We’ll answer this question at the beginning. We don’t know. But it’s going to be a big question of 2018 and 2019.
Open wheel racing, whether internationally in Formula One, or domestic with IndyCar, is facing an uphill battle in the fight for relevancy. With a youth culture continually moving away from a love of high powered automobiles, and major automotive manufacturers moving marketing and development resources toward movements like autonomous driving and eco-friendly, it’s an interesting period in automotive history.
If you want to keep funding in motorsport, go where the manufacturers want to be. It’s simple logic.
The challenge is, that movement is in many ways counter-intuitive to what motorsport fans enjoy.
Danger, on the limit, a driver risking-it-all is what the audience traditionally craves. The problem is, that’s a dwindling audience.
Enter “roborace,” and the evolution of “devbot.” A prototype car, built like a traditional race car, but driven by AI system. So far, the tech is far from perfect. It’s slow, it crashes, etc.
But it’s also the fastest way to develop the technology.
Watch this here:
Is it sexy? No. Is it death defying? It’s the opposite. But it’s also what a growing audience is interested in, and automotive manufacturers crave.
Time will tell.
Within the racing world, another article written about two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso racing at the Indianapolis 500 is a little overdone.
At present, it is easily biggest story of the year within the sport. A decision by the McLaren-Honda F1 team to withdraw its star driver from the series’ crown-jewel Monaco Grand Prix in favor of another open wheel series is something definitely to take note of.
Within IndyCar racing, not a day of practice went by without continuous updates from the media on the Spaniard’s progress. During the race itself, his driving merited the headlines, leading much of the race until his engine expired just 20 laps from the end.
When the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship chose to abandon its traditional “Daytona Prototype” formula for something more closely aligned with the technologies and manufacturing concurrent with their European counterparts, the new era of today’s DPi formula was created.
Short for “Daytona Prototype International,” the intent was to take the platform of modern European “LMP2” machinery, a international specification of prototype cars that are built for commercial use, and adapt it to specific American needs. More specifically, the LMP2 category in Europe is mandated to NOT be a manufacturer’s category, allowing only four producers of prototype machines to take part, and all being required to run Gibson produced engines. This was meant to be a major departure from Europe’s LMP1 platform, which is specifically made for factory involved efforts (such as Toyota, Porsche, formerly Audi, etc.). With the raising costs of development to compete in LMP1, European rule makers decided LMP2 should be a prototype strictly for “privateer” teams; small organizations with minimal commercial funding, or more often a wealthy amateur taking on one of the driving roles.
With the announcement of Monster Energy Drink’s title sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier category, now re-named the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, a new era has dawned for the series. Perhaps most significantly, in an era of stagnant or declining ratings, at-track attendance struggles, and the continued fight to grab the attention of a digitally engaged, millennial generation, it’s an interesting time for the sport. Here are the key storylines to take away.
Lower Asking Price. With Sprint knowingly leaving NASCAR for an extended period of time, it’s been curious to see the announcement of Monster as the new title sponsor relatively late. The announcement was made in December, indicating a very late closing of the deal, and late start to the series’ re-branding efforts. It’s widely rumored the delay came in the asking price, with NASCAR estimating a nine-figure buy-in, however the Monster deal allegedly came at the low end of eight figures. Is this a sign of an increasingly declining value? It’s tough to argue against.
With 2017 upon us and the official takeover of Liberty Media controlling stake in the commercial rights to Formula One, a new era is upon us. At a reported $8 billion sale to become the majority shareholder, the world renowned media and distribution company has made the biggest investment in history in to the sport. However, with budgets for teams at an all-time high, and the sport struggling to maintain its footing compared to the “glory days,” 2017 and beyond will prove an interest learning and proving ground for the sport. Here are several storylines to look for.
Formula One Without Bernie Ecclestone. Easily considered the most divisive figure in Formula One, depending on who you ask Bernie Ecclestone is either the reason the sport has achieved such a level of success, or the single person holding it back from it. Having held up the sport’s commercial interests since the 1970’s, it’s easy to argue that Ecclestone single-handedly transformed the sport through the 1980’s and 1990’s. Unifying the teams under one negotiable umbrella, Bernie shifted the power of the sport from the race promoters to the series officials and teams, capitalizing and developing television and media packages that at the time had not been properly utilized. Creating a multi-billion dollar property, both teams and series management have profited from the sport’s multi-decade growth, however in recent times the health of the sport has been questioned, oftentimes at the expense of Ecclestone’s increasing financial demands from all of the series partners. In other words, Ecclestone was ruthless, determined, and single-minded on growth through relentless licensing and rights processing. For 30+ years, no one has ever asked “who’s in charge here?” Can the same be said of Liberty Media, which is by nature more of a management company than the cult of an individual leader? Is the time right for a larger management approach? Motorsport has notoriously only prevailed with a single-handed, autocratic management. Time will tell how the current management will succeed.