The Joys Of Being “MODERN”

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As we get older we tend to ponder the past more. And, if we’re ancient, we tend to do so while at the same time decrying the present. It is a ritual that has been passed down through time, generation after generation. And, one suspects, it will remain a tradition long after we have gone to our final reward. Yet, when it comes to present day motorsport, I can’t help but believe that perhaps, just perhaps, there is at least some justification for wanting to look and head “backwards.”
Real life has increasingly become ever more complicated, so why should we put up with a similar increase in complication when it comes to our pastimes, such as motorsport? The other weekend I made a serious attempt to watch the opening 2011 Formula One race, a series controlled by regulations so complex that I’m not sure if the participants themselves understood them.
In previous years I have jokingly said that to view an F-! event you needed to have your lawyer by your side to explain what was happening. Now it seems clear you ought to add a race engineer. For me, it’s all bit too much, so I’ll probably give up on Bernie’s show and grab a refreshing nap instead.
Still, this blog is for those of us who care about cars with fenders and more than one seat. And, although the rules for sports cars may not be as incomprehensible as those of Formula One, trying to sort out the differences between the ever growing numbers of sports car racing categories is straining on my limited number of tired old brain cells. Indeed, it is as if those creating this burgeoning population of befendered divisions have adopted the same “more is better” syndrome that tax men around the globe use when writing their codes.
At Sebring there were no less than six different categories on the starting grid: three for the prototypes and three for the production set. And, unless one had a guide, the only distinction the average person could make between them was the pumpkin seed shapes of the sports racers as opposed to the road going outlines of their lesser performing assembly line based counterparts. Trying to sort out one class from another within those broad parameters was much akin to trying to successfully complete a Sunday newspaper crossword puzzle, an impossible task for all but the few geniuses among us.
The regulators may be happy with what they’ve wrought, as most likely the manufacturers and the participants are, because in today’s scriptures there’s something to keep everyone happy – everyone that is except the fans. Sport, even motorsport, is about winning, and to have winners, obviously you have to have losers. That is how games are supposed to be played.
In many ways, while F-1 has made getting to that end overly complicated, those in charge of the sportscar universe appear to have not attempted to dilute the object of the exercise itself. In that same vain, and for all of its faults, of which there are many, the NASCAR owned Grand Am Rolex championship has not catered to the idea of making every member of the masses a winner. The Rolex has only two classes: the prototypes and the GT cars, and therefore just two chances for victory. All the rest must deal with disappointment.
There is a chance in the current climate for sportscar racing to climb out of the gutter it has so long resided in. Doing so, however, will require a re-think about how many winners can fit on the head of a very small pin. For the sports car community the, at least in terms of a salable class structure, less is far better than more.
Bill Oursler, April 2011

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