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11-06-2006 04:14 AM #1
Your thoughts on sports car racing
12-01-2006 04:39 PM #2
12-04-2006 02:42 PM #3
Re: Your thoughts on sports car racing
This was my response to those questions:
ACO should stay four classes. It is the pinnacle of sports car racing and therefore has a responsibility to cover the spectrum for sports cars.
It is easy for a novice to understand, but they have to be aware of the classes in the first place. However, if you like, or are interested in sports car racing, just changing the 4 class system is not really going to make things easier to understand. The confusion comes from the large number of different series and the different types of cars, race formats, sanctioning bodies, TV coverage, etc. This is the hard part for a novice fan to understand. You throw out GARRA, ALMS, GT1, GT2, P1, P2, SWC GT, SWC Touring, Grand Am Cup (Koni Challenge), Grand Am Rolex, Sport Touring class, Street Tuner class, and the stupid GARRA rules that allow tube frame “production” cars, CHAMP car, IRL, Atlantic, Star Mazda, etc, etc, then you have a mix that confuses the heck out of any potential fan. You could just see an experienced fan trying to explain some of this to a novice. Well yes, this is the “GT” class and those are production cars, except for the GTO, which is not really a GTO… Well CHAMP car used to be CART but then Tony Fing George made the IRL…
Length is important. For TV purposes, races over 2 hours are difficult to schedule. However, for true sports car fans, endurance racing is important. Sprint races can be fun, but the endurance races really capture your interest. The current mix of 2:45 minute sprint races and the longer races is good for ALMS.
Grand Am single class races leave a lot to be desired. The “prototypes” are ugly and slow. They do provide close racing for the most part and that is generally exciting. Their short race formats are designed for TV appeal, but the series does not really appeal to a lot of the established fan base. Having the two classes really adds a lot to the racing and excitement for watching the race.
Grand Am also provides pseudo GT car racing. Their tube frame “production” cars are a joke and it is basically lying to ignorant fans. They think that a GTO could really be faster than a BMW given the same rules when an actual production GTO would never really be competitive with Porsche and BMW production cars. It is all of this research and understanding that has to happen that make it difficult to attract new fans.
People respond to two things in racing. Personalities, greatly capitalized on by NASCAR, and cars. Some of us love cars and want to see a variety of real cars racing. We also love beautiful and graceful prototype cars and pure racing cars like Formula 1. Just pure driver personality is boring to us and smells a lot like WWF, not racing.
The problem with sports car racing in the US is not how many classes a given series runs. It is getting noticed. NASCAR is easy to notice (you are inundated with it), and it is easy to understand. For the casual fan, going to a race is a major spectacle, even if you have no idea who is the points leader or why they have to change their tires every pit stop. To attract casual fans to sports car racing, there needs to be better TV coverage, better amenities and activities at the races, It has to be seen as an event that caters to real people and it needs to have class. One of the bad things that NASCAR does for racing in the US is that it projects an image of the beer swilling, gap toothed, tobacco chewing, redneck fan that is associated with racing. This association spreads to sports car racing as well. Sports car racing has to do all it can to project a more professional, welcoming image. There is no reason why two or more major racing series’ cannot exist in the US. There is room for GARRA and ALMS. There needs to be more races every year and they should be no more than a two week break between races. This will help drive more fan participation. Fans want something the can track week to week. They want instant gratification. They don’t want to have to wait for months for the second race of the season. They want some action just about every weekend. I would be much happier if Grand Am and ALMS could coordinate a bit better and run on opposite weekends whenever possible.
As far as the comment about the damaged US economy... I don't see that at all. Yes, there are some US car companies that are not doing well, but that is through their own ineptness, not because of the economy. The economy is doing well and will continue to do well for a while. The question will be is if the car factories and potential sponsors see that sports car racing is a viable promotional oportunity for them.
12-04-2006 03:44 PM #4
Chicken or Egg, Horse before the Cart
One huge difficulty (or actually many interrelated difficulties) facing sports car racing is that it's very difficult to get bunches of people interested unless something's important (big name sponsors, drivers, mfgs, tv, talk) and exciting (impressive cars and close competition). Conversely, its difficult to get big name involvment (to make it important) unless alot of people care so you have an audience to reach in order to justify spending the $ to make it exciting.
Grand Am has for the most part done away with this dilemna by focusing on their participants as their true customer. They've made Prototype, GT and Grand Am Cup fairly simplified and secure as to rules as well as economical to a certain point that allows a large number of well financed privateers to compete. This all comes at the expense of basically ignoring the pursuit of spectators and legitimate sponsors. They seem content to survive on large entries (entry fees) and supplier/contingent supplier contracts (hoosier, Koni, Bosch) that sell stuff that's mandatory to teams and then return some profit to the series. One problem with this model is that everyman(woman) rarely cares because, well let's face it, its pretty boring...while the valuable segment for high tech and sports enthusiast oriented marketers, the techno-bunch, get's bored and doesn't pay attention because the cars aren't technically interesting.
ALMS has almost the exact opposite situation in that it trys to keep the technology level high, which interests a few manufacturers, and captures a big chunk of the aforementioned techno-bunch yet suffers from low field size because it's very expensive to compete properly and so far the audience size is too small to justify throwing bazillions at it by legitimate sponsors unless you've built a complete marketing/brand image campaign around it (Audi/Corvette) or have somehow found a way to profit as a manufacturer (Porsche/...and, well Porsche) by selling race cars to the public.
20 years ago the ALMS method would likely have gained steam a bit more quickly (as it actually did in the "old" IMSA days) but with the electronic age and speed of economic communication (Corporations rarely exhibit ANY patience with a long term campaign, stock prices need to go up this quarter so sales have to jump last quarter, which means spend a 1/5 billion on rebates and incentives rather than yet another racing program) and the steeply escalating costs of steeply escalating high-tech (20 years ago you couldn't run a full sim program in a windtunnel with a 7 post rig every weekend, so you didn't)and so we get not only run-on sentences of debateable value but a good idea that's taking forever to get any momentum.
As for the ACO, well, LeMans as a circuit is so very unlike anything else from a performance standpoint, rules don't always translate as neatly as we hope.
BMW will be back, but I bet they'll come back faster if we all go buy Audis and say its because of the racing that Audi does in American Le Mans.
12-07-2006 08:08 PM #5
Re: Chicken or Egg, Horse before the Cart
quote:"BMW will be back, but I bet they'll come back faster if we all go buy Audis and say its because of the racing that Audi does in American Le Mans."
LOL, yeah, but unfortunately, the vast majority of potential BMW buyers are not interested in racing. I love racing, but I buy older used BMW's because that is all I can afford. BMW does not care one whit about me.
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