Part 2 of autograss star Simon Farrar’s Q&A is here.  Simon gives his advice and his thoughts if he was in charge.

Simon Says

For a Junior just starting, what would your advice be?  Blimey things have changed a little since I was a Junior but I guess first thing is have a want and desire to be involved. Enjoy playing and tinkering with your car.

I will be looking to start my lad in Juniors towards end of 2019 and he is desperate for a junior special. I think that is the way I would have gone anyway. They look easy to work on, always some good close racing and I think the overall costs of a Junior special (could) come in cheaper than the saloons? I may be wrong and I’m most likely to find out soon enough.

For someone in their 30s/40s who has never raced before, what category would best suit whether money was no object or if they were on a budget? Well the fact that they have never raced before makes it a difficult question. Everyone coming into the sport will love the speed and excitement the big classes offer but they certainly aren’t as easy to drive as some of the guys out there make them look. I would say really budget class would be 2 or stock hatch for your front wheel drive fancier and a three or an eight for your RWD idealist.

Unusually for motorsport, not all drivers wear gloves.  To wear or not to wear?  Did wear, don’t wear now. May wear again in the future if I can find them in my colour!

If you are racing on a budget, what should the priority be? SAFETY – massively number one priority has to be safety. Some of the cages that have been built on a budget have been awful. I know it’s the sports issue to weedle them out but if that’s your one big expense put a decent cage in your car. It could well save your child’s life. You can save up and make the car quicker over time and as budget increases. You can’t buy back your child’s life.

WOW that was serious!

An autograss track can change from one heat to the next, with watering, cones moved in or out and new ruts forming.  What practice is best to adopt and what should a new driver focus on to read the changes during the day? I know it is simple and probably common sense advice but watch the race in front of you and watch what the marshals are doing. It is very easy to get caught out by a wet track (my videos online again!) if you’re not expecting it.

You should visit an autograss meeting because…. the smell, the noise, the atmosphere, the close and entertaining racing.

You should race in autograss because….. it’s a great sport that all the family can compete in and you will make lifelong friendships with some wonderfully friendly people

An autograss fan must visit…. The nationals, the one off meeting which is the pinnacle of our sport especially this year in the glorious setting that is Tenby. Oh and of course the Scunny bar on a regular basis, not before racing obviously. I don’t condone drinking and driving!  (Although I did nearly end the new Scunny bus bar before it really started by driving Nigel off the road on the A1 on the way home from YD BAS whilst waving to him!) Ooops.

Farrar The Boss

I’ve been to a fair few meetings where a novice (usually juniors) are making their debut and some can’t even change to 2nd gear.  Everyone has to start somewhere but is there a better way to introduce new drivers and ensure when they make their debut they know the car and to an extent reduce the scare factor so they continue to come back for more?  (I’ve been to Kent for example and they have let the new drivers do a few laps pre meeting). I think you have answered your own question there. At the very least these guys and gals should get to go out before the meeting starts and get a few laps in on their own. If there are plenty of juniors at the meeting then let them have a race on their own as well away from the more experienced Juniors. Although you have to say watching the quality of the Juniors and competency they have in their cars there is very few accidents because the experienced racers always give plenty of room to the novices. The test day meeting at Scunthorpe is also another good place to start as I am sure they would do the same allowing novice racers to go out on their own.

Standing on the infield I get to talk to the marshals but it is generally the same marshals out at each event.  How do you think clubs can encourage new marshals and/or more drivers to take a turn?  I think clubs should have named drivers take to the infield each meeting, a little like they have named helping parties. I have marshalled in the past and know it is not easy and you do see things from a different perspective. Although as always this is not easy for everyone – I would find it difficult at most meetings as I have my young boys with me and it is hard to pass them off onto someone all day whist I am marshalling and racing. Although I’m sure I could manage at least one meeting a year as would most.

You don’t have to be stood on a marshals post for long before someone hits an orange cone.  Is there a better solution or deterrent for hitting them? At karting they use large plastic blocks, these would be less easy to knock over. Maybe worth a try, the difficulty is that the marshals move the cones around often during a meeting to assist with keeping the track in its best condition for racing so any solution needs to be mobile. I liked the three tyres tied together but how easy is it to police whether you have run over the first small tyre or the second larger tyre (and thus) whether it is an infringement worth a green flag?

I do think for consistency it needs to be a solid rule through all clubs and meetings though whatever. Hit one tyre/cone on one bend it’s a green flag. Hit two and it’s a black. It would keep everyone away from the tyres which hopefully will make it easier to tell if someone was pushed onto a tyre which is where complaints come from.

