In our final part of our look back, (in which we have passed 6 weeks of the long off-season!) Jason and Adrian round of the A to Z of the 2014 Indycar season looking at U through to Z. We hope you have enjoyed our slightly irreverent at times look back at some of the highlights and moments of the past season on and off the track.
It is always great to have new sponsors getting involved with Indycar and existing ones upping their involvement.. keep it up... (see below)
Imagine for a moment if you will that Indycar is the unpopular boy at Motorsport School. He's spotty and he's a little out of shape but he's got great personality and people that know him really like him. During his time at school, all Indycar has really wanted is a good looking rich girl (Title Sponsor) to bring to the School Dance. Sure he's managed to court a few girls, Northern Lights, Pep Boys, IZOD but none of these girls have let Indycar get to the next level and most of the time, Indycar ends up dropping them off without so much as a goodnight kiss. Worse still, Indycar has to watch that Country Boy Nascar parade around with the gorgeous Sprint Girl and all her money. Sometimes it just got Indycar down. Then enter the alluring Miss Verizon. Like all good courtships, Indycar and Verizon got to know each other slowly, going on a few dates but the lovely Verizon got to know Indycar and in the Spring of 2014, found herself ready to commit. Indycar finally found the girlfriend it's always wanted. Indycar is now in a position to have Verizon spend lots of money on it, she can help clean up it's spotty appearance, get it in shape and help turn it into a much more popular boy at Motorsport school and better still, she can help let everyone else know just how awesome Indycar is. Simply put, Verizon is the best thing to happen to Indycar in a long, long time. Here's wishing them a long and happy relationship.
2014 saw a record tying 11 Different winners throughout the Indycar season and it's a proud testament to the parity that exists in the series. The DW12 Chassis has helped even the playing field and with those 11 winners coming from 7 Different teams, 2014 really showed us that any team and driver combination were capable of winning on any weekend. Compare Indycar's results to those of Formula One (3 Different winners from 2 teams) and you get an idea of the level of competition and the depth of talent that Indycar boasts on a weekly basis. Simply put, if you found yourself in Victory Lane at an Indycar race this season, you earned it.
(Bare with me on this one...) In essence the survival and continued presence despite the lack of water... give or take. What does this have to do with Indycar you may ask? Check out this blog post from Pressdog back in April to do with Indycar, growth, survival, TV ratings... and the lack of 'water'.
Any good sport or team is only as good as those who wait in the wings, those young men and women who will one day take up the reins and replace the current crop of athletes who lead the charge. As many problems as Indycar has had over the years, one of the recent things they have done right is it's ladder system. Indycar seems to know that it won't survive and thrive for years to come based on what Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Tony Kanaan or Helio Castroneves have done or are doing, it will be the teenagers and children strapping on helmets to race Karts and other cars further up the road to Indy ladder. A look down the ranks at some of the young guns who wait in the wings gives you a clue as to who you can expect to see one day competing for Indy 500 wins and Championships, names like Chaves, Piggott and even a younger generation of famous names like Brabham, Herta and Cindric are all climbing the ladder towards Indycar. The future is definitely bright where driving talent is concerned.
The tiniest of margins, but one which brings the biggest of victories.
The penultimate look back at 2014 with Jason and Adrian in our A to Z of the Verizon Indycar season. This week from P to T.
P is for Penalties, Powers Penalties
Despite racking up the most infractions during the season, Will Power still took home the title, despite not being able to slow down for pit lane, using other cars as breaks, blocking your team mate. It looked at one point this may cost him another shot at the Indycar title but he really cleaned up his act in the second half of the season and pushed on for the championship.
Q is for Qualifying, Quickly
All said and done the qualifying king this year was easily Helio Castroneves, over the whole season finished with an average starting position of 5.7 on the grid, be it rolling or standing! The nearest driver in terms of an average was James Hinchcliffe with 8.2, something im sure he would trade in with delight for a little more race day luck! At the back end of the grid we had Sebastian Saavedra and Carlos Heutas with their average in the 17's.
