I’ve spent the last three weeks or so in Europe enjoying the Nordic summer and avoiding the freakish heat wave of the past few days.
Along the way, I was lucky enough to witness two outstanding motorsport events that should probably be on every Australian enthusiast’s bucket list.
First we went to the F1 Grand Prix of Austria which takes place at the Red Bull Ring which takes place in a beautiful valley in the heart of the state of Styria. The TV doesn’t really do the area justice, let alone the circuit.
The street circuits are all great, but this circuit is just as special to watch as Phillip Island and has great views for spectators. Long live permanent circuits like this.
But the real point of difference for the Austrian event, in my experience, is the very quality of the operational side, in particular the control of the spectators, including the exit at the end of each day. There is no train line nearby and almost everyone comes and goes by car.
It’s incredibly well organized.
While the absolute number of spectators the Red Bull Ring can accommodate is certainly significantly lower than, say, Silverstone, the overall venue is also smaller. The GP crowd filled the stands and yet, at the end of each of the three days, it was possible to exit, return to the rental car and be out of the circuit on the free-flowing highway in minutes.
The event also gave us the opportunity to meet some Australian friends in Formula 2 and 3, in particular Jack Doohan and Christian Mansell respectively.
While both drivers had reasonable runs in Austria, a week later at Silverstone they both secured well-deserved podiums. Well done guys and here are some more prices in Hungary this weekend.
The only disappointment for the GP itself was the steady stream of track limit violations. It had a very negative impact on the race during and after.
Track limits are something Supercars are very familiar with and we’ve learned over the years how to handle them quite effectively. Well-placed sensors are key, as they are also used in MotoGP.
And yet Formula 1, which has access to far more technology than any other form of motorsport, doesn’t seem capable of handling races in the white lines properly.
I’m told the accuracy of the loops in the track, triggered by sensors in the cars, just isn’t good enough. I do not believe that.
Even if the loops aren’t perfect, the pilots will leave some slack to avoid triggering them. Teams know instantly if they’ve left and can notify drivers immediately. It’s clear and transparent for everyone, rather than that opaque system we witnessed in Austria where we, the viewers, don’t know what’s going on.
Supercars and its teams have rightly been strongly urged over the years by various stakeholders, including the fans, to put their house in order beyond the confines of the track. It is time for F1 (and its junior formulas) to do the same. Teams and drivers will sometimes be grumpy about it, as they are in Supercars. But everyone ends up getting into it.
The other standout event we attended was the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the south of England. The Euro heat wave certainly did not extend to this part of the world!
However, even with average weather (including the forced cancellation of Saturday activities due to very high winds), the FoS cemented, for me, its place as the best motor show in the world today.
I hadn’t been there for about 20 years, and it became a full car show of incredible variety. While the climb up the hill through the gardens of Goodwood House is always a focal point of the event, displays from so many major manufacturers, as well as all the builders of bespoke hypercars worth considering, combine to create a unique experience.
Then add a huge selection of interesting racing and rally cars from all decades, with great accessibility for all so that all participants can get up close to the vehicles, and you have the full attention of any enthusiast.
What was particularly interesting to see was that the crowded enclosures were filled with patrons of all ages. It’s not just an event for old gasoline tenors like me, but one that clearly has great appeal to a real cross section of the community, and it’s easy to hear people’s accents and languages many different countries when you walk around.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is what the Adelaide Motorsport Festival should continue to seek to emulate. Smaller of course, with a unique Australian flavor, but a larger car show platform for as wide an audience as possible. Now that old-fashioned car shows no longer exist, it’s time for the concept to expand.
In the meantime, I think the must-attend UK events for Aussie fans are the Isle of Man TT (which I last attended in 2018) and the Goodwood FoS. Each very different, but each unique and definitely worth seeing