you are an open wheel racing fan in North America chances are that your concept of
the racing world is Champ Car versus the Indy Racing League. Other series
probably don't exist in your world (although there are some fans who enjoy many
open wheel series around the world). You live in a polarized world where you
have to pick a side, it's either a them or us world.
Let's be honest for just a moment. Sometimes the conflict between the
Champ Car and Indy Racing League hardcore fans remind me of how the conflict
between Israel and Palestine used to be. Both sides believe they are 100%
right and the other side is 100% wrong. Both sides believe that in order to
save open wheel racing in North America the other side has to disappear, and
certainly a few fans act as if God himself had commanded them to destroy the other
side and view themselves as sort of open wheel freedom fighters.
It turns out that (according to recent polls in Israel and Palestine) the majority
of Israelites and Palestinians have changed their minds and now think that the
only solution to the conflict is that both governments start negotiating, and that
both governments should acknowledge the existence of each other as nations.
Even the Hamas (the terrorist group who just won the Palestinian
elections and vowed to destroy Israel) are now saying that a cease fire and negotiations with Israel is
something they are considering. Meanwhile on this side of the world we are
still in an open wheel
holy war. Go figure.
This year I will have the chance to personally see if two open wheel series can
coexist in Mexico. The last Sunday of February the A1 Grand Prix will be visiting Monterrey,
Mexico and will use the same track Champ Car will be racing on in May. There are 3
Scenario # 1: The people that usually attend the Monterrey Grand Prix are not
interested enough in open wheel racing to go to more than one race a year, having
2 races in one year will only create 2 races with low attendance.
Scenario # 2: The majority of people that usually attend the Monterrey Grand Prix
are interested enough in open wheel racing to attend at least 2 races in a year.
The Champ Car race will have almost the same attendance than previous years and the A1
Grand Prix race will have a decent attendance.
Scenario # 3: The majority of people that usually attend the Monterrey Grand Prix
are interested enough in open wheel racing to attend at least 2 races in a year,
but having more coverage of open wheel racing in the media, thanks to the
additional race, will give people who were not interested in open wheel racing
a chance to whet their appetite. Two races will double the
opportunity of going to one of the races, or even attending both. In
Champ Car attendance will increase and the A1 Grand Prix will have a very good attendance.
A1 is not doing a bad job of promoting the race in Monterrey - they are
airing TV ads in the local channels, they are using billboards and they
are advertising in local movie theatres before the coming attractions.
In addition they are having local driver David
Martinez (he raced in a few Atlantics races last year) as their current
Mexican A1GP driver and he has
made local media appearances (newspapers, local TV and local radio) to
give attention to the A1GP
races (free publicity is better than paid publicity). But most importantly,
because Monterrey has hosted Champ Car races, A1GP does not have to educate locals
about open wheel racing. Champ Car had already done that, so A1GP is
only concentrating on advertising the race.
Although local A1GP organizers are confident they will have packed grandstands on race day,
they don't expect the same attendance as the Champ Car race. Even though they will
be using the same track, they decided to only install 7 grandstands.
Coincidentally they built the 7 most expensive grandstands that we see at
the Champ Car race, and decided to match the ticket prices to that of
the Champ Car race.
I'm really hoping for scenario # 3. I hope that A1GP delivers a great race, and that
the great race combined with their promoting of the race, and Champ Car promoting
of their own race, will lead to increased coverage of open wheel racing in the local
media will translate into new fans, proving that 2 different races can not only
coexist but in fact help each other in an indirect way.
Only time will tell.
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