For a very detailed breakdown, check out this post from IndycarMN
R is for Roger
O Captain! My Captain! Our five month trip is done;
The DW12 has weather'd every track, the prize we sought is won;
The milk is near, the chequers I see, the people all tweeting,
While slipstream in the steady grove, a good ship Power,
grim & daring
S is for Streaming
One very appreciated addition to the Indycar coverage towards the end of the season was the live streaming of practice and qualifying of NBCSN races, with commentary provided by Paul Page, Pippa Mann and the IMS Radio Network team.
CMO C.J. O’Donnell said. “INDYCAR fans across the globe are unbelievably passionate about our sport and we’re happy to be able to provide them with additional live coverage from our events.”
It waits to be seen if this is something that will be carried on to 2015 and with the ABC races.
T is for Torrential in TO
For the first time since 1981, the Indycar series ran two (full) races in one day. Heavy, and we mean heavy rain fall caused the postponement of the first race at Toronto meaning that both races would be run on the Sunday, both reduced in distance and taking place 3 hours after the chequered flag fell and Sébastien Bourdais took his first win since returning to Indycar. The second race was won by Mike Conway.
As Bon Jovi once sang, woah we're half way there.
Part three of our end of season look back at 2014 in the Indycar series covers K to N. Jason and Adrian find the facts, the news, top opinion and pretty much discard them! (at times)
K is for Kissing the Bricks
A stunning final few laps of the most important Car race in the world finished with an American driver in victory lane drinking the milk. The first U.S. Born driver to win the race since Sam Hornish Jr, Ryan Hunter-Reay added his name and likeness to the Borg Warner trophy with a brilliant and relentless charge to the finish of the Indianapolis 500. Once again, nobody does tradition like Indycar and to see a talented driver who many people gave up on 5 or 6 years ago, bending down to kiss the yard of bricks is just about as inspiring as it gets and don't think for a second the meaningfulness was lost on RHR, his post race comment? "I'm a proud American boy"
L is for Liveries
Once again the designers were hard at work and produced some beauties, here are just a few of my favourites from the year, with the obligatory SFHR Strike livery to fawn over... again...
Which were your favourites? (All pictures via Indycar.com)
M is for 'Mine's a Double'
For the first time since 2004 (Robby Gordon), a driver attempted the double in one day of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coke 600. After a few tests in an Andretti Autosport car we finally had confirmation that Kurt Busch was to attempt the 1100 mile feat on the 25th May. Having run well during the practice, dampened by one crash which he described as the result of "starting to feel comfortable". He ran clean all race, taking home a very solid 6th place and the Rookie of the Year award. In the other race his car broke with only 200 miles left to run. Back to Indy it was and the awards banquet, for those who do not follow NASCAR or maybe understand the history with Kurt and, say his attitude, we heard from a very humble man, hopefully the face fits and he will be back, maybe...
N is for New Kids on the Block
There are rookie classes and then there is the 2014 rookie class, a group of young men who with their performances might have cemented their status as one of the best rookie fields in Indycar history. Prior to the start of the season, the usual naysayers and critics lambasted the newcomers as just another crop of talentless ride-buyers. What followed silenced a lot of those people; 6 Podium finishes, numerous strong performances and even 1 Victory earned Munoz, Huertas, Hawksworth and Aleshin the respect they deserve and in my humble opinion, did enough to warrant all of them a 2nd Year in the series. Let's also not forget about the strong performances in May of Indy 500 rookies Sage Karam and Kurt Busch. Truly a banner year for the guys who stepped into an Indycar for the first time.
O is for Ovaries
No, not ovals, ovaries and this year's Indycar season saw a distinct lack of them. While it was great to see Pippa Mann rocking the Pink Susan G. Koman car at Indianapolis, the fact that there was no full time female racer this past season was a bit of a disappointment. In addition to Pippa, over the past decade we've been spoiled with the likes of Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge and Simona De Silvestro, ladies that could go all out and show just as much heart and guts as any of their male competitors. Here's hoping that this year was a temporary blip and womankind finds a good representative for future Indycar seasons.
Each Monday Jason and Adrian look back over the A to Z of the 2014 Verizon Indycar Series.
Part two this week covers F to J. We look at the tempestuous topics and some irreverent issues of an enthralling season, both on and off the track.
