Does racing deserve a subsidy – what do you reckon #1

By: Glenn Torrens, Unique Cars magazine

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Torrens ponders the costs and benefits of going for a fang.

Does racing deserve a subsidy – what do you reckon #1
Torrens with one of his Beetle racers.

RECENTLY, I spent a weekend in Geelong, Vic where I had the privilege of racing my little yellow VW Beetle at the Geelong Revival Motoring Festival. Three weeks before that, I raced at the Australian Hill-Climb Championships, held this year at the excellent purpose-built Bryant Park circuit (nick-named Haunted Hills) about 90 minutes south-east of Melbourne. I towed my little Bug down, raced at Bryant Park, stashed the Bug and my tow car at Morley’s, flew home (Sorry! That sounds very ‘rock star’!) and flew back to race at Geelong. Then I towed the whole lot home to NSW.

Anyhow, both events were terrific – I won trophies at both, yay! - and on the 11-hour drive home, I had plenty of time to think about how much rural towns benefit from motorsport events such as these, as much as it does from events such as rodeos and music festivals.

I’m lucky to be able to afford the time and cash to race my little Bug quite often such as the two events in Victoria. Since August, I’ve also raced at Warwick and Leyburn in Qld (another two interstate trips towing my Bug) a hill-climb at Gunnedah in north-western NSW, plus a circuit sprint near Nambucca Heads.  In the past year, I’ve also been to Cooma for the Snowy Mountains 1000 airport sprint and to the excellent Mt Gladstone hill-climb organised by the good mob at the Cooma Car Club.

The NSW hill-climbs that I’ve been participating in for most of the past decade have championship rounds at Mount Panorama, Bathurst (my favourite!)  Dapto (near Wollongong), Grafton, Raymond Terrace (close to home for me), Tamworth, Kempsey and Sutton Forest, just outside Canberra. At all these events, I’m one of 50 or 60 racers who have sometimes come a long way (as far as Qld, SA and Vic) to enjoy their motorsport. I and several other enthusiasts camp track-side at many of these events but the majority of racers have a bigger budget than us, and stay in motels.

So how much money do we all spend? I don’t know – but I’d say it’s a fair bit.  At Geelong, it was explained this first-ever Geelong Hill Climb event was organised with assistance from the government. And no doubt there will be a few vocal people who would protest that taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be spent subsidising motorsport… just like some other people might say that our governments maybe shouldn’t subsidise activities such as health care, manufacturing or our roads.

I’m NOT one of those people. I reckon grants – plus technical/logistical assistance from the police etc - to get shit done is one of the fundamental roles of our governments. I guess there are one or two salaried people whose job is to help make events a success but more often than not, it’s the local car club volunteers who do most of the work. Their motive is to make a great event, NOT to make a profit.

I reckon the flow-on effect is tremendous. All those plastic crash barriers… all the public dunnies on-site… they’re all hired from local companies and put in place by local staff. That coffee caravan? It’s probably a little weekend business run by an off-duty nurse or kindy teacher or retired chef. The local pubs and restaurants get a few bucks, as do the local supermarkets and fuel stations. Sure, I camp so no $150 motel rooms for me, but I’ve happily paid my camp site fee at the local caravan park dozens of times (probably more than a hundred) in my past decade of motorsport. Money makes the world go around… and motorsport people spend money, as do other sportspeople.

But where do you draw the line?

I live near Newcastle. This once-great industrial city (known for its steelmaking) has recently been announced as a location for a V8 Supercars round for the next five years. The intended site/track is right along the edge of the Newcastle Harbour and adjacent to Newcastle’s Hunter Street. It’s a great place and well-known for car shows such as ToranaFest. Of course, there are inevitably a number of people objecting to the V8 Supercars’ noise and traffic disruption near their million-buck terrace houses, but there’s also an undercurrent that the "government shouldn’t be subsidising motor racing… what about schools and roads?" … I’m sure you get the idea.

Now I reckon government and council co-operation and financial assistance for events such as the Geelong Revival and the Gunnedah Hill-Climb is a wonderful thing. But should a big-business profit-making venture such as the V8 Supercars be entitled to a bucket of bucks, too? What do you reckon?

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