The Killer Years

I urge any fan of any branch of motorsport to watch this programme.

It will not be an easy watch, although it may be easier if you are accustomed to watching war documentaries with the detachment that brings.

It tells the story of Grand Prix racing, and racing generally, in the 1960s and 1970s and the attitudes that persisted at the time. It tells of the battle fought by Jackie Stewart and others to change the attitudes by all means necessary. The shock after Clark. And it shows the courage and bravery of these drivers to continue what they were doing as their peers were being killed off.

As Stewart says, “it was like the circuit owners were holding a pistol to our heads”.

It also tells of the immense bravery of David Purley and the stupidity and futility of those who either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help Roger Williamson, and so many others through the years.

On a different note, aside from the valuable history lesson, it is also worth watching for the other period footage (most of which I had never seen before) and the contemporary interviews with ‘names’ from the time and notable racing historians such as David Tremayne.

If you are in the UK you can watch on the BBC iPlayer before Sunday by using this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00z8v18/Grand_Prix_The_Killer_Years/

If you are outside the UK or are reading this after Sunday, you can find the programme on YouTube in 4 chunks of 15 minutes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I urge UK residents to please use the BBC video above – it registers a viewing with the BBC and will encourage them to air more motorsport documentaries.

Like any documentary it may have a few faults, things it misses for brevity.. but it is still worth a watch.

Do watch it.

TMR Game 2011 – Week 10

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 10.

This post accepts entries for these races:
- Jerez (MotoGP);
- Paul Ricard (Le Mans Series);
- Martinsville (NASCAR Cup);

Housekeeping

Thinking of joining in? If you place your first entry during the first 10 weeks of the game you will receive 80% of the lowest player’s score from any weeks you missed. That brings you into contention whilst applying a small penalty for lateness, the rest is up to you!

Each week you pick 10 entries with a maximum of 7 from a single championship. This is the first week of the season featuring more than one race, what will your strategy be, how will you split your picks between races? Remember for sportscars races to pick the car not the driver.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here.

The deadline for entries is Saturday morning at 6am GMT / 1am ET.

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TMR Game 2011 – Week 9

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 9.

This post accepts entries for these races:
- Australian Grand Prix (F1);
- St Petersburg (IndyCar);
- California Speedway, Fontana (NASCAR Cup);

Housekeeping

Thinking of joining in? If you place your first entry during the first 10 weeks of the game you will receive 80% of the lowest player’s score from any weeks you missed. That brings you into contention whilst applying a small penalty for lateness, the rest is up to you!

Each week you pick 10 entries with a maximum of 7 from a single championship. This is the first week of the season featuring more than one race, what will your strategy be, how will you split your picks between races? Remember for sportscars races to pick the car not the driver.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here.

The deadline for entries is Saturday morning at 6am GMT / 2am ET (there’s a 4hr difference during the offset DST change).

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A Web of Confusion

A hot topic at the moment is the issue of web streaming of motor racing series, specifically concerning IndyCar and the American Le Mans Series as they diverge in their approach to online coverage.

ALMS

The ALMS announced that it was ditching live TV coverage for this season with their races being streamed live via various ESPN websites worldwide and at www.americanlemans.com for areas with no ESPN service, like here in the UK. That’ll be followed up by highlights packages on ABC or ESPN2 usually the following day. I think most ALMS races will again air tape delayed on MotorsTV in Europe.

This received a mixed reaction from the fans. A section of fans though this was a great idea because a large number of people have access to the web with a fairly decent connection nowadays, and growing numbers of the population both in the US and elsewhere are turning to watching TV – live or via timeshifting – via the internet perfectly legally online. Offering official web streaming is a fantastic idea and is essential today, I think everyone is agreed a service like this is a good idea.

The problem here, which angered a great many fans, is that this expanded web coverage comes at the expense of live TV. Removing coverage from TV is suicide because whilst online coverage may be growing fast, it isn’t fully mature and doesn’t attract the numbers of TV. Furthermore, not everybody does have reliable fast internet connections yet. Live TV coverage is essential for retaining eyeballs on the series. The other issue here is that their chosen partner within the US, ESPN3.com, is not available on all ISPs. It seems they want partnership agreements with ISPs to allow content to be streamed through them. Crazy. This does not help the sponsors in any way at all. Read here of the trouble one of the competing teams at Sebring is having trying to get race coverage in their hospitality trailer and their pit area (with thanks to Dex of RLM for the retweet earlier bringing it to my attention).

The best solution is for coverage live on TV and live online, people can watch using whichever method suits them. I suspect even with TV highlights the ALMS will be negatively affected. Just look at Indy Lights when it fell to a tape delay in 2010 – a mass loss of sponsors, and consequently a significant drop in the entry list. Okay so Lights is a junior series and ALMS is the top sportscar series in North America, but the point I think still stands.