F is for Franchitti
When Dario Franchitti hung up his race helmet, Indycar lost one of it's best ever and someone with a genuine passion for his craft and an appreciation for the history of Indycar racing. Aside from a year out at Nascar, Franchitti was in an Indycar every year from 1997 so to not see him in a car this past season felt odd but thankfully he wasn't a stranger to the Indycar paddock and he has been playing an important role behind the scenes at Chip Ganassi racing. Don't believe me? Ask Tony Kanaan how important Dario's input has been, TK dedicated his Fontana win to Franchitti and thanked him for his coaching. Even out of a Car, Dario is still serving Indycar well and long may it continue.
G is for Graham, or Babe
The son of 'stache had another forgettable season to add to his CV and although I firmly believe that the talent is there, there just seems to be something missing. Right now, Graham Rahal still has youth on his side (and a lovely girlfriend) but that's really it and even the youth is starting to slip away with very few good results to show for it. After his first two season with Newman Haas I would have put a lot of money on Graham not only being a multiple race winner by now but maybe a Champion too but sadly for him, and for Indycar, that hasn't happened. When he finally arrived with his Father's team, I think most of us suspected that there would be some positive results but in fact, there has been a regression and it's one that needs corrected and soon. The post season has saw changes already made to the engineering department at RLL with hopes of righting the ship for next season but the loss of National Guard is going to hurt a team that's already reeling. Here's hoping Father and Son Rahal can have a better 2015 than they did 2014.
H is for Hawk
I is for #Indysomniacs
Something for those fans east of Cape Cod, three night races at Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa and the finale at Fontana saw some great racing, drama, controversy and a flurry of red bull infused tweets. There is something special about following racing at 3 am, the challenge of staying awake, the . But for the final race of the season, this applied to the east cost of the states too, with the chequered flag falling and the champion being crowned at a respectable 01:30 am, I jest, the desire to see the season finish before the pigskin has its day, or well, months... This resulted in the race starting at sunset to avoid the glare of the setting sun and the unruly August temperatures and the champion being crowned in the wee small hours on the East coast, not idea or something Fontana want to see back!
J is for Juan Pablo Montoya
Back in American open wheel racing after 13 years away in Formula 1 and NASCAR, the season got off to a slow, steady start with only a 5th place to show after late race incidents moved him up the order. Enter May, and Juan was back, he was quick all month, qualifying in 10th and bringing home a 5th place for Penske. More podiums at Texas Motor Speedway and Houston followed, before a brilliant performance all weekend long at the Pocono 500, taking pole and then a win, despite the attempted interventions on team mate Will Power. JPM stayed in championship contention until the penultimate round. In his comeback year, Montoya finished a very respectable 4th, next year he can only be stronger.
Last weeks A - E is available here
Next week we look at K to O in Part 3
In the first part of our look back at the 2014 Verizon Indycar Series, Jason and Adrian will be covering some of the key, and not so key moments from the season, with each part being published each Monday (Its a long off season right?)
In Part One we look at A to E...
A is for Aleshin
Mikael Aleshin arrived in Indycar to the sounds of disapproving tuts from bloggers and tweeters worldwide but it wasn't long before the Mad Russian started to change people's tune. With an aggressive and hungry driving style, what young Mikael lacked in experience he more than made up for with enthusiasm and we all know that enthusiasm is infectious. Unless of course enthusiasm is dive bombing you into the first corner on a street course but I digress. Although there are still some haters out there, Aleshin did more than enough to turn people around on the stance that he was just a talentless, rich ride buyer and has even bagged himself a few fans in the process. During practice at the season Finale in Fontana, Mikael was involved in a horrific accident that will keep him sidelined for most of the off season but after a promising début year, hopefully the wreck won't put Aleshin off from returning to the series next year and in my opinion the kid has shown enough flashes of raw talent to warrant a another year with Sam Schmidt or another team.
B is for (adopts best crooning voice)..."Back Home Again in Indiana..."
Let's get one thing straight, when it comes to an appreciation for history and tradition Indycar does it better than any other race series and there may be no bigger Indycar tradition than Jim Nabors singing "My Indiana Home" every May at the Speedway. Sadly for us traditionalists, this year saw the last live performance from the great man at the hallowed track. Just how exactly IMS replaces this tradition I have no clue and frankly, I'm not sure they should. It's kind of difficult to find another former TV star who can make grown men weep at a car race just by singing a song. Rumour has it that even tough as nails Texan AJ Foyt has shed a tear or two during "My Indiana Home" renditions. Maybe.
