Sunday, April 27, 2008

The value of grassroots

I attended my first race event of 2008 today, the second round of the AFM season. AFM is the main sanctioning body for motorcycle circuit racing in Northern California, and they race at Infineon (that's Sears Point to most of us), Buttonwillow and Thunderhill. I had a vested interest in going: the guy who I sold my dirtbike to last week was racing, and I needed to give him the title for that bike, so I was able to do that and get to see some racing.

There were 12 races in total for the more than 20 classes of bikes, ensuring massive grids of between 50 and 65 bikes. Needless to say that there was plenty of action, but I was pleasantly surprised to not see a single crash all day long. The jewel in the crown of the AFM is Formula Pacific, a class reserved for only the fastest riders, in which any AFM-legal bike can be entered. The field is much smaller, something like 28 riders, and the racing is as fierce as you'll find in any national superbike race.

It was a great day of racing in beautiful, sunny 80 degree California weather and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The most significant aspect of the day for me was confirmation of something I've always assumed to be true but never really thought about: motorsport would be nothing without the thousands and thousands of amateur and semi-pro racers like you find in the AFM and other grassroots organizations around the world. There would be no top-level motorsport because there would be nowhere for racers to learn their craft and it's the entrants that are the core of any successful grassroots racing group. I spent a lot of time wandering around the paddock today and was amazed at the amount of money people spend on what is basically a hobby. There's very little income at this level, and racers are lucky to be able to get their consumables and some parts paid for via generous local sponsors. But despite this, they spend huge amounts of their own money on their racebikes or racecars, as well trailers, RVs, trucks, tools, safety gear and other necessary infrastructure. What's more, they spend countless hours prepping for races, as well as entire weekends racing. From their passion springs forth strong local racing organizations where the best and brightest young racers can build their careers and go on to be part of the more widely-recognized professional side of the sport.

I'm fully aware that no-one is doing this out of the goodness of their hearts - racers race because they love to race. But I think it's worthwhile every now and then to recognize the important role that they play in this sport.

1 comment:

Steve Ballmer said...

Good point!