Thursday, 29 December 2011

BSB - Is It Providing With What We Want?

BSB – Is it providing what we want?

First of all I want to wish you all a belated Merry Christmas. I trust you all had a good few days.

My apologies for neglecting my blog over recent weeks but due to work and parental ill-health it meant my attentions were required elsewhere. Thanks for your patience. I hope we’re back on track now.

Some interesting and thought provoking reading this week just here simply asking if the British Superbike show, as a whole, is enough to keep us paying fans and armchair racers happy. This got me thinking..... Are the guys in charge of the series, Jonathan Palmer and Stuart Higgs, REALLY doing enough to keep us paying fans happy? Well I, for one, think they are.
Looking at British Superbikes as it stands today like most of you, purely from a fans perspective, I would suggest BSB is in the best shape it’s ever been. In its current incarnation it is leagues ahead of where it was prior to MSVR taking over. Attendances and levels of competition are on the up and just looking around the paddock at the Hospitality units, they would not be out of place at a World level event.

Is the racing any different from previous seasons? No. Not through the course of the season. The Showdown system has certainly brought more meaning to the last 3 rounds of the season rather than the occasional air of inevitability which I’ve spoken about previously. There will no longer be the exceptional season where, as in 2009 for example, one team were head and shoulders above the competition. On the whole, the racing continues to be closer than most other series across the world. We have the riders, teams and organisers to thank for that by keeping the competition strong and honest.

If we look at the TV coverage our sport has received over recent seasons, such coverage would have been unheard of when we were perceived as a true minority sport. TV has allowed us a closer look at the racing in general. The coverage itself is, in the main, on the ball. With regular inputs from team managers and good analysis from ex racers, it’s as good we could expect it to be. We, the fans, are fortunate that a sport which doesn’t figure hugely on the back pages of mainstream newspapers is given such a large amount of live airtime each season. Without this coverage, I believe the sport would not have been as strong as it is now. So, for huge fans like me, for whom this is their very favourite sport, it’s a godsend to be able keep right in touch with the racing when not able to make the meetings in person. I genuinely look forward to the coverage and commentary which add to the whole package.

Coupling the coverage with the number of reputable websites, blogs, forums and social media outlets which are available at the touch of a button means that, whether they like it or not, we are now closer than ever to the riders, teams and series personnel who grace our sport. No longer are the riders the sole face of BSB. The mechanics, the crew chiefs, the team bosses and the PR people are all embracing the social media aspect and are happy to interact with the fans.  Almost every team and rider has a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter page to help them get their news out to the fans and to put across an opinion, some more eloquently than others.  More common at this time of year, we learn about the off-season training exploits. Today we were presented with the arm-pump operations, with accompanying photographs, courtesy of Dan Linfoot. This is truly an unprecedented insight!

What Lone Wolf was getting at is time spent at the track by paying fans; the ‘show’ if you will. What can the organisers do to make race day more interesting? Do we really spend ‘hours sitting around waiting for something to happen’? As Lone Wolf rightly says, we spend more hours building up to the weekend events than we ever did before. Gone are the days when we just had MCN or Bike Sport News to kindly inform us of days old news. We now have the very latest information at our finger tips direct from the teams during testing and, with the introduction of live timing and BSB Radio; the whole build-up experience couldn’t be any more complete. This means you can arrive at the circuit on a Sunday morning with the same knowledge as those in attendance from the Saturday too.

I think the time at the track is quite well managed by the organisers and, consequently, I struggle to see what else they can do. I’ve never ever been bored at a meeting, which is what the article implies to a degree. Race day for  example gives you all classes morning warm-up, pit lane walkabout and an hour or so break for lunch for a wander round and all of a sudden its race time what more could you want? And with the dulcet tones of the incredible Fred Clarke to accompany you through the day really makes it a day to remember. The one thing I maybe would like to see is more demo laps during the lunch break to serve as reminders to the older fans of series past and as an education of the history of our sport for younger and newer fans. That aside, I genuinely think that c. £30 for a Race Day ticket is good value for money and, as with most things, the day is what you make it.

Lone Wolf talks about the presenters, the package as a whole and more controversy to feed the media to spice things up. The presenters do a fine job, Tony Carter maybe not everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure but he does a good job anchoring 5hrs plus of live coverage. The TV commentary team in particular a partly responsible for making the racing an even more worthwhile watch, Jack and James work so well together and bring good humour and genuine excitement to the proceedings too. Does the racing need spicing up? Do we need to see riders going at each other in the media between races, pointing the finger and making accusations? I’m sure some people do, but personally I’m not interested. I want to see disagreements settled on the track, not played out through the media with all the spin and PR available to them these days. I believe the series organisers or potential title sponsors don’t want that either. There is enough negative news these days in general life and BSB is my escape from that. I don’t subscribe to the ‘he said this - he said that’ scenario. In my opinion, it simply isn’t the way things should be played out in professional sport. That sort of approach is surely better suited to the Primary School playground. I’m not saying that riders should be nice to each other, far from it, but I’m all for their disagreements being settled on the track and not in the Race Directions office.