C is for Colombia
The country that famously exports coffee, footballers and the ever lovely Shakira also gave Indycar a record number of full time drivers in 2014. Carlos Huertas, Carlos Munoz, Sebastian Saavedra and some guy called Montoya all lined up in honour of their home country this year and all faired pretty darn well. The proudest moment of all surely came when three of those four men stood on the podium in Houston Race 1. Motorsport Seems to go through phases where every few generations, a country seems to produce a pack of good drivers, in past years there's been an Italian invasion, a Brazilian invasion and even the Indy 500 had a British one headed up by Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill but right now, Indycar has a Colombian crew that in 2014 gained a couple of wins, pole positions and in the process turned a few heads. Couple that with the fact that another young Colombian named Gabby Chaves won the Indy Lights championship and you get the idea that right now, Colombia is where it's at when it comes to Indycar.
D is for Driven
No, not that film, but an attitude, a desire, a dream, let the short clip below explain more...
For more on the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation click HERE
E is for Ed Carpenter Racing
After trying out a full time run on road / street and ovals for the past two seasons, Ed stepped aside from the twistys to let a more accomplished driver take his seat. It could be said, he chose well. Mike Conway, a free agent after leaving AJ Foyt prior to the Finale at Fontana because he was no longer comfortable racing on ovals, some thought his time in Indycar was over, how wrong they were. The season got off to a great start with victory at Long Beach in only his second race for the team. Come May and in steps Ed, he duly obliges with pole for the 500 and was running strongly until a late race incident took him out of the race. Shortly after a win followed at Texas Motor Speedway for Ed before Mike added another victory at the double-day-header at Toronto. The season ended strongly with a podium at Fontana, the last for the team in their current guise before merging with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. It is worth noting that combined, the entrant stands at 514 points, good enough for 7th in the championship.
Part Two, covering F to J will be out next Monday
The sun was remorseless as it shone down. As the field of 33 cars came around Turn 4 in lines of three the crowd rose to its feet. I could feel the rumble of the cars through the floor of the grandstand, shaking my feet and the roar of the engines deep within my gut. This was my first Indianapolis 500.
I read about the Indy 500 a long time before I ever saw any footage of it. Growing up in the 1980s I found out about the race via Autosport magazine and other publications. I remember one Saturday in the early 1990s where the BBC showed highlights of that year’s race on their Grandstand show. The first race I saw live was the 1993 race, interested to see how Nigel Mansell would get on. It was probably that afternoon that I decided I would go if I ever got the chance.
My chance came a few months ago when I started doing some research for an MA which included a trip to Chicago. I was determined that if I could plan my field trip well and if I could afford it I would combine it to include some US motorsport. As the trip started to take shape I realised that I could actually tie it in to Indy.
I flew in the day before the race. The airport was geared up to celebrate. There were old cars on display and the terminal also includes the “Indy 500 Grill” and a memorabilia shop. I made a huge mistake in finding a cheap hotel. The place was way out of the downtown area and so I had to pay a huge taxi fare to get there. I was 50 bucks lighter and I’d only been in town for an hour. Having said that the hotel had free beer and snacks that evening so I settled down, set my alarm for 5am and got an early night.
The taxi drive to the circuit was another $30 (book early and stay downtown!) but the sight of getting to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a real treat. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it. Incidentally motor sport stopped giving me goose bumps years ago. I’m cynical and I don’t even believe in them anymore. Well, I didn’t. On Georgetown Road you see the grandstand of the frontstretch and it goes on forever. It’s an amazing sight in itself but when you arrive and see it for the first time you can’t help but wonder how you’ll feel when you see things from the other side.
I collected my tickets with ease, got into the track and got my fanvision set by 7am. My thought at this point was how the hell am I going to fill in the time between now and the rest of the race? I decided to take a little walk. My grandstand seat was between Turn 4 and the yard of bricks so I decided to walk towards Turn 1 and see that bit first. I noticed people walking toward the track and followed. Before I knew it I was on the track itself at the entrance to Turn 1! It was another goose bump moment. I could see back towards Turn 4, the haze of the early morning sun, the Pagoda, the flags along the grandstand on the infield. What an amazing vision.
