Media Practice in Motorsport: an Observation on Shifting Audiences to a Place Sans Track

Hello again, if you haven’t a clue what I am about to harp on about, familiarise yourself with this post: a pitch for my digital story. We were challenged to research into an area that both interested us and affected us in BCM241 this semester, on a topic that concerned media use from the viewpoint of a particular audience and place.

Of course, motorsport was my first choice. The current state of the motorsport industry relies heavily on the ability of audiences – those being fans and spectators – to engage with teams and sponsors without the need to physically be at the track. There is no denying that track attendance numbers are plummeting, with the sport moving into a new era of interaction through screens. On an individual scale with no real means of measuring accurately the exact state of the industry, I observed eleven motorsport enthusiasts while they interacted with the sport itself, in order to foresee any ethnographic insights.

While all declared themselves motoring enthusiasts, all had differing levels of commitment to the sport itself, with significantly less than half actually making the effort to engage with the sport at the track – and instead preferred to nine times out of ten, just engage online by following race teams and sponsors and watch live television broadcasts. Alongside this, I conducted an autoethnography into the role of photographers within the industry that are creating the media for audiences to engage with, which can be accessed here. With a rising demand for autonomy within race teams to act as a gatekeeper between the track (that is, the place), and their audience, do regulatory bodies such as CAMS accreditation fall short of meeting their intended purpose?

To explore this, you can find a short video I produced to take you through a crash course on the concerns raised by this new integration of heightened media practice, within the motorsport industry:

To present these findings in as a creative way as possible proved quite difficult, realistically only covering the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to how spectators engage with their personal screens to absorb the sport, all in favour of abandoning the track. This research project is as integrated as possible, reflecting the wicked problem arising for the industry that has seen an extreme lack of academic research and insight offered in terms of solutions. With so many fans turning to free consumption of the sport, it is at risk of obsoletion within several years time, relying somewhat on entrance fees and direct interest and engagement from spectators.

“It doesn’t help that today’s drivers are generally hidden away under full-face helmets in wrap-around seats. In-car cameras have opened up their workplaces to TV viewers, but at racetracks, fans get a 250km/h blur.” (Wheels Mag, 2017)

What I am trying to say is, this digital story is far from over. With little credible research done into the sport itself (sans that one global fan survey restricted to Formula 1), there is definitely room for further study into the area, as this integrated post and video offers a vignette into a plethora of needs to adopt media practices and adapt them to best suit the sport and the fans (Did someone hear someone say something about post-grad study? No? Must just be me. Assured by Australian Racing Drivers Club President Andrew Leithhead, “…skill areas that would be valuable additions to our board include…communications and marketing, information technology (especially digital data) and social media, entertainment and event management.” – evident that there is a need for this communication between motorsport bodies and spectators, regardless of screen use.

I hope this peaked your interest and is just the very beginning point of this topic as a whole. Further quantitative research into the area would be extremely demanding, yet qualitative methods such as ethnography, collaboration and observation can offer insight that television ratings never could. Please comment with any questions, I would love to get a conversation going! But for now,

Much love,


  • Australian Racing Drivers Club (2017). Andrew Leithhead President’s Report. [online] Available at: 
  • Bradley, C. and Neilson Sports (2017). 2017 GLOBAL F1 FAN SURVEY. [ebook] Melbourne. Available at: 
  • Collatine, K. (2016). What race attendance figures tell us about the state of F1. [Blog] F1 Fanatic Blog. Available at: 
  • Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (2017). Media Accreditation. [online] Available at: 
  • Harris, G. (2015). Motorsport TV Numbers and Skewed Views. [Blog] Motoring. Available at:
  • Langenberg, A., Kemp, M. and Gailberger, J. (2017). Poorest crowd numbers in 16 years but last Clipsal 500 in Adelaide still a thriller. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2017].
  • McKay, P. (2017). Why motorsport fans are abandoning the sport in droves. Wheels Mag. [online] Available at: 
  • Muller, C. (2017). AUTOETHNOGRAPHY. [Blog] Available at: 
  • Muller, C. (2017). PITCH: MOTORSPORT IN THE MEDIA. [Blog] Available at: 
  • Tuchman, R. (2015). What Has Happened To The Once High-Flying Sport Of NASCAR?. Forbes. [online] Available at: 
  • Walker, K. (2016). Analysis: Putting F1’s TV ratings decline in context. [Blog] Available at: 

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