The long view: Racing into the next decade, and beyond

Where will the next generation of racing fans come from? And what sort of racing will they embrace?

The long view: Racing into the next decade, and beyond
Katherine Legge, Amlin
#0 Delta Wing Race Cars DeltaWing LM12: Gabby Chaves, Katherine Legge
Ken Block and Neymar Jr. in Footkhana
Ken Block and Neymar Jr. in Footkhana
Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino, Ford Fiesta WRC, Monster World Rally Team
Ken Block drives the Trax Sti
Robby Gordon
#305 Hummer: Robby Gordon, Kellon Walch
Ken Block in Gymkhana 5
Ken Block in the streets of San Francisco
Robby Gordon
Ken Block and Stephan Verdier race for position
Apdaly Lopez
Formula E cars take over downtown London
Formula E cars take over downtown London
Formula E Andretti Autosport presentation

If you are reading this column, you are among the converted – someone with sufficient interest in motorsports to visit a web site called Motorsport.com.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about who Motorsport.com’s audience will be in 10 years. In 20 years. And I’m concerned.

Not for Motorsport.com so much, but for motorsports.

Here’s an example of why: A former colleague, the mother of what she insists is a “typical” teenaged son, recently wrote about the fact that finally, he consented to getting his driver’s license – at her insistence. Apparently the kid has no real interest in driving in general, cars in particular. Apparently she and her husband were tired of driving him and his friends around. Or of his license-related inability to pick up younger siblings from soccer practice, or run to the store for a gallon of milk.

This kid will never be a Motorsport.com reader. Or a reader of any racing- or car-related publication, electronic of otherwise.  

Is he an aberration? No, and that’s the concern. Two years ago, an AAA-commissioned survey suggested that just 44 percent of respondents, who were between 18 and 20, got a driver's license within one year of the minimum age for doing so in their state. Only 54 percent said they got a license before turning 18. By all indications, that trend is continuing, and increasing.

Does that mean it’s absolutely a given that we will eventually see a parallel between the lack of interest in cars and driving, and a decline of interest in motorsports? What do you think? When I turned 16, it seemed almost mandatory that you slice up the birthday cake in the morning, then you make a trip to the motor vehicle department to get your driver’s license that afternoon. No longer.

Manufacturers are taking notice

This is not something that has escaped the attention of auto manufacturers. In the top car magazines, there is a three-page ad this month for the 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, the company’s freshened-up small SUV. On the first page, there’s one paragraph that mentions the Equinox’s four-cylinder engine and its 32-mpg highway fuel mileage. It also mentions how roomy the inside is to carry your stuff.

Turn the page, and the remaining two-page spread talks only about “connectivity,” and how you can connect up to seven mobile devices to the 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi. About how you can get Sirius XM Travel Link, Siri Eyes-Free and OnStar with Remote Link, meaning you can start the engine from anywhere, using your smart phone.

This ad is not in Popular Mechanics, or Wired, or Rolling Stone – it’s in Motor Trend and Car and Driver, where you’d expect to see ads that tout horsepower, handling, styling, and possibly the manufacturer’s connection to motorsports. It is designed to appeal to younger customers – who care far less about horsepower, handling, styling and motorsports than previous generations.

Three series that are working hard to be relevant

That said, there are three types of motorsports that, I submit, are trying to buck that trend by re-writing the rules.

One is Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Truck series, which rolls into town like a circus, sets up a simple track on the cheap – on public roads, in a parking lot, at an actual race track – with dirt and jumps and lots of body contact. The trucks are generic, nameless, loud 600-horsepower vehicles that are essentially radio-controlled toy trucks come to life, an appropriate comparison since Traxxas, which makes those RC trucks, sponsors the series.

Another is the Red Bull Rallycross Championship, which uses hot-rodded cars based on models that young people can theoretically afford (Ford Fiestas, Hyundai Velosters, Chevrolet Sonics), driven by social media-friendly drivers like Ken Block, Bucky Lasek, Travis Pastrana, Scott Speed and Tanner Foust, with a dose of young female drivers like Emma Gilmour and Sarah Burgess. Like Stadium Super Trucks, Rallycross rolls into town, stages a show at RFK Stadium one week, Daytona International Speedway on another, all under the large and very savvy Red Bull umbrella like a little dose of the X Games in your home town.

