Something is about to happen! (Photo: Reg Blunt)
It can be done!
I did say in the last post: “Stay tuned because the ‘event’ – or at least analysing what makes a good ‘event’ - will be the subject of a future analysis”. Well maybe it will, but right now, a few ‘non-events’ have stimulated further deep thought and observation – which ultimately does relate to actual ‘events’!
Firstly, I’ll mention again, that I view these things through the perspective of over five decades of
observation and engagement. And again I’ll mention, I did actually see Sam Griffiths and Dick Bertram racing in the first modern era offshore race in Europe. And again I’ll mention, my initially intense, and subsequently peripheral engagements in professional motorsport.
I guess I can say I have seen a lot of ‘heads’ come and go, equally I have seen a lot of failed concepts and initiatives – including a few of my own! I’ll even say I probably learnt more from my failures, than from my few brief chapters of success. The one thing I am certain of, is that the failures – mine or others – hurt and cost money, sometimes, serious money!
The fact is, since I started the series of posts examining and analysing the global rise - and
subsequent decline of offshore powerboat racing, I have engaged with some interesting entities – and let’s just say there is a common thread!
There are some very astute, experienced and successful business leaders, globally, who are attracted to the idea of promoting offshore powerboat races, events and championships. Firstly,
I am thankful that there are such people – but secondly it’s rather frustrating to find that the deeper understanding, knowledge, experience and, shall we say, fundamental spirit of this complex sport, is often the missing ingredient in the realm of perception. Consequently, again I have to say, decisions can then be made without fully understanding the implications – potentially and naïvely creating a recipe for failure! The really sad aspect is that an, often substantial, investment is involved!
I inevitably identify, and understand, that technical naїvety is a factor – but can we realistically
expect a mind that consumes spreadsheets and dominates boardrooms, to understand the science and physics of the sport they seek to control? Equally, it must be questioned: is there a full understanding of where this sport sits in the bigger picture of motorsport values and commercial sophistication? Again we can accept naїvety but the balance between success and failure isn’t so forgiving! The elephant in this particular room, is of course, ‘ego’! We all have it! It is human nature, it is the belief in our own view and decisions – and it can be our downfall. Business success, money and power presents a compelling case to act on instincts in making decisions. Knowledgeable and loyal employees, having gleaned some understanding, may try to convey some wisdom and influence – but ultimately they will concede, knowing better than to argue!
The most amusing thing I hear and read, is the admiration and desire to emulate the ultimate hero and role model of all motorsport promoters: Bernie Ecclestone.
So let’s just get a perspective on BE and establish exactly what made him so successful.
Bernie initially studied chemistry but his business instinct soon turned his motorcycle hobby into a
business selling motorcycle spares. In 1949 he started racing Formula 3 cars (which then used 500cc motorcycle engines). He had a few wins but again ‘business’ came first, where he made some serious money in real estate, loan financing and car auctions. He returned to motor racing in 1957, managing a Formula 1 driver; he then bought two second-hand F1 cars and created a F1 team, he even tried to qualify, unsuccessfully, in a Grand Prix himself. The team ultimately disbanded but he continued to be involved in F1 through managing a driver.
He came to my attention when he became partner/manager of the formula 2 team owned by my hero at the time – Jochen Rindt. After Rindt’s untimely death and posthumous F1 World Championship in 1970, Ecclestone was offered a partnership in the Brabham F1 team – he then bought the team from Jack Brabham’s former partner, Ron Tauranac, for just over US$100,000! To cut a long story short, the Brabham team went on to build a technical relationship with BMW in the development of the Turbo M10 engine, finally winning the F1 World Championship in 1983 with Nelson Piquet driving. At the end of 1987, Ecclestone sold the Brabham team for US$5m!
The rest is history: Ecclestone formed the F1 Constructors Association and ultimately the ‘Formula
One Group’, negotiating the ‘Business’ of F1, managing all the GP series commercial rights, including the sponsorship, prize money and TV rights. Not just a promoter, Bernie Ecclestone became F1 ‘Supremo’!
The point I am making and its relevance to offshore powerboat racing, comes back to the statements I have been making right from the beginning of this discussion. Bernie Ecclestone is not just a smart businessman. He knows and fully comprehends every aspect of motor racing, from hands soaked in motor oil - to a $3.5 Billion fortune. It’s not by chance he is successful, it’s because a near lifetime of experience bestowed the knowledge to know what works for the sport at every level – because he’s been there, failed, succeeded, learnt and ‘done it’! The key point here is that he earned respect and trust across the sport.
Just as in the embryonic days of auto motorsports, the early days of offshore racing saw some great
characters, let’s just mention Red Crise, Max Aitken and Attilio Petroni. These guys could simply rally a few wealthy friends and set a race and social event in motion. It was totally amateur and no-one cared – but the sport grew and the world changed. Again, just as in the auto sector, a structure evolved and rules were created to make it fair and safe.
You know the story, it’s there in the previous posts. Industry, technology and now the information age, have placed us all in a different era. Coincidentally, as I write, two Australians climbed the peaks in motorsport – Daniel Ricciardo won the Monaco Grand Prix and Will Power won the Indy 500. They excelled in managed, disciplined, level playing field, technical sports. They did it because
everything – their skill, car and team, was the best on the day. And, they were able to do it because they had a structured professional sport to compete in.
One more thing:
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi!