Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching Formula One on the TV with my dad. Sitting together to watch our heroes racing against each other on a Sunday afternoon created a very special father son bond, something we have maintained to this day. From the moment my children were born I’ve been looking forward to the day I can start taking her to racing events with me.
Over the past year I have set about forging a career in motorsport, whilst the financial aspect of this career choice is taking a bit more time to come together than I might have hoped, developing a network within the industry is coming along nicely. It was through this network I found myself in the position to be able to take my daughter (6) and eldest son (3) to the closing rounds of the European F3 championship and DTM championship in Hockenheim last weekend.
As a bit of a racing obsessive it is very easy to forget the intricacies of motor racing and just accept them as a given. Taking the time to explain them to my children made me take stock and start to question a few of the accepted norms.
This first occurred when explaining qualifying. When the DTM cars first went out on track my daughter, Isabelle, asked if they were racing now. I explained, they were out driving as fast as they can to decide what position they will start the race in. Without any hesitation, she replied “so the fastest starts as the back?” to which I explained the opposite was the case “but that’s boring, no one will overtake like that” came her reply. It’s such a simple point, but entirely fair. If the fastest start first how can we expect an entertaining race? Don’t get me wrong I completely take on board the traditionalists view of going racing, but it’s very hard to argue with a child’s logic.
Our tickets for the weekend came from friends in an F3 team. At short notice they had arranged Paddock tickets for us. When we arrived at the circuit our host took the time to meet us at the circuit entrance and take us over to the paddock on the back of her quad bike. My son, Ben, would tell you, as he has all his friends, that was the real highlight of the day! Being given paddock tickets for a race is and will always be, a huge thing for me, but when it came to watching racing Isabelle made another observation. “why can’t we sit in the Stadium [grandstand]?” my reply “We don’t have tickets for the grandstand, we’ve got a good view of the track here” to which she replied “but there are so many empty seats, why can’t we just go and sit there?” Again she made a valid point. Why do fans simply accept empty grandstands and find a hill to watch the racing on. Sure I could have paid for a grandstand seat, but to be honest I wasn’t sure they would sit through an entire race. If circuits have empty seats, and fans sitting around the circuit, why not just open up the grandstands. Create a positive atmosphere and people will be more encouraged to come again, and pay for other activities at the circuit.
On to the racing itself, DTM worked fantastically for kids, well for my kids at least. During qualifying we each picked our favourite car, by colour of course, Isabelle went for the Pink Mercedes (Mücke Motorsport, Chrisitan Vietoris, & Lucas Auer) I went for the Red & White Shell BMW of Augusto Farfus, and Ben went for the Yellow BMW post van driven by Timo Glock. Each car has a digital read out on the side window displaying the drivers position in the race. Each lap Isabelle and Ben had to tell me what position their car was in and if they had move up or down from the last lap. As the race progressed this developed into telling me the position of the Red Bull cars, or the make of the car in first. The race flew by and despite our drivers not winning both Ben and Isabelle were able to explain the race to an impressive level of detail.
Supporting the F3 and DTM was the Porsche Supercup, it was impressive to see that in addition to huge hospitality areas, Porsche had invested in creating a road safety area for young children. Children were given a tutorial on crossing roads safely and watching out for traffic lights and other simple road signs, then given 20 minutes to roam around a specially laid out circuit in peddle powered go karts and scooters. Whilst for an adult it might not sound overly riveting, my kids loved it. Plus, it gave me a chance to sit down for a few minutes!
Overall my first experience of Motorsport with children was positive, The DTM set up feels far more family friendly than my experiences of Formula One, there are activities for all ages, teams and drivers are happy to make time for you and the racing is easy to follow and not too long. Leaving the circuit Isabelle talked about what she had enjoyed during the day and what our next racing experience would be, casually mentioning informing me I’d be taking her to a Formula One race to meet Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. No pressure then!