The world of motor racing is an odd, confusing and turbulent place right now. The balance between ‘sport’ and ‘show’ is being thrown out of whack by ‘technological gimmicks’ and ‘artificial racing’ – super-degradable tyres and DRS have called into question the purity of Formula One and the gimmicks ‘for the good of the show’ are spreading to other series like a disease – even the German touring car series, DTM, features a soft compound tyre and Drag Reduction System now.
F1 remains popular however, with enormous viewing figures, an astronomical revenue and, like it or not, somewhat unpredictable racing. However, the complaints over those gimmicks, particularly the Pirelli tyres, are growing louder and more frequent. For many, they make the races too confusing and difficult to follow; too artificial and put emphasis on strategy more than outright speed.
It’s a wonder then, why a racing series that provides similar speeds to F1, but is easier to follow and has much more closely fought races, is in such dire straits at the moment, with dwindling viewing figures and confusion over the direction and leadership of the sport. IndyCar seems to be offering a potential antidote to the disease creeping into other disciplines through its simple, relatively gimmick-less recipe, riding the line between sport and show easily, and yet it’s struggling. Since Randy Bernard’s departure as CEO of IndyCar, the series seems to be up in the air with an uncertain future; if IndyCar ever needed to provide good racing, it’s now.
IndyCar, of course, has its crowning jewel in the Indianapolis 500, arguably the greatest motor racing spectacle on earth. But this 102 year old event isn’t enough to feed off for a series as high-profile as IndyCar should be. Every race right now needs to be breath-taking, capture the imagination of fans and thrill the masses. Take a look at the final 5-laps of IndyCar’s recent race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a race fairly typical of the series and see what you think; is this a series Formula One can learn from?
To watch the entire event build to that final crescendo was indeed breath-taking and you can bet that Formula One won’t see a finish like that this year. And while IndyCar adopts a two-compound tyre rule like F1, the disparity between the two are enough to make a difference but not distract from what’s important; racing. Instead of KERS, IndyCar has the much simpler ‘Push-to-Pass’ – a limited-use boost to make overtaking easier…but not easy.
It would seem then, that the distant American cousin of Formula One has struck a fine balance between sport and show.
F1 remains the pinnacle however, and a finer balance between sport and show will be found, of that I’m sure, but in the meantime, not all motor sport is gimmicks and artifice – some of it is turbo-charged, wheel-to-wheel, simple, powerful, fast, pure motor racing.
Perhaps the world can look towards IndyCar for inspiration – if they can get it on TV, of course; a way other forms of racing can get back to their roots – limited gimmicks, simplicity in aid of simple racing and enjoyment for fans. I do hope so, because frankly, I find the constant bemoaning of degradable tyres tedious.