Support grassroots motorsports

STANDING START - Lord Seno (The Freeman) - November 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Racing fans today live within anobscureperiod of time where marketability is above skills. It has gone to the point where racing up the ladder to become a professional racing driver is near impossible. This has led to plummeting public interest in motorsports. 

Take for example Formula One with the ever-increasing cost of participation. The cost of hybrid engines coupled with “clueless” sanctioning bodies has contributed greatly to the decline in interest amongst the race fans. That thought did not come from me but from Bernie Ecclestone, the former head of Formula One.

But here in the Philippines, grassroots racing is still alive. Despite the incredible and ever-increasing cost of engaging in this sport, it has never been easier to pursue your dreams of becoming a race car driver.

Yesterday I checked out a local go kart track in Cebu, with a bunch of enthusiasts doing shakedowns runs for Autocross. This sport is a popular grassroots sport in the US. It has been gaining interests in the Philippines amongst weekend warriors but never became that big. I was surprised to see around 20 cars lined up on the grid ranging from everyday cars to high performance cars. This only means that even with the pandemic, the interest is still there.

It somehow seems absurd that with the sheer amount of participation in a city with no known real racetrack, the sport is still dying. It can only get worse as some environmentalist from all over the world are constantly pushing for a transition to the greener “electric powered cars.

The pressure is fast getting into the heads of the car manufacturers. Soon, cars will be all electric. There will still be E-racing cars like Formula E and the likes.But the transition will kill grassroots motorsports. This is inevitable.

So how do we, race fans, save it from dying? We simply need to support our local club motorsports.Let’s take for example, Japan. I know Japan probably makes more cars than any country in the world and this country is car crazy. But the Japanese fans are the most die-hard fans in the world, more than the tifosi. If you have watched their local GT races, or their ultra-competitive Super Formula races, the grandstands were full (pre-covid). You see fans waving huge flags and wearing merchandise for their favorite brand or driver.

The support from race fans somehow translates to business as big companies bring in sponsorships in exchange for marketing. This will spur development of the sport which will make it competitive. There, we will see the entertainment value of the sort. This somehow creates a domino effect as the sport gains more leverage.

Here in the Philippines by comparison, the top-level GT circuit racing series is a good event to follow, with not so restrictive rules and a fair amount of equality in performance. So is the Toyota Vios Cup with its highly equal platform. I can only assume the same is true in club series like Autocross. The Philippine Autocross Series is a good series to follow, if not join. This form of motorsports has the fewest requirements of all, requiring only any road worthy car and some fiery passion.

FORMULA ONE
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