Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This should be a much bigger story

A weekend headline that should have been on the front page of every newspaper in the country:
Summerton wins one for Team USA in Shanghai

In the world of racing this is big news. This is the equivalent to winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics, or winning a match in the World Cup of what we call Soccer.
Unfortunately, the news barely caught the attention of anyone. For the most part, the name "Jonathan Summerton" rings few bells in the memory, and "A1GP" rings even fewer. But to the international racing community, A1GP is "The World Cup of Motorsports."
For those who have no idea of what this is, here is most of the page from "What is A1GP?":

Driving skills and national pride celebrated in the ‘World Cup of Motorsport’
A1GP is the first opportunity in any area of motorsport fornations to compete on a level playing field. It is a series where technology and innovation are deliberately equalised, making success dependent on human bravery and pure driving skill. Team and driver combine to create a performance advantage and the winning nation raises its flag in celebration.

A1GP is more than just another motorsport phenomenon; it's an entirely new concept. Pitting driver against driver and country against country for the first time in history, A1GP brings together 22 nations, representing 80 per cent of the world's population, to compete as equals, without financial or technological advantage.

A1GP has created a new medium for national and international brands and organisations to promote themselves on a global scale. Through the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, they can join forces with their national teams to become a part of this unique sporting event.

The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport promotes countries and utilises the national patriotism instilled in every person on the planet not only attracting traditional motorsport and sporting fans but exciting anyone who is passionate about their heritage,country and population.

An A1GP event is a fast, exciting, adrenaline fuelled weekend set in a glamorous and exclusive environment, yet affordable and accessible to all.

With three days of on-track action, an A1GP event offers a rare opportunity for fans to interact with teams and drivers. Exclusively inclusive, A1GP brings the thrill of international motorsport to billions of fans across the globe.

Taking in a mix of established world-famous venues, exciting new state-of-the-art facilities and tight twisty street circuits, A1GP promises to deliver high-speed action at every turn.

Practise Sessions - Friday

Two rookie sessions are held each Friday during race weekends to allow drivers under 28 or from developing nations to get to grips with the powerful 550-bhp A1GP cars and challenging race tracks.

Two one-hour general practice sessions are held for all other A1GP drivers one on Friday afternoon and one on Saturday morning.

Qualifying –Saturday

Qualifying takes place on Saturday afternoon across four15-minute sessions, between 14.15 and 15.30.

Each A1GP Team is limited to one ‘flying lap’ per session and at the end of the first two sessions the grid is determined.The teams fastest single lap from either of these first two segments counts towards its Sprint Race grid Slot.

For the Feature the same applies, but for the last two segments, so, the teams' fastest single lap from segments three and four determines its Feature race grid slot.

Sprint Race and Feature Race – Sunday

The A1GP race weekend consists of two separate races.
Sprint Race
The Sprint Race runs from 11.00 local time on the Sunday morning for a maximum of 19 minutes (plus one lap) with a rolling start.
Points are awarded to the top ten finishers as follows.

First Place – 15 Points
Second Place – 12 Points
Third Place – 10 Points
Fourth Place – 8 Points
Fifth Place – 6 Points
Sixth Place – 5 Points
Seventh Place – 4 Points
Eighth Place – 3 Points
Ninth Place – 2 Points
Tenth Place – 1 Points
Feature Race
The Feature race is a maximum of 69 minutes (plus one lap) in duration with standing start and two mandatory pit stops. The Feature Race runs from 15.00 to 16.10 local time on the Sunday afternoon. Points are awarded to the top ten finishers for the Feature race as follows.

First Place – 15 Points
Second Place – 12 Points
Third Place – 10 Points
Fourth Place – 8 Points
Fifth Place – 6 Points
Sixth Place – 5 Points
Seventh Place – 4 Points
Eighth Place – 3 Points
Ninth Place – 2 Points
Tenth Place – 1 Points
A bonus point is awarded to the fastest lap achieved by a team during the Sprint Race and Feature Race.

All points are allocated to the winning Nation and there are no driver points. A1GP is a team effort and a team sport. The winner is the driver, team and most importantly the nation.

Only drivers who take part in at least one of the three practice sessions can take part in the races. Therefore a maximum of three drivers can take part at a race weekend.

The nations technical team who work in the pits cannot exceed more than ten people to maintain the level playing field concept across all participating teams

It makes the series look exciting, doesn't it? I have been following the series the best I can, and accounts of the races I have read do seem exciting. It is a competition of guts and skill, very little like that other Gran Prix series.

Team USA is owned by A1 Team USA Holdings, which is owned by Rick Weidinger, a former IRL team owner. Most of the other 21 countries involved are owned by the State, and supported by each nation's treasury.
After pre-season testing that included Summerton, and Buddy Rice, the team decided to go with Summerton. After the win at Shanghai, Team USA has a chance to finish the current season in the top ten, after the final round at Brand's Hatch, UK, May 4th. Sweden currently leads the series by 29 points, over New Zealand, who could win the championship by sweeping both the sprint race and the feature race and if Sweden finishes out of the points in both races.

One of the reasons why the series has yet to catch on in the United States is that it is very hard to find television coverage here. It has not been promoted on any network that I know of, and we are forced to follow the series much like we were forced to for most of the sixties, seventies, and eighties while following NASCAR--by reading as much as we could about it wherever we could find it.

Another reason is that the majority of the season takes place during the Northern Hemisphere Winter, so the majority of the races take place south of the equator, where it is Summer. That leaves us pretty much out of touch with any chance to experience the action first hand.

Perhaps a top ten finish by A1 Team USA may help get the series more publicity and coverage in the USA. Maybe even another victory would help. If the series could work its way up to having 22 races in 22 different countries, that would certainly help, but one of the goals of A1GP is to keep costs down, for all the teams, so that isn't likely to happen. At any rate, if you like a mixed bag of motorsports racing, and want to find something outside of NASCAR that can match the excitement, A1GP is a good place to look.

Photo credit:

1 comment:

michael said...

Thanks Jim....I did not know of this