Roland’s View: The MA/ARG SpeedSeries needs urgent love

The Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series presently headlines the Shannons SpeedSeries. Image: InSyde Media

The Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series presently headlines the Shannons SpeedSeries. Image: InSyde Media

In recent months, the paddocks around the country have been full of rumour and gossip about the future of ARG and the potential impact of any changes there.

The good health of the sport’s second tier offering, namely the Shannons SpeedSeries, is, as I’ve repeatedly said, vital for the wider motor racing community. Competitors and businesses, that rely on this platform to give them a place to race, deserve to know exactly what is transpiring at the moment and what plans are afoot, between the Australian Racing Group and Motorsport Australia, to ensure continuity.

It has always been an issue to successfully run a programme of events away from the Supercars umbrella. But it’s not impossible, in my view, once emotion is stripped away from the decision making, and there’s been far too much of that around. It needs some fishing where the fish actually are, rather than where some folk seem to hope they are.

Competitors and fans don’t really care too much who owns what. Does MA own the series? Does ARG own some categories? It doesn’t matter to most people as long as the job gets done and there’s a place to race.

So, here’s my suggestions for moving forward and ensuring that the SpeedSeries continues to provide a good platform in the future:

  1. Motorsport Australia needs to tell Supercars that failure to release their own 2024 calendar by September 30 could result in clashes with SpeedSeries. What happened with the 2023 Supercars calendar should never have been allowed by the ASN. A SpeedSeries calendar is needed, like the Supercars one, by the end of this month so that all the relevant parties can plan.
  2. On the back of the above, create a calendar of eight events, not six. That should get rid of the need to have a third tier series for reasons that will play out below.
  3. Align the Speed Series only with categories that can put a minimum of 16 cars on track every time. At Bathurst, that should rise to 24. In time, if the overall framework is successful, raise the minimum to 18 or 20.
  4. Do not work on the basis that any one category needs to be at all eight events. The Speed Series will be an umbrella for a number of categories, not one or two in particular. Most categories would do up to six events.
  5. For 2024, the categories that would be embraced could include: Australian GT, Trans Am, 3E Production cars/GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge, Toyota 86 Scholarship, Hyundai Excels, Sports Sedans, Formula Ford, Aussie Racing Cars. Given the investment in equipment by some teams, TCR should be nurtured properly to ensure that the 16-car minimum is respected and they can continue to compete. But if they can’t put 16 car grids together then they, like any other category, need to make way for a category that can, or combine with another one.
  6. The eight events would be held at a choice from: Queensland Raceway, Sydney Motorsport Park, Winton, Phillip Island, The Bend, Bathurst, Symmons Plains, Sandown and Darwin. Whilst not ideal, never rule out going to a venue twice in a season if it’s more likely to work for competitors and fans alike. This is especially true if one or two venues prove to be unrealistic with their hire charges.
  7. For a Darwin or Symmons event, some level of government travel assistance package is necessary of course.
  8. In due course, if Sandown is to disappear for example, maybe the new DriveIt circuit outside Townsville would become a venue, also with a travel subsidy, as part of a northern winter swing through Darwin, Townsville and QR.
  9. Start again with television. There’s absolutely no point in being paid a good fee to be on a platform that nobody watches. As soon as anyone starts talking about “minutes watched”, move on. It’s the number of different eyeballs that matters to real commercial operators. There’s also no need to try to copy the Supercars level of production. Keep it simple, cost-effective, with well-informed commentary, and, if necessary, stream it free of charge on YouTube rather than hiding the product behind a paywall. Competitors need a chance of getting, and retaining, commercial sponsors. Having friends and family watching the show on a subscription channel isn’t enough. The current set-up doesn’t work.
  10. If there’s a good TV deal that does show some of the racing on free-to-air, ensure that the rest of the event is streamed on YouTube so that everyone gets a chance to be seen somewhere.
  11. The at-event marketing collateral this year has been good, so keep the person responsible for that!
  12. Clean up the track recovery processes during events so that competitors get more green flag racing and therefore better value for money. Meanwhile, fans don’t get to watch endless Safety Car laps. And clean up driving standards by being draconian with penalties so that competitors think twice before contact. Don’t hesitate to send offenders home. With strong grids, that should be enforceable.

The third tier, Trophy Series, was deemed necessary to give more categories a place to race. The problem has created two platforms that are weaker than they should be. Hence my recommendation that this be dropped and the SpeedSeries be expanded. Do one thing well.

Different events will have a different mix of categories and the headline acts will change. And any category would be free to include other events (such as a Supercars one, for instance) in their respective championship. A category may only take in one or two SpeedSeries events, but if they’ve got good grids they’d be welcomed with open arms.

Regardless of any role that ARG wishes to play in the future of the SpeedSeries, it’s incumbent upon Motorsport Australia to ensure that this platform exists for their licence holders, as they’ve done in the past of course. They’re taking money off competitors and categories alike for licences and category rights. It’s time for them to step up again and reassure their licence holders, their customers, that there will be a nationally based platform for them in 2024. The silence in recent weeks has been deafening. Get on with it please.

S5000 generally struggles to make double-digit grids. Image: InSyde Media

S5000 generally struggles to make double-digit grids. Image: InSyde Media

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