A separate issue is the dropping of Radio Le Mans which to me is unthinkable. Thankfully Hindy and Shaw will be doing the commentary for ESPN3.com and AmericanLeMans.com, but it won’t be the full service we’re used to. Admittedly I can’t watch many ALMS races live due to the timing of the races but Sebring and Petit I always try to follow, for those I like to turn down the stream volume (yes I had to watch an illicit stream for pictures) and listen to RLM because their information and commentary are almost always superior.

In many respects the new deal is exactly what I asked for in the past and I am very happy with the web side of it. Official web video coverage with commentary from Hindy and Shaw? Yes, please! No more illicit feed, no more trying to get it and RLM synced up. Frankly it suits me very well indeed, as someone outside the US I’m not complaining about the web coverage at all. The problems here are the removal of the TV coverage and the restricting of the web feed to certain users.

IndyCar

The dust was settling on all of this when IndyCar casually mentioned as an aside at the bottom of a press release about something completely different, that they’d be dropping their existing free web stream for 2011. This time there wasn’t a single fan in favour – everybody was against the loss. The TV deal for IndyCar within the US involves a channel you have to pay extra to receive, apart from five races on ABC which are available to all. This means more people had been reliant on the web stream than with ALMS up until now.

Now, anyone who tried to watch IndyCar online over the past few years knows just how unreliable their service actually was and how bad the product was. I’ve complained about it a lot. It buffered, stuttered, froze and sometimes just gave up working at all. It did get better in 2010, a more reliable useable service. The focus then shifted to the actual coverage, which took the IMS Radio Network and overlaid the audio over some apparently random camera shots unconnected to what IMSRN were discussing. They weren’t even TV pictures – they seemed to be set-up shots as the camera got into position ready for the director to go to them. So many times we looked at an empty track or a pointless helicopter shot where the cars were too small to see anything.

All this and yet… it was still better than nothing. I and others always said it was better than nothing. Now we have nothing. The chances of watching any live IndyCar this year seem remote. I will try to catch a Justin.tv stream or others elsewhere, but if they get shut down, that’s it. In the UK, coverage is provided by Sky Sports 3 which is an expensive channel to obtain if like me you don’t already have Sky installed. You can only use Sky’s web streaming service if you are already a subscriber to their TV service. That option is out of the window for many of us.

This was a decision from Comcast/NBC who own the Versus network which hosts IndyCar in the US. What’s particularly sad is that IndyCar had already mentioned last season (via Twitter?) that for 2011 their service would be improved. There is evidence that’s actually the case because members of their free fan club ‘IndyCar Nation’ – which you had to join to watch streaming last year – received an email the other day announcing a new live timing and scoring system, a new live track map showing car positions, new pre and post-event videos and an integrated Twitter feed. It looks for all the world like the rug was pulled from under them.

GT1 WC and Superleague Formula

The FIA GT1 World Championship and Superleague Formula are two series which do web coverage very well. Both offer the exact same product as appears on the TV screen, as a free web feed. You get the same pictures, the same commentary, the same pit reports. A1GP used to do the same thing. I highly recommend trying out their services. What’s even better is something I’ve not seen since Champ Car did it a few years ago. The races are archived! I’ve not yet watched much of the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship but I plan to go back through that archive and watch every race.

You might say these series are watched by far fewer people than either ALMS or IndyCar. You’d be right. That doesn’t mean the latter series can’t learn from them. If I had my way every series would have live TV, live web streaming, and past races available on their websites. That includes Formula 1 as well, which is currently hiding behind the excuse of ‘licensing agreements’ despite FOM holding copyright on every broadcast (check the post-race credits). For some series I’d pay a nominal, non-bank-breaking fee, too.

That way none of us would have to resort to illicit streams or torrent downloads – and I think even the streaming and torrenting communities would rejoice at that.

Further reading:

- Two posts from Allen at Grab Bag Sports, the first following the initial announcements and the second citing sports offering web coverage.

- Pressdog on the process behind the Comcast/NBC management decisions.

- Meesh captures the immediate reaction of most IndyCar fans who rely on streaming to watch the races live.

- Leigh has some interesting thoughts too.

TMR Game 2011 – Week 8

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 8.

This post accepts entries for these races:
- 12 Hours of Sebring (ILMC/ALMS);
- Losail, Qatar (MotoGP);
- Bristol (NASCAR Cup);

Housekeeping

Thinking of joining in? If you place your first entry during the first 10 weeks of the game you will receive 80% of the lowest player’s score from any weeks you missed. That brings you into contention whilst applying a small penalty for lateness, the rest is up to you!

Each week you pick 10 entries with a maximum of 7 from a single championship. This is the first week of the season featuring more than one race, what will your strategy be, how will you split your picks between races? Remember for sportscars races to pick the car not the driver.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here.

The deadline for entries is Saturday morning at 6am GMT / 2am ET (there’s a 4hr difference during the offset DST change).

Continue reading

TMR Game 2011: Week 7

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 7.

