Sympathy for the ........Treasurer. (With apologies to the Rolling Stones)
This is the time of year when our normally affable, well balanced Treasurer could be excused if he became somewhat short tempered and developed a pronounced tick. Naturally his excuse would be that he is being asked to cost out next season, to fix a price for each race that will attract you my dear competitor, but will not land the club in the same sort of pickle as several banks, and Donington Park are now in (just who loaned the money to turn one of the more attractive circuits in the country into a derelict building site?).
The Treasurer has had remarkable success over recent seasons, but his basic problem remains that he is dealing with too many variables, and when referring to variables in this context I mean really variable variables; yes my dear competitor, I am talking about you, and how many races you intend to enter next season. The majority of you don't know yet, but the Treasurer has to price up each meeting by guessing what is in your mind. He needs a crystal ball to estimating the number of entries for each race. But being the professional that he is, in reality he makes use of sophisticated financial instruments. Still, as we have recently seen these are not infallible, can you blame him if he becomes a little twitchy?
I would like to claim that the club's recent success has been based on several aspects of club life that we have tackled successfully. But others can claim, and I cannot refute them, that the bedrock of our recent success has been some of the lowest entry fees in the UK motor racing firmament.
A few years ago the club began to purchase races rather than market races obtained from other race organisers. When we did this we were able to wind the financial clock back approximately ten years, a remarkable achievement, especially, as with your support, the club remained in profit.
It is inevitable that, starting from the low cost per race achieved in 2007, that the cost of races will start to creep up. However, if the costs are as in the spreadsheet, recently sent by the Treasurer to directors, the average cost of a double header races in 2010 is nearly identical to my average cost per race in 2008, another remarkable achievement, and still excellent value.
In 2010 the spread of circuits visited will be greater than in 2009 because each circuit is only visited once, and the championship includes an additional race. This has enabled the Race Committee to include three circuits that members frequently ask to race on, but which come at the expensive end of the market. Using these circuits for single header meetings keeps the overall and average cost of a race entry to a reasonable level.
In 2009, full Monoposto grids attracted the attention of race organisers struggling to fill meetings. This enabled us to offer several non-championship races at attractive venues. This year we have timetabled in a non-championship race at what some would consider the most attractive venue in the country, which of you can turn down the chance to race on the Silverstone GP Circuit? But I am afraid that with just one grid, that some will be disappointed, so when the time comes you will need to put your entries in early.
Happy New Year.
And raise a glass to some good racing in 2010.
Right of Reply: The Treasurer asked to say a few words in response to Patrick's kind words. And as he is also the Startline Internet Monkey, he got his way.
It's very kind of Patrick to praise my efforts, but like most things in motorsport there's more than one person responsible. The entry fees for next year are calculated by starting with the known costs of race fees which we pay to MSVR, CSCC and DDMC. In some cases, we have had to work with best estimates which are then refined, and this is in the hands of the Race Committee chaired by Peter Whitmore with extensive work by Adminstrator Simon Davey. We then have to forecast the costs of trophies (if we, rather than the organisers buy them), not to mention the end of season trophies which have to be paid for somehow. There's the Capitation Fee to the MSA (included by some organisers, but not others) and the costs of administering the entries. Here, we're very lucky in that Simon's database system is probably one of the most sophisticated and efficient in club racing and streamlines "normal" entries, though the spanner can be thrown by those who enter late, want to do Saturday practice and Sunday race, and pay by money order in Costa Rican Colons. (I exaggerate for effect; but not by much).
However, the costs can be forecast reasonably accurately. Where we really are in a difficult position is the entry numbers. As Patrick says, we take into account the numbers from last year, and the seasonal variations. The start of the season can be low as cars aren't ready and the end can be low as championships are decided or cars are in bent bits in a big box. We also have to consider the popularity of circuits and their location relative to the membership. Actually, I should say here "perceived location" because, for example, a lot of people think Anglesey is the end of beyond, whereas it's actually not a lot further for most people than Oulton Park. We also consider known joiners and leavers, overall trends, membership demographics and, believe it or not, economic factors. I can confirm that while I was listening to a talk by HSBC's chief UK economist at a seminar last week I was thinking not just about work but about Mono entries.
And finally the Race Committee, Simon and me, followed by all of us joined by the rest of the board, have a big fight and try to guess numbers. The number entering is absolutely critical, as it can make the difference between a big loss and a surplus. We also then have a think about what sort of risk we can take. As we've made a surplus in previous years, we have some reserves which means we can price aggressively, and risk losing money without going bust. As a result of not being too conservative, we hope to attract new joiners.
Overall, I agree emphatically with Patrick. It's a superb programme that the Race Committee has sorted out, and the value we offer is second to none. I'm aware that there are some further exciting possibilities for non-championship races that are presently being discussed. Basically, if you've got a suitable single seater, Mono is the place to be in 2010!
ps: I might suggest that for that Blue Ribband Silverstone GP non-championship round we might think about accepting entries first from those who have entered the most rounds, or would that be wrong?
"Sympathy for the Devil" was on the Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet album, a picture of which is shown. Click the picture if you fancy seeing the full lyrics.
This is the sort of financial instrument used by the treasurer to price race rounds (financial instrument? - fiddle? - getit??)
The actual instrument used to work out the fees - good old Excel