Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge racing fan. In fact, I’ve attended a lot of races, mostly on the local level (though the options for where to actually attend races is going down on a seemingly annual basis). I’ve even attended a couple of races in the second and third tiers of Stock Car/Truck racing about 8 years ago – though that was a once-off event thanks to getting a couple of tickets given to me as a present.
However, at a time when the races tend to be boring, and the drivers seem to have had the life taken out of them. I mean, there has to be something wrong when one of the sport’s top stars gets fined $25,000 and 25 points for saying “bullshit” on cable TV. Let us not forget, of course, that NASCAR’s “coming of age” moment was when the Allison brothers and Cale Yarborough got involved in a fistfight at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500.
Nowadays, the sport is controlled by large bankrolls – teams have to get multi-million dollar sponsorships for their cars, and some teams have even gone so far as to rope in support from other sports team owners (notably the owners of the Boston Red Sox, and the Montréal Canadiens as a start). Unfortunately, with this influx of money and influence comes the necessity of controlling the drivers, to a point, as I have said, where they are simply robots.
A great example of this comes from the banquet held in New York last week – all of the speeches of the top drivers was preloaded onto a teleprompter. The days of the drivers saying what they want are gone, replaced with speechwriters and consultants.
However, there is an alternative. Not surprisingly, it comes from the other side of the world. It’s also somewhat hard to find on US TV screens, again, not terribly surprising.
I’m talking about the Australian V8 Supercar Championship – the most popular form of auto racing Down Under, featured 37 races spread out over 14 rounds this year going to all states and territories of Australia (except the ACT), New Zealand and even Bahrain. In the past, they’ve gone to China, and there are rumours of them going to be a support race for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix next year.
In all except three rounds, the format of the series is three races, generally around 120km in length, with a pit stop required to change two tyres. The other three rounds are the season-opening Clipsal 500 in Adelaide (on a shortened version of the F1 circuit), featuring a 250km race on each Saturday and Sunday. In September, the series heads to the Melbourne area for a 500km endurance race (for the last few years, it was at Sandown, but next year it will be held at Phillip Island – home of the original 500 mile endurance race in the early 60s).
The crown jewel in the V8 series is the Bathurst 1000 – which started out as a 500 mile race, but the switch to metric in 1974 brought about the increase in distance (interestingly, and this is just one of those things that I would notice 😉 – in some of the early films of the race from when it was still a 500 mile race, you could see the speed limit signs; they looked exactly like American speed limit signs, and not the semi-European signs you see nowadays) to 1000km (624 miles or so)
I bet if you asked any Aussie to do word association with the race, and 9 out of 10 times the first thing you’d hear out of their mouth would be Brock. As in Peter Brock, for whom the trophy for the race winner was named after he passed away last year in a rallying accident in the TargaWest in Perth. This year’s race was the second after his passing, and it did not disappoint for excitement.
It all started out well, and then the weather decided to change – gone was the sun that they had had for the best part of the race, and in came the rains. It cleared just long enough for the drivers to change back onto the slick tyres, but the rain came back. This led to the last few laps being run in the wet with slick tyres. This is the last lap of the race from this year. I just want you to note the excitement in the announcers’ voices (Matt White and Neil Crompton), and the atmosphere you get from the coverage.
As a matter of fact, one of the V8s champions, Marcos Ambrose, has moved over to the States in order to advance his career (and earn a boatload of money) in NASCAR. So far, he has kept his personality, and as he moves into the top ranks of the series, I can only hope that he keeps his personality, though I’m sure that he’ll get frowns from the France family if he tries to do something like he did in 2005 (they didn’t fight outright, and he did something absolutely brilliant – he went to a nearby house, saw the replay, and then went back to the garage).
If you know the sites, you can download the V8 races from this year; the finale held last weekend was brilliant, with the championship fight going right down to the last lap of the last race of the year. I won’t tell you who won, but either of the blokes who were in the running to win the championship would have deserved it.
For those of us here in the States, we can watch the V8s, however, the broadcasts on Speed are still at the second race in Adelaide. Unfortunately, they’re doing something completely stupid, in my opinion – here is the schedule for the races on there (I’ve taken out repeats):
- Adelaide – Round 1
- Pukekohe – Round 3
- Hidden Valley – Round 6
- Oran Park – Round 8
- Bathurst – Round 10
- Queensland Raceway – Round 7
- Symmons Plains – Round 13
- Phillip Island – Round 14
Thankfully, they’re showing what had to have been the best round overall, Oran Park (a rare rain-affected race for the V8s, with a surprise round winner). However, the fact that they’re not showing all the rounds and then skipping around with the sequencing of them is inexcusable.
If it were a perfect world, they should show the races live (or at least in the same week), since it’s rare that there’s something conflicting with the live broadcasts at 10 or 11pm Central on a Saturday night (when the races would be run in our summer, when we’re on Daylight Saving and Australia’s not). However, showing race 1 in December, some 8 months after it’s actually run, is something that shouldn’t happen.
Oh, sorry, I forgot. Pinks is on. 🙄