A day later than usual due to technical complications, a festive Ben Evans is mulling the possibility of race action on Boxing Day…
As is traditional in the Evans household I’ve just returned from the Boxing day horse races at Wincanton. Where, just like every year, my investment in a single horsepower has failed to provide a racing budget for the new year.
For those of you that don’t know Wincanton is in the absolute middle of nowhere, 25 minutes’ drive from Shepton Mallet, which is itself 40 minutes from my home town of Bristol.
Yet there were easily 10-20,000 people there today, at a low grade horse racing meeting, at a track in the middle of nowhere. Makes you wonder what Brands Hatch would bring in with a Boxing Day meeting?
Now I know that for years Mallory Park has run the successful Plum Pudding meeting that draws big crowds for a mixture of car and bike racing (although low entries from what I’ve heard), and likewise that Christmas, unlike the summer, is a rare opportunity for motor sports people to have a bit of a break.
However given the popularity of Boxing Day sport in general, and motor sports’ rising, if still somewhat ambivalent, profile in the public eye, surely a well-promoted Boxing Day meeting could be a smash.
Obviously there is the argument that motor sport is a summer pastime and that Boxing Day is likely to be cold, wet, snowy, or a combination of the three, thus ensuring that in the event of bad weather the spectator banks would be empty.
However given that May’s World Touring Car event at Brands Hatch was almost washed out, as was October’s Formula Ford Festival this argument holds little sway. And it doesn’t stop A1 Grand Prix, does it?
Wintry weather is not ideal for some of the more temperamental motor sports machinery (anything with an aircooled engine) and some enthusiasts wouldn’t want to run in these conditions.
But I believe that if the promoters and circuit owners made an effort Boxing Day meetings could become a highlight of the racing calendar. To this end the meeting should be seen as a giant advert for motorsport above all else.
I would make the meeting invitation only, with free entry to the invited competitors, which would go some way to ensuring large grids. I would invite, say, the top 20 or 30 drivers from top series or classes of racing to ensure full and interesting grids that would be entertaining for spectators.
Second, I would aim for a low gate price to get as large a crowd as possible. This means that for spectators there is not the feeling of being alone on a cold bank which plagues so many meetings.
For competitors, racing in front of a large crowd always makes the effort seem worthwhile.
But surely this is not worthwhile for the tracks – free racing for competitors and cheap admission?
Well, let’s be honest there will never be a low demand for hot drinks in December, and seasonal food stalls for mulled wine and mince pies would undoubtedly prove a success.
Likewise, opening up on-site go-kart tracks would be an easy way of relieving kids of any money they received for Christmas. Other sells could include opening the track at lunchtime to passenger rides in race school saloons, or allowing spectators to take their road cars round behind a pace car.
Following my Boxing Day experiences at Wincanton I have seen how a minority sport (in this instance horse racing) has opened its doors to a crowd that doesn’t usually watch it to create a great, affordable, family-friendly day out.
I firmly believe that motor sport could do the same, and to great effect.
As long as we don’t have too many of those pesky White Christmases.