There is no racing this weekend that is eligible for the TMR Game (though do watch IRC or NCWTS if you like). However, if you would like to post a provisional entry for the following week you may do so.

Housekeeping

Thinking of joining in? If you place your first entry during the first 10 weeks of the game you will receive 80% of the lowest player’s score from any weeks you missed. That brings you into contention whilst applying a small penalty for lateness, the rest is up to you!  [Note - This bonus was set at the first 8 weeks to bring it up to the first F1 race plus the following week, but as Bahrain has been cancelled I have extended it to include Melbourne plus the following week.]

Each week you will pick 10 drivers, with a maximum of 7 from a single championship. Just as advance warning Week 8 will be the first week of the year featuring more than a single race.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here.

The deadline for entries is Saturday morning at 6am GMT / 1am ET. Read on for results..

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MotoGP: 2010 Valencia

GP Generali de la Communitat Valenciana

Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain

Date: Watched live on 7 Nov 2010 taking notes during the race which were then forgotten about until I found them earlier. Oops.

This is the final race of the year. Jorge Lorenzo has the title wrapped up, and in 2nd Dani Pedrosa is 19 points ahead of Valentino Rossi, will the positions be reversed after this race? As this is Rossi’s final race for Yamaha, the BBC’s Jennie How has a good interview with him in the pre-race, he says he’s had many special moments not least of which was the first win in his first race with them after switching from Honda. When asked if Lorenzo has pushed him harder than any other teammate he says that’s true.

Then there’s a bit of an introduction to Cal Crutchlow, the new Brit taking Ben Spies’ seat, seems a really straight-talking guy and I hope he sticks around longer than Toseland did. Nice to get a few words from a few 125 and Moto2 riders as well, perhaps in future this could be extended to show all frontrunners not just the Brits.

Not many good races are held at this circuit in any category and I hope this one bucks the trend.

Front row: Casey Stoner is on pole, Lorenzo and Simoncelli alongside. Marco’s first front row start.

Stoner assumes the lead through turn one but it’s Pedrosa who impresses, from 7th he’s up to 2nd quickly – until Hayden gets past him to make it a Ducati 1-2. Simoncelli is 4th, Lorenzo down to 5th and then there’s Rossi. And that’s just lap one.

We know Simoncelli isn’t scared of anyone and he proves it again on lap two, Lorenzo dives inside him but is fended off by Marco on the switchback. Jorge tries again and touches Simoncelli’s bike, he’s nearly thrown off! He saves it but falls down the order. Meanwhile there’s a cloud of dust… it’s Hayden in the gravel, he’s out of the race, such a shame as he was was having a much-needed good run. Replay: Hayden went off by himself, lost the front end and no-one else to blame.

Rossi passes Simoncelli into turn one with 25 laps to go (lap 5 or 6), Marco tries to push back but has a bit of respect and backs off rather than taking out Vale or himself. This puts a recovering Lorenzo on Simoncelli’s tail as Rossi opens a gap. One lap later Lorenzo makes the same move to claim 4th.

22 to go and Pedrosa had been putting in fastest laps but no more. He’s on Stoner’s tail and now I’m sure Rossi is closing on the pair of them, and just like that he’s passed Pedrosa – and Lorenzo follows him through!

16 to go, the group has started to compress, Lorenzo is catching Stoner while Rossi is faster than both – this time. It seems to be changing with every lap.

14 to go, Stoner’s tyres are starting to go off and it is showing. He’s running wide here and there, only slightly but just enough because these bikes aren’t very wide – a few more laps and he’s a sitting target, unless Lorenzo has used his too in his charge?

Replay as Lorenzo had bit of a bump and wobble in his seat, allowing Stoner some breathing space. Dovizioso passes Simoncelli and then Pedrosa, yet after spending half a lap looking at replays of this we cut live to the group and the order is once again Pedrosa, Simoncelli and Dovizioso! Dani then runs wide and is passed once more.

10 to go. Lorenzo is still harrying Stoner but Rossi has been dropped. Pedrosa has now fallen to the back of his group of four riders.

8 to go and Lorenzo is through! He takes the lead! The crowd goes crazy with their #99 flags. A lap later Dovizioso sends one up the inside of Simoncelli who tries to fight back, nothing doing. Now Spies is on Simoncelli’s tail. There’s a lot of daylight between this scrap and Pedrosa now.

With just 3 laps to go Spies passes both Simoncelli and Dovizioso with some great passing on a single lap! Dovi retakes him into turn one but Spies has the line for turn two and he’s in front once more. Epic.

Lorenzo wins! Stoner 2nd, Rossi 3rd, Spies 4th, Dovizioso, Simoncelli, Pedrosa, etc.

Final points: Lorenzo 383, Pedrosa 245, Rossi 233, Stoner 225, Dovizioso 206, Spies 163, Simoncelli 125

What a superb race. At the Ricardo Tormo circuit too. That almost never happens.

With some huge line-up changes for 2011 I’m really looking forward to picking up the series again in Qatar.