Kiwi motorsport event organisers, competitors and officials now have a choice of permitting, licensing and insurance authority, thanks to a new Auckland-based organisation, the Australasian Auto-Sport Alliance (AASA).
A 100% New Zealand-owned and operated agency of the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance, the New Zealand AASA has been set up by entrepreneur Dr Jacob Simonsen to provide a simpler, more cost-effective service than the incumbent, MotorSport New Zealand, with streamlined – largely on-line based – systems and processes, and friendly common-sense practices.
The AASA can permit events, issue competition licences for competitors and officials, and offer event organisers public liability insurance (a package which includes covering damage to third party motor vehicles) underwritten through Lloyds of London, and safety processes audited by the US-based Safety Foundation Inc. (SFI).
“Effectively,” says Simonsen, “we can do everything any other motorsport licensing authority operating around the world can do, but – in terms of what has been the status quo in New Zealand for as long as anyone seems to be able to remember – we believe we can do it better.
“Definitely easier and definitely cheaper because you don’t have to join a club or wade through a lot of needless red tape because you can complete most of our processes on-line.”
Simonsen enjoyed a successful career in event logistics here and around the globe before returning home to set up a New Zealand version of the grassroots 24 hours of Lemons motorsport event he helped establish in Australia.
When he went looking for a public liability package for these low-cost, fun, motorsport events in Australia he used the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance. When he returned home to set up the first one here, however, he was told that rather than having a choice of permitting agents there was only one, MotorSport New Zealand.
Accepting this advice at face value he went ahead with his first event under a MotorSport NZ permit, but decided to look elsewhere before running the second one.
“All water under the bridge, now,” he says of the issues he took up with the organisation afterwards, but which still grate, three years on.
Suffice to say he ran his second and subsequent events under permits from the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance before deciding it was time to set up a New Zealand-based arm and offer other event organisers the benefits he believes accrue when there is competition for services as well as goods.
“Seriously, “ he says, “competition is healthy – it keeps suppliers honest, and flexible. Monopolies, on the other hand, can destroy industries, they limit people’s choices and inflate costs. AASA is modern – everything can be done on-line – making it fast, efficient and absolutely transparent.”
All music to the ears of Peter Martin, the man behind New Zealand’s premier motorsport event organising company, the Ultimate Rally Group.
Like Simonsen, Martin came to the motorsport event business after years working in the corporate world, creating the Ultimate Rally Group as an umbrella organisation under which to operate the annual Targa (tarmac) events he has now owned and run for the past 10 years, and the biennial Silver Fern New Zealand marathon gravel rally which he has owned and run for the past four.
Martin has not completely severed his ties with MotorSport NZ; in his upcoming Targa Hawke’s Bay event later this month he is – if you like – splitting the risk.
MotorSport NZ remains the sanctioning body for the main competitive event, but the Targa Tour (a non-competitive event run concurrently, with the accent on fun and fellowship) will, for the first time be permitted separately – by the AASA.
‘I don’t think it is any secret that I’ve not been particularly happy with the way I and many of the people who do my events have been treated over the years,” says Martin, “so this – if you like – is my way of saying, ‘look guys, people like me now have a choice of provider so if you want my business some of the ways you conduct yours are going to have to change.’”
In particular, Martin says, he believes that Simonsen is ‘100%’ correct when he says that ‘the future of motorsport is ‘series’ rather than ‘club’ based.
“I hear it time and time again,” says Martin. “A guy buys a car ‘to do Targa’ and pays his entry fee but then has to jump through all these ‘other’ hoops – join a club, go to that club to sit in front of some bloke to answer a set of multi-choice questions and be threatened with ‘failure’ if he gets one wrong, then find he has to pay a yearly fee – and fill in another form – just to say that he hasn’t changed anything on his car since the last time he paid the fee and filled in the form…….
“As an event organiser and someone who is ultimately responsible for the safety of everyone who not only competes in but also is involved in some way in any of my events, I understand that safety is absolutely paramount. But at the same time I know when enough is enough and it is time for a change!”
Across the Tasman the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance permits all sorts of motorsport events, from karts to off-roading and from circuit-based events to tarmac and gravel ones on closed public roads.
It can also permit and provide public liability for events like drive or ride days, burn-out comps and parade or show ‘n shine-type events.
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance, CEO Chris Lewis-Williams says that he ‘felt Simonsen’s pain’ when the pair first discussed permitting the second 24 hours of Lemons event.
“We went through a similar period ourselves back before we set up our organisation. In fact, because – right from the start – it was structured specifically to be a lean and mean organisation and to avoid large overheads, the formation of the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance heralded a new approach to the participation in and management, staging and promotion of motorsport over here (in Australia).
“As we say in all our documentation, the key reason the AASA exists is to introduce substantial benefits to all members and to provide an efficient and fair deal to all motorsport stakeholders. The Benalla Auto Club is the owner of the AASA and as track owners and event promoters, we understand what our customers go through and we design our systems to make running the events easier ”
Simonsen, of course, would love to do the same here in New Zealand, if for no other reason than to see the average, everyday motorsport competitor enjoy a good day out.
“In my experience,” he says, “ the recipe for a successful motorsport event is simple; make the entry process as simple and easy as possible, and put it on in a fun, friendly, safe and affordable environment. The AASA has helped me do that, now it’s my turn to help other event organisers and motorsport people here.”
To find out more about the AASA NZ check out the website at www.aasa.org.nz or contact Dr Jacob Simonsen direct on 021 47 66 83.