Open-wheel single-seater racing is, for me, the most exciting sport on the planet. Formula 1, GP2, Champ Car World Series, Indy Racing League, World Series by Renault, A1 Grand Prix, GP Masters – I’ve watched them all.
It’s not often that a new racing formula comes along. And it’s even rarer that, when one does, my first thought is, “I really hope that idea bombs.”
But that’s exactly how I feel about Superleague Formula.
I know I’m being unkind, even unreasonable. There’s plenty about the concept to admire.
The championship aims to start in August next year with a field of 20 identical cars. There will be a â‚¬1m victory prize at each round, and each event will have two one-hour races. So far, so good.
Calendar details are on the thin side at the moment but in the first year the season will run from August to November with races in Britain, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium and Italy. They want a 17-race series in 2009.
The car is a tasty prospect – powered by a 4.5 litre V12 engine reputedly putting out 750hp. That’s in F1 territory. The Elan Motorsports-designed chassis is a slender and attractive creation.
The problem is, they’re painting the cars in the colours of football teams. Yes, it’s that old idea again.
Superleague Formula is the off Premier 1 GP concept of 2001 dusted off for a second stab at the market. The idea is you paint the cars in the colour of football strips and try to get the clubs’ fans to come along and watch.
Interestingly if you search Superleague Formula’s website for ‘Premier 1′ you get no results…
And here’s my problem: motor racing has done just fine for over a century without needing to leech off the popularity of other sports – so why should it have to now?
There are plenty of great racing series in Europe and the rest of the world that deserve more exposure – GP2, World Series by Renault (the latter doesn’t even get live TV coverage in the UK) – and it would be a terrible shame if they were put further in the shade by this naff gimmick.
Football saturation is endemic in the UK and throughout Europe. The season has just started again and suddenly the sports pages have turned into the football pages – it’s like nothing else exists.
I don’t hate football, I’m just not interested in it and get tired of it being rammed down my throat. I hate the thought of motor racing, my favourite sport, being cynically exploited as yet another cash cow for football.
And I’m not the only one. Superleague Formula’s blog has messages of support and criticism in roughly equal measure from visitors.
When I wrote about this on Maximum Motorsport a comment apparently from one of the Superleague Formula organisers said the series would “offer [football] clubs an opportunity to give something back to their fans.” Except they’re not because admission will be charged for. So by ‘giving something back to their fans’ what they actually mean is ‘trying to fleece more money from football fans’.
If Superleague Formula dropped the soccer gimmick and instead ran a competitive, high-power series for drivers looking to make it into F1, that ran in the F1 off-season, I’d be all in favour.
But I don’t care for cynical marketing exercises like this. Premier 1 GP collapsed without ever staging a race. Right now if the same happened to Superleague Formula I don’t think many people would care.
Photos: Superleague Formula