Maurice Allen, Part 2

Interview and photos by Jon Van Daal

What did you think when you heard that the American IHRA would be going to a total bracket racing format next year?


MA: Traditionally drag racing has moved in a lot of ways and our customer base has changed. We are working with the venue operators and we constantly need to look at new ways to attract customers to our venues. Take for example a product like “roll drags”, roll drags was created to go against the grain of traditional drag racing venues. [Cars get a rolling start, must be 1-5 mph of each other as they cross the starting line and first to the finish line wins. – Ed.]


I think as a result of that we have to learn to adapt with the type of racer that we are dealing with now. Whilst the traditional bracket racer is still healthy in the US there is also the desire to embrace a new culture and part of that is to find new ways to get people hooked on drag racing.


Elements of shows like “Street Outlaws” (the Discovery Channel TV show) for example can be detrimental to the drag racing industry even though it has a fan base and enjoys wide popularity. The direction that IHRA USA has makes me believe that they are trying to refresh and show initiative in making changes to improve drag racing overall.


We have all had to learn as sanctioning bodies to be adaptable to the current market, to the current landscape, particularly outside our current drag racing scene. I applaud them for trying something new. The old saying in drag racing is that we don’t like change and fundamentally if we don’t start looking at a wider net, in which we need to introduce people to drag racing, it will just become stagnant.


It will be interesting to see how it goes but I am glad that they are making decisions to refresh. We are excited to see IHRA USA moving forward and provide sustainable drag racing well into the future.


So, there are no plans to change things in Australia?


MA: No – to make it quite clear, Australian drag racing is travelling along nicely with rejuvenated popularity thanks to the 400 Thunder Championship Series. Look if anything was a success, something that could be integrated quickly, easily and smoothly, then we’d discuss it with our tracks, our stake holders and see whether it is OK to look at these new formats.


You lost the Western Motorplex [at Perth]. Was that a bit of a shock?


MA: No not really. To be honest we thought we were fairly prepared for what was going to happen, we understand that when the Miocevich family needed to step away from the Motorplex that it was going to open it up. We have an open mind and a “you never say never” attitude; it was a short deal put into play. The venue is to be sold and on reflection we weren’t given the best opportunity either.


You know in business you have to learn to get in, roll your sleeves up and get on with the day to day and that’s exactly what we did. We focused on what venues we did have and focused on looking at new venues and new opportunities and we continue to grow.


There has been a little bit of water under the bridge since you started – how have things shaped up since. Are you still seeing growth in licence numbers?


MA: Like you wouldn’t believe. The numbers are growing every week, there are twenty to thirty new applications coming in as well as the renewals coming in. We have processes in play now to accept ANDRA licences right through to sportsman – we are open to do business. It is events like the IHRA East Coast Nationals that show the growth, the viability and the sustainability of owning a top-notch race vehicle. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to race at the best facilities in the best series with the best outcomes with the best television packages and the best track preparation.


I think it is safe to say that we are in good shape and I am really happy with the growth of licence holders. The recent announcement about the 7Mate (a local High Definition TV channel) has given racers the motivation and the opportunity to go out again and seek corporate sponsorship. This has allowed them to open up discussions because now they have a saleable product.


Before we end this discussion are their still goals that you want to achieve?


MA: You know I am not going to stop. For IHRA and for the sport of drag racing, tracks like Sydney Dragway are what we need. The semi-trucks are getting bigger, the cars are getting faster, and the crowds are beginning to grow. It is about time that we had a stand-alone facility in Victoria and I am working very hard on some projects there.


We have a new facility in Hervey Bay (in Queensland) that we are getting ready to turn some soil on soon so there will be some announcements there. For me it is all about trying to put the sport into a healthy position and if we look at all of our motorsport cousins that enjoy great corporate facilities, great pit areas and a great venue to showcase our sport, for me it is disappointing that we aren’t thrust into that same arena.


For me it is my goal to do the best I can to help create these facilities. We know about the people that got behind Sydney Dragway and the Western Motorplex and it is a matter of attaching yourself to the people that share the same vision. That extends to our stewards, race officials and key personnel, and that growth allows the opportunity to create new and exciting positions. This all helps to build a healthy and effective sanctioning body in Australia.


If you can do that it is incredible what you can achieve and I truly believe that we can once again turn IHRA drag racing into the leading motorsport in this country. Since IHRA arrived in Australia we have seen a huge growth in our membership base and as a result we can report a saving of over two million dollars to our racers on their licence fees due to IHRA’s licence fee structure. This is a significant saving to all Australian drag racers, one that we are excited to report and 2018 is shaping up to be even better again.


[Read the first part of the interview with Maurice Allen at here.]  


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