Categories on chopping block in CAMS review
The Australian motorsport landscape could be in for a shake-up next year, with CAMS currently undertaking a wide-scale strategic review aimed at consolidating categories.
The recently formed eight-man Australian Motor Racing Commission Strategic Working Group has been charged with analysing the diverse framework of national circuit racing categories.
Expected to complete its review within the next three months, the group will then present recommendations to the CAMS Board, with changes to take effect as soon as next year.
The AMRC strategy group consists of Lyn Punshon (chair), Tim Edwards (Prodrive Australia), Craig Fletcher (Australian Grand Prix Corporation), Fergus Cameron (Phillip Island Circuit), Paul Dumbrell (CAMS Licensee/ Competitor), Vince Ciccarello (CAMS Official), Michael Smith (CAMS GM Motor Sport) and Cameron McConville (CAMS GM Motor Sport Development).
CAMS CEO Eugene Arocca describes the move as “an important milestone in CAMS’ evolution” as he pushes to create a more strategically-minded administration.
“The underlying reason of the review is to rationalise or consolidate,” Arocca told Speedcafe.com of the process, which commenced in April.
“It’s to say, let’s take a deep breath and look at where the sport should be in five to 10 years.
“Let’s plan for the future and be prepared to make courageous decisions if need be about rationalising and consolidating the elements of the sport at the national level.”
The review’s outcomes will be followed by a CAMS presentation to the Australian Sports Commission from which Arocca is hopeful that motorsport will receive an uplift in funding.
While Arocca says that “no one should be spooked or worried” by the review, the move has effectively put all national level categories and their individual administrators on notice.
Chief among them is the Formula Ford Association, which fears that its category will be relegated to a solely state based competition next year as CAMS ramps up its own Formula 4 Championship.
The FFA has run Formula Ford as a low-cost CAMS national series over the last two seasons after financial troubles under previous management saw its 21-year spell as a championship come to an end.
Citing a need to avoid pre-empting the review process, Arocca would not be drawn specifically on Formula Ford’s future as a national series, stating only that it will remain “a significant part of the Australian motorsport landscape”.
“We are wanting to do what we believe is good for the sport. Not for Formula Ford, but for the sport,” said Arocca.
“We might be judged unfairly, but that comes with the responsibility of being the administration that has to make the decision in the end.”
FFA chairman John van Leeuwen told Speedcafe.com that he has been unimpressed with CAMS’ “aggressive” pursuit of its drivers for F4 and is concerned about the current review.
“We can’t work out why an organisation like CAMS would say you can’t have a national series if we have competitors that want to run,” said van Leeuwen.
“The only thing we can suggest is that it would make their own series more viable if we weren’t there.
“If we aren’t allowed to run as a national series we will have to assess all of our options, which would include operating outside of CAMS.”
The FFA has made a submission to the AMRC strategy group as part of the review, which requested details of the association’s future plans for the development of the category.
Arocca bristled at suggestions that CAMS’ role as category administrator for Formula 4 puts it in a precarious position to rule over the future of other junior open-wheel classes.
“I shake my head in disbelief that we’re being accused of a conflict of interest when all we’re trying to do is run a category that’s developing young drivers from the age of 15 to become champions,” he said.
“Our obligations are to promote and grow the sport and if that means running a category from time to time when it relates to kids taking the next stepping stone then I’ll put my hand up every time.”
Although staunch in his belief of CAMS’ obligation to run Formula 4, Arocca suggests that the governing body is highly unlikely to step in and run any other national categories.
“We certainly believe we’ve got the obligation to run an important category that is going to promote and grow the sport,” he said.
“(But) we don’t see any other category at the moment being anywhere near the responsibilities that CAMS has.”
Arocca says that CAMS will, however, continue to support Formula 3’s position as the third step on its official ‘pathway’ through karts and Formula 4.
CAMS recently stripped F3 of its long-running Gold Star prize based on a lack of competitor numbers, with a future for the award yet to be determined.
“We’re presenting to the ASC on the basis that it (Formula 3) is an important element in the pathway for international open-wheel status,” he said.
“We wouldn’t invest in F4 to the extent that we have without believing that there’s got to be a next stepping stone. Right now it seems to be struggling, which may be a cyclical thing.
“We can’t run Formula 3, that’s a simple reality, but from our point of view we would hope that Formula 3 will find a way.”
CLICK HERE for more with Arocca in this week’s Cafe Chat.