To commence 2020, I thought I’d introduce myself more and allow you to get to know the author. Read on to find out about my world.
Name: Matthew Spencer
Day job: sat in an office looking after clients pensions or Self Invested Personal Pensions if you want to be precise. Racing is much more interesting!
Road car: Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost. I’m no boy racer but I can stretch a gallon of fuel further than most – I am from Yorkshire!
Have I raced? My racing activities extend to an odd karting day. My last race was a few years ago and I lapped the field (including a police pursuit driver) so I’ve retired on top!
Embarrassing moment: Clapping a Simon Farrar win on the penultimate lap at the 2019 Nationals was not my finest moment especially as he messed up the final lap. It did amuse the marshals on my post at least. I also had a Dodge Charger with a Hemi V8 in America a couple of years ago and instead of jumping cars off the lights I sat there with wheelspin going nowhere. This is probably one of many reasons why I take pictures instead of racing myself.
How I started mattmotorsport.co.uk: I’ve always taken whatever camera I own to race meetings and with the start of digital cameras, in particular the purchase of my first DSLR, I started taking a lot more pictures. I became friends with Shirleen, first on Twitter and then in person during my American NASCAR and Indycar trips, and this would lead to my association with In The Pits Media. Shirleen and Larry run In The Pits Media in America and I started to share my photos on their Facebook page with a bit of detail about the event as American and UK series are a little different! Around the same time I came into contact with Steve Belcher, initially at a Blyton rallycross meeting, and Steve guided me on what I needed to do to sign on as a photographer for autograss meetings. He also arranged free entry for Scunthorpe autograss meetings which meant they became my default venue until that stopped in 2019. As this is purely a hobby, free entry is the main way I use to cover some costs.
Going forward I would like to do more driver Q&A’s and a Q&A with an autograss official/organizer would be good to get a different point of view. Undoubtedly a good Q&A is down to the answers. The more detail and anecdotes make the Q&A better from my point of view but this does require time which understandably not everyone can do when they aren’t getting paid for it. On the photography side, I would like to invest in my cameras and lenses but, like most things in life, this depends on finances and buying a house has postponed this a little!
Race meetings in 2019: Scunthorpe autograss shakedown, Scunthorpe autograss season opener, BARC club meeting at Oulton Park, Nottingham autograss (twice), Spalding autograss (twice), Sturton autograss, Nigel Thompson memorial at Scunthorpe autograss, York autograss (twice), TCR UK Oulton Park, UK autograss at Sturton (both days), Indy 500, Indy Freedom 100, Indianapolis Speedrome (headlined by the figure of 8 race), UK autograss at Nottingham (both days), Spedeweekend at Foxhall Stadium (both days), UK autograss at Hereford autograss (both days), TCR UK at Brands Hatch, Titan Rallycross at Lydden Hill, Men’s Nationals at Evesham (both days), Fastest Man on Grass at Sturton autograss, Ladies and Juniors Nationals at Southern Autograss (both days) and UK autograss at Radford (both days). There would have been more had the weather not intervened on several occasions especially at the end of the year but I did make my debut at Hereford, Evesham, Radford and Southern Autograss this year.
Race tracks I’ve been to (when racing was on!): Angelsey (rallycross, old track and new track), Belle Vue, Brandon Stadium (Coventry), Blyton, Brands Hatch (rallycross and circuit), Cadwell Park, Castle Combe, Charlotte Motor Speedway (North Carolina), Charlotte dirt track (North Carolina), Croft (rallycross and circuit), Donington Park, Dover (Delaware, USA), Eddie Wright Raceway (Scunthorpe), Eversham autograss, Foxhall Stadium (Ipswich), Harewood Hillclimb, Goodwood, Hednesford, Hereford autograss, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval and road course), Indianapolis Speedrome, Kent autograss, Kielder forest rally stages, Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis), Lydden Hill, Mallory Park (rallycross and circuit), Northampton Raceway, Nottingham autograss, Odsal Stadium (Bradford), Olivers Mount, Oulton Park, Owlerton Stadium (Sheffield), Pembrey, Pickering rally stages, Pirelli Rally, Radford autograss, Rockingham (oval and circuit), Santa Pod, Scunthorpe autograss, Silverstone, Skegness Stadium, Snetterton, South Wales autograss, Spa, Spalding autograss, Sturton autograss, Thruxton, Warton, York autograss, Yorkshire Dales autograss.
