Clarification – The top-down, bottom-up dynamic

| Photographer Credit: Euan Cameron Photography

In the Talkmotorsport article last week titled ‘A National Dilemma’, we discussed the dynamic of ‘Top down’ or ‘Bottom up’ management of categories. This needs some more explaining as Talkmotorsport has been asked for more clarification. An understanding of this dynamic is important in looking to the future and how categories are administered.

We used the example of the NZ Formula Ford Championship as having been managed by the top-down process. This is where the governing body, MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ) who own the championship, set the guidelines for it to take place which in turn is invariably administered by a club. The NZFF has been run this way for almost 40 years except when the South Island Formula Ford (SIFF) club ran the championship between 2012 and 2019. Other national championships run along the same lines.

2019 Wigram Cup podium

The SIFF club is an example of bottom-up management. Like many others, it is a club set up for its members to partake in an activity. In this instance, each season the club runs the South Island Formula 1600 Championship. (Note: Officially under MSNZ it is a sanctioned series but referred to by the SIFF as their championship). The club is there because of its members and the organising committee takes its direction from its members. It is run under the umbrella of the MSNZ governance, articles and regulations.

Essentially the difference between a top-down and a bottom-up organised category is about ownership. Who owns the category or club competition?

Another example of the bottom-up dynamic is the Carter’s Tyres South Island Endurance Series. This is a very successful club which has run an endurance series in the South Island for many years. Three key components in its success are the lack of rule changes (members have confidence in committing each season), a good social network and the bottom-up dynamic. Such is its success that participation is high and we see members spending considerable amounts each year on new race-cars.

The top-down dynamic is mainly at play in all our national championships. This is because as the governing body, MSNZ sets up the criteria for a category championship. It owns the championships and therefore can determine how each is conducted.

Jackson Walls leads as the field streams into Turn 1 at Pukekohe Park, race 2, 2020 Photo: John Cowpland

The Castrol Toyota Racing Series is a very good example of a stand-alone category which has the top-down dynamic which is owned and run by the same organisation. Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand (TGRNZ) have set up and over the years refined a category that attracts the worlds top young talent. It provides a five-round series, the latest F3 Regional type chassis, has organised teams, technical staff, TV and media and corporate catering. As well as running under the MSNZ governance it comes under the FIA and therefore is able to offer Super Licence points.

Essential to all these categories is the participants. None of this can take place without circuits, competitors, teams, supporters, administration staff and particularly volunteers.

Getting the right balance for a successful category is a difficult process and in the case of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, and both the South Island F1600 Champs and Endurance Series, it can take a lot of hard work and time.

This top-down and bottom-up dynamic is important to understand. One is not necessary better than the other but both are very much at play in each category.

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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