A year of positive change for UK motorsport
By Hugh Chambers, Motorsport UK CEO
Looking back to the start of the year, we predicted that it would be a year of change, and we have not wavered in that plan. But is it all change for the sake of change?
You will have heard me talk previously of the headwinds facing our sport, and they are undeniable. Some are present right now, including the impact of changing lifestyles; but many more will hit us in the coming years, from the sustainability agenda to changes in the global insurance model. That our sport will change is beyond doubt, the question is how we deal with it and whether we manage our fate or become victims of others’ agendas. It has to be the former.
So, we have set about change with energy and focus. The changes to the governance in the sport, voted through unanimously by our members in March, mean we have a modern and efficient decision-making constitution that allows us to be nimbler, and more strategic. But we also need to do more to improve our own processes and efficiency, and 2020 will see plenty of changes on that front.
We have begun to redefine the scope of our membership, starting with the fan-focused Trackside membership. We ran a pilot this year, and the feedback has been very positive. Communications have started to modernise, including this magazine that is now digital-only, and will evolve further in 2020 with more interactivity and improved user interface. We are on the road promoting the sport and supporting our members with our new event units, which have been at venues such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Silverstone BTCC round. The first alcohol testing took place this summer, as well as a step up in testing for drugs, and we will focus this on certain areas in 2020. On the education side we have a completely new Learning Management System that will transform the method and effectiveness of learning for all of our members.
Many of you may not be aware of the responsibility we have for major events. Motorsport UK is the promoter for the UK round of the WRC (Wales Rally GB); the organiser of the Formula One British Grand Prix, and domestically promotes and organises the British Rally Championship and the British Kart Championships. Wales Rally GB was boldly reshaped this year, with a start in Liverpool (the first outside Wales for 20 years) and a fan friendly first stage at Oulton Park, that was widely acclaimed. In total ticket sales were 25% up year-on-year. The team running the British Grand Prix beat every other FIA event worldwide to be awarded the ultimate accolade of the FIA Event Team of the Year.
The British Kart Championships were brought back under our control for the first time in 20 years and heralded a host of innovations, including barcoded tyres and the introduction of the judge of fact resting solely with the stewards of the meeting. The latter removed the painful drawn out process of appeals that have marred high level karting for many years. We also have some ground-breaking plans for karting in 2020 that will be revealed at the Autosport Show.
On the subject of the FIA, our international federation may seem a long way from your particular part of the sport, but they have a huge bearing on what we do domestically. In the past year we have forged closer links with the teams in Paris and Geneva. We need to have a voice around the table when sweeping changes are being discussed, and to be able to lobby the FIA to tackle the greatest challenges in the sport, such as the VNUK European directive on insurance.
As everyone is fully aware, we took some bold actions in November with a comprehensive overhaul of the architecture and pricing of our licences and event permits. There has been plenty of energetic debate on the subject, and we have taken on board your feedback, but we are as convinced as ever of the need to build our resources to better promote and invest in the sport. Thank you for the support and understanding that our members have shown; and as we approach the end of December, it is very encouraging to see an actual increase in licence numbers for the first time in over five years. And that is on top of around 5000 of the new free RS Clubman licence holders, who are now fully engaged with the Motorsport UK community.
And it has not just been organisational change, but also physical change with our planned move to Bicester Motion in 2020. The 444-acre site is a beacon of light in the UK automotive scene, with an ever-growing roster of motorsport related businesses re-locating there, and a burgeoning social scene with the next Bicester Scramble on January 5th, that is close to sold out as I write this. The move really is a symbol of our ambition, not just for Motorsport UK, but the whole sport. We are not going to sit back and see the sport we love gradually slide into the sunset of the internal combustion engine; we will lead and innovate and challenge on behalf of you, our members. If in that process we shake things up a bit, then we follow in the positive footsteps of automotive and motorsport traditions; challenging the status quo and seeking better and smarter solutions.
Thank you to the vast community of volunteers that make the sport run, and do so brilliantly come rain or shine. I would also highlight the members of our various committees, for all of the various sport disciplines, as well as officials, volunteers, medical, safety and judicial; of which there are over 250 individuals who are the life blood of keeping the sport safe and fair.
As 2019 comes to a close, may I wish all of our competitors, our officials and volunteers and the broader motorsport community, and their very patient families, a very Merry Christmas and a successful and happy New Year. In 2020, we will be working hard to deliver for you, our members.