Anyone else out there almost completely disillusioned with modern motorsport? Racing series that I once found fascinating I now find: (a) boring; (b) over-regulated; (c) difficult to follow due to confusing tyre strategy; (d) feature ugly or unspectacular cars; and (e) are unavailable to view in a home without pay TV.
Formula 1 is now, in my opinion, a complete and utter farce. While Mercedes-Benz should be congratulated for its current success, I feel little affinity with the team’s two drivers. Over-preened brats Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg must come from a different planet than the one I inhabit.
That God for Daniel Ricciardo, one of the few F1 stars who doesn’t come across as a self-important knob. But having one or two good guys to cheer is not enough, especially as the races are virtually unfathomable to follow due to the pitstop strategy that dominates proceedings. I liked it more when there were no tyre stops.
Meantime, V8 Supercars has lost the plot with its obsession with tyre-conservation at the expense of racing quality. Series chiefs have been fiddling with the formats for over 15 years – and still haven’t found the best formula. Something has got to change.
Hopefully for the sake of the teams, income from Foxtel’s TV rights payments offset lost sponsorship, as TV audiences are a tiny fraction what they once were.
Subscription television audience figures for Sunday May 3 reveal that Barbagallo’s main race attracted 63,000 viewers. Compare this to the highest-rating sports broadcast that day, rugby league’s ANZAC test, which had 860,000 viewers!
I would hate to be a V8 Supercar sponsor chaser asking for six and seven figure sums when Fox’s live audiences are in five figures. The one-hour free-to-air highlights on Ten that evening failed to crack the list of top 20 most watched ‘multi-channel’ programmes, with the 20th ranked show on this ‘secondary channel’ list attracting 162,000 viewers. Thus, we know the V8 highlights show garnered fewer viewers than that.
Sadly, it’s likely some of the pro teams will pull up stumps in the next couple of years, with the bottom half of the field again becoming the domain of the privateer. The V8 Supercars circus once provided employment for over a thousand full-time employees, but I fear those days are over.
A rare shining light when it comes to circuit racing is the superb international GT3 category. More on the productionbased and diverse GT3 scene next edition.
The great white motorsporting hope for folk like me wanting racing entertainment is rallycross. The category is booming internationally and Australia is about to follow suit.
I’ve long thought that rallycross’s time might come again given that it combines the strength of circuit racing – action contained within an accessible, spectator-friendly and TV-friendly area – with rallying’s strong suit: tail-out action on a course featuring multiple challenges and surfaces.
Rallycross version 2.0 has the potential to be motorsport’s answer to Twenty20 cricket. Wham, bam, thank you mam. Such is life these days.
Rallycross version 1.0, the spectacular motorsporting hybrid from the early 1970s, was arguably ahead of its time. It was born in the UK in early 1967 and became an overnight success in Australia following its introduction at Calder Park Raceway in late 1969. Special Rallycross tracks were also built within Catalina Park at Katoomba, NSW and at Tailem Bend, SA. The sport attracted factorybacked cars from Holden, Ford, Porsche, Renault and British Leyland. Meetings were covered by live television on the then Channel 0/10 Network. The sport’s stars were a mix of circuit racers and rally champions.
2015 sees rallycross making a comeback in Australia. Two different groups are proceeding with parallel plans to resurrect it in Australia, to capitalise on the sport’s rebirth in Europe and America via the FIA’s World Rallycross Championship and the USbased Global Rallycross Championship.
Rallycross Australia, a new entity formed by a group led by Australian Rally Champion and top rallycross 1970s competitor Bob Watson, has its first race meeting slated for July 19 at Broadford, an hour’s drive north of Melbourne. Watson’s group has a launch scheduled for mid-May (after this edition closed for press) on a newly-created and purpose-built 1.8km course at the Broadford Motor Cycle Complex. The group is planning a six-round series for 2016.
The inaugural Rallycross Australia meeting, on July 19, will be limited to 60 competitors in cars currently qualifying for Australian Autocross or Rally events. With a nod to the sport’s roots, cars will compete four at a time over three laps of a course combining sealed and unsealed surfaces, jumps and water hazards.
“Rallying is exciting enough, but racing other rally cars is something else,” said Bob Watson, the former Holden engineer who won the 1968 Sandown classic in a HK Monaro GTS 327.
As AMC understands it, the other group, Global Rallycross Australia, plans to use higher-tech machinery (see below) as a drawcard, and regular rally cars in other divisions. The Sidchrome Extreme Rallycross series, promoted by marketer David Ridden, will kick-off a seven-round inaugural calendar at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast from August 28-29.
Rallying aces Aussie Chris Atkinson and Scot Alister McRae have tested purpose-built rallycross machines at Sydney Motorsport Park, which will also host events.
Either way, we can’t wait. Everything old is new again. It’s time to get cross!