News that Formula One, the richest motorsport in the history of the wheel, has, in one month, gone from fleets of private jets and helicopters to laying off its loyal staff at the drop off a champagne glass and on to the point that the boss of McLaren, Zak Brown, has told the BBC that four of the current ten teams in the sport are on the brink of bankruptcy, has reminded me that much of pro flat track's Mom and Pop approach, the one that's kept it alive since cigarette sponsorship was banned, isn't so bad after all.
I'm a big supporter of AFT, and have benefitted from their investment in livestreaming because I've been able to see every race live for the last five seasons (if I can stay awake, with the time difference, until 3am for the mains) .
I believe I fully understand the vision behind Michael Lock's revolution.
I get that, if it goes according to plan, it will be better for the elite riders, and, when they are seen to prosper that there will be new generations trying to follow in their footsteps, creating a new grassroots scene.
I'm totally on-board with promoting races near big cities, as long as the track conditions are good.
I'm not perturbed by SuperTwins' set grid sizes (perhaps because I grew up with WSB and Dorna-era Grand Prix).
I prefer that the elite riders just race twins for the whole championship, not twins and singles in the same season, and that they do it in leathers...
But, the sport seems, seems, to have dodged the worst of Coronavirus bullet simply because all that groundwork by AFT has yet to pay proper sponsorship dividends. Bizarrely, flat track's failure to attract sponsorship is likely to be it's saviour. This is a slightly simplistic view, but when it comes to the riders and teams, the elite classes are still propped up by a handful of companies. Beyond AFT themselves, the biggest sponsors being Estenson Racing (run by the CEO of an Arizona logistics company) and Roof Systems of Dallas. Beyond that there are manufacturers and industry firms: Indian, H-D, S&S, Vance and Hines, KTM, American Honda... Another pillar is made up of the independent and dealer teams: NILA Racing, Briggs Auto, Happy Trails, RJ Performance, G&G Racing, RRCF... Racers also have personal sponsors ranging from Monster to local bike shops.
With the exception of Red Bull, none of these teams, are backed by non-moto industry multinationals. That means there are no finance companies or airlines who use the sport as a marketing tool. So while there is nowhere near the level of money coming into the sport, compared to other motorsport series', it means that when things do get tough budgets haven't become so inflated by a boom, that flat track's financial supporters don't abandon the sport, leading to a painful bust. The supporters pro flat track currently has love it. Their involvement is all heart, not head. They don't follow the 'metrics' or have sophisticated data collection. They're flat track people, through thick and thin.
Of course, racers and promoters are worried. AFT will have budgeted to deliver a full season to NBCSN and have a team of loyal employees to support, but I believe that pro flat track will come through this is a lot better shape than many other motorsports.
Screengrab from The Guardian.