GT racing still to be found

The return of GT racing (on Channel 4) this morning was a refreshing change to the current Formula 1 and the British Touring Car Championship coverage – in a way, it was almost reminiscent of the lesser coverage the big two used to receive before they were ruined by the rulebook, the attractions of the advertisers and sponsors, and the celebrity status the drivers now enjoy.

F1 is hung up on the rulebook, lawyers, and courts, probably sparked off by Alonso the Rat’s activities a few yers back, when he was ready to use any means available to get Hamilton out of his way. The money side remains silly, as Renault Team principal Flavio Briatore said he and technical director Bob Bell, plus engineering chief Pat Symonds, would take a 20% reduction in salary, while the second level of staff will enjoy a 10% cut, and everybody else gets a 5% cut. I might not have found this laughable if Briatore wasn’t a multi-millionaire that need not take any money out of the team at all. Now, the news that the millionaires of F1 were not goig to take money out of their expensive Scalextric sets they bought, and leave the workers with their full paypackets would be something noteworthy – but I won’t hold my breath waiting for that one.

The BTCC has gone from events of decent duration that used to let proper races develop between the drivers, and has become three short sprints that are good for the advertisers and TV coverage, and has allow the drivers to be shoved on camera more often, but always reach the chequered flag just as they begin to get interesting. I was once able to wander the length of the track while a race was on, and stop at interesting corners, now I would have to run just to get halfway around before any race was over.

Both F1 and the BTCC seem to suffer from a common malaise, namely that the outcome can more likely be determined not by the racing, the car, or the driver, but by somebody tripping.

I used to dismiss GT racing because it had the appearance of being the plaything of the rich, with Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ascari, Viper, Ferrari, etc on the track, but have come to appreciate the longer races and tactics that come into play.

The GT cars are no strangers to technical specifactions and endurance, but suffer none of the F1 problems of mechanical hiatus or rulebook hysteria – not to say it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not the norm. Nor do they have the short race option of crashing and bashing one another off the track, and giving the TV cameras something to focus on endlessly and even produce special programmes of nothing but crashes – not to say it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not the norm.

Best of all possibly, is that the drivers are generally not well known celebrities, and there’s none of the embarrassing grovelling by the cameras and commentators. While the driver pool contains many well known names, they tend to be professional who are not completely devoted only to the one class of racing. The commentary is also devoid of the hysteria that seems to accompany the interesting bits of the other TV races, especially the BTCC.

The downside of the GT coverage is that you have to get up early on a Saturday morning to watch it as you have your breakfast, and that it has only a half hour slot, which means something in the order of less than 20 minutes’ coverage of the racing on track by the time you deduct the start and finish of the programme, the ad-break halfway through, and any news to be reported from the preceding week. If they run any special coverage of the cars, track, or drivers, then even that 20 minutes can be substantially reduced and become little more than footage of racing incidents, rather than racing.

I better shut up, or someone might see the comment and decide that those few minutes are not worth televising, and we’ll lose them too as the coverage is dropped – or some sponsor will “discover” GT racing and it will be chopped into sprints for the ad-breaks, and the drivers will be promoted to screen idols, and any over twenty-somethings will be forced into retiral as grey-haired old wrinklies, not welcome on camera.

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