While circuit racing continues to struggle (and yes I am including the V8 supercars in that statement) the sport of Drag Racing is going gang busters. Despite having no presence in either Victoria or South Australia Drag Racing is attracting big crowds, good TV ratings and heaps of corporate support.
Almost everyday another release lands on the In Pit Lane desk heralding another new major sponsor or team. This week it was iconic US Motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson.
Harley-Davidson has always had a strong presence in Australian motorsport and this involvement with drag racing is one which Marketing Manager of Harley-Davidson Adrian O’Donoughue, feels was a natural and inevitable progression.
“We decided to get involved with ANDRA Championship Drag Racing simply to reach new audiences. We are already involved with various sports [MotoGP, V8 Supercars] so drag racing was really another natural extension for the brand to help get ourselves out in front of people who are involved with or into drag racing and could be into bikes or Harley-Davidson’s“.
The Australian Drag Racing Nationals at the re-named Sydney Dragway is a clear indication of the sport’s stunning growth. Over 450 entries for the three day event with record turn outs in the premier Top Fuel class will no doubt see a huge turnout of spectators in a city where most other sports have struggled.
If ever there was an indication of the Drag Racing’s corporate support and growing professionalism then it can clearly be seen in the news that Brett Stevens Racing will now be responsible for no less than 10 cars and bikes, all running with substantial sponsorship from major National brands.
Having dealt with Stevens in the past back in the good ol’ days when Melbourne had its own thriving Drag scene, I’m not surprised. Brett’s passion for the sport, his love and respect for his fans and his willingness to see “the big picture” is in stark contrast to so many others in local motorsport who just can’t see any further than their own front bonnet.
Not that the sport of Drag Racing couldn’t do with a lot more Brett Stevens. While it’s getting better their relationship with the main stream media leaves lots to be desired. E-Mails aren’t responded too, hone calls often not returned or returned so late that it ceases to matter. Over 11 years of doing the TV show In Pit Lane, I have to say that with one exception all the guests who have just plain failed to show up (an inexcusable sin in live television) have been Drag Racers. Then we had the top ranking local ANDRA official who did turn up in shorts and sandals. hardly the sort of professionalism the sport wants to promote.
Drag Racing is what first brought me to the sport of motor racing, two HK Monaro Funny Cars of the early 70s called The Shaker and The Spoiler. For a nine year old kid they were about the wildest, thing I’d ever seen and when they featured on the front cover of Australian Hot Rod magazine I happily blew my lunch money to grab a copy. (I still have that magazine). But the sport has waxed and waned over the decades, it’s popularity often fading mostly through the complacency and sometimes shear arrogance of the people charged with the sports administration.
The Melbourne and Adelaide situations not helped by the constantly changing moods of local track promoter Bob Jane who still refuses to deal with the sport’s governing body ANDRA and seems hell bent on running his own show despite a decade or more of constant abject failure.
Just imagine a Drag Racing future with both Calder and Adelaide on board, imagine all mainland states and tracks pulling together with the added benefit of the Bob Jane organisations undoubted financial and marketing support.
For those of you who sneer at the sport, who dismiss it as unskilled and vulgar, just take the time to head out to a major Drag Strip and check out the scene, the families and the delighted faces of the children, the shear visceral thrill of seeing, hearing and most importantly feeling two Top Fuel Dragsters blasting down the standing quarter with more power than an entire field of V8 Supercars.
Yes Drag Racing is big now, but with a touch more professionalism and everybody heading in the one direction it could blast just about every other form of motor racing off the commercial landscape.