Fixing IndyCar & Turbo The Snail

The turmoil in the IndyCar Series seems almost never-ending. Whenever a problem is fixed or a new idea is tested it seems as if there are always two or three clouds following closely behind. Part of it is unhelpful gossip and hearsay, part of it is genuine inanity from various figures inside and outside the series (and by that I mean the organisation itself, the teams, drivers.. well, anybody really). The series doesn’t really deserve it.

IndyCar has come a long way since the ‘split’ and the messy post-unification days of 2008-2010. The racing is good and there are some top-notch drivers and team personnel as well as good people in the ranks of the series, all of whom I’m sure are being let down by others.
The fact some good folks were fired recently, some of them not in the job for all that long, for cost-cutting reasons is a terrible sign particularly as some are in marketing which is a chronic weakness of the series, they hadn’t been around that long and were just starting to make their presence known with some great ideas.

The whole parent organisation seems introspective, in denial, or working to outdated business practices. It feels as though everyone is clinging to the 90s, or even the 70s. I really hope the recent top level management changes bring about a change in attitude even though the early signs (the firings) are not good. Some certainty would be appreciated. New boss Mark Miles keeps talking in management-speak of a ‘deep dive’, which apparently means he’s ordered a data-rich analysis of the whole company (or even the group of companies controlled by the Hulman & George Co. of which he is CEO).

In much the same spirit, Steph at More Front Wing recently performed her own multi-part analysis which is well worth your attention. She has run through all the different factors which need addressing, some of them are pretty fundamental. All the same, they needed pointing out in a rational manner and that is what she’s done.

I don’t agree with all of the answers but that’s fine, what was needed was a dose of realism and some potential suggestions. Do read and comment with your own ideas and observations. I’m afraid I rambled for far too long in the comments sections with my own thoughts!

Turbo

There is some positive news in the pipeline. DreamWorks are working on a feature film connected to the IndyCar Series – it is about ‘Turbo’, a racing snail who wants to go faster and faster, sees the Indy 500 and wants to race in it. Yes, really. At first I was sceptical too because it sounds ridiculous, but then I saw the trailer and saw how well DreamWorks rendered IMS and the IndyCars themselves. I’ll reserve final judgement until I see the film but do you know what? This might work.

Check out the trailer here:

Allen at Grab Bag Sports made a great point: this is going to shift the demographic of the average IndyCar fan, which is currently getting older and fewer in number. If this film works – even if it is only moderately successful – it ought to attract kids and their families and skew the ‘casual’ fanbase in a younger direction. It might even open up interest internationally. Allen also spotted word of a mooted spin-off cartoon series. Let’s hope that happens.

Quite how many people outside the US ‘Mid-West’ will connect the race in the film to the real life Indy 500 and IndyCar Series remains to be seen. IndyCar and the H&G parent company need to be sure their house is in order in the next six months so that they are ready to make the most of this opportunity.

Friday Favourites: 13 May 2011

Hello everyone, here is another in the irregular series highlighting some of the best of the motorsport web.

There is a lot of good stuff out there at the moment so I’m a way behind with my reading, apologies if I’ve not mentioned yours, and do feel free to follow up in the comments with anything worthwhile that you think people should see.

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20 Years On: The Cat That Owned The Cream
 - Adam Cooper / Autosport Plus (subscription required)

Even if you don’t like sportscars you should read this for the sheer number of F1 crossovers. you’ll be amazed as I was, I like sportscar racing but my knowledge of that era is limited to say the least. Just look at it though. The Jaguar XJR-14 is one of the best-looking race cars of all time, all classes. Adam Cooper relates how succesful it was and how it lead to a certain group of people to work together with great success not just in sportscars, but beyond..

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F1 Photographers Versus The Democratisation Of Media
- Mr C / Sidepodcast

The modernisation of written media is covered regularly, as print gives way to web and that in turn opens the way for good quality bloggers and amateur writers to get themselves noticed. It seems, in a motorsport context at least, the same hasn’t been spoken about when it comes to photography. Mr C explores the issue here, and a lively conversation ensued in the comments when an F1 photographer turned up to debate the issue.

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Centennial Interview Series

- More Front Wing

Steph and Paul have been pumping out an interview every day in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. It is a remarkable effort and there are some fantastic names involved from both past and present of Indy racing: Scott Dixon, Bobby Rahal, Mario Andretti (yes… Mario Andretti), Gil de Ferran, Danny Sullivan, the list goes on. I must admit I’ve not had the time to delve into these properly yet but I certainly will be doing so soon.

Whilst there you should go back a couple of weeks and check out the interview with Keith Wiggins explaining the teams’ perspective on aero kits, and also this superb Twitter guide which should be read by every Twitter user, IndyCar fan or not.

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Formula INDYCAR

- Eric Hall / Another IndyCar Blog

Found on a blog I have only just discovered, this post from April raises the fascinating issue of IndyCar following the model set by Formula 1, which is essentially a European series expanding outwards. Eric suggests IndyCar should be a North American series expanding outwards, to a sustainable limit. I agree with him, I’ve often thought that’s exactly what IndyCar racing should be like, most of the races in North America with several elsewhere. Not only is this is a great idea, it is also well-argued in this post. I’ll be paying more attention to Eric’s writing!

