The Christmas cards are at the back of a cupboard, the snow has melted (again) and the fridge is stuffed with healthy salads. Well, alright, you have a bit of leeway on that last one.
And Brits on Pole has just sent out its second newsletter of the New Year – a mix of racing news and exclusive content in the form of our light-hearted round-up of the previous seven days’ motorsport and automotive quotes, gossip and quirky stories.
Its readers have been terribly nice about it, which has encouraged us to continue and expand it. And we’d like to invite you to have a look and see if you would like to join them.
Just so you can see what you’d be getting if you signed up, here is the first newsletter of 2010 – subscribers have had another one since this, of course.
It’s generally been sent out at some point over the weekend depending on what racing we’re set to be covering. But our New Year’s Resolution is to send it out regularly on a Friday lunchtime (well, perhaps afternoon) from now on.
If you’d like to swerve Over the White Line with us during 2010, then visit this page to get all the information you’ll need.
We look forward to meeting you.
2010: The year of the grassroots?
Welcome to the first Over the White Line newsletter of the New Year.
The F1 driver market might not have sorted itself out yet but, among the teams, there’s a noticeable upping of the tempo as testing starts to appear on the horizon. Over in the US, the shaky-looking IRL season opener in Brazil is firming up nicely, and the feverish speculation over Danica Patrick’s future has quietened a little as most of the answers have emerged.
In other words, life among the big beasts of open wheel racing is starting to return to normal as they sniff the end of the off-season in the air.
But you don’t have to travel all that far from the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Penske and Ganassi to see a different picture. Whether it’s Campos Meta looking to sell a stake in itself in order to take up its spot on the F1 grid, or Rahal Letterman searching for the funding to avoiding missing a second consecutive IndyCar season, the global financial crisis is still biting deep.
This week alone, we spoke to two talented British drivers who should, on merit, be racing at an international level – but who strongly suspect they’ll be spending the year on the sidelines, unable to find the funding to secure a seat.
At all levels businesses are backing away from motorsports. Despite high-profile exceptions such as Virgin F1 and Mercedes, the sugar-daddy sponsor with deep pockets and a love of petrol fumes has rarely been less in evidence.
So what fills the gap they leave behind?
In some cases nothing, as anyone who’s tried to visit the A1GP website recently will have discovered.
And, in other cases, we do – you and us, and a great many other ordinary fans at the grassroots level of motorsport.
This week we saw some examples of that. The most striking was the fan-powered ‘Save Donington‘ campaign that organised on Facebook and across a number of motorsport forums, with the aim of holding a classic and historic car rally at the circuit in March.
A particularly well-mannered and polite campaign, its ultimate goal is not to protest or make an angry noise. Rather, it seeks to show the strength of public support that the Wheatcroft family can draw on should they decide to spend the money required to bring the circuit back up to racing standard after the abortive F1 scheme.
And it has received an early reward in the shape of public thanks and reassurances from Kevin Wheatcroft, who said: “We never ceased to be amazed by the level of love people have for this place and no-one has shown it more than the people signing up to the social networking group.”
Another great example of the power of the crowd is YourRacingCar.com, a team that proudly claims to have been planned on the back of a beermat and operates among the series that support the British Touring Car Championship.
Funded last year by subscriptions from ordinary supporters, and this year also by small businesses that could never afford normal sponsorship, YRC is increasing from one car to two for 2010 and hopes to prove that fan power can take a team all the way to the top.
Founder Hannah James says the team is all about the fans: “I wanted each member to have their name and a picture on the car, as any sponsor would. I also wanted people to get value for money – each member now gets well in excess of the price of membership back in benefits.”
And in return, the team gets to exist.
Finally, the family of 2005 Formula Palmer Audi champion and British F3 International team boss Joe Tandy announced this week they have set up a racing academy in his memory, following his death last year in a road accident.
The Joe Tandy Racing Academy will help young drivers succeed in the sport – but at the moment the academy itself is new, uncertain and in need of help to put down roots.
It faces the challenge of turning the money donated to Joe’s memorial fund by well-wishers into a sustainable organisation that can help ambitious hopefuls not just for a season, but for years to come.
