The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

Motorsport Coverage

During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.

I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.

Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer & Marcel Fassler took their second successive Le Mans victory with Audi.

Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.

The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.

I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?

Sadly, if it wasnt for Anthony Davidson’s huge accident, mainstream media coverage of Le Mans would probably have been non-existant.

Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!

I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.

Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.

Despite the great action on show, smaller race events struggle to pull in the crowds.

ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then.  Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.

British Touring Cars pull in huge crowds at every race.

We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage?  It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?

There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!

The future of F1? Rising star and current F3 driver Jack Harvey.

There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.

For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.


6 responses

  1. Stu

    It’s not there yet, but both TV and newspaper coverage is moving online. At the moment that’s considered second best, but I as a tech geek am suprised at how quickly services such as on-demand TV (BBC iPlayer, 4OD etc.) are catching on amongst the mainstream. For endurance sportscar racing in particular it is never going to recieie full live coverage on a mainstream TV network, they can’t justify the six hours plus of airtime, but with streaming TV, on-demand TV, online timing & scoring, twitter etc., the coverage is beyond anyones dreams, with a product this good it’s going to attract many more fans in the coming years as these services are no longer second best, but the norm.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm

  2. Billy Earl

    The online stuff is great for those who are already fans but its not going to attract new followers. IMO there should be more motorsport on Mainstream TV. We are inundated with soaps and talent shows (How much did the Beeb spend on the Voice?). There are so many other forms of motorsport they could and should show. Speedway, Rallycross, all had huge followings 20 years ago when they where shown on TV. BTCC attendences droped when it wasn’t on TV ( and the regulations changed). Motorsport is more than F1 and Moto GP and the mainstream Media need to wake up. I agree that the red button could be used more like im sure the will again for Wimbledon, Le Mans 24 on the red Button? Why not its the type of race people watch bits of when they get the chance. Newspapers are full of stories of footballer being naughty instead of reporting on sports news. Local papers/news bullitins should report more on events at local circuits and not just when theres been a major incident. I guess the word mainstream is the key word, The media dont see motorsport as mainstream.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:15 am

  3. Janine White (LiftingTheLidd)

    I hate the way great motor sports seem to suddenly get coverage because there was an incident or fatality. And then they also have the disrespect to play an accident over and over again, when In some cases this accident took someones life.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:30 am

  4. I think the biggest problem with getting coverage on the mainstream channels is the public conception that everything has its own channel now, it does not just affect motorsport but every thing that is broadcast, kids tv has been siphoned off onto digital channels, movies have their own section as do new dramas and productions, honestly I cant remember the last time I sat down to an evening of the beeb or itv, now if we want to watch something with the kids its normally nick/disney or skyfamily movies, in the evenings it will be alibi or dave, when I want my motorsport fix I flick to motors tv or eurosport who both still cover all kinds of event.

    Saying that a weekly round up show on one of the main channels with highlights from a few events and a featured genre would be great to see, be nice to see the full spectrum show to some extent as I would guess most people are not even aware of half the things that get done.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

  5. mattb88trl

    Totally agree with you. There was actually a BBC reporter there. Must’ve been the easiest job of their life. Though an article on camping has appeared on there.

    It’s not like 4 page spreads are wanted, but just some mention at least. Especially as Strakka have sponsorship from The Sun.

    I think a lot is that, especially with endurance racing, people have to actually think, understand strategies and realise the big picture of the race, but they’d rather have instant action.

    I’ve got a few friends in a club racing team (Vader Trophy Racing. Toyota MR2 cup and a Hyundai Coupe in The Nippon Challenge) and some of the racing is short, sharp and exciting. You kind of feel that people would enjoy grassroots/club racing a lot more than they realise.

    Lastly, I’m also a massive football fan and resent the “22 overpaid men chasing a bag of air” point 😛

    June 21, 2012 at 10:28 am

  6. Marc

    Interesting read. I actually wrote something very similar, but not in as much detail, here.

    It really is a shame that so much talent and hard work gets ignored. The Sun ate a notable exception when it comes to mainstream press so fair play to them.

    June 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

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