Playing cricket sounds like a lovely way to make a living. Perhaps I’ll have a crack at next year’s county championship. It’s a logical move, given that my application to occupy the right midfield berth at Forest Green Rovers, mysteriously, seems to have been rejected. Unfathomable.
It could be that I am vastly underqualified to do either, I suppose. And yet, if I wanted a drive in the British F3 Championship next year, all that’s stopping me is completing one more race to obtain the right race licence, and the more significant matter of finding a quarter of a million quid.
Whether or not I have the ability to compete in F3 is, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant; if I could demonstrate sufficient competence to stay out of trouble and not embarrass myself, I could be out there.
Assuming, of course, I could find a team willing to support my endeavours, in the face of competition against faster, stronger, younger, fitter, keener, more ambitious and rather more talented competitors.
I imagine a sentence like “All right, how about I make this cheque out for a million pounds?” would do it. Funny old world, motorsport.
Let me tell you about my mate Stuart. He was a good footballer. As a kid, he was on Leyton Orient’s books, but he became more interested in going out and less interested in training. Now, refreshingly, he says: “I will never be that bloke saying ‘I could have made it’. I didn’t work hard enough. Therefore I wasn’t good enough. If I could have made it, I would have.”
Yet in motorsport? I reckon we could all name a dozen drivers good enough for F1 who never got there. And a dozen who made it on budget, not talent, alone.
Motorsport doesn’t survive on just talent. Race teams don’t live off the revenue from a stadium of fans; they get by on money from drivers. A quick driver can bring a racing car on by a couple of tenths. One who arrives with £10m can provide engineers who design far faster cars.
You and I know this, but I’m not sure if the casual fan – one whose exposure amounts to a couple of TV hours a month – does. I’ve had two conversations recently with those who think the racing cars are about equal and the drivers are there because they’re the very best in the business (as some are, to be fair).
A few exceptions like Nissan’s GT Academy aside, I don’t see many trying to expose the myth of, or make changes to, the current set-up. Motorsport was, is and, I presume, always will be a sport of privilege. Running cars and bikes is expensive and the money has to come from somewhere.
Despite it all, we still get races as fabulous as the other week’s Bathurst 1000 and the Malaysian MotoGP.