and build a vibrant community for what is a niche sport.
Motorsport could benefit from a similar mindset. Before you take your Grandma to hire karts and send her into the Shadow Realm with an overzealous divebomb I should explain. Instead of ‘pass the handle’, it’s time for racing fans to ‘pass the hot chips’ – yes, the ubiquitous, if a tad overpriced, trackside master food.
Okay, the catchphrase might need some work, but the concept is simple. Invite someone who hasn’t experienced it before to join you trackside and witness racing at its purest, rawest form – in person. If you yourself haven’t been to watch trackside before, change that in 2022. It’s a joyous experience that you’ll remember vividly for the rest of your life.
If we want to enjoy a thriving, diverse and successful motorsport landscape in the future, the opportunity to help make that happen is with us, the fans. That’s not to say we are the only factor in motorsport’s future being an enjoyable one, but there is no point leaving the popularity of the sport to an ethereal other. Want more fans? We need to play our part to help share the passion. More fans are always a good thing. It means more sponsor opportunities for teams, more TV coverage and better funding. Cricket and Rugby don’t swim in government grant money and breathless mainstream media coverage on luck alone.
That’s why my personal goal for 2022 is to introduce more of my friends to live motorsport, and the joy of a trackside hot chip. As a racing fan I feel duty-bound to help share the passion and introduce new people to the sport. Some of that will be in writing this column, but the best way will be in person. Watching, hearing, smelling and seeing it all at once.
I’m lucky to be raised in a family that proudly stood by its motto of “if it doesn’t have an engine, it’s not a real sport”, so I don’t have any challenges in convincing my kin to join me in leaning against a chicken wire fence to watch cars and bikes blast past under the hot sun (or during our frequent trips to Phillip Island, the frigid rain). Instead, I’ll be able to focus on those who have seen fit to tolerate my company in the name of friendship.
If you’ve ever had a friend or family member ask you about Netflix sensation capitalise on that. Instead of looking down your nose at those who use a widely distributed form of entertainment as their pathway into fandom, make the most of the opportunity to add a lifelong member to the motorsport fraternity. Australian Grand Prix tickets aren’t cheap, my bank account knows that much, but some of the best live motorsport I’ve seen has also been the cheapest.
Speedway is a fantastic example. During the summer months races happen at local tracks all around the country, with a night’s racing likely costing less than an eggs benny at your local café. The on-track battles are almost universally fantastic, with short, punchy formats that cater to shorter attention spans. Though, a note from the wise, tell your companions to pack clothes they are happy to get dirty, and don’t forget the safety glasses! While that in and of itself can be off-putting for some, rest assured that a night of speedway racing will be unlike anything a newbie has ever experienced. It’s an all-encompassing, visceral sensory experience. The rich, sweet smell of methanol fuel fills the air, big screaming V8s roar into the night – it’s racing in its simplest form. Don’t want to get dirty? Try drag racing. The vehicles are shockingly fast, and everything happens in a single quarter-mile stretch so you won’t miss a thing.
There is an entire world of fantastic motorsport out there ready and waiting to be shared. You’ll be making the sport a better place by bringing someone new along for the ride, so get to it.
And don’t forget the hot chips!