Monthly Archives: February 2010

TMR Game – Week 5

Welcome to Week 5 of the Too Much Racing Game!

This post contains a quick-start summary for entries to Week 5, the results from Week 4, and a few notes about Week 5’s racing.

Quick-Start

There is only one race this week and that’s NASCAR Sprint Cup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. All you have to do is pick 7 Cup drivers in a reply to this post. The deadline is Friday 26th February at 11.59pm GMT (that’s 6.59pm US Eastern). I’m hoping to attract a few more entries when the F1 and IndyCar seasons start in a fortnight, so get an entry in now to get a head-start even if you don’t know anything about Cup!

For the full results from Week 4, read on.
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Managing Expectations

There appears to be a growing trend among the Tweeting and blogging communities to mark any race which doesn’t have wheel-to-wheel action on every lap as “boring”. I’m beginning to find this a little frustrating.

In times past, a good race was often one where Participant A was in the lead and Participant B was giving chase, perhaps Participant C was in close enough quarters to threaten should the other two falter for some reason. A and B would trade fastest laps and B would eventually make a move, which may work and A gives chase as best he can, or it doesn’t and B ends up in the gravel or wall commiserating a poor move but knowing he’s laid a marker with the fast guy, and getting kudos from the fans for giving it a go. Perhaps A is faster in the twisty stuff and B has more power on the straights. Throw a bit of tyre or fuel strategy into the mix and a few more similar battles in the field, and that’s a pretty good race – it just happens to unfold over 90 or 120 minutes and there are occasional lulls between bouts of action.

It seems to me that for some this isn’t enough. For some, it seems they want to have a battles raging for every lap of the race, okay maybe not the same battles throughout but enough to sustain constant attention. I’ve noticed this in particular about fans of oval racing, specifically IndyCar and NASCAR.

I admit there are many boring races, too many in fact. Some are abominations. Anyone who’s seen F1 at Valencia or Magny-Cours, or IndyCar at Sears Point or Nashville (you can’t have a single-file oval!) can attest to that. Or to be frank, most NASCAR races in my humble opinion! If there is a way to cut down on them sign me up right now, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that not every single race can be a thriller – that’s why we get so excited when those good races do happen – and let’s also not lose sight of the fact that there are some good races going on which aren’t edge-of-the-seat thrilling but interesting in other ways. Let’s not be so quick to criticise.

What I’m getting at is that people seem to be losing their appreciation of the art of racecraft. It isn’t all about the balls-to-the-wall side-by-side stuff. A well-executed move can sometimes take a few laps to set up, you see the driver working to close the gap, trying a few different lines while the leader tries a few lines in defence – note defence not blocking, there is a difference – and making a pass. They might even then drop back again to conserve their tyres before a final push in the closing laps. The best place to find this sort of racing in the current era is MotoGP. I’m hopeful the new F1 rules will bring back the same sort of thing there.

The IRL made it’s name by featuring ultra-close finishes after lap after lap of side-by-side action on ovals. Which is fine and all very entertaining, except it was much derided by others in the early days because the cars have so much downforce all the driver seemingly had to do was mash the throttle and turn left, unlike previous open-wheel oval races where the overtaking manouvres had more of an element of planning and racecraft about them, of choosing when to make your passing move rather than inching forward over five laps and hoping the other driver backs out. Sometimes it feels as though you might as well run a lottery to decide the winner. I like my race winners to have earned their place.

Sometimes – shock! horror! – a driver or car was faster than others and they’d build a lead of several seconds on the field. And that was fine, because they’d done a good job and had earned the win. Get a race like that now and there’s uproar.

I think a generation of fans is growing up expecting every race, or 9/10ths of the schedule, to feature countless battles through the field and multiple changes of lead. I’m sorry but that’s just not realistic. We all love it when it happens but it has to do so organically. The series can do their best to set up the cars and tracks to make it happen but at the end of the day this is the real world, this isn’t Hollywood, no matter what NASCAR does to manipulate the format to generate faux-excitement.

