Motorsport Thoughts

Monday, August 16, 2004

To overtake or to not overtake?

I was having a discussion the other week with a friend of mine about improving F1, as often seems to be the case these days. [In fact, one worry is that there seems to be much more discussion about F1 than there is actual racing and that if people didn't talk about rumours over the transfer market and the future of F1 there wouldn't be that much to talk about - but that's not what this article is about]

The discussion basically went along the lines of me trying to convince him to watch other forms of motorsport than F1 because they're much more exciting, particularly motorcycling.

His response was that he didn't like motorcycling for a number of reasons, some of which were:
-that he couldn't get into it because he isn't a biker (neither am I) and didn't know the riders.
-that the amount of money spent is much less than F1 and therefore there's less prestige.
-that there is too much overtaking so it looks too easy.

Now this last one is the topic of this article.

Andy isn't the only one - there are loads of F1 fans out there who resolutely defend the lack of overtaking.

The reason why they defend the lack of overtaking is they say it adds to the value of the moves that people make when there's not many of them because they've had to work harder. It's an interesting point but I don't agree with it really.

To be fair there is a line where overtaking does become devoid of value but most racing series are nowhere near it. The only time that overtaking does lose merit is on a fast oval where the cars are easily flat-out for the whole lap. The cynic in me says that the only series where you can see this in action is in the Indy Racing League (I try not to get involved in the 'war', but it is painfully obvious that the cars can run flat-out round many of their tracks, which means all the cars stay in a train and creates the extremely close finishes between almost the whole field we've seen over the past couple of seasons.) The racing may be exciting but I don't think driver skill is shown off because the cars and drivers are not streched ability-wise. This is a thin line over from the old CART races around Michigan and Fontana, where the cars reached almost 250mph down the straights and were really tested around the corners. The speed differential may be small between the two series, but in those old superspeedway races driver skill did become apparent. But to the casual observer the difference is very slight.

I have digressed slightly from the main point for debate. It was put to me that in MotoGP and Superbikes, overtaking is too easy compared with Formula One.

Opinions can differ on this but as I have said in previous articles and will do many more times, motorsport exists amongst other things as a means of public entertainment. Whatever else it does, it has to entertain the people watching it.

Now overtaking is good, overtaking entertains! Well, it entertains me! When I watch a MotoGP race the overtaking moves ARE hard-fought, and anyway, motor racing is about the fastest guy (or girl) getting to the front of the pack. When it becomes physically virtually impossible to do so it's getting a bit silly. When Takuma Sato tried to overtake Rubens at the Nurburgring earlier this season various people labelled him a 'nutter' for trying such a thing. Pardon?!? It didn't work, but you have to applaud the guy for at least trying. And it's worrying when the last overtaking move I can remember vividly was half a season ago...

My brain is starting to boil with F1 and its lack of overtaking. Hearing James Allen harp on about grid positions being so vital in a race twice as long as MotoGP or Superbikes, or watching another 'amazing' (but to the eye totally unremarkable because there's only one car on screen) Michael Schumacher in-lap is starting to wear me down. I want to see people racing past each other, next to them, as they're going at similar speeds, and beat them into the next corner. I don't want them to follow in an invisible wake of air for an hour!

But of course what's more annoying are the people who have never even given other motorsport and then have a go at F1 not having enough overtaking!

Please, if you've never seen any motor racing other than Formula One (quite why you'd have made it this far down the article if you haven't, I don't know): PLEASE, GO AND WATCH SOME MOTORCYCLING! Or, some Touring Cars, or Champ Cars, or Indy Racing League, or F3, or anything. TRY IT!

Watch the drivers swap positions! Watch things fluctuate throughout the race! Watch them build up to an overtaking move that could prove vital, then ACTUALLY DO IT! Or watch it fail, but thank them for trying! Watch someone carve through the field from a low grid slot without the aid of pitstops! Watch people try and come straight back at the next corner after being overtaken, rather than dropping well behind like in F1! Watch the first 6 riders finish within 0.7s of each other after a 45 minute race when they started well apart on the grid! After a 125cc GP this year, I was physically sore (er, on the backside) from actually being on the edge of my seat for the whole race.

You will find that all those things you've always wanted to happen in Formula One but never did will come true.

For anyone reading this who already knows the joy of watching motorbike racing, carry on...and spread the word...


Post a Comment

<< Home