Why “motorsport has always been expensive” is a worn out response

Formula 4

I was delighted to be invited by BMW British Touring Car driver Tom Oliphant to talk at his recent innovative Sponsorship Summit, which was held recently at the BRDC HQ at Silverstone.  The event was hosted by Tom’s Next Level Motorsport company. When he explained to me the purpose of the summit, which is to provide help and information to young drivers, many coming up from karting, in respect of the high levels of commercial backing that a driver needs today, I immediately offered my services.

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I really believe that those in charge of our sport have allowed it to get to the ridiculous stage whereby a youngster of 16 or 17, maybe with some genuine talent, is expected to go out to the business world and secure a budget in excess of a quarter of million pounds to compete in the junior entry-level of single-seater racing. It doesn’t require much imagination to realise that the most likely outcome of this scenario is that it’s the sons and daughters of wealthy families who tend to get the drives in F4. Not the healthiest way of growing a sport which I am reliably informed hasn’t increased its Licence Holder base since the millennium.

When I started the MIA back in 1994, it was the untimely announcement by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone that F3000 was to become a “control” formula that sparked my intention to create an organisation that could provide a forum for motorsport industry companies to lobby the governing body of our sport, in situations such as these. When I went to see Max together with Adrian Reynard, whose company was one of primary F3000 chassis suppliers, the President of the FIA told us that F3000 had become too expensive and it needed a cost-cutting programme. He suggested that we get all interested parties in F3000 together to discuss ways of achieving this. It was the difficulty in doing so that sparked off my idea of creating a representative association, the MIA. 25 years on, it would appear that my idea was right!

A powerful statement from the top is needed and long overdue.

Sadly, I don’t see much evidence that Max’s concerns about F3000 are being replicated by the powers that be today with respect to F4. The final round of the 2019 season saw just twelve F4 cars on the grid at Brands Hatch. That worn-out sentence “motor racing has always been expensive” seems to be the panacea for all our sport’s woes.

I attended the impressive World Motorsport Symposium last week and was fascinated by the incredible level of technical innovation that exists with the sport we are all passionate about. With the focus fully highlighted on sustainability, solutions to so many of the sport’s vulnerable issues were a delight to hear, even for a non-technical person like me. We all want to safeguard our sport.

Why then, is it the case that there is so little realisation that unless we have far greater diversity within the sport when it comes to participants, we leave ourselves wide open for criticism and a lack of interest from the commercial world in investing in motorsport? It is seen as a playground for the wealthy. It doesn’t need to be.

A powerful statement from the top is needed and long overdue. There has to be more than just a desire to create a more level playing field within the sport. We should be demanding a practical pathway to involve the technical and commercial brains of our industry to tackle the problem. It can be done and it would benefit everyone and help to grow our sport. If you agree with me, please get in touch at briansims.co.uk.

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