For Your Pleasure
We are lucky enough to have secured a new contributor to our Starship
Enterprise, David Addison. This is something of a departure for him as his natural
beat is trying with unending enthusiasm to describe to the folks in the
grandstands and terraces the progress and excitement of such varied fare as
British GT or seven car Mini extravaganzas.........his ability to talk and think is
legendary, at least in his own lunchtime. In the first of two pieces he gives a fresh
perspective to the eternal conundrum of sportscar racing, Manufacturers or Not?
But you blew my mind.............
Two corners from home, the lead changed: the Porsche dived up the inside of
the Ferrari to score a second win of the year. Name the era. 1970s? No. 1990s?
Nope. Try August 2005 and Silverstone.
Forgive this being a bit parochial, for it is of British GT of which I type, but visits to
international races are infrequent and so sitting here in Bahrain for the FIA GT
final round offers a chance for reflection - and to look closer at a world seen but
That Silverstone tale was how a two-hour race was resolved in August and
although the cars were in private hands, few in the grandstands gave a ratís ass.
They know it is a Porsche, they know it is a Ferrari and they can dream of owning
them. Whether they are run by a factory or by Team Oilyspanner doesnít matter,
Michael Cotton recently talked here about the stunning FIA GT race in Dubai, but
bemoaned the championship in its current form, devoid of manufacturers. Well,
granted the hospitality structures are less, the number of media people in press
rooms are fewer but the racing is still damned good. Do we really need
manufacturers? On the track, no. A Maserati is a Maserati no matter how it is run,
and from my perch in the Bahrain commentary box this weekend they will be
referred to as such, the teams secondarily. GPC Sport? Erm, what? When Pedro
Lamy grabbed the lead a lap from home in Dubai last week, the guy in the Ferrari
shirt in the grandstand in front of me went into overdrive with enthusiasm. It was a
Ferrari leading: Larbre never entered the equation to him.
Another fine edition of you.................
Talk to Stephane Ratel and he will tell you that his concept for FIA GT is working.
The cars are plentiful and they arenít dependent upon manufacturers. Or more to
the point, their whims. Look through the history of motor sport and you will find
championships created by car firms, normally one-make, that are invariably dead,
buried and forgotten within five years, or series that have welcomed the big guns
with open arms, only to have the championship destroyed by the manufacturers.
Car companies want to win. They spend money. They have more money to spend.
They drive out the privateer. Then there is a boardroom change and the
motorsport-mad director is replaced by one who prefers polo. At that point, youíre
So, Sheikh Ratel rolls on with dream-car names, but without the incumbent
problems of their boardroom politics. Instead he has a seven-way fight for the
championship that should produce a great race on Friday. You can understand
why he was non-plussed by KSOís efforts to force his championship to be
subordinate to the WTCC.
Take me on a roller coaster....................
Where manufacturers would be welcome, though, is through their marketing
spend, and a more intelligent use of it than just running cars. Take Porscheís role
of supplying cars to private teams and then providing assistance to run them. If
that route was taken by more firms, we could be onto something.
Or instead of spending, say, $1 million on building a shit-hot car that will
dominate sports car racing, why not put that money into marketing a
championship? Take that money and work with regional distributors and help
them take thousands of VIPs to a race and make it look busy. Build an
atmosphere. Empty grandstands bad, full grandstands good. And donít think that
free tickets are a bad thing, necessarily. yes, circuits often moan about the
potential loss of revenue from thousands that donít pay to get in, but these are
people unlikely to be there under normal circumstances, so in real terms the
circuit is gaining, especially when it adds hospitality and merchandising income
on as well.
And it works: John Guest, a UK company took over 20,000 people to Donington
two years ago to watch its GT2 Porsche. They loved it and they made it look busy.
So, imagine Maserati world-wide doing a similar thing and putting bums on
seats. It may do, too, with the Trofeo Maserati due to support an increasing
number of FIA GT events. Then imagine Ferrari did it, too, to help promote its
F430. The Aston Martin, then Lamborghini (rumoured to be looking at an
increased programme with Reiter for 2006). You still with me? Encourage people
in, make it look busy, help promote the off-track bits, but leave the teams to run
This time is the best time we all know.................
Is the GT world looking good? Yes, seems to be the answer from M Ratel. He is
confident of bigger GT1 and GT2 grids for 2006 and the new GT3 Championship
should be a success. But where do all these teams come from? There is a finite
number of teams in the world and for all those who want to move up to an
international arena from a domestic championship, you need another wave to
take their place back home.
Can this world-wide expansion continue without domestic seriesí suffering?
Time will tell, but there must be a concern. We have GT internationally, we have
French and British under SROís control. Oh, and LMES, of course, with its mix of
recognisable GT cars and pug-ugly unpromotable prototypes.....(personal
Something has to give, surely. Maybe it will take a few years before we notice any
decline, but the number of GT teams willing and financially-able to fill these grids
will either dwindle, or come at the expense of other categories. We shall see. Just
as long as those manufacturer cheque books and pin-stripe suits donít get