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

Age:  41  

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.

After seeing the number of engagements my autograss photos received on the In The Pits FB page, I decided to branch out on my own and try a few different things so mattmotorsport.co.uk was born.  The Facebook page arrived at the same time and I soon started some Q&A’s with Simon Farrar being the first star.  Simon was the first autograss driver I got to know and, like most autograss Q&A’s state, the social side is a big plus for me enjoying autograss.  I’ve got to know the regular marshals and an increasing number of drivers over time.

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.

Major series seen:  A1 GP, ARCA, ASCAR, Blancpain GT, BRiSCA F1 & F2, British Autograss Series,  British GT, British Rallycross, British Superbikes, BTCC, DTM, EURO NASCAR, European Touring Cars, European Rallycross, European Truck Racing, F1, F3 (British & European), F3000, FIA GT1, Grand-Am Sportscars, Grand Prix Masters, Indycar, ITC, Moto GP, NASCAR, National Hot Rods, Super Formula, Superstars, UK autograss, World Rally, Rallycross GP, World Rallycross, World Series by Renault, World Superbikes and World Touring Cars.

 

Favourite drivers: If you have seen me trackside, especially at an autograss meeting, the chances are I will have had a #42 cap on (see picture above).  I became a Juan Pablo Montoya fan in the mid 90’s when he joined the F3000 grid and he has got me shouting at the TV on many occasions.  I’ve now seen him race in America more times live than anywhere else and I get to make a holiday out of it as well.   If you have never been to a NASCAR race or the Indy 500, I can highly recommend both.
Besides JPM, I’ve become fans of many drivers over the years.  I was a Nigel Mansell and Eddie Irvine fan back in the day – I nearly crashed my car still in excitement after Eddie won his first race!  Adam Carroll, Robbie Kerr, Sam Bird and Felix Rosenqvist all get my vote for their overtaking prowess and I have a soft spot for Takuma Sato after his British F3 years.  Touring car wise it would be Gary Paffett, Rob Collard, Mat Jackson, Stefan Hodgetts, Tom Ingram and Rob Huff – with a bit of luck Aidan Hills and Max Coates will get a BTCC drive soon and I can add them to the list.
In rallying, I was a Colin McRae fan like everyone else.  These days it is Jari-Matti Latvala another driver with passion for the sport with some flair thrown in which seems to be the theme for the drivers I follow!
Finally in autograss, I cheer on those that have done a Q&A for me and those I have got to know more.  Simon ‘Sideways’ Farrar may have some questionable colour schemes – bring back the pea green – but he remains a favourite of mine.  Andy Holtby and Vinny Gibbons are always exciting to watch with both featuring in my favourite races.  It is also good to see Emily Crosby taking on the men in her class 8.

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;

– The Nigel Mansell BTCC race at Donington Park.  I may have had to endure some rain for it but the atmosphere when Our Nige took the lead was amazing and it is widely regarded as one of the best ever BTCC races.
– The 2015 Indy 500 when Montoya won.  The atmosphere at the Speedway is amazing with circa 250,000 people there on race day.  I’ve been lucky to go three times (and once for the Brickyard 400) but 2015 has to be my favourite.
– Andy Holtby in the wet at Scunthorpe autograss.  Mid meeting the heavens opened and the following heats featured cars crawling around with no grip.  Then Holtby lined up and drove where nobody else had been, riding the fence, to make everyone else look silly.
– Indycars at Rockingham.  This was the first live Indycar race I saw and the speeds at Rockingham were like nothing I’d seen before.  A British winner in Dario Franchitti helped as well.
– A1GP.  It may have been short lived but the atmosphere and racing around Brands Hatch was brilliant.  Lots of patriotism and Robbie Kerr and Adam Carroll produced some fine drives.
– National Hot Rod World Final.  It took me a long time to go to this as it always clashed with the Goodwood Festival of Speed which I used to go to.  If you like oval racing I couldn’t recommend this more.
– The Men’s Nationals.  Like the Hot Rods, I was a bit slow to get to this.  Sometime there is a bit too much of the do or die moves, with resulting red flags, but the competition is very high.  The race I remember though was Vinny Gibbons in 2018 going from last to first, no contact, just sublime driving.
– Indianapolis Speedrome.  This is what you think of when thinking of grass roots Saturday night racing with wooden grandstands and true Americana.  The racing has been brilliant every time I’ve been on the conventional oval with many last lap passes for the lead and the figure of eight race naturally holds your attention.  This is a must for any future Indy trips I make.
– Anglesey and Castle Combe.  There are many great club races around the country but these two stand out for me with great views of the track and, in the case of Anglesey, the sea.  A Mazda MX5 battle at Anglesey and a brilliant BRSCC meeting at Castle Combe last year which featured numerous close races are the pick.
– Rallycross GP at Croft.  It was a toss up between the GP’s of yesteryear and the Lydden World/European events.  Both were amazing but the years when the nutty Scandinavians in their Volvo’s etc. came to Croft pip it.  Sadly that is unlikely to be seen again.

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!




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