We catch up with TRACK & TARMAC owner and MotoFomo writer Matt Brogan for a look behind the scenes of Australia’s newest car touring website.
Starting a new business is tough at the best of times, but when you’re in the midst of a global pandemic that enforces strict social distancing rules, a fresh venture promoting group touring is something of a hard ask.
That wasn’t enough to dissuade TRACK & TARMAC founder, Matt Brogan. A contributing writer at MotoFomo, Matt has formed his self-drive guided tours as a way for driving enthusiasts to enjoy one another’s company from the comfort (and COVID-compatible safety) of their own car.
It’s a promising idea, and one that centres around celebrating the best driving roads – and race tracks – south-eastern Australia has to offer, including those frequented by the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship and Targa tarmac rally series.
We catch up with Matt for a look into the TRACK & TARMAC formula and find out how his exciting new touring model is set to thrive.
Q. TRACK & TARMAC seems like such an obvious concept, why hasn’t anyone else done it?
A. I guess it is, when you think about it, and I guess there’s already a number of means for driving enthusiasts to get together for a drive. Whether you head out on the weekend with a group of mates, or you’re involved in a car club, there’s a number of ways to socialise with like-minded car nuts.
But TRACK & TARMAC is a little bit different. We focus on roads that have their own story to tell. Whether that’s roads that have been used for tarmac rallying or the kind of roads that draw driving enthusiasts each time the sun comes out, we have a way of sniffing them out, and providing a way for a group of people to come together and enjoy them.
Q. What makes the TRACK & TARMAC model different then?
A. I’ve been involved with a lot of car and motorcycle clubs over the years, and besides the fact no-one ever wants to organise trips like these, there’s the fact that sometimes you simply just don’t know where to go.
We research all of our tours to offer a motorsport link. Whether it’s the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship, Targa High Country, Targa Tasmania or Classic Adelaide, the routes we chose have a connection to road-racing – without the pressure and cost of competition, of course.
Our drives are all conducted on public roads and at the speed limit. The hope is it will not only show people some amazing roads, and learn what makes them great for road-racing, but perhaps to act as a stepping stone that gets them interested in the sport.
Q. So you have links to Targa and the ATRC?
A. We sure do. Our guides are current and former competitors, and know the roads really well because they’ve actually raced on them! They’re also Motorsport Australia and AASA affiliated meaning they’re able to offer advice to potential competitors that could set them in the right direction – assuming that’s the road they wish to take.
But we think it’s also about responsibility. Having accreditation as a motorsport official gives you a deeper insight into keeping our guests safe. You not only grow to understand the physical dangers a road might present, but whether an individual is driving beyond their ability. We’re all about keeping our guests and other road-users safe.
Q. Is that why you bring a paramedic on your tours?
A. That’s part of it. It’s reassuring to have a first-responder right there should something go wrong. A lot of the roads we frequent are a long way from help, so having a qualified paramedic on the tour means that should anything go wrong, we’re able to treat the individual before additional help arrives.
It’s something a lot of people don’t like to think about, and touch wood we’ve never yet had to use them in past groups I’ve run. But I think it’s about being responsible, and our tour guests have always appreciated that in other groups I’ve run.
Q. Who else comes on TRACK & TARMAC tours?
A. Depending on the number of guests we have a tour leader or two, a navigator who’s in constant radio communication with the tour group, the paramedic as we mentioned, and an expert photographer. After years of doing this we’ve found that the ability to offer our guests a memento of their tour is priceless.
Everyone wants that special image of them and their car to hang in the pool room, and that’s why we employ only the best, industry-centric photographers to capture the moment. The pics are pretty special. I know I’ve got a few framed from past trips.
Q. Tell us about the TRACK part of TRACK & TARMAC?
A. I’ve been involved in circuit racing since I was 18, and I’ve always enjoyed it. I think one of the best parts about it is showing someone new to the sport around the track, and watching them improve as the day goes on. A lot of organisations offer track days, and that’s great. I mean, I’m involved in a few myself.