You know what it’s like in the UK; you can’t move around an event without someone asking to see your ticket or demanding more money for walking through a gate. One of the joyous things about this event is its openness. I walked over the track and onto the infield. Gasoline Alley, merchandise stores, food stalls, fresh lemonade and more would keep me entertained for a few hours. There’s also the small matter of the garages where you can catch a glimpse of the cars and the teams working on them. On the way back out and across the circuit at Turn 1 I stumbled across the marching bands as they made their way around the track.
I eventually meandered to my grandstand seat, soaked up some sunshine before the covered seat provided shade and enjoyed the build-up. With merchandise and food stalls within a short walk from my seat I didn’t really want for anything, other than to see a great race. Before it got under way we had all the usual traditions. The prayer, a parade of the US military, Jim Nabors singing for the last time, the balloons, the national anthem and the command to start engines. The atmosphere as the crowd builds is like none other I’ve experienced. Yes, they’re passionate and patriotic but they’re also relaxed, chilled and pleasant. I found everyone to be really nice and the atmosphere was just one of sheer enjoyment.
The race itself I won’t go into too much detail. It was great to see so much green flag racing and I set my fanvision device to give me audio from Juan Montoya’s radio. I was able to follow the twists and turns of his race as he first started to move up on fuel strategy and then just go for it full blast following a penalty. Listening to him and his crew discuss the options was a great way to follow the race.
Just to emphasise the fairness of the crowd in the final laps it was Helio Castroneves who was getting the most support from fans around me. I think they were pleased to see Ryan Hunter-Reay cross the line but they have their favourites and I think it would be wrong to assume anything on the basis of nationality. Those that stayed in the grandstands to cheer Hunter-Reay around on his winner’s parade lap were certainly chanting “USA! USA!” though. I was able to walk freely to the yard of bricks and made it just in time to see the winner kiss them. And then I made my way into the infield again, had a “Seriously Spiked” glass of lemonade and then headed back to my hotel.
The trip back was harder than in the morning. With the roads clogged up I had to walk miles before I could see a taxi to hail. I tried calling a taxi firm but they refused to even go near the speedway. The taxi driver from the morning had turned his phone off entirely! . I was running low on mobile battery so I’d advise people to bring some extra power. I made it eventually and reflected on the day.
I sampled downtown Indianapolis the next day and it’s a gem of a city. It’s compact for sure but it has a great deal to enjoy. I walked around and got acquainted with the place. I walked up the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Tower and went around the museum of American Indian Art. If you go to the Indy 500 be sure to look around the city too. Plan your trip better than I did and stay downtown. If you can’t do that then study the bus routes before you get out there.
I always thought the tagline “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was simple hyperbole. I’ve been to Le Mans, F1, the Olympics and the NFL but I’ve never been to an event like this. From the moment you arrive to the time you leave this place on this particular Sunday in May has “Greatest Spectacle” written all over it. It is seriously a very special outing.
Above all else enjoy everything this great event has to offer. The race is the main attraction but it’s only part of the day.
You can follow Jon on Twitter
(Ed) Throughout the month of May I was following Brandon on Instagram and noticed that he was there pretty much every day from Grand Prix of Indianapolis through to the Indianapolis 500, so asked if I could share his pictures from the Speedway, here's his month...
Feel free to click play to add a soundtrack the the slideshow!
As we approach this weekend's inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis we are going to take a look at a few issues that have crept up from the opening rounds of the season that may have an effect on the race, also checking out some factors that may come into play.
IMS Gives You Wiiings
For the potential one and done (500) race fans reading this, the car will look a little different to the last few years at the oval. The most noticeable changes are the front and rear wing, much larger for added down force dealing with turns on the road course. Other changes include more break cooling and do not have the bias which naturally steers the car to the left on the oval.
Montagny? I know that name...
...and you'd be right, followers of the junior open wheel series in Europe saw Franck move up and eventually land a test driver role with Renault and the Jordan. After these he had seven race starts with Super Aguri a team that had funding, as well as speed issues. After this he went back to the test driver role, this time with Toyota. He has had some open wheel experience in America, a second place at Long Beach in 2008, then a twentieth place retirement at Sonoma for Andretti Green in 2009. In more recent times we have seen Franck compete in Various sportscar series / events in cluding the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I for one was surprised to see this extra driver announcement for Andretti Autosport, as were a few others, is this just a shake down driver for the #26, or could the factor of Montangy being in the Formula E Drivers Club be more to read into it?
