Sports cars in the media


The world of sports car racing must feel like the AC/DC of international motor sport. The hard rocking Scottish/Australian band have sold more albums in the US than Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones or Madonna but only attract the attention of the national media when a member dies or is charged with making death threats. Likewise, and despite Le Mans attracting more visitors from Britain than any other annual overseas event on earth, it requires a really famous driver to have a really big crash before our national broadcaster will pay the slightest bit of interest to sports car racing.

And even when the BBC newsroom realised that not even it could ignore the WEC finale at Interlagos it focussed exclusively on Mark Webber’s vast accident.

Think about what it missed! Most significantly, thanks to Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Davidson, there are British world champions in both the two leading motor sport genres, and that has happened just once before, in 1992 when Nigel Mansell and Derek Warwick became F1 and World SportsCar Champions respectively. This year Brits also ruled GP2 and GP3, a clean sweep of which there was no mention.

There was also the small matter of a factory-run Porsche prototype winning at the highest level for the first time since 1998 and the retirement of Tom Kristensen, certainly the greatest sports car driver of his era and, for those who believe you can compare across the generations, perhaps of all time. Emerson Fittipaldi even came out of retirement for the race, but I guess I can forgive them for missing that.

Twas ever thus. Actually I don’t expect the BBC to report on any of this because it has at least been consistent in ignoring sports car racing over the years and the same can be said for most of the national press. Even when Bentley won Le Mans in 2003, what I remember most is carping about it really being an Audi which, incidentally, it wasn’t. Indeed the last time I recall the mainstream media getting really stoked by sports car racing for the right reasons (rather than simply reporting gruesome accidents, serious injuries or worse), was when Jaguar won Le Mans in 1988, ending a 31-year-old drought for British teams.

I may be doing some outlet or other a disservice here – I didn’t read them all and even if I did I’d certainly not be able to remember it all now. But the over-riding impression is that sports car racing doesn’t really count.

It should. Once Nissan has joined Audi, Toyota and Porsche next season, there will be more factory teams representing mainstream road car manufacturers in sports car racing than in F1. For those looking for racing cars to take a technological lead in investigating power sources of the future, in sports car racing hybrid power is produced via a flywheel (Audi), batteries (Porsche) or super capacitors (Toyota). In F1, everyone uses the same technology. And of course it is as sports cars that all those road cars we lust after get to race: as I write Jaguar is the only major manufacturer of sporting cars without a GT3 programme and, unless I have been very much misled, that’s all about to change too.

So, and as ever, it falls to the specialist press to recognise these achievements, something we do with pride and joy. So congratulations to not just Lewis Hamilton, but Anthony Davidson, Jolyon Palmer and Alex Lynn on your stellar achievements this year.

Congratulations to Porsche for doing what you’ve threatened to do all season and winning in the WEC in your first year back and to Toyota for your thoroughly deserved first World Endurance Championship title.

And congratulations to Tom Kristensen, not only for your all your wins, but for the way you carried yourself through your career. We hope to see much more of you at Goodwood from now on. And finally, congratulations to Emerson Fittipaldi for returning to the hot seat days before your 68th birthday. We hope to see more of you too.


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