But coming to a track day for the first time can be daunting, and that’s why we plan to offer track tours that are as much about enjoying your car in a safe environment as they are about offering a level of instruction. I can’t give too much away, but I think our guests will be pretty impressed by the instructors we have lined up.
Q. Is the instructional nature of your tours something that happens on the TARMAC side of things as well?
A. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s available if our guests want it. Most of the people who attend a tour of this nature are already passionate drivers, and generally know their limits, and the limits of their car, better than we do.
That said, our tour guides have decades of experience behind the wheel – whether it’s circuit or road racing – and they’re always happy to impart that knowledge to anyone who asks for it. There’s no stupid questions, I mean we’re all learning something new every day.
I’d always prefer if someone asks the question and goes home feeling that bit more confident. It makes me feel good.
Q. It’s a feel-good experience in many ways. But is it expensive?
A. We try to cater the trip to suit the budget of each guest. There are some fixed costs that are pretty inflexible, like accommodation and ferry transfers et cetera, but there are others we can sculpt to suit the individual.
I mean, you might be happy with a pie and a cuppa for lunch, or you might prefer a sit-down meal. Some guests are happy sharing a cabin on the ferry, or a room at night with another guest, where others prefer to go-it solo. All these things affect the price of a tour.
It’s why we send out a form that allows you to select your own preferences before you arrive on a tour. This way everything is done for you, and you’re not burdened with the task of sorting it out on the fly. No one wants to pay more than they’re expected to. I mean, I know I don’t.
Q. You mentioned the ferry, is Tasmania a big part of the mix?
A. When I used to run motorcycle tours, Tasmania was always the biggest drawcard for tour guests. The roads are incredible – just ask anyone who’s been to Targa Tasmania – and the scenery is breath-taking. But there’s something else about Tassie that makes it special too, and that’s the people.
It sounds cheesy, but you always feel welcome in Tasmania, and I think that’s why anyone that’s been goes back again and again. It’s one of the biggest tours we run, and we estimate it will be the most in-demand. But don’t forget, you don’t have to come on a four-day tour to enjoy yourself!
Q. Alright, give us the brief. Where else do you go at the moment?
A. At the moment we’re based in Melbourne, so most of our tours are focussed on the south-eastern corner of Australia. We follow classic and current Targa Tasmania stages, and Targa High Country as well. But we also look at some of the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship roads.
These are fantastic, and most of them are really close to Melbourne, which means they’re more cost-effective for our guests. We go to Lake Mountain and Mount Baw Baw, and we’ve just announced that we’ll offer tours of the Snowy River Sprint as well.
Then there’s Classic Adelaide; that’s a big one. We hope we’ll have some more news on that soon.
Q. Do you think TRACK & TARMAC can survive COVID-19?
A. Mate, I sure hope so. A lot of our plans are fluid at the moment. Until things settle down, and we know when we can cross borders, and how group events can be more safely managed, we’re reluctant to move forward.
That said, we have planned a trip to Tasmania later in the year, and have already had some strong interest around that. The hospitality crew in Tasmania and the Spirit of Tasmania staff have been fantastic in ensuring we’re doing everything by the book, and if we can manage to get through something like this, then I see no reason TRACK & TARMAC can’t survive COVID-19.
In fact, once COVID is out of the way, I really hope we’ll thrive. Who doesn’t love driving their car on roads like these?
Q. Where can our readers find out more about TRACK & TARMAC?
A. The best way to find out more is to visit www.trackandtarmac.com We have information on each of our tours, a link to get in touch, and a blog that goes into a little bit more detail about what happens on tour, and what we get up to once the driving day is over.
It’s more than just driving, too. We have guest speakers that include former Targa Tasmania winners like Greg Crick, we go to car museums like the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, for example, and we take a look at historic points of interest like the Longford Grand Prix Circuit – and that’s just the Tasmania Tarmac Tour.
Oh, I’ve also got a pretty wicked trivia night if you’re so inclined.
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