Motor Racing politics claim another victim

MOTOR RACING politics have claimed another tireless supporter of the sport, with John van Leeuwen announcing on Thursday that he was resigning from his more than 10-year tenure as the Chairman of the Formula Ford Association.

‘JVL’ served as a volunteer for 33 years on the Association and in his role as chairman was responsible for, amongst other things, leading the changes that ensured the Australian Formula Ford Series would continue to survive following it’s relegation to state level in the ranks of Australian open-wheel racing.

His resignation today comes as elements of the historic Formula Ford community campaigned against his management of the association. And that may be so, or it may be overblown – I don’t know because I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard some of the stories and it didn’t sound like fun.

Whatever your viewpoint, the reality is that we now have another dedicated motorsport enthusiast who has been hustled out of the sport by people desperate to get their own way – bugger the common good.

The madness has to stop.

“..there is a small group of historic competitors that are of the belief that the FFA, under my leadership, has not looked after them,” van Leeuwen wrote in a statement published on the Australian Formula Ford website.

“These accusations may be unfounded, particularly based on how healthy historic Formula Ford competition in this country is right now, but they are also relentless, personal, and tiring. They detract from the business of making Formula Ford, at all levels, the best category it can be. It is a counter productive movement from a small group of competitors.

“Add to that the barrage of social media attacks coming from this very small group of competitors, it has taken its toll. Hence my making the tough decision to stand down.”

Now I’m not here to judge whether John was a good chair of the Formula Ford Association or not, though from the outside looking in it certainly seems in a good place this year, with strong numbers at state and national level.

And my knowledge of historic Formula Ford racing is tiny, so I’m not positioned to comment too much on that either – though a brief troll through recent results on Natsoft indicates numbers look pretty good to me.

But I do know John and I know the passion he and his family shares for all things Formula Ford.

However today’s announcement is a broader indictment on our sport because the one thing we can not afford to lose from it’s ranks are passionate people.

I was placed in a position late last year where I needed to step back from my involvement in a category because it was, politically, tearing itself apart from the inside.

As grids struggled and costs increased ultimately I was working for free but I didn’t care because I loved the cars, the racing and the people and passionately supported the formula.

The net result, however, is that I ultimately became so disillusioned and frustrated that I ended up walking away. Boom. Gone. That’s it.

The problem is, neither John nor I (Note: I don’t want to place myself at his level – his commitment was so much more than mine) are not the only ones who have had to step back from a role we love because politics get in the way.

Too many times of late have I heard stories of people who have had enough of the political dramas behind the scenes and have gone to ‘get a real job’.

Now I’m big and ugly enough to get over my involvement in my category of choice ending, and I’m sure John has been around the block long enough to ultimately move on from Thursday’s disappointing decision and go back to tinkering with old racing cars in his shed full-time. But where does it stop?

What happens when someone with much more influence than I cracks the you-know-whats and gets out of the sport because he’s sick of having a knife in his back?

What happens when someone gets sick of the comments that keyboard warriors, with no real role within the sport, push over and over and over again on every story posted on Speedcafe.com?

What if that person, who walks away, represents a major company tipping millions in the sport? What if it’s a major team owner? What do we do then?

Motorsport is a big industry with a lot of very smart, very passionate people involved. But it is not big enough for us to be sitting here helping to tear itself apart from the inside.

The political infighting, social media attacks and internal vendettas against people who believe¬†they are helping the sport – whether they’re actually doing the right thing or not – have to stop.

You might not agree with their ideas, but if they’re passionate about motor racing then at least they’re on, literally, the right track.

It’s time this sport got it’s stuff together and started working with unity rather than stabbing each other in the back.

People need to put their egos back in the box and think for a second about the choices they’re making for the sport and just not for themselves. The irony is, I reckon most of the time they’d find a benefit for themselves anyway.

Because I know I’m not the only one who is quite capable of throwing my hands up in the air and going to find a ‘real job’ that has none of the stress or drama this one does.. and would pay plenty more.

It wouldn’t have the same passion, either.. but what is the point of engaging with a passion when the end result is that you end up hurt by it?

WORDS: Richard Craill

We also recommend you watch this outstanding piece from Greg Rust, filmed last year for Inside Supercars. Wonderful stuff.