By this time next week, we’ll be well into the 2011 Bathurst 1000 – the biggest event in Australian motorsport. And in the middle of it all will be a seventeen year old driver.
Under the V8 rules, teams can apply to run a “wildcard” entry – a one-time car at selected events. Most of the time, these entries are used in the endurance races (though I’m expecting more international entries as the sport goes overseas). One of these is being entered by Kelly Racing. It’s little more than a gimmick; the entry will be driven by a part-time driver and the winner of a reality television show. The winner of that show was announced today: seventeen-year-old Cameron Waters.
So, he’s seventeen. He’s barely old enough to legally drive on Australian roads. He’s racing because he won a reality television series (that was little more than a series of ads for sponsors; how does appearing in a sponsor’s ad make him a better driver?). He’s in the fifth car of a team running four, and if stories are to be believed, they’ve only got the resources for three. He’s had just two days’ experience driving a V8 Supercar. And in one week, he’ll be taking part in the single biggest and most-difficult race in Australia. Personally, I think he’s far too young; if the sport’s organisers have any sense, they’ll deny him a racing licence.
This begs the question: how young is too young? I know Formula 1 teams like to catch young talent early, mostly because their reflexes are as sharp as they’ll ever be – Sebastian Vettel is younger than me, and he’s staring down the barrel of his second World Championship. With GP2 becoming a two-year program for young drivers, I think we’ve seen the youngest racers that we’ll see for a while. But all the same, should teams really be running teenagers?