Maintaining the motor sports theme from the last post, the past weekend witnessed what must the the opposite poles of motor sport. Abu Dhabi hosted the 2009 World F1 championship's last race at brand new Yas Marina track...and in complete contrast almost simultaneously... in London the Apsley House Gate of Hyde Park bore the beginning of the Royal Automobile Club's annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally.
Thus, Sunday 1st November showcased not only the opposite ends of the chronological spectrum of the motorcar but also the diametrically opposed human sensibilities that create both spectacles.
Whilst in Saudi the F1 circus demonstrates the necessary 21st century technologies of carbon fibre, micro-second e-systems intelligence and KERs 'energy harvesting', in London the 500 or so largely 19th century technically derived cars quite literally 'paraded' wooden construction, hand operated advance-retard ignition tinkering and the constant kinetic energy concentration to maintain precious momentum. Behind the wheel, it was a case of the consummate hired professional driver contrasted against consummate owner-operator amateur.
Amongst the throng of setting-sun spectators at Marina Yas – implicitly the 'new' Monaco - sipping 'over-the-yard-arm' drinks the corporate influence held sway; Daimler's Dieter Zetsche socialising with his Aabar Investment associates (holding 10% of Daimler) in the McLaren-Mercedes' Pits or indeed the swathes of corporate hospitality and 'ex-pat' oglers. A drizzling London morning in contrast had its 'sun-up' spectators of all ages and backgrounds wear their winter coat, propping up an umbrella in on hand and sipping a flask-dispensed cup of coffee on the other, miraculously clapping as each block of the released vintage cars chugged onto Hyde Park Corner, saving their greatest cheers for the late starters who just about managed to get their car running, the driver as gleeful as if he had indeed 'won' the rally – which from an almost spiritual perspective – s/he had!
The point is that these were two very different events in almost every dimension, but they and every other type of motor-sport event should be intellectually deconstructed to better understand how new business models can be created from the merging of the core components: people, place and products. F1 and the London-Brighton are two types of evolved 'automotive circus' amongst the many today – both commercial and cultural. From the big-bucks budgets of say LMP, GT, NASCAR, DTM or WRC racing to the amateur world largely born from of regional street racing - started by those late 1940s US Hot-Rodders, that 'animal-spirit' echoed in a very different way by the Philippino 'Bone-Bike' racers.
The combination of (wo)men and machines, invariably lead to competition and spectacle at whatever level of the social strata. And as those machines become an ever greater part of people's and nation's culture so new spectacles are born. At one level say the RAC's Brighton run, Goodwood's Revival or as pure showcase Hurlingham's Salon Prive or Pebble Beach. At the other extreme the car's totem as independence provider for the economically-involved young has merged with other aspects of youth culture to create a realm of testerone-fueled spectacles, from 70s urban US Hispanic low-riding to 90s Japan's initiatian of 'Drifting' to the global phenomenon of audio/music 'sound-offs' (demonstrating the power of the owner's, audio-system). All this alongside the conventional desire for speed and spectacle provided by '(engine) chips and (body) kits'. In short 'auto-individuality' set within a context of 'auto-tribalism'.
Thus as we see most evidently purveyed by the newness of Middle Eastern F1 and the antiquarian nature of London-Brighton, global auto-culture is broad and varied, and regionally sits along national, populace GDP, time and cultural dimensions.
As stated previously, the world has indeed become a global village, but that apparent shrinkage has only highlighted the microcosmic detail that investors, the auto-industry, real-estate and entertainment worlds should better understand, build and harvest. “Long live the Car-nival !”