They're Going the Wrong Way!?
Yes, they are (running clockwise), and as an added differential, the race will be a standing start. Turn 1 is just before Oval T4 and the final turn (14) is prior to the Oval T1. This was done to create as much difference between the oval and road course events as possible. In terms of a lap time, top end practice times were in the 1m09s region, so expect that to fall a little. We are also seeing a slight increase to the normal starting field, 25 cars will see the red lights, with the addition of Martin Plowman (AJ Foyt Racing #41) and Franck Montangy (Andretti Autosport #26) being added to the list of full timers.
Step by Step
All three series in the Mazda Road to Indy are taking part in the Grand Prix weekend, great chance for exposure for the teams, drivers and sponsors, as well as turning laps at IMS. Check out @Road2IndyTV on twitter to keep up with the latest news fro the weekend plus video features.
When the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was first announced back in October 2013, the opinion on the race was split among fans of the Indycar series and the 500, some saying May should all be about the oval, others embracing the development of the month, more races on the schedule. For me, yes I do appreciate what May stands for and the Oval at IMS, but, the original plans first included a road course, a lack of funding stopped that from happening. Also in a modern day business model where you have the facilities that can be used to make money to support and create more finances, you have to make use of your assets, after all, Indy isn't just built on tradition, it creates tradition... right?
The inaugural GP of Indianapolis is Live on ESPN (UK) on Saturday 10th May from 8pm.
(Ed. We as motorsport fans all know the risk our favourite drivers take when they step into their cars, no matter the formula it always comes home when we lose a driver, today sees the 20th Anniversary of the death of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, the follow post is a recollection of that weekend back in 1994 of a young fan, Dave Render)
The first time I ever watched a Formula One race was Monaco 1992. I remember seeing this red & white car, the driver had a yellow helmet. His name was Ayrton Senna!
During the closing stages of the race Nigel Mansell tried in vain to pass, Senna would not give way. From that moment I was hooked! Sadly I only got to see Senna race for two more years, this included the magical drive at Donnington Park in 1993, the best driving performance I've ever seen.
I remember the weekend of May 1st 1994 as if it was yesterday. It was a Bank Holiday weekend, there was a Grand Prix and the World Snooker Championships was on (something else I always enjoy watching). It was also to be the weekend when I got my new bike. 12 months previous to this my school report was not very good. I wasn't a bad lad I just wasn't interested in some subjects, I just wanted to play football, cricket and things like that. I wanted a new bike for my birthday but because of my report I was told "no"! My family said if I improved over the next school year and my grades were good I could get my new bike. So two weeks before that fateful weekend, my parents read my new school report and I was told I could have my new bike. I was to go and pick one on the Saturday morning of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend. I remember being so excited, this was going to be a brilliant weekend, one of my favourite snooker players Jimmy White was in the world final, no school on Monday, new bike and a Grand Prix. Perfect. Now back then, of course, there was no Twitter, no 24 hour news, F1 qualifying wasn't even on live on the BBC. I spent the Saturday morning riding around on my new bike, I went home and put teletext on to see who had got pole. Keeping my Fingers crossed I hoped it wasn't Schumacher (I am not a fan) I couldn't believe what I was reading a driver by the name of Roland Ratzenburger had been killed during qualifying. I had never experienced a driver die in Formula One before so this was a big shock. I mean, I knew the risks but I never expected it to happen. It played on my mind all evening and when I woke up on the Sunday morning I was not looking forward to the race as much as I normally would. I sat down to watch the race with my granddad & uncle keeping everything crossed for a good race & for a Senna win. This race was meant to be the start of Senna's season after he had retired from the first two races.