As I said before, I know, a lot of races are tedious and sometimes it can be hard to tell a boring race from one where the drivers are trading lap times, especially without the necessary information to hand. That type of race isn’t for everyone, I get that. But let’s just manage our expectations and not call out a race for being boring before it has even finished.

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Launch Season

We are coming to the end of the period unofficially known in the racing world, or the F1 world at least, as ‘launch season’. A year ago I posted a series of articles under the header of Launch Season featuring photos and a brief impression of each of the 2009 F1 cars as well as the Peugeot 908. Obviously this is an F1-specific feature because no other series releases so many brand new cars every single season.

I’ve decided against doing this for 2010 because all I can really do is gawp at the paint schemes and provide team background. I’m not technical enough to point out the nuances of car design and I don’t have the patience to write 11-13 team histories, so rather than rewrite others’ impressions why not just read what I read?

At BlogF1, Ollie takes the ‘team review’ approach, telling us how each has changed since the last race of 2009, makes notes about the 2010 cars and includes some killer shots of the cars. If you’re fairly new to F1 you should have a read of these fully up-to-date team bios to bring yourself up to speed.

At VivaF1, Maverick also has a poke around the cars to see what the design teams have been doing and the pictures there include fascinating back-to-back comparisons to the 2009 models – after viewing only a few shots from different teams you can really see that the 2010 crop are longer to account for the extra fuel weights.

Both blogs attack the subject in an approachable and engaging way which doesn’t leave behind the fan who perhaps wants to know what’s going on, without having to have followed the technical side of the sport before.

If you do want the extra depth there’s F1Technical.net and also Craig Scarborough’s new blog, though these two often look at things in such high detail that I get lost or I don’t really know what I’m looking at.

For once though, it isn’t just Formula 1 cars being revealed at the moment. There are the new IndyCar proposals from Swift, Dallara, Lola and Delta Wing and okay they are just proposals and not actual cars, but there have been plenty of words written about them already. I plan to write something about it myself shortly (that post has been delayed), and I’ll link some of the more interesting articles then.

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Write to the Top

The new CEO of the Indy Racing League, Randy Bernard, will be taking his seat in his office on March 1st.

Let’s send him a letter.

This is the new era of fan interaction. Various different series and teams are paying attention to fans more than they ever have done before, whether by survey or direct interaction via Facebook or Twitter. What’ll get his attention on Day 1 better than a stack of letters from the fans? Okay so maybe they won’t reach him, maybe the PR or marketing people will get them – it doesn’t matter, they’ll note the increase in correspondence and hopefully someone will read some of them.

Bernard appears to have a proven record in growing a sporting property from absolutely nothing to something rather much bigger. The IRL/IndyCar needs those skills, badly. Okay, IndyCar has something of a fan base, it has a history and all the rest – but how much of that does he know? He openly admits he’s coming to this raw, no prior knowledge. Let’s tell him what we like about IndyCar, and what we think may need adjusting. We want to make sure he doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Before you go any further, be sure to remember to be courteous and polite, like not sniggering at his humourous name, nor ranting and raving like a blogger fool. Nobody wants to receive a note that reads like it comes from the middle of a flame war on a forum or a blog. Pressdog wrote some nice guidelines, let’s stick to those. We should welcome him.

Nothing works better than a bit of paper landing on your desk. It’s more personal.

Here’s his address:

Randy Bernard
CEO, Izod IndyCar Series
4790 W 16th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46222

Now, I’m in the UK and I’m not sure whether I’ll use traditional mail (I probably will). But if it doesn’t float your boat, you can always send an email via the website’s contact form:

http://www.indycar.com/contact/

Give it some thought and send him a note. I’m having a think and I will send something in shortly.

*

If after that you are still in a letter-writing mood, pop along to Vision Racing’s Facebook page to see how you can help them convince existing and potential sponsors to back them and resurrect the team for 2010, before it is stood down completely.

