Swap Shop: Too Much Racing?

Too Much Racing?

I am really excited to be guest writing for Pat’s blog as part of the Bloggers’ Swap Shop series as I am a regular reader of this blog – like Pat, I’m not just a Formula 1 fan, but a big fan of all Motorsports.  It’s amazing how different each form of Motorsport is and what makes these series so enjoyable for different reasons.  The long-term strategy of Endurance Racing, The wheel banging of Touring Car Racing, the ‘Maximum Attack’ opposite lock slides of Rallying and the madcap daring of MotoGP to name a few.  If it’s got wheels and an engine then I will probably like it…

Back when I was a kid, when I lived in the UK, we watched F1 on Sundays only (no qualifying sessions were shown on TV) and the RAC Rally.  Then when Nigel Mansell moved to America, we started watching Indycar.  Then the BTCC started getting really popular too.  Then a chap called Carl Fogarty started looking quick on a motorbike and so we started watching Superbikes.  But with most of these series showing half or one hour highlights and usually at the weekends, so these were quite easy to watch and didn’t take up too much time.

Then in my teens, I moved to NZ, which back then was a Motorsports moratorium! F1 was on Sky only, no WRC, no bikes and not even any V8 Supercars coverage except for Bathurst itself! Thankfully this situation slowly improved, and Sky in particular started to show more of the series I was used to – including Indycars, as soon as Scott Dixon had a ride…

So now I live in Europe again and I have access to all of these Motorsports if I want to.  But the main difference is that the way they are shown on TV has changed – while they used to be short highlights packages, we now get full live coverage, Not only that, but we have access to the whole season of racing, so for example the RAC Rally expanded into the WRC, Le Mans into Sebring, Petit Le Mans, ALMS and LMS, MotoGP has the 125’s and Moto2’s, Indycar has the  Lights series, plus F1 has all the practice and qualifying sessions live on TV.

Being a Motorsport fan has changed a lot with the advent of satellite/cable TV and the internet – seeing a short highlights programme and maybe reading a small clipping in a newspaper (or Autosport if you were lucky enough).  Can you imagine following the sport like this now?  We spend hours watching footage, reading articles on the web, writing blog posts and arguing the toss on various internet forums – we analyse, scrutinise and opine in ways we never dreamt of before.  As a viewing pubic we have welcomed this move with open arms and consider that if you don’t watch the whole coverage, then you aren’t following the sport properly.  These have been big changes over the last 10 years.

Another big change has been the number of series – I have mentioned some of them above, but you can add A1GP to that mix, along with the IRC to supplement the WRC, DTM, WTCC, Superleague Formula and various other Feeder Series like GP2, GP2 Asia, F2, F3, AutoGP, GP Masters, Formula Renault 2.0 and World Series, and many more.  All of these have unprecedented TV coverage and it’s hard not to feel as a racing fan that you should be watching these.  All racing drivers say they want to get to F1, but I wonder if there are those who wouldn’t mind a career where as long as they get sponsorship, they are happy just to compete year after year in this multitude of series having a laugh?  They’d never admit that to though as it would surely upset their sponsors…

I do wonder where all of these series have come from – and they keep coming too.  Granted, some of the above have failed as quickly as they have started, but plenty of others have happily taken their place.  You do feel as though there is critical mass now and at some point that the bubble will burst, a lot of sponsors and money will just disappear from the sport and we will be back to the old days again.  I feel sorry for the young guys wanting to get to F1 – in the old days it was simple how to get there, but now there’s no clear path at all.  It’s especially hard to see drivers with talent not doing as well as they should do just because of a lack of funding, but that’s another story…

One can only conclude that there are simply aren’t enough hours in the day to follow all of the Motorsport we want to any more, which means that we have to pick and choose what we follow and what we don’t because we just can’t watch them all.  And as I said earlier, with no clear path to F1 any more, it’s hard to prioritise which ones are more important to watch.  At the end of the day this can only be a bad thing – there are so many series all competing for the same turf that they are taking fans and sponsorship monies away from each other.  This is why I said earlier that I think the bubble will burst – and that a consolidation of the many series on offer is just over the horizon.

