Bob Varsha reacts to USF1 announcement
Bob Varsha, the Voice of Formula One on SPEED, reacts to the public announcement by newly formed USF1 race team partners Ken Anderson and SPEED commentator and long-time Formula team manager Peter Windsor on their plans to build and operate a Formula One race team in Charlotte, N.C., which hopes to start competing for the World Driving Championship at the beginning of the 2010 season.
SPEED, the definitive network for motorsports and the automotive lifestyle, broadcast the news conference live, and we caught up with Varsha immediately following the event to get his thoughts:
SPEED: Do you feel this will bring new fans to the sport?
Bob Varsha: I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s great for the sport, it’s certainly great for us at SPEED and great for the American racing fan. I think it’s going to highlight for a whole lot of people that the Charlotte, N.C. area has really become a ‘Motorsports Valley’ of technology of sorts. It will bring greater awareness of all of that, and it’s just a win-win all around.
SPEED: Do you think their lean and open model of operation will be something that will work for the future of Formula One?
Varsha: For years, I’ve talked about the stodgy way Formula One goes on about its business. They consider us to be the world’s biggest island. Americans, apparently have a different view of what constitutes entertainment, particularly racing entertainment. I think, and we may be patting ourselves on the back a bit here, but when we (SPEED) did that Thursday fan event the first year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (during the United States Grand Prix) in the Fan Zone area, the teams had to be sort of arm-twisted into doing it. But once they did it, and once the drivers got up on stage, and they saw this warm, welcoming, supportive crowd, I think it kind of opened Formula One’s eyes a little bit as to what can be done. I think what Peter and Ken are doing here is taking that to another level. They will be giving people access without compromising their technical secrets. Making people care about what happens in the race. You only do that by creating personalities and telling people who these racers are. How did these cars get here? How did these cars get built? Why do they work the way they do? Information is always a good thing. Hopefully, Formula One will learn to share through the efforts of USF1.
SPEED: There will be many obstacles for this team? Talk about that a little bit.
Varsha: I think that has emboldened the principals to go with this all-American concept. As long as you’re going to start from scratch, and throw some of the old things out the window, do something bold and new. The fact they are doing it in the biggest economic market in the world – even though we have these times of downturn – we are still a car crazy culture and there are a lot of people who enjoy racing. I think it’s a brilliant stroke. There are challenges. There’s an old adage in racing that says, ‘winning solves a lot of problems.’ If you can come out and build a credible – and you don’t even have to win, necessarily – competitive effort, and as long as you aren’t last, then people will pay attention and I think that that credibility will solve a lot of problems for them. It’s like any other ‘first day of school’ sort of metaphor. I can remember years ago talking to Jack Roush, when he was going from road racing into NASCAR, and I asked him about being the ‘new kid on the block.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve already been told where I have to stand, and when I can raise my hand, when I can speak and what I can say.’ That’s going to be a learning process for them, but success along the way will make them a whole lot more credible and influential - getting us (the United States) a better seat at the table pretty quickly.”
SPEED will open its live coverage of the 2009 Formula One season from the Australian Grand Prix, run on the streets of Melbourne’s picturesque Albert Park, starting at 1:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 29.
Varsha will lead the booth with former F1 engineer Steve Matchett and former F1 driver David Hobbs providing color commentary. In the paddock and on pit road, the aforementioned Windsor will be gathering storylines and conducting interviews.