It’s pointless to speculate what it could achieve with a fraction of the budget enjoyed by a top F1 team, because that’s not the world it operates in.
But one day its graduates might – with the help of ordinary fans.
The week in cars and racing
- It’s not just teams that are struggling in the current financial situation – so are websites. While Keith at F1Fanatic has taken the brave step of quitting his job to run the site full time, over at Channel 4 they’ve shut down the 4Car website after a decade of independent car reviews, news and features. With no real prospect of commercial support and no TV show to promote (it was set up to go alongside the Driven programme), Channel 4 took the view that it had to go.
- Top Gear, on the other hand, goes from strength to strength – to the point where people who have absolutely no connection with the show can be given columns in the Guardian to explain what it’s like to endure an existence in which people constantly mistake them for Jeremy Clarkson. Novelist and scriptwriter Jon Canter, whose byline photo suggests he bears the same sort of resemblance to the Top Gear commander-in-chief as a lamp-post does to a duck, nevertheless feels he has a burden to bear: “I will be honest with you, Jez. Sometimes I buy the Big Issue, and sometimes I don’t. But now the issue is this: every time I don’t buy it, another homeless person thinks you are a tightfisted bastard.”
- Two drivers who haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on track are Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil, but right now they find themselves in agreement that Formula One is somewhat lacking in job satisfaction at the moment. Sutil, who scores extra bonus points for speaking his mind while still employed in F1, has said what many thought but dared not say about the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, criticising it as boring: “Abu Dhabi was one of the most perfect circuits I have driven on, and the most boring as well. It was just straight and really, really boring.” Meanwhile Raikkonen – pictured on James Allen’s blog in his largest hat yet – has problems with pitlane politics and with the dull predictability of driving endless laps on the same tracks: “Each lap in F1 is more or less the same. When it rains, it becomes more difficult, but otherwise this is routine now. In rallying every curve, every hill may be different than you thought. That makes it interesting.”
- The award for conspiracy theory of the week goes to Pitpass, which reckons the reason the FIA reacted so badly to a French court overturning the ban on Flavio Briatore is that it is worried a precedent might be set. The danger to the organisation would come if other punishments could be challenged on the similar grounds that the late and unlamented Max Mosley might have been a bit more involved in setting them than he ought to have been. For, if that were to happen, a certain Woking-based team might soon be knocking on the door demanding the return of its hundred million dollars. Presumably with interest.
- Talking of McLaren, the race team’s former chief bruiser Ron Dennis talked about racing, obsessive behaviour, life after divorce and his “almost masculine love” for Ayrton Senna in an interview with Esquire, put online by the Mail on Sunday. In what appears to be a less-than-subtle attack on Mosley he says: “The bit I don’t like is when people damage the reputation of this company for reasons that have their roots in issues that relate to how fiercely I’ve fought for what I believe to be right.” James Allen, reviewing the interview, notes its (probably coincidental) appearance close to the New Year’s Honours List: “Dennis was surely on target for a knighthood before the Spygate and Liegate affairs blew up so massively. There are many in F1 who feel that the two things might not be entirely unrelated.” No wonder the FIA is nervous…
- One to file under ‘it might be true but we hope it isn’t’ is the news that A1GP boss Tony Teixeira may be one of the potential buyers of a slice of the Campos team. A1GP news site GP Grid doesn’t think much of the accuracy of the story, but it has an unpleasant ring of truth given Teixeira’s oft-stated desire to move into F1. Any reasonable person, however, would surely take the view that if he has money to burn he ought to be spending it on sorting out the mess that A1GP has become. Starting with paying its creditors, including the web hosts.
More links in brief
- Who are you, anyway?: An opinion on Flavio Briatore and the FIA you might not have come across yet
- Wired Autopia: Swiss Slap Speeder With $290K Fine
- IndyCar.com: Indycar driver Dan Wheldon in bobsleigh crash – a rather more vivid version is on Pressdog.
- Boing Boing: We love it when a plan comes together (well, there’s a car in it if you look carefully – that’s our excuse)
- Top Gear: Hammond, is this an internet?
That’s it for this week. It’s good to be back!
The Brits on Pole team