In truth, I find racing boring these days….

Sebastian Vettel in Formula One
Sebastian Vettel in Formula One. Image courtesy of http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/

I have been asked more than a few times why there isn’t more motorsport coverage on Mind Over Motor. The title says it all. I think racing in our modern era pales in comparison to racing of old. Every single genre of auto racing, from Formula One to LeMans to Rally to NASCAR has been totally watered down over the years, and it has gotten to the point where it has not only lost the excitement, but also any semblance of relevancy to people in the real world.

Fangio Drifting his Ferrari F1 car
Fangio Drifting his Ferrari F1 car

We all saw Sebastian Vettel’s absolute domination of the F1 grid this year, and while I congratulate him on his fourth straight title,  it was entirely free of any and all excitement. Formula One used to be pure insanity. Fangio’s era had crude technology, but the speed was not so crude, and Senna’s era had the 1300hp turbocharged monsters. F1 was once a fantastic thrill, a true spectacle of super-human ability. I know the lap times have gotten shorter with the modern cars, but too much of the competitive aspect of the sport has been reeled in by regulators regulating just to regulate. The whole DRS thing just baffles me, it is so damn artificial and plainly there should be no need for it. You want more passing, then stop standardizing so many aspects of the cars and let each manufacturer have it out with one another in raw competitive form. Yes I realize that makes it tougher for smaller teams, but that just means they need to work more on getting sponsorships…. with the massive exposure of Formula One that should not be too difficult.

NASCAR has probably deteriorated the most, which is a real shame because NASCAR’s roots are extremely exciting. It all began from illegal whisky bootleggers modifying their cars to be able to outrun the police. One day they decided to see who had the fastest car, and NASCAR was born. In fact, legend has it that the winning car of the first NASCAR race had just outrun the police the night before, carrying a trunk full of white lightning.

From there NASCAR became a major battlefield for the muscle car wars (Charger Daytona anyone?). However, after that, the cars became less and less like anything you could buy in a showroom. Today they aren’t even based on a production vehicle. They are instead a bespoke racing chassis, and each car is not all that dissimilar from the car next to it on the grid.

As for Rally, the problem is that we’ve all seen Group B, and when watching any modern rally event, you just can’t help but thinking, “this could be ALOT better.” I mean think about it, if Group B was the sort of racing that was possible in the 1980s, then imagine the sort of rally cars that would exist today if people hadn’t decided to wimp out.

This brings me to a point, racing, by its very nature, is not “safe”. So stop trying to make it “safe” because it is being ruined in the process. The whole allure of racing is the thrill of risk, for fans and especially for drivers. That is why you see people jumping out in front of Walter Rohrl’s Audi in all of those wonderful Group B videos. Yes it is stupid, but it is living.

Now we come to LeMans. For a while now it has just been ruled by prototype cars, and frankly the world couldn’t care less. While, obviously, prototypes like the Audi R18 are incredible machines, I find myself respecting them, but not loving them. LeMans used to be the epitome of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”, and while it is surely still the best at that, it has lost most of its relevance in my opinion.

I am well aware that lots of R&D gets done in modern racing, especially in F1 and LeMans (not NASCAR though, as they just recently figured out fuel injection). I understand that lessons learned in racing do trickle down, eventually, into consumer cars. However, that isn’t like seeing the same car out on the track as you can buy in a showroom.

Things used to be different, mostly because there were less regulations on what could, and couldn’t, be driven on public roads. While obviously any race car will differ at least a little from the showroom model, it would be nice if we could see race cars being based firmly on consumer cars again. That would make it all so much more relevant, and more than just a spectacle to see on TV.

In sports people affiliate themselves with whatever team they identify with the most, usually in terms of geographical area. That said, we all drive cars, so that could easily create an affiliation with the brand of car you own. Just look at Australia, with the V8 Supercars series. People have fought to the death over the GM/Ford rivalry there. Clearly identifying with an automotive brand in racing can inspire people just as much as being from a certain city.

Ferrari 458 Italia vs Lamborghini Gallardo LP-570 Superleggera

What I would really love to see is a World Cup sort of event with production cars. Racing drivers from all over would compete against each other in the exact cars that you could conceivably purchase yourself. Of course, I am not talking about Camrys racing Accords here, think more like Ferrari 458s vs McLaren 12Cs vs Nissan GTRs. I realize what I am describing is similar to GT3, but I mean the actual production versions of these cars, not some highly modified (and regulated) racing versions. In fact, I find it funny that the production versions of cars like the 458 and 12C are actually more powerful than their GT3 cousins because of such regulatory nonsense.

In addition to speed, this racing series I have imagined would seriously test build quality, and promote direct innovation by manufacturers into production cars. I’d like to see everything from hot hatches to the most expensive hypercars going at it out on the track, and I think it would be marketing gold.

One way to do it would be to have the events shadow various large events on the racing calendar for maximum exposure. Have a “Car World Cup” race take place during the week leading up to the Indianapolis 500, for example. It is exciting promotion for the car companies, and the sponsors, and it is relatable for the fans. Think about a Camaro vs Mustang race, half of the spectators probably own cars like the ones competing, and it creates obvious brand loyalty and sporting rivalry.

Logistically, I’m not talking about some huge 24hr race here. I’m talking about various classes of cars competing in 10-20 lap heats of whatever track the larger event is being held at. It would also make for an exciting variety of competition, instead of just watching the same thing for hours and hours and days on end.

Porsche 911 RSR

So in conclusion, I am saying that established forms of racing need to loosen up on the regulations, and maybe work to be more relevant to actual consumers. Also, I think the addition of a racing series that utilizes actual production-spec cars could be very interesting, and would really push competitive engineering between companies to the next level. I feel like it would also be pretty popular because it is more relatable to fans and would inspire even more heated rivalries between car brands.

I want racing to be exciting again. That means it needs to be dangerous enough to be incredible, as well as relevant enough to entice interest.

-Nick Walker

7 thoughts on “In truth, I find racing boring these days….”

  1. In my opinion, the well-heeled, 4-car teams need to dismantled, so small, less-well-funded teams have a chance. Hendrick (always a handy example) now runs four teams of its own, plus provides satellite mechanical support to four S/H racing teams. It’s a monopoly. Big guys buying up the small guys. It has to be demoralizing to the single- or dual-car teams. If there was some way to even the playing field– we might have some compelling and fair competition. Ideas?

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  2. And another thing: 🙂 why are the drivers so sensitive about ‘bumping and rubbing?” Jeff Gordon sees is as justification for retaliation. (No comment about JG.) Even France says, “Racing is a contact sport.” I don’t want to see wrecks, but increased contact could be in order.

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  3. I realize this is an older article, but I suggest you take a look at the Pirelli World Challenge race series. Basically production cars going at it in 3 or 4 different classes. GT, GTS and TC (2015 added a GT cup class). The races are 50 minute sprints. No pit stops, no driver swaps…just drivers in modified production cars going at it for 50 minutes on some great North American road courses. I started watching about 2 years ago and I’m hooked. The GT class has Ferraris going head to head with Lambos, Porsches, Bentleys, Cadillacs among others. The GTS class features mostly Mustangs and Camaros, but also some Aston Martins, Porsche Caymans as well. Really reminds me of the old Trans Am series. The TC class is the tuner class and has the typical tuner type cars.

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