Archive for September, 2011

Will Sky Launch Speed TV in the UK for F1, IndyCar, NASCAR coverage?

Every year, UK channels televise hundreds of hours of top flight football. Fans can see several games per day on subscription (Sky and ESPN) and terrestrial television. We can watch live and highlights, at home or in the pub.

Divide the number of games available on Sky by the subscription cost, the deal suddenly doesn’t look quite so bad. Watch enough of it, and you’ll get value for money. There’s golf, rugby, tennis and a host of other sports as a bonus.

There are only 20 Formula 1 Grand Prix per year. 10 will be free to air on BBC1. Divide the cost of a Sky Sports subscription by just 10, and it doesn’t look quite so enticing.

That is why the Sky Sports business model which looks so sensible for football looks horrifying for Formula 1.

The good news is that Sky’s part-owner NewsCorp already has the answer.

A channel called Speed TV.

Speed TV is dedicated to motorsport of all kinds. It’s already shown as part of basic cable in the US, and variants are available in Latin America and Australia.

Speed TV could be provided as part of the basic Virgin and Sky packages, it could even go onto Freeview and Freesat. It could then take advertising revenue for the events it covers. It could show not only extensive coverage of every F1 session, but also hours of NASCAR, IndyCar, GP2, GP3, American Le Mans Series, British Touring Cars, World Rally Championships and the list goes on.

I just hope they have the sense to make this happen and start talking to the other motorsport rights owners to pull it all together.

Fingers crossed, because the alternative is too ghastly to imagine!


Baltimore Grand Prix a Qualified Success – Hopefully a Turning Point for IndyCar

This weekend’s Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix has been a qualified success, with high attendance figures, a lot of media coverage, and good races from both American Le Mans Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series races.

Everyone had predicted chaos in the IndyCar race but in the end it was much calmer than predicted, whilst still containing plenty of strategy and a fair amount of passing. (particularly for Tony Kanaan who started at the back of the grid after a terrifying accident in practice, and ended third).

There’s no doubt that part of the circuit is too bumpy, other parts too tight, and the pit lane too short, but these issues can be rectified. The important thing was that the race looked fantastic on television, and made the City of Baltimore look pretty good too.

Whilst IndyCar already has street races on the schedule, this one is the real deal, it’s not tucked in some corner of town like Toronto or Valencia, or thrown onto an airport like St Petersburg and Edmonton. Only Long Beach and Monaco itself come close to the level of disruption required to put on the show.

So it was inevitable that there were to be teething problems, particularly with the traffic management, but also perhaps more unexpectedly, with the poor returns for the City’s restaurants and bars, who reported a downturn as locals stayed home.

There were also complaints that the circulation and access for spectators was poor and overcrowded. In some sense here the race was a victim of its own success, but the organisers will want to look at this aspect next year.

In Monaco, tickets are only checked on the grandstands themselves. The City is essentially one giant free of charge general admission area. Even the bars right behind the F1 paddock are available to anyone who takes a walk down there. This means that the restaurants and bars do good business between sessions.

Baltimore’s race is so well located that they could consider something similar for their race, opening the whole inner harbor area to the fun.

This would only increase interest more, decrease pressure on the restricted admission area, and hopefully bring an even greater return for the City.

Discounted tickets for locals would help too.

I am looking forward to next year already, let’s just hope they resurface the rest of the track, and I’m hoping the success and high profile of this event on a day that NASCAR was washed out marks a turning point for the IndyCar series.

Baltimore Grand Prix Looking Good

We’ve now had (delayed) practice for the American Le Mans Series cars at Baltimore, and the track is looking fantastic on screen.

Sure it’s bumpy, and the last minute chicane is unusual, but it’s one of the best looking street circuits I’ve seen.

For me it looks better than Long Beach, Valencia, Toronto, Edmonton. Not quite monaco, but hey, it’s close.

And the buzz is off the scale for this race, great attendance and I’m really convinced it’s going to be a success.

Well done everyone!!

Baltimore Grand Prix – It’s going to be down to the wire

I have been getting more and more excited about the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix.

I can’t wait! IndyCars and American Le Mans Series around the harbor area of Baltimore for the first time ever.

The amazing event website whet my appetite, as did the fact that I’m actually going to the next round of ALMS at Laguna Seca in 2 weeks time.

The Baltimore event website has links to a special ‘traffic news‘ website, which carries a wonderful CGI video showing the dilapidated surface of the race track area transformed into a pristine tarmac racetrack.

The truth is a little more, um, bumpy.

I’m hearing stories of lumps, bumps, jumps, drain covers, even streetcar tracks, and I’ve seen photographic proof of most of the rumours on Twitter.

I know that crews worked through the night building last minute chicanes and curbs out of fresh tarmac. I know that many aero efficient racecars have enough downforce to lift draincovers (it happened at Monaco not long ago) so god only knows what they will do to these fresh curbs.

With ALMS and IndyCar we’re looking at a LOT of on track action over the weekend.

I wish the organisers well, because I really want to enjoy the weekend. I believe they can get there, but they shouldn’t have to be in this position this late in the day.

And last time I checked, the way to build a last minute chicane is to use walls of tires bolted to the track, not to get out the tarmac truck.