Why motorsport needs more winter action

As a motorsport fan the winter months can leave you with a big car-shaped hole in your life. With virtually every major racing series in the world running through the European summer the result is, with the exception of some minor series, the petrolhead is left with precious little to whet the appetite for a large portion of the year.

Since the demise of A1GP and GP2 Asia left the racing world devoid of any major single-seater action over the winter, it means the only real action left to enjoy at this time of year is standalone events such as the Dakar Rally and the Dubai 24 Hours.

Whilst it could be argued that it is slightly selfish to be bemoaning the lack of winter championships given that we have recently enjoyed the longest Formula One season ever, there is an argument to be had from a fans point of view to put on more events in the European ‘off-season’.

In football major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships take centre stage once the domestic season is finished. Cricket and rugby fans can look forward to watching their national teams tour overseas, whilst the likes of tennis and golf run tournaments all year round. With that in mind, you can’t help but feel that motorsport could do more to fill the entire calendar.

A1GP was a winter hit with the fans before the money ran out

Formula One is and probably always will remain the pinnacle of motorsport, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for something to fill the gap once the garages are locked up for the winter. A1GP did a good job of filling that void for a while, and with better management would almost certainly still be going from strength to strength. Although short lived, it proved that it was possible to run a series during the winter and bring in the crowds.

Although the climate means a lot of Europe is firmly out of action for winter competition, areas such as the Middle East, Oceania and South America all have the facilities capable of hosting such championships. By running a series like A1GP from September through to April or May, and avoiding F1 weekends, you could fit in a couple of European rounds at the beginning and the end of the season and then travel to warmer climbs in the winter. Therefore, if run properly it would make sense for someone to try and resurrect a similar championship.

In addition, it would also make sense for a lot of non-European countries to switch their domestic series to the winter. By running through the European off-season it would mean avoiding clashes with the likes of F1 and the World Touring Car Championship, meaning that they would be more likely to get local attention, get more favourable TV coverage and attract drivers who would otherwise be tied up with a European series, which in turn would improve the quality of the championship and improve the domestic infrastructure.

The issue of drivers is an very valid argument for increasing the amount of winter action, particularly in the case of those making their way through the junior ranks. With no championships of any note for a large part of the year, it means they are starved of any meaningful competition for a large period of time, which can only be detrimental to their education as racing drivers. It’s the equivalent of an academy footballer making his way in the game not being able to play a competitive match for six months.

If those drivers had the option of competing in a championship at the standard of GP2 or World Series by Renault during the winter, or simply competing in a local series or doing some touring car racing, it would allow them to remain race-sharp and gain more experience, which can only help them in their development and make them better drivers. Another added bonus would be that when the top drivers graduate to Formula One, they are more experienced and better prepared for competition at the highest level.

With that considered, motorsport could benefit a great deal from making more available to everyone during the winter months. With more action for the petrolhead to enjoy, more opportunity for drivers to compete and more exposure for the sport, it means everyone is happy, and that can only be a positive.

Stephen D’Albiac

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