The last weekend
in July was a busy one at dsc, the calendar dictating that we had
a 24 hour race (Spa), an ALMS race (Portland) and a Grand Am race
(Barber Park), all within a 30 hour period. With Russell Wittenberg
on vacation, that meant no Barber race report, for which we apologise.
Thanks to James Davies and John Healey though,
we did present you with masses of Rolex Series images.
Other races have a habit of coinciding with major
events at Spa: in April, it was the ALMS event at Road Atlanta clashing
with the LMES in Belgium, thus ensuring the dsc crew were still
on the road at the exact moment that Robin Liddell was fending off
Timo Bernhard, for what became the first, dramatic win for the Panoz
Esperante. Endurance racing does have a worldwide following, but
each clashing race has to lose something, certainly from the fans’
point of view, when races coincide like this.
Here in the
UK, we’ve got the second test match going on (that’s
cricket, for those of you brought up on baseball), between England
and Australia. Day 1 of the (five day) match was so enthralling
yesterday, I had to leave the television on, and leave this desk
to go and catch up with proceedings from time to time.
The highlight of the day was watching ‘Freddy’
Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen thrashing the Aussie bowlers all round
the Edgbaston ground. The ball was flying off the bat to all parts
of the ground, and England scored over 400 runs in the day, almost
unheard of in a test match, especially on day 1.
this got to do with motor racing? Well…. 400 runs in a day
was the motorsport equivalent of two and three quarter hours round
Portland, wasn’t it? There were even (almost) exactly the
same number of 'players' involved: 23 (cars) at Portland, 22 playing
cricket. Flintoff and Pietersen thrashing the Aussie bowlers for
fours and sixes – James Weaver thrashing his way past Emanuele
Pirro (and Chris Dyson) to take the lead. Entertainers, all three
of them. Portland was packed with dramatic action of course, throughout
Day 2 in Birmingham, England, today is a rather
more typical test match day, Australia moving along towards 200,
for the loss of three wickets, so far. This is more like the Spa
24 Hours – or at least the second 12 hour period, with positions
more or less established. Or perhaps Spa is the equivalent of the
fifth day in the test, as England bowl out the Aussies to wrap up
the win (dream, dream, dream).
So what is endurance racing? Well, in the ALMS it’s
a 12 hour race, a 10 hour race, a four hour race and seven 165 minute
races. In FIA GTs, it’s a 24 hour race and ten three hour
wickets down at Edgbaston….
But what should
endurance racing be? There’s a fascinating thread on the dsc
Forum – here
– discussing this very subject, hence these thoughts in this
column … also ‘provoked’ by events at Spa, on
the Friday of the 24 Hours meeting.
Eurosport / the WTCC seem to have given SRO an ultimatum
– two hour races, or you can’t be part of our programme.
Stephane Ratel rightly acknowledged that FIA GT races couldn’t
be based on mainly two hour events, and that was that.
The FIA GT Championship is in an unusual position
though, sharing its programme with the short (terribly short) WTCC
races. For every other series, the endurance event is the headline
race – so the race length can be set according to each series’
down in the test match….
The ALMS introduced a four hour race last year,
at Laguna Seca, and that worked very well indeed. Sebring and PLM
are now both established as the endurance races – and somewhere
like Portland seems to work superbly well over the sprint duration.
Lime Rock is a problem for ’06 though, so
perhaps here’s a chance to reduce the calendar by one race,
but make another race a longer one? Less travel for the teams, and
a chance to make Mosport or Road America, say, another ‘headline’
event? Nine races during the year are quite enough, aren’t
Four LMES events
in ’04 was a very good start, all of them on the only classic
tracks left in Europe – so why add a fifth at Istanbul? We’ll
judge the success of that one when we see the entry list. It would
be hard to pick a fifth, classic track in Europe though, which fits
in with the other four. But the Bugatti would have made more sense,
And then there’s
Grand Am. One 24 hour race and thirteen ‘sprint’ races.
Sorry, wrong here of course - there are two six hour races,
at Mont Tremblant and Watkins Glen.
The theory advocated here is that fewer, bigger
events has to be the way to go – doesn’t it?
a chance to create something in Britain next year, following this
principle. What about a 1000 kilometre event at Brands Hatch, four
hours at Oulton Park, 500 miles at Donington Park, six hours at
Silverstone GP and two hours at Snetterton – for GT cars and
prototypes. Big events, big grids, £10 entry fee for spectators
for the whole weekend, camping, beer tents, a band…. And perhaps
then we would have our best UK circuits attracting large numbers
of spectators to see the best kind of racing. Of course, they’d
need radio web coverage to be able to follow it all, but the cost
of that is modest anyway – when you’ve got grids of
40+ and crowds in their tens of thousands.
They could fit
neatly around the LMES dates, and suddenly teams have got a full
calendar (nine or ten races), if they want it. If one car is too
fast, adjust the rules, just as the ALMS has done in GT1.
Even silly old cricket still gets the crowds in
for major games (test matches) – and there’s no clashing
Australia 308 all out. Perhaps England can level the series? And
only Britcar (on Saturday) this weekend (I used to play cricket
once upon a time, but then racing took over - and I can't see the