Today was the last day of my 2015 Rockingham Season Pass and, as I hang it back on the kitchen notice board as a reminder to harangue them into selling me one for 2016, I realised just how much I enjoy going to live motorsport and how much I'd miss it.
I love the close-but-not-careless driving, the rampant professionalism of the multi-transporter-and-hospitality teams, the accessibility, the variety of vehicles and approaches on the track at the same time - it's a world away from the shiny televised spectacle that some of us try to watch every second Sunday for much of the year. I'm particularly lucky living near Rockingham, where its purpose-built layout let you see the entire track from both the top of the pit building and the lofty perch of the grandstands as well as giving spectators direct sight into the back of the pit garages.
It's not an expensive day out either - okay, so I have a season pass that lets me pop in if I have a couple of spare hours and by the time I've been to the BTCC and the British GT it's paid for itself - with tickets for most club days about £10 and, at Rockingham at least, "tiddlers" up to the age of 15 getting in free then you're at about £20 (plus fuel and food) for a day out. Sure, the food at some circuits (*cough* Silverstone *cough*) can be dear, but I've never seen a picnic discouraged.
The thing is that we need these smaller, local circuits around the UK. We need them to host the smaller races so people get the racing bug. We need those people to become mechanics and technicians and drivers, to feed the F1 machine that relies on British know-how and engineering. You might be thinking that we've got that already and that it's the teams and the races that are important, but the circuits themselves that are under threat. Rising running and insurance costs, the continuing expansion of towns and villages into the countryside surrounding the former airfields and the "nimbyism" of people who's houses have existed for tens of times shorter than that of the circuit are all making running these circuits harder and harder. They need not just the races, but also the footfall to show that they're an important local resource.
I'm sorry to seem so pessimistic, but now's actually a good time of the year to be thinking about these things. Now's the time to add "Go to a race meeting" to your resolution list and count down the 3 months until it all starts again...