The other day I watched a documentary about the World Rally Championship’s heyday in the early 80s, the manufacturers were free from regulations so were able to create 500 brake horse power machines able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 2 seconds on any surface. These cars, known as the Group B cars, were the equivalent of F1 cars, except they drove off-road in conditions varying from snow & gravel right through to dusty African roads. With the combination of these cars, great drivers and the very real danger involved the WRC was propelled to unknown heights of popularity far surpassing Formula 1 and I couldn’t help but wish those days were still upon us.
First of all, I would like to point out I do not necessarily want a return to the Class B days, because quite frankly it was ludicrously dangerous for both drivers and spectators. However, surely there is something that can be done to liven up the sport, which over the last few years has shed manufacturers and as a result has been incredibly one-sided with Sebestian Loeb picking up the championship for the last 8 years in a row and his manufacturer, Citroen, picking up the manufacturer’s title in 7 of the last 9 years. This lack of competition is destroying the sport and a serious change of regulations are needed to allow other manufacturers to enter and compete with the established teams.
A similar criticism could be leveled at the British Touring Car Championship, which throughout the 90s was the pinnacle of track racing in the world with as many as 11 different manufacturers racing against one another in close and exciting racing in which any of the cars could win. In fact all of the manufacturers, with the exception of Peugeot managed to win at least one race. During the 90s the BTCC managed to attract some of the best racing drivers in the world, including former F1 drivers. However, those days are now gone with only two manufacturers taking part in the action this year. However, it must be pointed out the same criticism of lack of competition can not be leveled at the BTCC, which still provides close and exciting races and it is looking up for the future, as the next generation of touring cars are cheaper to make and run than previous incarnations, which will hopefully attract more manufacturers to the championship.
However, the blame does not rest entirely on the regulators for the decline of motorsport, it can also be placed at the feet of broadcasters. Specifically the BBC who used to show a variety of motorsport in their weekly sport show grandstand, but now their broadcasts are limited to the F1 and MotoGP. This limits the exposure of different championships greatly, which has a knock on effect on their income and the ability to attract star drivers. I think it was to a huge detriment to motorsport and to minor sports in general that the BBC cut grandstand. Currently, the BTCC is hidden away on ITV4 and the WRC can only be found on ESPN, which is a crying shame if you don’t have those channels, as the coverage is excellent. It is also a shame for youngsters who love cars and can’t be excited by the crashes, speed and excitement these championships offer.
Instead, all these youngsters are offered is Formula 1, which I find to be the most crushingly boring form of motorsport. The regulations are complicated, there are drive through penalties, it is near impossible to overtake and most importantly the racing is never close and exciting, as whoever has the best car will win. In fact barring when rain affects the race the result nearly always comes down to who is leading the race after the first lap. This means the other 50 laps are pretty much pointless. The only remedy i can see to this problem is to stop watching the tedium that is F1 and start supporting exciting racing again.
The BTCC continues on the 15th April at Donington Park and is broadcast on ITV4.