Auto Manifesto

September 8, 2008

The Future of Motorsport Part 1

Racing is now a huge global sport encompassing many forms of constantly evolving competition. Where it is headed in the future is anybody’s guess but it will undoubtedly change dramatically over the coming decades, just as it has since its inception. That is its very nature, to continually innovate.

To hypothesize about where it is headed, we must first understand what it is. Racing is a captivating elixir of business, sport and entertainment, and engineering.

The business side has become increasingly professional. What started out as recreational rivalry among wealthy gentlemen has grown to become the domain of highly paid professional drivers and teams funded by multinational corporations. The gentlemanly element is still present in amateur areas of the sport, but the top level of the sport is now completely dominated by professionals who are paid to build exposure and recognition for their sponsors.

That is done largely through the entertainment value that racing provides for its audience. Spectators want to see great competition, fast cars, and recognizable drivers. It’s also important that the action is fair and the rules clear and easy to understand. There are many opportunities to deliver the “product” or entertainment, not just with live audiences and television but also with many types of new media.

Lastly, the engineering and innovation exists to enhance the business and entertainment sides of the sport. It shouldn’t be done for its own sake because that simply leads to costs spiraling out of control. Once the commercial benefits received are exceeded by the cost of competing, there is no longer a favorable return on investment. If the ROI is not favorable, sponsors withdraw and the series is emaciated or collapses. At worst it is destructive. At best it is unstable and cyclical. The only useful innovation is that which has relevance to society in the larger scheme of things, not purely for racing purposes.

These three items form the basis of the sport. All of them must be addressed adequately in order to maintain a healthy, professional racing series. In the next post I’ll discuss how I see racing evolving in the future.

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