Imagine you were in charge of an autograss event.  What improvements either for the fan or the competitor would you bring in? Money no object? Big screens in the pits. It is great to watch the racing when you’re stuck in the pits sorting cars out.

For spectators, open the pits up to them so they can get in to see people working on their cars and preparing for racing but with OBVIOUS warning signs motor sport is dangerous, keep your child on a lead etc etc. We shouldn’t be driving like idiots in the pits anyway, we have a race track for that.

Sturton races on a farmers field and, as White Rose have found out, if you lose your field/track it is hard to get a new one. Do you feel the sport does enough to keep the landowner happy and what could be done to improve the relationship? I think a lot of the time the issues aren’t with the landowners, it is with planning permissions to race. I think a lot of farmers are happy to rent out their land if the area is well looked after as its additional income for land set aside. If you approached the landowners of the tracks we have all over the country they would probably all say that as a whole the autograss community look after their tracks and rented land pretty well.

Carmen Jorda was recently appointed by the FIA to represent women in motorsport and didn’t get much support with her separate races for women views.  Autograss is quite unusual to have the ladies class.  Is this good and is it sustainable?  I think it is an excellent thing to have separate ladies racing to men. We use this to our advantage as a family sport. Where else can a man, woman and child race one car and get the enjoyment from that at a very reasonable price. It does happen less and less now with most families having a separate car for a junior. I think the issue is how do we encourage more women to race their partner’s cars? We don’t want to lose the ladies racing but the numbers dwindle and makes the racing look tame sometimes which is a shame because there are some stunningly fast women drivers in our sport.

The MSA Chairman, Dave Richards, recently spoke about the challenges of keeping drivers in the sport and attracting new competitors.  What can be done to attract new drivers in autograss?  The million dollar question for all classes of motor sport. During times of austerity cost is a massive factor on a sport which can take a vast chunk of your income for your enjoyment.

Whilst some classes will always be expensive and attract drivers how do we create one/two/three classes within the sport that are fast, close racing and cheap to build/maintain?

We are never going to be able to go back to the really ‘cheap’ days of autograss when you could weld a bit of tube in your standard road car with a standard car seat and race it. The safety of the sport had to improve and along with that the image improved. Safety costs money but it is imperative to have that right from the off.

Class 1 and 2 were the cheap classes and still are to some extent with the introduction of Micra’s in class one. The constant evolving of the sport and changing of certain rules to allow differing cars/engines into the unmodified classes is certainly one aspect of helping to bring costs back down. Micra’s have proved that with a ‘nearly standard’ Micra competing well with a big money Mini.

So what can change with class two to do the same?

New classes may help, F600 and stock hatch are examples of these. They work well in some areas of the country and not others. Really though to implement a new class there needs to be a dying class gone OR change the rules on that again.  It’s a hard decision to make.

With road cars going more and more down the hybrid and electric route, what impact do you see this having on autograss? Is this a new era for autograss racing, is it to be a sport leading the way in taking on this new technology? I know there are people out there who would like to build an electric car, the question has been asked I’m sure. Electric car racing is something that is certainly going to make its way down to grass roots racing eventually, the question is are we ready? Can we understand the technology and police the legalities that we set up for cars? It may well be a new and interesting way to get the younger generation into racing as everything they deal with is electronic.

Right now though…………….I will stick with the V8.

In BriSCA F1 Matt Newson hires cars out.  Is this something that could be encouraged in autograss, to allow arrive and drives and attract people who are not mechanics or have the space to keep cars etc.?  This has been done at many clubs over the years in fact one or two clubs still offer hire cars I believe. Trent used to have a full grid that was generally hired out at every meeting. The difficulty is repairs and damage. Maintaining the cars when they are treated in the same manner I treat a go kart in when I go to a corporate day. There is very little care because they don’t have to repair the cars so I find it difficult to see it happening unless it was carried out by certain ‘autograss manufacturers’ but would they really want the hassle? I doubt it.

Fernando Alonso attracted a lot of attention by trying different disciplines.  Would you like to see say Stuart Smith (BriSCA F1), Matt Neal (BTCC) or Guy Wilks (Rally / Rallycross) have a go in autograss and help attract some new fans?  Of course although I would be much more interested in those guys letting me try out the different disciplines in their cars!!

Any exposure the sport gets is beneficial.  It is great to see autograss on motorsport.tv (but) it’s a shame we can’t afford to do it on a regular basis. Unfortunately the cost of this form of exposure against the amount of money from new racers it would generate wouldn’t add up.

 

Thank you to Simon for the interview and keep posted for further Q&A’s.  Debate is always welcome so if you have any comments about the above, add them to either our FB page or website.  

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