On Monday we were sitting in an almost empty field, alongside Thruxton race circuit in Hampshire.
Just the night before it had been packed full of campers. Tents, motorhomes, and caravans all lined up, row by row. We estimate there were 1000 in our area. However, most people had packed up and left by Sunday night, including BSB race two winner, Peter Hickman who text us from Ulster at 9 am on Monday morning. No rest for the wicked.
Over a cup of tea, we reflected on the weekend. The loss of Mark Fincham, an amputee and former Royal Marine racing for True Heroes Racing, who took a nasty high side, was run over by his team mate and later succumbed to his injuries. It was a tragic day on Sunday. Of course, with racing, there is always a flip side. The great pendulum of emotion involved. Both Josh Brookes and Peter Hickman celebrated incredible wins and witnessing Hickman take Gloucestershire based Smith’s Racing to their first BSB victory was something worth celebrating.
Increasingly, circuits such as Silverstone are creating less fan friendly viewing.
Our conversation moved to the circuit. Thruxton is a fantastic airfield in Hampshire. It’s fast, so perfect for those who favour road racing. It is also brutal on the tyres so if your bike isn’t set up right or your riding style favours more complex circuits; you will suffer. This was evident to see over the weekend as BSB champion Shakey Burns was left wanting in both races. It holds both British Superbike and British Touring Cars and is most certainly a circuit that gives the fans a little more.
Increasingly, circuits such as Silverstone are creating less fan friendly viewing. They are charging for everything they can and so seemingly squeeze out those who can only afford a ticket, those who can’t afford the prices of hospitality and the grandstands. Of course, we are lucky with British Superbikes, earlier this year the Formula One came to Silverstone where fans could pick up a Hamilton hat for £50, at Thruxton we were buying team merchandise for £10. We like to think there is a reason for these price hikes, other than corporate greed. So at Thruxton, we started to look at the people most affected by the increasing expense of circuit racing. The fans.
Our main discussion was the campsite. It became apparent by Sunday evening that no one in our field had paid for camping, or were going to be charged. We can’t talk about the main camping area as we were in the overspill. There were around 1000 of us there. At £24 per person that is a lost revenue of £24,000 to the circuit.
Ok, so we had no showers, no electric hook ups, we did, however, have lots of space and instant access to one of the best corners to watch the racing, at no additional cost.
Bonus then, many of you will be thinking, that we didn’t have to pay for anything other than our tickets and judging by the majority of the field, that is how they saw it. Unfortunately, it stuck in our throat a little.
Currently, Thruxton is trying to raise money to repair the grandstand at Church. They are also investing lots of money to help increase fan experience and circuit revenue. At every entrance there was a man, with a bucket, desperately trying to raise some extra funds, to keep the circuit as fan friendly as it is. On the last day, we decided the £24 we had saved should go in the bucket. Had all the other campers who hadn’t paid, made this same decision, that would have seen £24k of donations.
Grandstand access at Thruxton is £5 each on the day. The circuit could up the prices to raise money to ensure the circuit can afford to maintain itself. The problem is it will then lose all the things that make it such a fabulous circuit for fans. It is probably why Silverstone started to up their pricing.
Another thing we noted was that of all those campers who managed to get away with two free nights stay at the circuit, only around 40% had bothered to pack up their rubbish and of those 40% only half had bothered to take it to the bin – for clarity the main bin was around a 50 meter walk for most of us.
It’s fair to say that it is increasingly hard for circuits to remain fan friendly
All this made us think. What kind of racing fan are you? Like us, did you put your money in the donation bucket? Did you tidy up your camping area to reduce the amount of work for the circuit, cut down their maintenance bills just a little? Or do you think the circuit is foolish for not ensuring everyone had paid and therefore it is their fault if they lost money?
Whichever side of the discussion you sit on, it’s fair to say that it is increasingly hard for circuits to remain fan friendly. Not to close off the paddock or charge extra money to sit on banks which give you free, fabulous viewing. We believe, it is up to the fans and the tracks to work together and ensure circuits like Thruxton can keep delivering the incredible events they do.