A shift in focus

A suitable saying highlights the power money has, it seems that if your wallet is full of the ‘greens’ you have the power to do anything. Seemingly in this day and age money and how much you got plays a huge role in your purchasing ability and how extravagant you can go.

How do these elements affect our motoring industry. Cars are becoming more expensive, a Golf GTI exceeds a quarter of a million Rand, while the new BMW 1M is half a million Rand. The BMW M3 is nudging a million Rand, while top end Mercedes Benz models are exceeding a million bucks. The markets have changed, years ago a car designed for the masses is now a top end executive saloon. In stark contrast entry models that introduce customers to the brand have now become the economical, at a price, choices for buyers.

These alterations extend into motor racing. It seems talent is no longer the answer to achieving your dreams. Rather the size of your bank account or potential corporate backing is the difference between being awarded a drive and sitting on the side-lines either as a third driver or as a spectator. Specifically I am referring to Formula 1 here, and upcoming talents are even at a greater disadvantage with the testing ban.

However what about here in South Africa, there has also been a certain shift in trends. Common practice has been enthusiasts digging deep into their pockets and buying race cars that have stepped aside for newer models that have been built up by the team. Normally these cars would be used in club or regional events. Sadly they are transformed into machines that no longer represent their heritage and thus their decline to one day landing up at workshop as a bare shell begins.

From the Driver's Seat

It is almost scary what happens with cars that have raced and then sold onto private entities who wish to have fun with. Evolution 2 Motorsport has experienced this with their E36 and E46 BMW production based race cars. In 2000 the E36 finally stepped aside for the brand new E46 328i. To this day the one car remains in its original guise at our base, unused for two years, however immaculate and appealing. The second car after the 2000 season was sold and since has been transformed into a completely different beast. Many don’t even know if the car is still in existence. Moving onto the E46 328i’s these raced two seasons before being stripped and most of the components being used for the new 330i models. One 328i chassis was sold and used for another project car, while the other is no longer worthy for use. The newer 330i’s ended their racing careers in 2004. Of the three one was sold for regional use, the second club use and the third, which was the best of the lot, sold to a customer to have fun in. Guess how many of these cars look how they originally raced? Not one of them, and we constantly look back and think we should have kept this car and imagine how much that car would be worth.

We are effectively shooting ourselves in the foot again, or is this just a process that happens? Similar to processes are the interested drivers that acquire these cars. However why race a machine that has been through years of torture when you can buy yourself something straight out of a top brand customer racing department. You going to spend a couple of million signing the contract that enables you to take ownership of a brand new Ferrari 458 challenge or the latest Porsche GT3 cup car. To gain maximum use out of this car one will enter it into the popular Altech GT championship and enjoy the sights and tests laid out by South Africa’s wide variety of local circuits.

But it is all very well purchasing a top end machine that has the name and looks to back up the price tag. However after spending all that money it must feel quite grim some to know that a top national formula has sports saloon cars that are restricted by success ballast, semi slick rubber and technical equalities that keep their turbo boosts and super chargers in check. What’s more the drivers who hustle these cars around the track are a mere two seconds off their qualifying pace and on par for race pace. Naturally one wants to be in the series with the experienced drivers, cars that are on their edge of performance and driven to the limit.

What has this led to, guys with money and relatively no racing experience putting down money and ordering the team who prepares the cars to build him or her one up too. Once completed the current drivers will then share their knowledge on how to get to grips with the car and take them through the steps of becoming an able racing driver. Is this the future of motorsport in South Africa? Refer to the Le Mans series and see that the GT category has two classes. GTE Pro, for works assisted cars that have seasoned drivers, while GTE AM, caters for the amateur racers who have a passion and the finances for the sport.

Does this new model of motorsport business require a shift in focus. Has the emphasis on finding the best driver combination to ensure a championship challenge in impressing current and potential sponsors gone out the window? Has the scenario become more focused on catering the needs of the man in the street who has the money to commission and then race the car themselves. And will this be the answer to teams securing their long term futures as a business in motorsport?

The answer will only be known once the new crop of tuition drivers have had their chance to compete for a certain period of time. However one thing remains, the same level of service and attention to detail will be required for the pay driver, in fact they will need more emphasis than the top line professional. Those teams looking to make a quick million here and there will falter in the attempt to make quick money. However can one warrant spending such amounts on a car that will not hold its value in the short term?

This is why the historic racing industry is growing and becoming popular amongst enthusiasts. The cars have character and are worth a great deal more than one may expect. Perhaps the shift in focus should be on the past and less on the future.

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