It will certainly be interesting to see how ESPN approach the job after so many years of Sky Sports coverage. Personally I always rather enjoyed Sky’s Indy Car programs. The excellent Keith Heuwen and various studio guests gamely filling the numerous US ad breaks with insight or, more often, banter. On this note special mention must go to Johnny Mowlem, Marino Franchitti and Thomas Sheckter as they always seemed to brighten up proceedings, and not just with an array of dodgy shirts! Seriously though, the presentation package couldn’t really be faulted. In particular the way they handled the impossibly difficult circumstances and emotion following the ill-fated Las Vegas event that took the life of Dan Wheldon was both sensitive yet professional. The shared sense of grief, loss and shock resonated with all stunned and devastated fans watching the tragic events unfold and earned a great deal of respect among the IndyCar family. I know I for one will miss Keith and co come 24th March and I thank them for their involvement in and passion for the sport over the years. It will be very strange without them after so long.
No, I’m afraid apart from the actual presentation, Sky’s treatment of IndyCar was bordering on contemptuous, chopping and changing, pushing it aside for Tiddly Winks Championships or some such non-event. On one occasion I actually missed a rain delayed race completely as they, without any notification to fans, showed the rescheduled event on SS4 red button with no replay on normal broadcast or red button. Everything else was reshown ad infinitum, but not IndyCar.
There’s no reason that a major sporting series with such a large British involvement should be so poorly covered and publicised in the UK. We have several high profile British drivers competing, including a four time series champion and three time Indy500 winner, yet still it’s treated with less respect than Poker and Darts! It really does beggar belief as there is a huge UK fan base that would no doubt grow given better TV and media support.
Of course poor coverage and the lottery of TV rights is nothing new to Indycar fans sadly. Back in the days of ChampCar & CART every off season felt like Russian roulette as to which minor Satellite channel would crucify the races ahead. I still have nightmares about the British Eurosport days, with its unpredictable start times, lousy commentary, disappearing feeds/signals and heavy emphasis on Icelandic Ski-Jumping that didn’t have a Brit in sight.
We IndyCar fans are certainly a resilient lot, let’s face it, with year after year of sub-standard coverage of the sport we love, we’ve had to be. Getting used to taking whatever we can get when we all know IndyCar and its numerous UK fans deserve far better.
At present details of ESPN’s plans are still rather vague and sketchy, so we don’t know whether we’re looking at live or delayed coverage or even how many races will be shown. So for now, yet again, we can do little more than wait to see what develops, hoping that our subscription fees take us closer to the quality coverage we crave and not back to the future.
(Ed. ESPN UK have announced they have live rights, but if there is a clash with a 'high profile' event, the coverage could be delayed.)