Tanner Foust’s mission to keep driving fun: Motoramic Experts
Racer, stunt driver and "Top Gear" host Tanner Foust has spent his adult life behind the wheel, in front of a camera or both. Between his Global Rallycross racing and the launch of the third season of Top Gear this Tuesday, Foust spent some time talking to us about America's supposedly declining interest in driving and what he's doing to fix it. — Ed.
When I grew up, your 16th birthday was a sacred day, the day you got your license. The most important class in high school was driver’s education, and getting that out of the way was the most important thing you could do before you turned 16. But getting one’s driver’s license is not the most important thing for a 16-year-old anymore.
And that's a phenomenon that scares me.
I read somewhere that when 16-year-olds were polled, getting a license wasn't their most important priority. I don’t’ remember what else was on the list, but it was probably getting a smart phone and upgrading some sort of electronics. Kids don’t need to drive to hang out with each other anymore. You don’t need to drive to someone’s house. You meet online. So the social aspect of being 16 is now virtual. It’s scary stuff.
But I’m on a mission to keep driving fun.
I think when people are good at something, and they take pride in their skill, it’s more fun. Like if you’re a good skier, you enjoy skiing more. I think if kids who are preparing to get their driver’s license can develop skill as they do, and take pride in their skill and in the craft of driving, it can be so much more fun.
It can start early. There are lessons one can learn at a go-kart track as a five-year-old, an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, that can be valuable to know as an adult. Where to look in a curve, for example. I was out at a track with a six-year-old girl not long ago, and she came around a corner where another little kid was stopped on the outside of the corner and she crashed into him. I told her, next time when you come around a turn (and this is the same thing I have told adults thousands of time, by the way) don’t look at the obstacle you're trying to avoid, look at hole where the kart ends up. The next time she came around, she turned her head, and the car made it around the corner.
The difference between a six-year-old and the adult is that she never forgot that the rest of the day. She never had to be told that a second time, whereas an adult has to be told time and time again, beating out old instincts. So when it comes to developing driving skills, the younger the better. Besides, the little bit of pride gained by simply being able to navigate that one corner could stick with that six-year-old for the rest of her life.
It's a big part of why I do Global Rallycross. These are affordable cars — or based on affordable cars, anyway — that are small and fun and look like video games, and thus relate to the guys who get those driving chops out of their system on the screen instead of real life. Rallycross is good for a younger crew because everything happens quickly. There are crashes, jumps, and sliding, all within seconds of each other, every single lap. The drivers hail from various parts of the world; there are skaters, there are BMX world superstars, all aiming to entertain a younger demographic.