So I leave you all with a question: Do you think we have too much racing?

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Rubbergoat is the author of the popular stats blog Making Up The Numbers, is a regular commenter across the motorsport blogosphere and Twitter, and is a regular caller/emailer on multiple podcasts. This post appears as part of the 3rd instalment of the fantastic Bloggers Swap Shop by VivaF1. Thanks to Gavin for writing it!

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8 thoughts on “Swap Shop: Too Much Racing?

  1. This is an unusual theme for a motor sports blog entry. However, from a viewing perspective, you have a point: with nearly all these races happening in the “summer” season and practically all of them squashing into the weekend, there is a natural limit as to how much motorsport even the most fanatical follower can watch. Variety in racing is good but duplication frequently isn’t. I’m not sure there’s a good answer to this, but the problem definitely exists in some sense.

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  2. I don’t think there’s too much racing in the sense they all get an interest, and it’s sort of necessary to have so many categories to place all the drivers out there.
    But I think there’s a lot of feeder series, especially in single-seater/open-wheel/touring categories, and not that much in others.
    I remember I once write an article on is there too much feeder series existing, in a open-wheel/single-seater blog. And your article joins my point of view, so I definitely like your post entry!

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  3. Good post, Gavin. As you know I set up the original version of this blog under the name Too Much Racing (I only added ‘I Watch’ later). That was partly aimed at my frustration at not being able to watch everything, and partly aimed at different series and levels splintering off from one another and competing for the same attention.

    In some ways though it is not different to 30 or 40 years ago when people could only read about the races and results. Even though coverage exists of most racing now, both live and delayed, nobody has time to watch it so they read up afterwards – if they have time for that even!

    You just can’t watch it all, it is impossible. We’ve both tried.

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  4. A very enjoyable read Gavin, I never realised you were so widely travelled!

    I think you are right that there is a considerable glut of motorsport of different types but there is obviously an apetite for it from the viewing and paying public to come and see it. From my own formula 1-centric perspective I’ve come to appreciate that F1 isn’t really the pinnacle of motorsport it likes to think it is, other forms of racing could quite happily vie for that title too, particularly ALMS which has a vast technological input too. In balance, there may be many “feeder series” towards F1 and that could ultimately be dangerous, diluting each series worth in the process. I like to feel that we should support non feeder series like DTM, BTCC etc as they are worthy of our time and interest too.

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  5. I think the only time it starts to feel like “too much racing” or over-saturation is when the leagues get big egos and start operating as if they have no knowledge of each other. The best days of racing is a driver who can drive in multiple series, or having announcers say: “did you see that crazy awesome thing that happened in the blah series today?” But when they all start to ignore each other’s existence, or worse, start scheduling events at the same time when they have options to do otherwise, it start to feel like too much. That plus the various ladders falling apart, you start wondering about why lesser series are around without a true goal. But none of that means there can be too much racing, just too much jockeying for position amongst the series, rather than having them work together.

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  6. There has always been a wave effect to junior formulae. Some get very successful so other companies/people decide they want a piece of it and eventually you reach a point where some of them either go bust or the company backing them pulls out.

    In the 1980s if you wanted to go through the British system to F1 you did FF1600 maybe FF2000 then F3 and if you could not get an F1 drive you went to F2 or F3000 when it took over. FF1600 was massively popular in many countries. Even the Scottish championship had to run two races at every meeting because of huge entry numbers.

    Seeing the success of FF1600 Talbot (now part of Peugeot) intorduced Formula Talbot which had alcohol powered engines and Vauxhall introduced Formula Vauxhall Junior. There already was the low tech Formula Vee from Volkswagen.

    Needless to say FTalbot lasted no time at all and Vauxhall Junior not a lot longer. Once FFord had re-established itself with more powerful engines and slick tyres to compete with the newcomers it was only a matter of time before Formula Renault was imported from France with the view of taking drivers straight from karting to slicks and wings.

    Now there is no obvious path and many drivers progress without ever meeting others who should be their closest rivals.

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