I fully respect the views of Lone Wolf, but can only see his article as a ‘dig’ at the series organisers. I don’t see how it’s written with the fans in mind rather than from a media perspective. Is the spectacle of race day really lacking some NASCAR razzmatazz? Do we want scantily-clad dancing girls on the start line or Fred Clarke bellowing ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’? How about Le Mans-style starts? Do we actually need any of that? Or are you, like me, quite happy with the ‘Show’ on a Sunday? I’m not suggesting that everything is perfect with BSB but, overall, I think the people in charge are doing all they can to keep us, the paying fans, well entertained.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Great Rider Debate

The Great Rider Debate...Or Is It?

Even though its deep in to the ‘off season’ firm debates are still popping up all over the various social media networks, proving once again our passion for motorcycle racing is burning as bright as ever in these dark, cold and windy winter evenings.

The biggest debate by far is the on-going Stoner v Rossi one. I’m not about to open all that up again as far as the riders go as I’ve said my piece before in a previous blog and still stand by everything I said. My only issue with the whole debate is why it’s deemed necessary to make it personal against one rider over the other, all because one’s character is somewhat different. The fact that this occurs every time the debate is raised actually saddens me, we are race fans not psychologists or behavioural specialists (apologies if some of you actually are!) and I really couldn’t care less about ones character over another, I am a race fan pure and simple.

I’ve found more and more over recent months that certain areas of race fans are becoming a little like football fans – no other rider is any good other than the one they follow, in the same way that if you’re Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City or Chelsea then no respect is given to the other teams or their achievements other than your own. To me this is not the epitome of a bike racing fan, sure we have our favourite riders/teams but race fans share a true appreciation for all riders, regardless of character. And appreciation is the key word.

Through all the years of watching racing of course there have been times when I’ve wanted someone to win so badly - only to be beaten by the smallest of margins by their closest rival, but I still could accept the immense effort of both riders striving to achieve their goal even if, in my opinion, the wrong rider won.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there seems to be a certain amount of disrespect creeping in to racing towards riders, certainly in the MotoGP class of late that is dividing fans. Is it really about who sells the most T-Shirts, who gives the best interviews or has the best sense of humour? Or is it, like it always has been, who’s the fastest on the day...?

Motorpoint Yamaha

As I posted recently all pointers were showing that Rob Mac and the Motorpoint Yamaha team probably wouldn’t be running in BSB next season. This was officially confirmed on Friday that Rob and the team would be taking a sabbatical from the series to return in 2013.

With the recent barren years that have befallen the team, the only surprise is that it hasn’t happened sooner. Every year the team has struggled to raise sponsorship, even taking the unprecedented step of not providing a hospitality unit for current sponsors to bring guests to and losing the ability to entice potential future sponsors to the team through financial constraints. You only have to look around the paddock to see what the other major teams in BSB are doing to raise their profile and hospitality plays as big a part as ever in these difficult economic times. Couple that with the apparent lack of potential of the Yamaha R1 in BSB Evo spec and it seems the only logical option for 2012 is to sit out.

The last few of seasons have been some of the most difficult in the history of the team with little or no results to speak of and a mass of rider changes, this lack of consistency has ultimately cost the team dear and most people will point the finger at the boss himself.

Rob, who is a vastly experienced racer and possibly the most experienced racer in the BSB paddock, has come in for plenty of criticism in recent seasons regarding rider choice and ultimately rider treatment –  the latter prompting one former British Champion to go public in his opinion over the alleged treatment of Dan Linfoot. I do not know the in’s and out’s of the rider issues but as a fan of the team have been disappointed when early season promise comes yet again to nothing.

We have Rob to thank for helping some of the best British talent on their way to success in recent years, Cal Crutchlow and Tommy Hill in particular through the R6 Cup, but the actual riders in his own squad have not quite hit the mark. Whether this comes down to the team not getting the best out of the machinery, which was evidently the case when they were being comprehensively beaten by other Yamaha teams week in week out or the team not getting the best out of the riders is open to debate. But either way it is not the level I expect the team to be running at. I want to see them back at the front and challenging.

There have been some talented riders pass through Rob’s stable who have gone on to prove that their talents merit a place on the BSB Grid when nurtured in the right way. Dan Linfoot, James Westmoreland and Graeme Gowland to name but three who have fallen foul of the machinery or the ability to get the best out of them, but hopefully will prove a point in 2013, Gowland especially as my dark horse for the title next season and Dan Linfoot showing his talent in the CEV Spanish Championship just a few weeks ago.

Either way I hope Rob and the team come back stronger in 2013 with a competitive motocycle and a hungry set of riders ready to take the team back where they belong.

Thanks for reading.