Monday, June 18, 2012

The Excitement of 2012 So Far

We're now seven races in to the 2012 Formula 1 season and we have seven different winners, from five different teams. While many are debating whether or not this is a good thing for the sport I can only say that it's great for the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. With so many different winners it looks like the chamionship is going to go down to the wire and since the USGP will be the penultimate race there are going to be some very serious championship implications as a result. Currently only 43 points separate the first 8 drivers. Simply getting two wins could be a difference maker in the final standings. When a championship is as close as this a large number of people who were sitting on the fence about going to the race will be swayed in favor of attending.  For the race to be considered a success it needs to generate a substantial sum of money, but it also needs to be exciting.

A virtual video of The Circuit of The Americas has recently been released thanks to the video game designers at Codemasters.  Initial impressions are that it looks like a great track that will be fun for drivers and spectators alike.  You can't ask for more than that.  Our race will also be a major X-factor because the teams have very limited information on the new track. Car setup is vital to having a fast car in Formula 1 and teams will have to gain a great deal of knowledge about the track in a very short period of time. They also have a limited supply of tires for each race and this year that is playing a larger role than ever before. The Pirelli tires are made to degrade quickly and teams are doing their best to save tires for each race and not use them up during practice or qualifying. With relatively limited running time before the race it's possible we'll see some spectacular performances from the drivers. Having an unknown quantity so close to the end of the season will make for a great deal of excitement.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

TV Coverage

On New Years Day in 1996 gearheads and motorsport fans got a late Christmas present in the form of an automotive based TV network called Speedvision.  It became the fastest growing cable network of all-time and offered the greatest variety of motorsport events on television.  In 2002 it was relaunched as Speed Channel after a huge deal including FOX.  It was at this point that the motorsport fans who had watched the channel voraciously began complaining - loudly.

I've said before that the largest hurdles for race organizers at The Circuit of the Americas to overcome are awareness of the sport and the lack of interest in road racing here in America.  The Speed Channel is the perfect example of this problem.  Speedvision aired an immense variety of racing series from all over the world including; ALMS, World Rally Championship, V8 Supercars, World Touring Cars, British Touring Cars, SCCA races, DTM and a variety of motorcycle racing just to name a few.  Other programs like Lap of the Gods covered the history of Formula 1 at different tracks through the eyes of the great drivers.  It was exactly what was needed to fuel interest in racing series other than NASCAR.  That was until it became the Speed Channel.

Now the Speed Channel is mostly NASCAR - a sport that's broadcast heavily on other channels.  Their other programs are a variety of boring reality shows that have little to do with racing.  The American Le Mans Series and World Rally Championship are no longer broadcast on Speed.  The majority of Formula 1 races continue to be broadcast but a few races are now broadcast on FOX, even though practice and qualifying for those same races are on Speed.  This leads to confusion and frustration for fans.  In the end the conversion to Speed has done nothing but road racing culture here in America, creating a longer road for the success of Formula 1 in America.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Potential Pitfalls Of The Date Change

Well, it's sayonora to the June race date as the November 18th date has finally been confirmed.  It's great that the date was moved out of the summer, considering the record temperatures we've been having here in Austin this year.  November has far nicer average temperatures than June here in Austin and fans will be much happier.  While I've been hoping to see a date change since the June date was first announced, I do see some potential problems with a later date rather than an earlier one.  

A later date will mean one of two things:  either the race will be more exciting in terms of the championship or it won't have any effect at all.  If the 2012 championship is decided as early as it appears the 2011 championship will be, then the American Grand Prix will draw fewer fans from outside the country.  If this happens then F1 fans hoping to see the race that determines the championship will be less likely to make last minute plans to see come to Austin and see the race.  It will also draw fewer fans from inside the country who might have been swayed to see a race that could determine the championship.  Formula 1 will also have a major competitor in the form of America's favorite sport - football.