And finally, there is Formula E, which has yet to stage its first race. To say it is Formula One with electric motors is oversimplifying it, but I suspect that is the public perception. Which is fine: The technology is amazing, and could well appeal to both traditional racing fans, and people who have never thought of attending a NASCAR race.

I’m not saying that Motorsport.com will dump F1, NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and sports car racing for Formula E, SST and Rallycross, but count on continuing coverage of those three series. Not just to ensure our survival, but because those series are making news. And if it makes news and involves racing, we cover it.

As for Motorsport.com, we’re doing fine… check our numbers against any of our competitors on any analytic site you want, and you’ll likely find that what Trafficestimate.com says is typical: Our monthly visitor traffic, the site says, is up 86.5 percent year over year.

But to keep that momentum, we can’t just follow the curve, we have to stay ahead of it. As for where that curve is leading – your guess is as good as ours is.

In fact, what IS your guess? Comment below if you feel so inclined.

shares
comments
Third-generation racer visits with Andretti Formula E team

Previous article

Third-generation racer visits with Andretti Formula E team

Next article

A better look at Formula E

A better look at Formula E
Load comments
Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive Prime

Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive

OPINION: Circuit racing has traditionally favoured front- or rear-wheel-drive setups, eschewing the equal distribution of power. But for Formula E and other electric-powered series, our columnist believes it’s a perfect fit.

Formula E
Oct 13, 2021
How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success Prime

How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success

The Wolffs have carved their own paths in motorsport, leading their respective teams to success in Formula 1 and Formula E. But the two came together last month as their drivers finished first and second in the FE drivers' championship - a feat they are hugely proud of. In a rare joint interview, they reflect on a remarkable season

Formula E
Sep 21, 2021
The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21 Prime

The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21

OPINION: The 2021 Formula E campaign was one without a narrative for much of the season, with no single car or driver able to break away from the pack. That makes choosing a top 10 especially difficult, particularly as the qualifying format meant some worthy performers were unable to enjoy their day in the sun.

Formula E
Sep 19, 2021
How Mercedes and de Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way Prime

How Mercedes and de Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way

When Nyck de Vries dominated the first race of what would be the most controversial and unpredictable Formula E season to date, it looked as though Mercedes was in for a cakewalk. But as the campaign wore on, the path to a title double became increasingly rocky. Neither driver or team would be assured of the crown until the closing stages of the very final race on a weekend of struggle in Berlin.

Formula E
Sep 17, 2021
The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep di Grassi winning Prime

The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep di Grassi winning

OPINION: The departure of Audi from Formula E meant its long-time driver Lucas di Grassi would need to find a new berth to stay on the grid. His deal at Venturi Racing will ensure the championship's first-ever race winner will remain competitive into the final year of the current Gen2 ruleset - although it may not be a long-term fit

Formula E
Sep 15, 2021
The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure Prime

The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure

Mercedes' planned withdrawal from Formula E at the end of the 2022 season will contribute to the big hole left by fellow automotive manufacturers Audi and BMW on their departures. Although the team may stick around under a different guise, the exit of the now-reigning teams' champion underlines FE's current issues...

Formula E
Aug 18, 2021
The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion Prime

The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion

After clinching the Formula E title at the Berlin finale, Nyck de Vries is a driver in demand. Although Mercedes would love to keep a reigning champion at the team, the allure of a Williams F1 drive may be too much for de Vries to ignore should a potential deal come to pass

Formula E
Aug 17, 2021
How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms Prime

How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms

As Formula E lined up to complete its seventh season at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport, all eyes were on who would be its first official FIA world champion. Despite Nyck de Vries' title lead heading into the weekend looking all but secure, the Dutchman held on - and enjoyed a good dollop of fortune - to secure a championship double for Mercedes

Formula E
Aug 16, 2021