What with the terrible stewards’ decision in Spa, and the future of the British Grand Prix looking so extremely dodgy, it feels like a pretty bleak time to be a racing fan this morning.
And post-Spa there’s a massive body of opinion forming that, if exciting racing is going to be declared null and void on a regulatory whim, then it’s time to boycott F1 and find something else to watch.
At Brits on Pole we cover a lot more than just F1, and try to focus on as many open-wheel series as we can that feature British drivers. So we’ve been having a think about where to look if you’re just sick of the Max’n’Bernie show.
We won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting GP2, as that’s fundamentally the same thing as F1. And we haven’t included motorbikes, as it’s not our area of expertise, and there are undoubtedly people out there who can do it better. MotoGP and World Superbikes are getting a lot of namechecks in this context.
Here are five suggestions to help you get your (mainly) open-wheel racing fix without having to put up with the kind of spectacle we were treated to yesterday:
- A1GP – probably the most obvious candidate as it’s the closest thing going to F1. The season is hopefully due to start in October, it races worldwide and there’s a wide variety of national teams to cheer on, including some Brits. The series finale has also generally been held at Brands Hatch. Top wheel-to-wheel action comes from New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland and the Netherlands, although we don’t do too badly either. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to get away from Ferrari, you’re out of luck because the series has regrettably recently partnered with that manufacturer and the new car is based on Michael Schumacher’s championship-winning F2004. But they haven’t had time to ruin things yet and dictate that the Italian team wins everything. (Give it time…) Another downside is that it can be quite hard to watch in the UK, although the Evil Empire of Murdoch and terrestrial channel Five are reportedly going to carry it. More information here: http://www.a1gp.com
- America’s Indy Racing League – this would be our top pick were it not for the fact that the season has just ended. IRL serves up exciting open-wheel racing which is much more open and accessible than F1. It can be watched for free in the UK via streaming video online and it has plenty of British drivers to cheer on – including familiar names like Justin Wilson and Dario Franchitti. Sebastien Bourdais came to F1 as a four-time title winner from the series’ predecessor Champ Car and there’s even a reasonably exciting support series, Indy Lights. All is not lost, however – there’s an exhibition race due to be held in October and you can download complete races to watch from the series website. More information here: http://www.indycar.com/
- Superleague Formula – yes, we also had trouble believing in the credibility of this one at first. But we’ve had to revise our opinion since they’ve recruited some very interesting drivers, wheeled out some great-looking cars and since people started turning up at this site in droves looking for more information. Basically, it’s an attempt to import the vast popularity of top-flight football into motor racing. V12-powered 750-horsepower single seater cars are run by teams tied in with various international football clubs. If you’re British then your choice is basically Rangers, Liverpool or Spurs, although the Celtic, Everton and Arsenal fans among you could cheer on AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven, or Porto, among others. The series kicked off at Donington Park at the end of August and is set to race at the Nurburgring next. Drivers of interest include Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel, reigning British Formula Renault champion Duncan Tappy, F1 veteran Robert Doornbos plus several current or recent GP2 pilots. In the UK it airs on Setanta and there are videos available on its website. More information here: http://www.superleagueformula.com
- British Formula Three International Series – if you watch too much F1 it’s easy to start believing it’s the culmination that all other types of racing are working towards. Instead, you might want to consider – as we do – that it’s actually just a specialised subset of the sport, and not always the most entertaining. This is why series like British F3 International can prove much more satisfying to follow – and a great excuse to get out to race meetings around the country where it features at circuits including Rockingham, Snetterton, Oulton Park and Thruxton as well as the ‘big three’ of Silverstone, Donington Park and Brands Hatch. In the UK it turns up on Motors TV. More information here: http://www.fota.co.uk/
- British Touring Car Championship – we know this one’s tin-top rather than open-wheel, but that brings a whole set of advantages including a completely different (and very exciting) driving style that frequently sees contact without the race being wrecked. It also brings spectators the advantage that, whatever the differences under the hood, the Seats, Hondas and Vauxhalls out on the track appear close enough to your own road car to make this a potentially much more engaging and personal experience than the exotic open-wheel thoroughbreds. There’s lots of big names racing in BTCC including Jason Plato, Colin Turkington, Mat Jackson and Tom Chilton. The races take place all round the country and it gets an airing on terrestrial TV courtesy of ITV. The only real downside is that the season’s about to end. More information here: http://www.btcc.net/
Alternatives to the Italian Grand Prix
Serious about sending a message to F1’s organisers? What better way to do it than switching off the TV next weekend, forgetting about the Italian Grand Prix altogether, and getting out to celebrate British motorsport at an event instead?
Here’s a link to the Go Find motorsport site that helps you track down your nearest live action. Top of the list is the Le Mans Series event at Silverstone but there’s plenty of karting, drag racing and club racing, as well as a hill climb event or two.
Put a dent in the grand prix viewing figures and see them for yourself. Or, if you really fancy getting your hands oily, click here to visit Go Motorsport’s lists of driving and volunteering opportunities.