Autosport have interviewed the man behind Superleague Formula, Alex Andreu, who’s unsurprisingly confident about the prospects for his motor racing-cum-football league championship, due to get the green light/kick off at Donington Park later this year.
We did some research, and then we went to the top football clubs in Europe – Juventus, FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester … we did qualitative research, and the reaction from the fans was absolutely amazing. They went mad for it. And then once they had seen the car, they went mental.
Well I for one am not going ‘mental’. It was a rubbish idea in 2002 and it’s still a rubbish idea in 2008.
Ordinarily I like to give new racing categories a try – a lot of people were down on A1 Grand Prix when it started in 2005 but I’ve kept an eye on it and it’s had some very good races.
Superleague Formula is using almost exactly the same approach as A1GP – a single specification of chassis and engine built to keep the racing close and exciting. So what’s my problem?
Superleague’s ‘unique selling point’ (to use hideous business language) is that the teams are branded by football clubs. I’m a proud fan of motor racing, and I hate cheap, condescending marketing tricks like this. They are trying to squeeze more money out of football fans by getting them to go to racing circuits in the off-season.
Motor sport has millions of fans – it does not have to be ‘sold’ to people by dressing it up like other sports. Look at GP2, look at the reformed IndyCar series, look at A1 and even the overlord itself, Formula 1 – these are all exciting racing championships that get could achieve far more with better marketing.
I also think Superleague Formula appeals to people’s baser instincts. I appreciate motor racing for what it is – a sport that demands peak physical fitness and sustained mental effort and discipline. It is dramatic, unpredictable, fast and exciting. I am sure there are many people who feel the same way about football or, for that matter, golf or tennis.
There’s something tragic about the idea that some fans could be so blindly devoted to a football brand that they’ll watch any sport that has their team’s crest stuck onto it. Are Borussia Dortmund’s players going to be driving the cars? No. Is this all just a cynical marketing con? Yes. What’s next – a Manchester United NASCAR team? The New York Knicks cricket XI?
Having said this, many racing series could learn something from Superleague’s excellent blog which uses all the modern avenues of promotion on the internet that most racing series ignore.
But if Superleague has the style, true motor racing has the real substance. On the weekend it starts off you’ll find me at Brands Hatch watching some of the world’s top touring car drivers in the DTM, and Nico HÃ¼lkenberg and other likely future Formula 1 racers in the Formula 3 Euro Series.
The full interview is here, but you’ll need an Autosport subscription.
Below: Superleague’s team roster and calendar as seen at Autosport International 2008. Since then an two further teams have been added.