Verizon IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya has stressed the importance of fan access and engagement in motorsport whilst speaking at an FIA conference in Mexico City this week.
Montoya was joined on a panel at the FIA Sport Conference by NASCAR and soon-to-be F1 team co-owner Gene Haas, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag and IndyCar’s Mark Miles to speak about the future of fan engagement in motorsport.
Across the globe, series tend to vary dramatically in terms of fan access and engagement both at the track and via other forms of consumption such as broadcasts and online interaction.
Speaking as part of the panel, Montoya explained how he believes that IndyCar is successful in its approach to fan engagement by enjoying a different mentality to other series.
“Something that IndyCar does really well is, as a fan when you go to the race, you have access to the drivers,” Montoya said.
“We do autograph sessions, they can go to the garages, you can see the cars, we can’t cover anything. It’s a completely different mentality [to other places] – it’s designed for the fans.”
Montoya also spoke about his use of social media to try and give fans an insight into his life away from the track.
“I use it not so much for the racing side, but to give people access to see who I am outside the races,” he explained.
“At the race what you see is what you get. Outside I’m the guy who loves mountain bikes, wind surfing, my family, flying my radio-controlled planes – that’s who I am.
“I think it separates the ‘big star driver’ from the normal human being.”
Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.
During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.
That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.
This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.
Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.
Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.
“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”
Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.