Young fans peek behind scenes

TASMANIA'S next generation of motor sport fans was learning plenty at Symmons Plains yesterday.

Day one of the state's largest annual sporting event saw kids enjoying free entry and they seized invitations to see inside pit garages, meet the teams and even quiz the drivers during a junior press conference.

Motorsport Tasmania general manager Dick Caplice used the state's highest profile export to demonstrate the value of the initiative.

``It's very important that kids get in to see all this,'' he said.

``Marcos Ambrose probably started coming to motor sport with his dad at about the same age and took off from there and the more kids that get exposed, the more will make it a life-long hobby or even a job.''

Not every youngster collecting autographs and posters in the pit lane yesterday will go on to drive in NASCAR like Ambrose, but another link between motor sport's elite and grass roots levels was echoing the message.

Tasmania's Formula One in Schools program co-ordinator Murat Djakic, of Queechy High School, described it as ``a hook of interest''.

``We're looking at schools that might want to get involved in the program and if you get the kids' interest then hopefully you get the teachers, parents and schools as well,'' he said.

Schools from throughout the state took advantage of the free access, with Invermay Primary using it as a way to reward those that had shown positive behaviour in the playground.

The Newstead-based Community Christian Academy linked the experience into their curriculum with pupils devising questions for drivers ranging from how fast they drive to what they eat.

Teacher Susan McCormack said it had been a worthwhile excursion.

``I think they will get a few more fans out of our group after today, and I think I will be one of them,'' she said.

Riverside High grade 9s Ryan Gregson and Brad Smith also learnt plenty after being shown through the tyre tent by Jack Daniel's Racing sub assembly technician Daniel Donkin.

``We're from an automotive class so it is really good to see how things work,'' Ryan said.

``I think it's great that kids get to come here and see this. Plus we're supposed to have maths, science, assembly and even immunisations today and now we're missing all of that.''

Red Bull drivers Craig Lowndes and reigning series champion Jamie Whincup dominated the three practice sessions held yesterday with qualifying beginning this morning followed by two afternoon races and a third tomorrow.

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