Friday, May 1, 2015

Vent It Out Friday: Motorsports is About the Men, Not the Machines


I have a confession to make: with the exception of Formula One, I’m not anymore a huge motorsports fan. Often enough, it’s riddled with enough layers of bureaucratic red tape and/or politics that it has the makings more of a banana republic government than it does a top-tier professionally run sport. And before you say it, I feel the same way with the modern area of Formula One as well. That’s why I’ve tuned out since 2011, favoring NSFW YouTube channels rather than F1 as my main source of manly entertainment.

But my callous reaction towards motorsports was seriously challenged when I attended my first Moto GP race in Qatar a few weeks back. And though the main focus of attention is the Moto GP itself, the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup proved to be much more interesting. It’s a feeder series leading up to the main event. It’s where new riders are discovered in the hopes of successfully moving up the competition ladder. More than anything, the set-up is certainly more human, much more approachable than any of the other races that weekend (and there were a lot). Top-tier athletes tend to act like automatons becoming very robotic in their response. When quizzed how their weekend is, they’ll respond along the lines of: “we’re giving it our best”. Seriously. Everyone had used the words “progress”, “team”, “110 percent”. That goes without saying that even the Ducati riders: Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone talk the same way (well, maybe Iannone less so because he’s so much younger).


Ask Filipino McKinley Paz how he’s doing though and he’ll reply honestly. Brutally honest, in fact. The race weekend didn’t go his way and without sponsors to protect or satisfy, he went straight to the Filipino press table and expressed his disappointment with himself. Having been a multiple champion in local races before his acceptance into the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup, Paz is struggling against this lot. He’s even contemplating to call it quits this year and just try it again next year. He wants to go back to his winning ways, even if it meant going back to racing underbones. But beside the resignation in his body language, there’s still fire in his eyes and the passion to win big. After all, he’s just thirteen and at just four-foot flat, easily the smallest guy on the grid. This makes his story much more compelling and all the more human. He’s the small boy that can run against the big guys. He’s the David against the 21 other Goliaths. He’s single-handedly the most uncensored human element during the entire weekend. He’s a facet of motorsports rarely glimpsed or discussed nowadays.

And the organizers of the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup, Dorna Motorsports understands that every much. I don’t know what other motorsports politics they run at the higher tiers, but I laud the way this series is shaped. They’re not just keen on developing the next big thing, but they want to give all these guys worthwhile life lessons that they can carry with them whether or not they’ll continue to pursue a career in motorsports. This is how the Creating Higher Ambitions Mentoring Program or CHAMPS came about. The convoluted acronym isn’t pleasing to the ear, but the program developed by Accenture, has a great aim. It wants to give long-lasting, inter-dimensional changes to the rider by developing their soft skills. And given how they skyrocketed in terms of career development, Paz included, they could clearly use life coaching on how to deal with the less-than glamorous aspects of motorsports: dealing with foreign food, language, and culture to name a few.


There’s now a better understanding that although talent is critical, it’s not the end all. More than anything, that talent must be carefully nurtured and molded. Through one-on-one mentoring and online learning, riders will learn not only how to communicate bike technicalities with their mechanics, but also learn about one’s self, set life goals, and most importantly, offer an avenue for feedback and reflection.

Motorsports is unique in the sense that it has both the man and the machine aspect. However, nowadays, people have given much more emphasis towards the machine aspect; neglecting that there’s a human piloting these mechanisms. And each of these riders has poured their life, their very soul each time they go out for a hot lap. They’re the ones who feel joy when they win or pain when things don’t go their way. Motorsports shouldn’t just be about the man who drives the perfect line or who speaks the team’s marketing spiel pitch perfect all the time.


What draws people such as myself is the human aspect—the racer himself. He’s the one and only that can transcend the limitation of machinery and the sport’s politics to come out on top. After all, it’s not the machine that climbs the top step of the podium; it’s the man riding the machine. Motorsports shouldn’t be about the glitz, the glamour, the rules or the regulations. Motorsports is about the men and the women. Machines come with instrumentation manuals and engineering schematics; people aren’t that black and white. If you want people to get interested into motorsport, prioritize the men over the metal. Tell the story of the road to victory and not the victory itself.

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