The opening round of the brand-new Australian Motor Racing Series was run at Winton last weekend and by every objective measure it was a success, with 180 entries across 10 different categories, and more than 20,000 viewers on the live stream.
Here are five things we learned from the weekend.
1. New categories are shaking up the established order.
Categories like TA2 and Legend Cars have, up until now, been essentially state-based series with little awareness or coverage from either the motorsport press or the wider public. But both of them arrived at Winton with healthy fields and produced entertaining racing, making people sit up and take notice.
The TA2 cars were big, fast, moved around a lot and produced plenty of overtaking, so it’s no surprise they were an instant hit with the fans. Considering their lap times were within seven seconds of the Supercars lap record at Winton (achieved by cars costing around a quarter of the price, and which could easily go faster on a softer-compound tyre), it’s little wonder the importer Peter Robinson has reportedly been inundated with phone calls ever since.
Meanwhile, Legend Cars is also a category rapidly establishing a reputation for close, combative racing. The motorcycle-powered cars are unique in being able to race on both dirt (speedway) and asphalt (circuit racing) and it’s one of the few categories in Australia presenting the prize of a fully-funded overseas drive to the winner – a trip to compete in the US Legend Car Nationals. The opportunity presented by this category, and the fact its able to do so at such an affordable price-point, puts other supposedly “more prestigious” national categories to shame.
2. The talent at the front of AMRS categories is on par with the best from other (sub-Supercars) national series.
Formula Ford is the obvious example, with a rich pool of promising up-and-coming racers headlined by Hunter McElrea, who clean-swept all three races. Also in the Formula Ford field, Courtney Prince is establishing a reputation as one of the country’s most exciting rising female talents while Cameron Shields and Harri Jones, who competed in both the Formula Ford and F3 races, are also well on their way to establishing professional careers in the sport.
Ashley Jarvis (TA2), Ric Shaw (Mazda RX8 Cup) and Sven Burchartz (IROC Challenge) were other standout performers from the weekend and would have to be considered among the best non-professional “weekend warrior” drivers going around.
3. It may have been a national-level race meeting but it still had a very friendly vibe, with a strong spirit of camaraderie between competitors.
The best example of this was produced by the Victorian Tin Tops/Group 4/Super 6 Touring Cars/Utes category, one where a lot of the drivers are mates off the track and rivals on it. When Steve Murray spun spectacularly into the wall at Turn 11 and his Commodore caught fire in Saturday afternoon’s race, his long-time friend Daniel Van Der Heyden was one of the first drivers on the scene, and he pulled over to ensure Murray was able to exit the car safely. Both drivers were understandably emotional and shaken afterwards, which just served to illustrate the strong bond between them. It was a gut-wrenching, but at the same time, lovely moment.
4. Live streaming is becoming more and more prominent, and if the racing is good, people will watch.
As mentioned above, the live stream of the event attracted a cumulative audience of more the 20,000 viewers, showing that people will tune in if the racing is entertaining. Facebook Live is a powerful tool, especially for capturing incidental viewers and also allowing real-time engagement from those watching the stream. Well done to the Blend Line TV crew on producing professional coverage across the weekend.
5. There is still so much more to come.
Perhaps the most impressive thing we learned from the AMRS opener is that it was only the first round, and there is still so much potential for growth and improvement.
The foundations are undoubtedly strong, and motorsport enthusiasts all over the country should look forward to watching this gem of a series continue to evolve and expand – all the fundamental ingredients are in place for it to become an integral part of the Australian motorsport scene.
PHOTO: Trackside Media