The Ben Evans column: Better DVDs, please

Posted on | Author Ben Evans

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Fuji Speedway, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerI missed Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix because I like to sleep in the tiny hours of the morning.

Unfortunately my girlfriend then dragged me out of the house for a country walk and so I missed the repeat as well…

As a result my motor sport viewing on Sunday was reduced to a quick spin of Duke’s newly released 1980ss Bike GP reviews, which have been newly produced to provide a comprehensive review of the season, most discs running to the four hour mark.

Sadly the footage has not really been re-edited and instead is just the 500cc footage from the single round highlights videos spliced together with the original commentary and graphics. The approach means the seasons of over 20 years ago are not placed in historical context which is frustrating.

On the other hand it is fantastic to see this wealth of footage out in the daylight, digitally tided up and in such quantity that it is too much to go through in one sitting, even for an anorak such as myself. Oh, and the racing is fantastic.

I’ve also seen the 1985 and 1986 WRC DVDs which give the same treatment to rallying and they are by and large fantastic, especially as they feature a contemporary commentary from David Addison, updated graphics and are placed within historical context.

The Bike GP and WRC discs are a real treat and have got me thinking – why are there not similar DVDs for the FOCA-era F1 seasons. As it is only a smattering of the season reviews from 1981 to 2002 remain commercially available on VHS (with the odd exception).

While other reviews will always have something of a niche following, a comprehensive DVD of some great F1 seasons – 1982, 1986 and 1989 spring to mind – would surely find a large market.

The ideal disc would be something like 4hrs long, decently re-edited with a contemporary commentary (ideally not by Simon Taylor) that is able to put the season into some sort of context, while providing a wealth of race footage.

FOCA’s current approach to releasing current and past race footage is akin to biting one’s nose to spite the face. There is a large market for F1 footage out there that goes beyond 90-minute season review VHS tapes.

Instead of clamping down on those who post races and clips on Youtube etc, how about releasing comprehensive season DVDs for every season from 1981 to date? This way fans will not be driven underground to get race highlights and FOCA should get a nice little revenue stream – after all it is not as if they have to pay to acquire the rights.

For a sport that is so commercially driven and tightly controlled, I am always astonished at how poor the F1 product – books, DVDs, computer games, clothing – available in the shops is.

It is usually overpriced (???30 for a t-shirt, ???25 for a baseball cap) but often a bit rubbish too (has anyone watched the 50 Years of F1 On-Board DVD more than once?).

In an era when F1 seems determined to abandon its core fan base in favour of Asian governments a series of well produced DVD’s that hit the spot for the dedicated fan would surely be enough to wet the taste buds of anticipation over the long winter months.

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Ben Evans

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