And finally, be sure to VOTE on the chassis proposal you favour. I hope to write about those proposals soon but I’ve found myself short on blogging time recently.

Remember, this is the new era of fans being heard, so make the most of it!

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TMR Game – Week 4

Welcome to Week 4 of the Too Much Racing Game!

It is not too late to join in, the big scoring hasn’t started yet!

This post contains a summary of how to enter for Week 4, the results from Week 3, and a few notes about Week 4′s racing.

Quick-Start

If you are short on time and want to cut straight to it, just reply to this post with your picks for this weekend’s racing. There is only one race this week and that’s NASCAR at Fontana. This means I can be flexible with the deadline a little so let’s make it Friday 19th February at 11.59pm GMT. That’s 6.59pm US Eastern. As there’s only one race you may only pick 7 drivers. Best of luck!

For those who want more detail, read on.

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Thursday Thoughts: Fan Attendance

Thursday Thoughts this this week comes from Adie at F1 Tailpipe:

What can F1 do to enhance the experience of fans in attendance at the circuit? Does the ‘exclusivity’ of the sport add to the mystique of F1 in general, or has F1 set itself too far apart from your Average Joe?

I can’t really answer the first question because I’ve never attended a Grand Prix in either a grandstand or general admission so I don’t know what is currently on offer – though I was lucky enough to watch the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix from a balcony over Ste. Devote! Perhaps the only thing I can suggest here is to lower the ticket prices. The cost of attending a race is just excessive. I’m going to the Belgian GP this year and it’s costing a lot of money, €340 for a 3-day ticket at Eau Rouge (which admittedly is one of the most expensive areas of the track). Imagine taking a family – well you just wouldn’t would you?

I suppose the subject of pricing leads into the other question, the reason for the high prices is the air of exclusivity. Bernie and FOM/FOA have deliberately spent the best part of the last 15-20 years turning F1 into an exclusive club of high-rolling teams, creating the Paddock Club for people to spend thousands to ‘be seen’ among the higher classes (and even that doesn’t grant access to the main paddock). I don’t have a problem with these – it was the right thing to do to move away from the the no-hopers filling the field – though I miss Minardi – and I hope we aren’t returning to the days of cars multiple seconds off the pace and threatening to fold.

What seems to have happened at the same time is a relentless rise in ticket prices for the general fan. While I appreciate that watching quality teams and drivers is worth paying a slight premium, we are past the point where this was a reasonable and understandable rise – and I mean a long way past, say ten years.

This has mainly come about because Bernie had the circuits sign up to high fees with an annual ‘escalator’ clause, and the only way they could get their money back was to raise prices. The problem is that while facilities for teams have improved, facilities for spectators in the main have not. At many race tracks you are still presented with a basic seat or an earth bank, a portable toilet, and a burger van. For facilities like that I wouldn’t expect to pay over £70 for a weekend and we’re being asked to part with much more.

I would say either the prices need to come down, or there needs to be ‘value added’ to make the money worth paying.

There are signs this is already happening. Many races offer concerts on the Saturday and/or the Sunday of the weekend which I think is a really good idea. For some of the names they bring in you’d normally pay £40 or £50 per ticket for a gig.

As I suggested in a previous Thoughts post, there needs to be more fan involvement in the GP weekend. Drivers should be made to hold a joint signing session in a public area of the grounds, or even more than one area, and preferably once or twice per day. There should also be a pitlane walkabout each day, whenever it can be scheduled in.

I am not sure what else could be done in terms of things that could be laid on as extras at no extra cost. More support races perhaps, but only the die-hards would care about those unless they were aimed at being ‘fun’ – let’s say we make the top F1 drivers race the top GP2 drivers in some production cars or perhaps in the Porsche Supercup cars. Do it at 10.30am Sunday, late enough for people to get to their seats but early enough that it doesn’t get in the way of GP prep-time for the drivers.

All of these are simple things that could be achieved with only a little effort and thought while retaining the cachet F1 should always have.

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