He followed it up with a couple of posts about the ‘dream schedule’, part 1 and part 2.

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World of Sportscars, 5.10

- John Dagys / SpeedTV

A round-up of news from the ILMC/LMS round at Spa-Francorchamps, including a great 3-minute video from Level 5 Motorsports, an American Le Mans Series team who have made the jump to race a car in Europe this year as well as their ALMS campaign. Note this article is spread across two pages and it can be easy to miss the page divider on the Speed site.

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There have been many blog posts this week about the DRS wing in F1, I plan to join them over the weekend so I will link to some of them then. Do also keep an eye on the blog for a quick review of the Donington Historic which I ought to have written 10 days ago.

Friday Favourites: 15 April 2011

A series highlighting the best around the motorsport web.

After a trial run in January (wow, that long ago?) I’ve decided to make a links post a weekly feature, and it has a new name purely to make sure I do it regularly. I’ve found if I leave things free-form they never happen again so I need to create a weekly schedule. I started posting TMR Game results exclusively on a Tuesday evening, and the new Start Times series will be posted on a Thursday night.

Items I list here aren’t necessarily up to date but they are always, in my opinion, worth a read or a listen. Whilst I have over 1000 items in my Google Reader, many of them are news articles so in terms of true blog posts and podcasts it is probably nearer 200. That’s still a hefty backlog so if your thing appears here a couple of weeks late, please don’t take it personally. I will take suggestions whilst retaining the right not to include things, I want these to be concise updates!

On to this week’s links.

  • More Front Wing: MFW Podcast Episode 36- I’m going to be honest, I struggle to stay up to date with podcasts, people release far more than I ever have time to listen to and I always feel bad for not keeping up. This is one such show, and one that had dropped – not purposely -  from my rotation in 2010 when I got snowed under with content. I won’t be making that mistake in 2011.The episode I highlight here is the show after the St Pete IndyCar race, with special guest Shane Rogers who is ridiculously knowledgeable about IndyCar and F1 (and who knows what else)!
    His input is fantastic, particularly since he’d attended the Australian Grand Prix that weekend and was able to offer a direct comparison of F1 cars and IndyCars – and events – from the perspective of the stands at the track. Steph and Paul put together a great show and subsequent shows feature Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe, I’m listening to Ed’s show as I write and I can’t wait to hear the show with Hinch!
  • Oilpressure: Randy Bernard Interview Part 1 and Part 2 – Even if you are not a fan of IndyCar racing you should still read this interview. Randy Bernard, CEO of INDYCAR, has been a real breath of fresh air in his just-over-a-year in charge of the series. Such a huge change from the fighting, dictating attitudes of the 90s to early 00s and the introspection and cluelessness of the mid-00s – and I count all flavours of Indy racing in that: CART, Champ Car, IRL.  The unified IndyCar Series is now led by a man who is not just open to listening to teams and drivers, but also to fans and bloggers. This is just one of many Q&As he’s granted to bloggers, but what’s good about this one, is that it was Randy’s idea! He saw George at Oilpressure ask his readers for questions ‘should I bump into Randy’ at the Barber round, and Randy came back and made it a meet-up in person for a real Q&A. And it is a top notch Q&A as well, good questions (as you would expect from the learned readers of Oilpressure), great answers – not banal PR fluff.
    Do also take a look around the rest of the site to see more photos and words from George’s weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.
  • Sidepodcast: F1 in China – Christine has questioned why F1 still races in China when it seems there isn’t a single person in the world who wants it to happen. The personnel don’t like it, there are no fans in the place.. why bother?
  • VivaF1: The Prince of Motorsport (Part 1) – A great guest post at VivaF1 from The F1 & Motorsport Archive’s Leigh all about the life and times of the man recorded in the F1 history books as Prince Bira, or ‘B Bira’. Check out Part 2 later this weekend and do have a look at the other articles at both VivaF1 (some really great F1 articles in the past few days) and F1&MA (coming live from Monza for British F3).
  • Neil Hudson: New BTCC Regulations: Who is the fastest? – This season the BTCC has added new technical regulations alongside the existing S2000 and BTC cars. NGTC is a new spec for both chassis and engine, but there’s also the option to fit NGTC engines to existing S2000 cars. But which is faster? Neil checks the lap times from the opening round at the 1.2 mile Brands Hatch ‘Indy’ short circuit and graphs the results. I hope he does the same later in the year so we can see how the cars develop. (Sadly my comment appears to have been moderated).
    Note – This article appears on Neil’s own blog, he also writes for Touring Car Times which I urge you to add to your RSS rotation immediately for superb coverage of WTCC, BTCC, STCC, CCTCC, DTM, V8SC and more.

Do let me know of any interesting articles and podcasts you find around the web, and I’ll have more here next Friday.