Historic day highlights our golden generation

Adrian Musolino Columnist

By Adrian Musolino, Adrian Musolino is a Roar Expert

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    Red Bull's Mark Webber, of Australia, celebrates after wining the Brazil's Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009. AP Photo/Andre Penner

    Red Bull's Mark Webber, of Australia, celebrates after wining the Brazil's Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009. AP Photo/Andre Penner

    It should rank as one of Australia’s greatest sporting days. While Casey Stoner was celebrating his third consecutive Australian MotoGP victory, compatriot Mark Webber was dominating the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix. It was a rare GP double in a rich season for Australian motorsport.

    Aside from our Grand Prix victors, we also saw Jason Crump seal his third Speedway world championship over the weekend.

    This season West Australian teenager Daniel Ricciardo claimed the prestigious British Formula 3 series. In America, Ryan Briscoe narrowly missed out on the IndyCar title, while David Brabham, son of three-time Formula 1 world champ Sir Jack Brabham, claimed the American Le Mans sportscar series.

    It’s been a remarkable season; a golden age in terms of the breadth of Australians competing across the world in various disciplines, not to mention the domestic scene, led by a new brigade taking over the laurels in V8 Supercars.

    Motorpsort has slowly made inroads into the mainstream, and it was encouraging to see Stoner’s win afforded the lead sports story in newspapers across the country. Motorsport is getting a lot more television time and crowds across a variety of events are healthy.

    However, can this increased interest help foster the next generation of racers so that this current golden age doesn’t end up being an anomaly in Australian motorsport history?

    Many of the younger racers making an impact were raised in the era when top line motorsport arrived on a permanent basis on our shores in the 1980’s and the increased media awareness and attention this caused.

    The subsequent rise of V8 Supercars and the strengthening of various support categories helped provide a crucial training ground and thriving, professional motorsport environment.

    However, there has been an element of good fortune that has helped produce this boom.

    Far from being supported by a groundswell of Australian funding, many of the current stars struggled just to make it to the big time.

    Mark Webber’s overseas career was saved from the brink on more than one occasion. Casey Stoner’s campaign in the smaller Grand Prix categories was funded by the backing of Dorna, the Spanish commercial rights holder of MotoGP, not to mention the sacrifice of his parents who sold their house and moved to the UK to support Stoner’s career.

    A MotoGP team boss told me in an interview over the weekend that he thought Stoner wouldn’t have even got to the premier class had it not been for the support he received from Dorna.

    Australian motorsport success is dependant on corporate support to help fund young drivers in this incredibly expensive and competitive world, especially at a time when the economic conditions limit private funding and decrease the pool of possible advertisers.

    There are the structures in place for young drivers to climb the motorsport ladder, but if they wish to compete overseas they need substantial funding and to be willing to take some big risks.

    Webber has often implored young Australia drivers to get overseas and tough it out in the cutthroat world of the European junior formulas rather than resorting to the V8 Supercars so quickly.

    Drivers such as James Courtney, Will Davison and more have ‘come home’ to V8 Supercars from overseas ventures, and it affords them competitive and enjoyable racing, with the comforts of financial security and living well at home.

    But V8 Supercars success means young drivers can forego international careers earlier and set their sights on success at home.

    Let’s hope more young Aussies are inspired by Webber, Stoner, Briscoe and co and venture overseas. And lets hope this current wave of success continues.

    It’s important to bask in the glory and patriotically enjoy this current success, but also ensure the structures are in place so this golden age for Australian motorsport can continue.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • October 20th 2009 @ 8:09am
      megatron said | October 20th 2009 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      I worry it could be a one off period. No one cause has led to this and as you say some luck was involved. V8s are now so strong why would drivers risk it all when they have a decent career at home.

    • October 20th 2009 @ 9:16am
      James said | October 20th 2009 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      Drivers need corporate support to go overseas and I doubt the government will ever get to the point where it funds young drivers like it does other athletes, especially in these ‘green’ times.

    • October 20th 2009 @ 9:26am
      The Link said | October 20th 2009 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      I would say it is one of Australia’s great sporting days. F1 and to a lesser extent MotoGP are huge international sports. Often we bang on here about the global reach of the winter codes but all bar Football are eclisped by F1 and MotoGP in terms of exposre, sponsorship etc.. by these sports. A greater achievement given the odds are increasingly stacked against Aussies doing well in F1 and Moto, given the money and proximity to Europe required to succeed. Well done to Mark and Casey as well as Crump + others.

    • October 20th 2009 @ 11:57am
      megatron said | October 20th 2009 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      Ricciardo winning with the backing of Red Bull is a big one. He will come along at a time when Webber will be retiring so we could still have an Aussie in F1 which is a big deal considering we went over a decade without one when Alan Jones retired.

    • Roar Guru

      October 20th 2009 @ 2:53pm
      Greg Russell said | October 20th 2009 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

      I agree international motorsport was to the fore, but let’s not forget Sam Stosur’s maiden win on the WTA tour last weekend.

      I am an Australian who has lived in New Zealand for 15 years now. This little country is very good at sport and punches enormously above its weight. However in my entire time here it has not had one single F1 win, one single MotoGP victory, or one single singles title on the WTA tour. But bang, bang, bang, and Australia has all three on the same weekend.

      I am very fond of examples like this that evidence the greatness of Australian sport. There was a classic one earlier this year: on the very weekend that Australia was losing the Ashes at The Oval and the Bledisloe Cup in Sydney, Steve Hooker and Dani Samuels were winning gold medals in the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.

      Do Australians appreciate how lucky they are in having so many and so varied a range of sporting triumphs to celebrate?

      • October 20th 2009 @ 5:22pm
        megatron said | October 20th 2009 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

        I don’t think they do, and I don’t think they appreciate how remarkable this motorsport achievement is. We are so lucky to have drivers and riders in these categories, let alone winning.

      • October 20th 2009 @ 6:07pm
        Hansie said | October 20th 2009 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

        I suspect that Kiwis would be pretty quick to point out their F1 heritage. Denny Hulme was a Kiwi and he won 8 F1 races and the 1967 Championship. Bruce McLaren won 4 F1 races, and established the McLaren F1 team that has won over 150 races. Chris Amon was the lead driver for Ferrari and Mike Thackwell was one of the youngest ever F1 drivers. In the modern era, Scott Dixon is a Kiwi and has won the Indy 500 and the IRL championship. But yes, I’d be modestly pointing to Australia’s weekend of winning.

    • October 20th 2009 @ 6:00pm
      Hansie said | October 20th 2009 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

      Marcos Ambrose’s efforts in NASCAR are worthy of a mention. He is proving himself to be a genuine contender in a form of motorsport that is unique, including in cultural terms. Plenty of big names, such as Franchitti and Paul Tracy, have tried NASCAR with much less success. Briscoe’s effort was another highlight. I could never understand why Toyota didn’t persevere with him in F1. He had the speed – they just needed to be patient with him. Surely he was a better option than such a luminary as Jarno Trulli.

      • October 20th 2009 @ 7:06pm
        megatron said | October 20th 2009 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

        Or Ralf Schumacher!

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