Sadly we all know what happened during that race, a race littered with incidents, start line crashes, debris flying off into the crowd, wheels coming off cars in the pit lane and striking mechanics. I remember Murray Walker saying that he wished they would just stop the race... enough was enough. How can one weekend produce such incident and tragedy. After the race finished we found out the greatest and my favourite racing driver had died after his crash. I was stunned, how had this happened? For a while I don't think I looked forward to watching Formula One quite as much after what happened, watching the races just wasn't the same. The weekend I had looked forward to so much had turned in to a nightmare. In my opinion Ayrton was the greatest racing driver ever, and one of the greatest sportsmen to ever live. Many people don't know about the millions he gave to underprivileged children in Brazil. Or about the Ayrton Senna foundation. The world is a poorer place for his passing.
Rest in peace Ayrton Senna
After much hype and build up ahead of the Firestone GP at St Petersburg I couldn't wait to finally sit down Sunday evening (well tell a lie, from 8 am through until 11 pm I constantly watched F1 and BTCC, which is an awesome way to spend a Sunday!) and watch the coverage of the race from Florida. Although not the most exciting of races still had its moments with some impressive performance throughout the field and of course, a touch of controversy (as you would expect).
Given I get to see the number of views each page receives, what search terms are used, which sites refer visitors to this website, I was surprised to see the viewing figures for the race on the excellent F1 Broadcasting blog, a 0.01% which translates to around 5,000 viewers, a significant drop on last season in terms of percentage if not actual numbers.
Whilst you can account for such a drop with a number of reasons, not all are able to spend the best part of 15 hours in front of the TV on a Sunday with F1 from Malaysia, then 8 hours of the opening BTCC rounds from Brands Hatch, and also factor in it was mothers day too. Having recently (finally) grown up and bought my own place, I can only imagine the glares from said mother when I would say what motor sport was on that Sunday!
Again another factor, the cost of BT Sport (inc ESPN) is between £12 - £18 a month dependent on you personal TV package and who it is with. (BT Broadband customers get the channels for free)
I do believe though the largest factor in poor viewership is down in part to the lack of promotion, correction, zero promotion by the channel, ESPN UK or by BT Sport. As a football fan I would subscribe anyway and it does form pack of my Virgin Media package. So as a result I do view the BT Sport umbrella of channels fairly regular and saw no promotion of Indycar at all, also zero mention of their NASCAR highlights package. To add insult to promotional injury I saw during a break an advert promoting ESPN's American sports coverage... again no mention of any motor sport. Even on their website you have to hunt round to find even a smallest mention, and even when asked... missing from the response. Even one of the main personalities from BT's presenter line up can't help but promote motor racing... on another channel! In his defense, although he did add Indycar in in a later tweet after a few mentioned this to him, nothing like promoting your own broadcast platform eh?
I can understand from a commercial viewpoint, for Football, Rugby and Moto GP where they have paid a huge amount of money to broadcast live, but they acquired rights to Indycar for next to nothing in comparison to these sports, so with live and original content why not even do small amount promotion for live sport?
With Sky Sports historically the viewing figures ranged from 15-20,000 and around 30,000 for the Indy 500. But since the change in broadcaster back at the end of 2012, there has been a large drop in these figures.
So is Indycar that unpopular in the UK? OK it is nowhere near F1 obviously, I would never expect it be, or even BTCC for that matter which is well supported by ITV4, with a full day dedicated to coverage at the track.
Below are twenty-three screen shots highlighting the search terms used which direct people to this website. To save you going through them all, I will break it down for you, the figures are for the whole of March, in the region of 85% where all asking about UK TV coverage in some way for Indycar. This is multiples of times more than twelve months previous.
I have worked on improving the websites standing with Google, and have adapted the main homepage so the key feature you see is the latest TV updates so hopefully that is of some use to you (UK only obviously!).
My concern and it is a very real one, mainstream media hardly recognises Indycar here (unless a negative story line - see Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti), and with figures like they were for the opening race, it is hardly making it appealing to potential broadcasters once the deal is up for renewal in 2016. In Marshall Pruett's recent article at Racer.com (page two) he highlighted the need to Indycar to look at international broadcasting rights, in regards to sponsor and driver exposure, both current and potential.
So whilst watching the races on BT Sport / ESPN, why not tweet saying you are, maybe then they will sit up and take note...
So BT, the demand is there, why not tell people you supply?
(At time of publishing, two days into April, 100% of search terms leading visitors to the website are about UK TV coverage, see that as you will...)
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