Does motorcycle racing in the UK - both on the short circuits and on the roads - have a youth problem?
Not hooligans loitering with intent and spraying graffiti on anything that doesn't move, no this problem with youths is the dilemma of how to get more into the sport and, more importantly, how to nurture them to success.
With British Superbikes and road racing blue riband events like the Isle of Man TT coming under scrutiny for their somewhat 'mature' entry lists, BSN turned to our favourite commentator on all things two-wheel to ask whether he thought motorcycle racing is becoming too ageist?
”On the question of age, as you have previously pointed out the Isle of Man TT has a real problem in attracting young riders. Very few youngsters from the BSB paddock, for example, want to try road racing, so they have to rely on older - still very good - riders, who seem to be queuing up...
”The TT is a very unique event with a unique appeal, but with a unique problem. If you were visiting, camped out, sat by the side of the track, went to the pub at night and joined dozens of other bikers, it looks brilliant and it is.
"But if you look forward a little bit, maybe five or six years, if they don’t get younger riders they’re not going to have a Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, Michael Rutter and definitely not John McGuiness, who are all going to be retired.
"And at the moment I can’t see where the younger ones are coming from and yet a lot of the older riders, who they want but aren’t going quick enough any more, have been cleared out.
"On the other hand younger riders bring a greater risk to the reputation of the TT and most don’t want to do it because of the dangers as they see it. But some do and forge a career at the TT and in road racing.
Someone like Davey Todd who at 27 is relatively young and has done really well in road racing is what they want and what they’ve got, but he’s also very keen on track racing and that’s probably where he wants to make a career, like Peter Hickman”
”I agree and I am sure that’s what he wants to do, but I am also sure that if, going back 10 years, you said to Peter ‘do you want to be a TT winner or WorldSBK Champion but you can’t do both’, I am sure he would have said WorldSBK Champion.
He is doing well in BSB, make no mistake, but he’s had a brilliant second career in road racing and, in particular, the TT."
Is the sport doing enough to get youngsters involved in the business of racing and into World champion, international or European competition. We’re delighted when we see what Jake Dixon is doing and what a great personality he is, but it seems very difficult to get British riders to that level. Many don't have the money or instinct to go across the Channel, so end up staying here which, I suppose, is a lot easier for them.
”The problem now is that in the World Championship, they seem to get toddlers out of the pram and then nurture them with a huge variety of Talent Cups, Red Bull Rookies etc. They’re almost creating their own product.
"It never used to be like that. If you wanted to go racing you had to get off your arse, go racing with or without your Dad.
"And it took time to do national racing, go into Europe with a van and if you were good enough get onto the grading list and do some GPs. It’s not like that any more. Every single person heading up the present championships will have gone through the process we now have.”
But the game has a changed and if we don’t we’ll miss out. There is a lot being done, but it is difficult in our climate right now
”The climate is the major reason. All these lads are coming through mini-bike racing and if you live in Spain or Italy every night when you come home from school you can go up two miles up the road to a track for your mini-bike at seven years old.
"Here it is freezing or raining most of the year - although not this year - and the local track is fifty miles away. But I don't think it is a good idea to have 14 and 15-year old kids on proper circuits doing 120 or 130 mph on whatever bikes they have because that is adult racing. It's another reason that I think definitely hampers British riders.