Motorsport is not “Hooning”

We see on the news from time to time, people doing dumb stuff in motor vehicles. By definition this list can be somewhat subjective, given one persons risk is another’s fun. We all see risk differently, this is why we see some parents let their three year child old walk next to them in a car park and other enforce a strict hand holding regime. I personally like my young one to hold my hand in these situations because I know how unpredictable little kids can be around unaware drivers that could end up being a recipe for disaster. Again this is my assessment on that particular risk as an example.

Lets now turn our attention to driving fast, doing skids, call it burnouts or anything deemed to be other than driving to the shops for a carton of milk. Some say this is hooning, a term that gets bandied around frequently and has been somewhat frowned upon in the media. Particularly for P Plate drivers it seems everyone has a story to tell.

In their mind they aren’t hooning instead are just having fun, without the obvious risk assessment that perhaps others take on the situation. I just want to put this out there, I am a motoring enthusiast, I like to drive fast, I like to take a vehicle by the scruff of the neck and make it do what I want it to do, in a way that some people certainly would deem as risky.

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Driving a Hyundai Elantra Rally car recently

But here is the difference, I do this in a closed private environment where there are no other cars to hit me innocently, the pedestrians are all kept well clear of my vehicle, there is NO risk a child might run out in front of me, I have significant safety equipment that will keep me safe if I have an issue, I have trained people watching over me to ensure if something happens they will respond quickly and this is what we refer to as motorsport.

Most peoples idea of motorsport relates to formula one, or V8 Supercars, or Moto GP, the reality is those forms of the sport are at the elite level, however each weekend around our wonderful country there are hundreds if not thousands of people competing in all kinds of motorsport. It could be drag racing, go karting, motor cross or any range of grass roots competition.

I have been doing this since I was 15, I started by joining a local car club, the North Shore Sporting Car Club to be exact and my first event was a Super Sprint at the now defunct Amaroo Park Raceway, this was before I could even get my license. On and off I have been competing ever since, from the Australian Safari, Australian Rally Championship or a simple basic motorkhana.

The spirit of competition is great, but the friendships I have established from this passion are life long. As we have a common spirit or desire that all motoring enthusiasts share. One mans shit box is another mans pride and joy and you learn to respect the common thread, his or hers passion for motoring.

For some this passion spills over onto the public roads, and while I enjoy driving fast and all that, I know the public roads are not the right place to do this.

I learnt through an education in respect, respect for the risks that our sport has, respect for the difficulty in driving a vehicle at speed and a respect for the unpredictability of doing this on the public roads.

You see when we race or compete in motorsport events all of the things we deem as a risk have been removed, like pedestrians, cyclists, other road users, obstacles and the list goes on. So when you see a report on the news of people illegally street racing and ending up wrapped around a pole somewhere you understand our disappointment in how this could have been avoided had their enthusiasm been channelled in the right direction.

Enter the “Taking Speed off the Roads Campaign” started by my good mate Ian Luff in the early 1990’s to help direct enthusiasts down the right path as opposed to genuine hooning on public roads. I know some people won’t agree with me on this, I am prepared for that, but when you experience the tragedy that comes with fatal road trauma and the ripple effect this has on everyone you can’t help but think it could have been avoided.

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Ian Luff with the Taking Speed off the Roads campaign Genesis.

Some will say, oh motorsport is too expensive, or I can’t get to a venue to compete, it’s the governments fault or the Police are picking on us, well to be honest you just opened the book of excuses and started at chapter one.

Just this week I went back to my grass roots and competed in a Khanacross, on dirt with my still current car club the North Shore Sporting Car Club, at 43 years of age this has been a part of my life (not continuously) for near on 30 years. For just $80 I was able to enter this event at Sydney Dragway and compete at State Championship level and have an absolute ball in doing so. Yes I had access to a rally car and this was great, but there were people out and about in road going vehicles.

Each Wednesday we can blast down the full professional Drag strip at Sydney Dragway for just $60, in the race for real program. This also has a burnout pad session and allows enthusiasts to express themselves without risk to others and their license.

A Motorkhana start from as low as $25 in some cases and again this can be done in road cars, so there is no excuses about not getting involved. All they have to do is join a car club, get a basic CAMS license and then not only can they compete, but they are also covered by insurance, not vehicle insurance but injury insurance underwritten by CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport).

Not everyone shares my passion for motoring and that is okay, this is what makes society interesting, but we need to respect people who do want to enjoy driving the way others enjoy kicking a soccer ball around, or drinking beer with their mates, or barbecuing, again motorsport is not hooning. If you are into motoring, why not give it a try and get involved.

Stewart Nicholls
Motoring Expert
Ian Luff Motivation Australia

Stewart Nicholls

Stewart Nicholls

Business Development Director at Ian Luff Motivation Australia Pty Ltd
Stewart is a qualified motor mechanic who started motor racing at a young age. Being a key CAMS official and working with driver development programs for many years helped Stewart understand driver’s risk. His involvement with Road Safety Expert Ian Luff has resulted in developing new strategies for risk mitigation and staff management.

With many business awards and a focus on working with people Stewart’s ability to relay an important message about road safety is welcomed.
Stewart Nicholls

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