For a long time, motorsports had been struggling. Ever since the NASCAR boom 20 years ago, auto racing was gradually losing popularity and influence in the United States.
Look the historical search traffic for motorsport and auto racing. Almost as bad as my current stock portfolio.
When I used to talk about F1 to my friends, their eyes would glaze over instantly and their hands would instinctively reach for their phones (oh how the turntables have turned).
The decline was exacerbated by the apparent “end” of individual car ownership in the latter half of the 2010s.
These news articles might seem a bit sensationalist, but there was a very real shift towards less personal car ownership and more car sharing, carpooling, and public transportation (not a bad thing!).
This sentiment was especially prevalent in the younger generation, the millenials and Gen Zs.
At the same time, sports cars were being killed off left and right because they were low volume and unprofitable. RIP Dodge Viper, Honda S2000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and Mazda RX-8.
So… how did everything 180 so quickly? If we fast forward half a decade to the present, my formerly glazed-eye friends are now sharing F1 memes back and forth. Everyone I know, and I mean everyone, loves Checo’s dad. Drive to Survive is now one of the most popular TV shows in the world, and F1 became one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
With more fans came more drivers. There isn’t really good data measuring participation in track days and HPDEs, but according to anecdotes from organizers across the country, track events are filling up much faster than before.
The main reasons for why this happened:
- Drive to Survive is a damn good show. It introduced pro motorsports to the younger generation and created lifelong fans.
- Many people bought cars because of the pandemic, which led to more people pursuing motorsports as a hobby. It definitely helps that auto racing is very covid-friendly.
- Car ownership rates defied the late 2010s doomsayers and continued to climb. This is partly due to the pandemic, but also because the younger generation still wants their own cars. In a way, it’s as much part of people’s identity as their clothes or house.
Is the current boom a dead cat bounce or is motorsport truly back on the path to glory?
It’s unlikely for there to be another DtS-esque show that drives a new explosion of interest. Also, the pandemic is impacting us less (knock on wood), so car ownership is becoming less important.
But I don’t think we’re in a dead cat bounce. If motorsports loses some steam, I wouldn’t be surprised (world economies are stuttering and cars are expensive), but the renewed interest isn’t going away anytime soon.
However, there is currently a big problem in motorsports. Unlike most other sports, it’s hard to go from a fan to a player. Most people don’t know how to get started, and others are discouraged because they think it’s very expensive or unsafe.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s very possible to become a player and get on the racetrack without spending big money or risking your safety.
I don’t want to spill all the beans here, check out Track Manual to learn more. It’s a resource that’s 100% free and crafted for motorsport newcomers.