Five reasons why drag racing in Australia rocks

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Drag racing is my sport. It’s your sport. It’s our sport. I love this sport like a fat kid loves cake and these are the reasons why the golden age is not behind us, it’s still to come.

The following thoughts are presented as opinion only.

1. Nitro thunder pulls the crowds, it always has and continues to.

There’s nothing like nitro. It’s a raw experience without comparison in motorsports. It what other sport do they build barely contained bombs where you can actually see the fuel still exploding as it exits the exhaust pipe?

Formula One is in debate at the moment because the cars sound like vacuum cleaners. Nitro is the exact opposite to this. It is raucous, it is untamed and that appeal exists for everyone, not just motorsport fans. Your daytime TV watching, blanket knitting, cheek pinching great grand mother would not fail to be impressed (or maybe just shocked) by the power of nitro.

So often it is bemoaned about the declining crowds attending drag racing in Australia. Bullshit. We need to stop looking at the failures and look at the successes and why those events are working – the reason, at least in the main ANDRA championship, is nitro.

Perth Motorplex’s Westernationals hosted Top Fuel and Top Doorslammer in March and many remarked it was one of the strongest crowds they had seen for some time.

Last October, Top Fuel returned to Calder Park for the first time since 2001 for Fuchs Nitro Thunder. The venue was not a sell out by any means, but Calder is a big venue and the first event back had a big crowd even with low risk advertising.

The last time Top Fuel raced in Adelaide (the image at the top of this article), all the way back in October 2012 would you believe, the venue was a near sell out. AIR has a way of building atmosphere like no other track, with the fans almost on top of the cars.

Willowbank has pioneered its Super 3 events during Easter the last two years and despite being just two months away from the Winternationals and a new brand both have been successful crowd wise. And the Winternationals, well, as soon as the sun comes out so do the people. So long as the r-word stays away this event remains evergreen.

Then we come to Sydney. Sydney will always be a challenge. I don’t have the answer for that market. I don’t know what makes it tick. I’m not sure anyone really does. Maybe some kind of combination event that ties in a few motorsports like the Triple Challenge of old. I know they trialled drifting in the pits at the Jamboree. Any reason a drifting championship of some kind couldn’t be held on two thirds of the sealed pit area with Top Fuel pitted on the other third?

I’ll mention Darwin briefly. The second a Top Fuel round is announced for there I am going to book my tickets. The place will be packed.

There is no crowd problem. The problem is what we are trying to feed the crowds. Give them what they want – nitro and lots of it.

And controversially, if your category is not a crowd puller perhaps it shouldn’t be a headliner.

Again I repeat, instead of taking a critical eye to every event that sucks and trying to figure out what went wrong, let’s look at the events that rocked and take inspiration!

2. The strong street scene.

Drag racing is the most accessible of all motorsports. Take your grocery getter to your local track and you can belt the hell out of it all day long. This accessibility provides an easy hook.

Some people will go and buy dragsters. Others will stay in the street scene and just get quicker and quicker. This alternative branch of drag racing is incredibly lively and develops in new and strange directions. ANDRA’s main championship will never be all things to all people, it can’t be. It’s time to give up on trying to find everything a place in the main series and focus on building those like the APSA series. Hypothetically, how cool would it be if ANDRA could name APSA it’s “Official Street Series” and award the champions a gold Christmas tree at the end of the season?

Hundreds of people around the country try drag racing for the first time every week. It’s a ready made growth area for other areas of the sport – be that Top Fuel or Pro Street. Let’s find out what bait they take and hook them.

In fact, the way drag racing branches out on a whole is remarkable. There is always something new just around the corner. Isn’t that cool?

3. It’s not V8 Supercars and that’s a good thing.

We often hear “We need to be more like V8 Supercars”. Actually, I don’t think we’ll get anywhere trying to imitate. We need to take some inspiration from the things they do well – government funding being one of them – but we also need to ensure we don’t lose our own identity, the rawness that is our appeal.

Drag racing in Australia should be looking more at the massive crowds at Monster Jam in the USA or the marketing appeal of Ken Block. We don’t get anywhere being another V8 Supercars.

If we are seen as a bogan sport, so what? There’s plenty of bogans out there to fill the grandstands. Burnout shows are proving that (no offence to the burnout guys, love what you do!). Let’s not be under any illusions, we’re never going to have Rolex, Chandon or Maybach sponsoring drag racing events. If we want sponsors, let’s find the ones who cater to our market, not try and convince ourselves that we’re part of the champagne set.

4. We have tracks back in every major capital city.

How awesome is this? We have permanent championship drag racing venues in every capital city of Australia (except Canberra and Hobart) and all of them within an hour’s drive of town. Perth Motorplex and Adelaide International Raceway are a mere half an hour away from the CBD!

For four years we had to subsist on Perth and Willowbank alone and a pre-redevelopment Hidden Valley, then Sydney came along and provided a shot in the arm. Fast forward to 2012 and Adelaide is back on board, 2013 and Calder has joined the party.

We have pretty much all the pieces in the puzzle. Calder is a temporary piece, let’s be honest, but drag racing is positioned to take advantage of every major population in the country. When a racer’s sponsor asks “Do you have rounds in all the major centres?” the racers can now answer a definite yes.

We need to be prepared to allow the promoters of these venues to make mistakes and potentially to fail, but be there to assist where ever we can. Ideally I think everyone would at some stage in their lives take out a loan, hire a track and put some money on the line to promote an event. Perhaps then we would not only understand what a promoter goes through, but also come up with some brilliant ideas!

5. Passion, passion and more passion.

Drag racers are passionate about this sport. It attracts people who are ego-driven. This is not a bad thing, but rather these people want to take pride in their sport, they want it to attract people to come and see them race.

If this passion can be harnessed and controlled then we will go in great directions. Left uninspired, that passion will rot into a severe toxicity that sometimes manifests itself in people who leave the sport but still fill the need to criticise it. If you have already sold up, why keep telling those who are still having fun that they should also quit?

Instead if you quit, good for you. But leave us be. If you choose to race, you should also choose to be a passionate promoter of your own sport, of the investment you have chosen to make in time and money.

Some people in this sport have amazing levels of passion. Take the ones who will spend days handing out flyers for events, taking them to local businesses to display. They don’t stand to benefit financially but they want to see their sport prosper. Their sport, my sport, your sport, our sport.

Let’s continue to find these passionate people and use them as efficiently as we can to grow.

As I wrote at the beginning of this opinion, I believe the golden age is ahead of us. Why? Because if we continue to look back at the past with the rose-coloured glasses firmly in place we will never see the answers for the future. And selfishly, I’m too young to have been in what people call the golden age. When I’m old and cantankerous, I want to tell all the youngins that I was there for the golden age. And that it was fucking awesome.

Written by Drag News editor Luke Nieuwhof.


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