Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Throwing it all away // How the Race of Champions coverage went from hero to zero

Published by Mr. C

Cast your mind back to the middle of December last year. It was a time when very little racing was going on, things were winding down for the year and many of us were itching to see some track action.

Step forward the Race of Champions.

Held for the second year running at London's Wembley Stadium, and broadcast for the first time on the internet, the event saw international racing drivers from a variety of backgrounds pit themselves against one and other. Several models of vehicle were used, from a dune buggy to a touring car and drivers ran head-to-head on a custom course built inside the stadium.

In 2008 the RoC event captured our collective imaginations, and consumed a whole Sunday. We followed every heat and live commented all the action, including the half-time entertainment. During the day 1,624 comments were posted and things ran so late we had to cancel a planned live show that evening. Additionally, both Dank and Lou travelled to London and sent us live updates throughout the day.

I will be the first to admit the 2008 show wasn't prefect. Those who attended froze on the terraces in the midst of an English winter, tickets prices were extortionate and the place wasn't remotely close to being packed. The stars did turn out though. Beyond the racing, Coulthard crashed his F1 car a number of times while Hamilton signed a giant piece of card with the rear wheels of his.

Land of confusion

In explicably, for 2009, organisers decided to fiddle with almost every aspect of the RoC. They upped sticks and moved to the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. They brought the date forward to piggyback on the end of F1 season and they opted to run the races in the middle of the week.

Complete madness.

The result of all the changes appears to have ripped the heart out of proceedings. We tried to tune in and follow the action earlier today but it's a Tuesday, and we have to work. Not only that, the whole process is dragged out across two days, which means there's more madness to come tomorrow. I don't know about anyone else, but we need a break from watching cars go round in circles this week. The very long Formula 1 season literally just ended, we certainly don't need to watch another 8+ hours of things going around in circles.

The changes don't just affect us though, the earlier date means the NASCAR season is yet to finish and thus their drivers are otherwise engaged. I guess they're not worthy champions then?

Calling all stations

As if all of that wasn't enough, this years live streaming solution which is again provided by Freecaster.tv proved beyond hopeless this afternoon.

Last year, said company provided a top notch visual experience, backed up by the Radio Le Mans commentary duo Bruce Jones and John Hindhaugh. This year the same technology managed to lag almost ten minutes behind satellite broadcasts of the same content, while Freecaster.tv opted to employ only Hindhaugh to handle the commentary duties alone. An impossible task, by anyone's standards. I tweeted Freecaster.tv for an explanation, but as yet none has been forthcoming.

It would appear costs have been cut in all the wrong places in 2009, and organisers have shown themselves to be incompetent on almost every level. I hope those who attended enjoyed their day and I hope the drivers who were able to take part had fun too.

I for one found the entire thing to be a complete disaster at almost every level, and a shadow of last year's success. We regularly laugh at the stupidity of some decisions made within Formula 1, but the Race of Champions proves things could be a lot, lot worse.

If you watched any of todays running, console yourself with some classic highlights from 2008, and then hope like hell that somebody gets a clue before next year.