One of the big disadvantages to a later date, rather than an earlier one, is that this race will be nearing the end of NFL season and around the second to last game of the college football season.  One of the big hopes for the race organizers is that they could draw people from Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.  With this date change it's less likely that potential new fans will drive to Austin when their teams are playing important games.  Let's hope the Texans and Cowboys will both be playing away games that might allow fans to come to Austin for the day. I wonder if Tavo Hellmund could talk to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about this...

Of course there are some major potential advantages as well.  The later date will allow the construction of the track facilities to get further along and make a big impact on fans.  If the championship hasn't be decided we will be guaranteed an exciting race with great TV ratings.  If we can get new fans and viewers then the better weather, barring rain of course, will allow fans to remember the race and not just the oppressive heat.  If the stars align perfectly then we're in for a great one, but I'd still rather have seen a March or April race date established after the first year.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Passion For The Sport

To those of you who know me the following two statements will not come as a surprise.  The first is that I love motorsports.  The second is that I'm not particularly comfortable meeting new people.

Twice this week the first statement was reinforced while the second was contradicted.  On Thursday I went to Austin Infiniti to see the Red Bull Racing showcar on display.  While waiting for the car to show up I ended up talking for 2 hours with other Formula 1 fans about anything and everything related to the sport.  While I had to leave before the car actually showed up I enjoyed the experience.  Then on Saturday I actually got to see the car on display at the Bob Bullock State History Museum.  It's actually an RB1 in drag (there's a keel underneath the chassis) but it's still pretty cool to see the details that make an F1 car.

 While I was there I met a fellow enthusiast who had traveled up from San Antonio for the event.  While we had completely opposing opinions of Michael Schumacher, we still got along.  It amazes me how easy it can be to make friends when you have a common interest as obscure as F1 is here in America.  We're like a cult that share a secret handshake, except the handshake is instead words like Spa-Francorchamps, McLaren, blown diffuser and Senna.

After talking for a while we decided to join the Austin F1 Club at Wild Bubba's Wild Game Grill in Elroy, right next to the Formula 1 track.  Unfortunately, the F1 Club had decided to convene at a different location so we didn't get the chance to meet up with other enthusiasts but it was great to see Wild Bubba's.  To say that they've welcomed F1 with open arms would be an understatement.

What made it wild was to see the contrast of decor.  It's a small burger place in a small Texas town with trophy game heads on the wall next to the most F1 memorabilia I've seen outside of Maranello.  Taped races were being shown on a TV in the back and there was a burger named especially for the sport.  The food was great and the owner was enthusiastic in his support for the race.  Austin is a city full of contradictions and this place is the perfect example.  I believe it's part of what makes this city such a great place to live in and visit and what makes the track such a perfect fit for Austin.  I hope that all the race fans who show up see this side of our city.   Let's also hope that all of Austin's residents and the Formula 1 fans who show up next June (or November) are as cool, enthusiastic, friendly and excited as those I've met the past few days.  If they are the race can't fail.

There is a similar, but different, post as this on my other blog Focus On What You Can.  Check it out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Bull Demonstration Canceled (Sort Of)

DC won't be destroying tires and ear drums this Saturday morning.  Details seem to be a little confused but apparently they weren't able to secure the necessary permits for the event.  However, the showcar will be on static display at the Bob Bullock State History Museum from 12-2 pm.  This is a significant let down considering the city needs to make as many Formula 1 fans as possible and the demonstration was a great way of achieving these ends.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Red Bull Racing in Austin!

This Saturday morning, August 20, Austin will be treated to a display by Red Bull Racing.  Former Formula 1 driver David "Ironjaw" Coulthard will be running the Red Bull showcar on Congress Ave. between 15th and MLK.  Those you who know the area will realize that's not exactly a great distance and might not be to excited about the display.  Well you're wrong.  It's not really about seeing what an F1 car can do, it's about experiencing the thrill of seeing an F1 car close up, hearing the awesome sound and seeing the control these drivers have over their vehicles.  Here's a clip.

Hope to see you there!