First oval: Odsal Stadium (Bradford)
First meeting: Harewood Hillclimb
First circuit: Oulton Park which sadly made the national news when Paul Warwick died.
First autograss: Fastest Man on Grass at Sturton (discounting the demo at Rockingham)
First foreign trip: Spa. Unsurprisingly, it rained.
My favourite races: There are have been many over the years and I will stick to the ones I was at live rather than the thousands of races I watch on TV. So here they are in no particular order;
Race meetings for 2020: I’ve not decided on many fixtures yet and there is always some fluidity with them – usually weather related. Like in 2019, I intend to be at all the UK Autograss meetings as well as the Nationals which will include making my debut at Cambridge and I’m looking forward to going back to South Wales as I loved the Nationals there. I will be paying several visits to Nottingham and Spalding autograss as they are king enough to let me in for free. I want to go back to Kent autograss and make my debut at North Wales autograss.
The National Hot Rod World Final is always on my fixture list so I will be at both days in the summer. I hope to return to Skegness Raceway but I’ve yet to decide if America will be blessed with my presence yet. A British GT meeting escaped me this year so I’d like to change that and see Scott Malvern in action after his excellent Q&A earlier this year. A BTCC round, a trip to see the Mazda MX5 Supercup with Q&A star Aidan Hills and probably a rallycross meeting, although with no Croft or World Rallycross round I’m not sure which one. There will be others – there is not a shortage of options in the UK!
The motorsport future: I’ve finished several of my Q&A’s by asking what are the biggest challenges to the sport in the future. For me there are two, the environmental aspect and the increasing cost of the sport. The need to become greener is affecting all aspects of life and you can’t go long without some reference to climate change on the news. We have recently seen the VW group say they are putting all their focus on electric cars (ETCR will at least benefit from this), manufacturers in Australian Supercars have struggled to justify spending money on Commodores and Falcons when few people are buying them for the road and hybrid elements are creeping in to keep at least some relevance in most bigger series. Manufacturers can’t be telling everyone to buy electric, hydrogen etc cars and then go racing with more polluting internal combustion engines (and spend money on irrelevant technology) on a Sunday. As Francois Ribeiro put it this week, it is going to be a “brutal” period for fans of combustion engines as the automotive world changes.
Lower down the pecking order the pressure is likely to be more local. For example, this week York announced they plan to ban cars in the city and other cities are likely to follow or at least ban diesels like Bristol. Pressure will then be on for motorsport venues to not ruin this work by at least being carbon neutral – larger circuits elsewhere in the world have installed solar panels around their grounds. Circuits need to keep their neighbours happy from noise levels, pollution and simply keeping the area in a well maintained fashion (eg not leaving rubbish everywhere). If the venue is lost, it is increasingly harder to start new ones.
The not so new issue for motorsport is cost. The need to keep budgets low whether to entice new entrants or keep the budgets of the bigger teams in check to reduce the difference between the haves the have nots is nothing new. Anything from F1 to autograss has challenges in this area. Spec parts are on the increase and there are less multi chassis single seater series around the world. Stable regulations help to keep year on year spend in check and the move to different motive power needs to be handled with care, with a long term plan, to ensure the sport can survive.
Formula E is attracting manufacturers, Moto E has started and ETCR & Extreme E are on their way. Forumla E has progressed in a short space of time and provides good racing. I watch most forms of racing, as my Sky+ usually shows (!), and the change in motive power is unlikely to change this. Whatever happens, I will continue to be trackside!