Monday, June 8, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Foxy Lady Le Mans

Tires degradation was the name of the game in Texas. The Brits continue to dominant World Superbike. Lewis Hamilton won in Canada again. Martin Truex, Jr. won at Pocono. Russia had a very busy weekend and all eyes turn to France. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Foxy Lady Le Mans
When Fox released their broadcast schedule for the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disheartened.

It starts off nicely. Live from 8:30 a.m. ET to noon on Fox Sports 2 but then not back on television until 7:00 p.m. ET and only for one hour on Fox Sports 1. Then FS2 doesn't pick up coverage until 11:00 p.m. ET and runs until 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday morning. Just counting race time, only five and a half of the first 15.5 hours will be shown live on television.

The good news is the final five and a half hours will be shown live on television with a 30-minute post race show. Action returns at 3:30 a.m. ET on FS1 and will run until 7:30 a.m. ET. FS2 will then pick up the final 90 minutes of racing before FS1 shows the half hour post race show.

Looking at Fox's plate, it is easy to understand why less than half the race will be shown on television. Fox has the FIFA Women's World Cup from Canada and on Saturday the 13th, there are four matches, one at 1:00 p.m. ET, two at 4:00 p.m. ET and one at 7:00 p.m. ET. Then there is NASCAR coverage from Michigan with a Grand National race at 1:30 p.m. and a Truck race from Gateway at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Just when you think that is all, it isn't. Fox has the FIFA U-20 World Cup from New Zealand, which is why for the lack of overnight coverage. New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone and the matches are at 9:00 p.m. ET Saturday and 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday. And on top of all that is the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix is at 8:00 a.m. Sunday.

The good news is the entire race, from 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday to 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday will be streamed online and through the Fox Sports GO app. If you can't get the coverage online or through the app, there is always Radio Le Mans.

It does suck that so little of the race will be shown on television but this is a one-year thing. The Women's World Cup is every four years and will be in France ironically enough in 2019 and had the U-20 World Cup been held in Europe, the overnight windows would have been opened for Le Mans coverage. If we could just get NASCAR and MotoGP to take off Le Mans weekend (like every series should) then that would open up the Saturday afternoon time slots and clear up the final hours on Sunday. Michigan is one of the handful of tracks that don't need two NASCAR weekends anyway and Catalunya could be pushed back a week, forming a back-to-back with Assen.

The times are a changing. As much as we want the 24 Hours of Le Mans shown in its entirety on one network, that's not going to happen. With the media landscape changing, there are plenty of options to show an endurance race like Le Mans. The Internet is a wide-open range where the race can be shown and not take space from another event. Le Mans needs a good balance between the traditional television coverage and Internet streaming and I think Fox is doing a good job of providing that.

Could Virtual Safety Car Work On an Oval?
The IndyCar race had one caution for thirteen laps at Texas on Saturday night. It was for debris that may or may not have existed. If it did exist (and it very well could have), why not use virtual safety car? Instead of bringing the entire race to a standstill for an extended period of time, why not tell the drivers to slow to a decided pace that allows the safety workers to go out and retrieve said debris?

Obviously if there is an accident, a safety car would be necessary but if it's just debris, just slow the cars to caution pace, keep the pit lane open and make sure drivers don't pass each other. At Texas, they were running 100 MPH under caution. If IndyCar wanted to they could slow the cars to 60 MPH under VSC and make it slightly safer for safety crews to retrieve debris.

VSC is pretty much a pacer light system that can actually be enforced and doesn't involve flashing numbers on video boards. I am not against in IndyCar looking at improving the safety car procedures on both oval and road/street courses. In fact, IndyCar should be looking into improving safety car procedures. A thirteen-lap caution period for a single piece of debris is absurd. There is nothing wrong with breaking from the way things are done. If you can clean up an incident without having to release the safety car and close the pits than do it. People want to see as few laps under yellow as possible and VSC, whether it is used at an oval or on a road/street circuit could solve one of the lingering but fixable problems in IndyCar.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott Dixon, Lewis Hamilton and Martin Truex, Jr. but did you know....

Nelson Piquet, Jr. won his second Formula E race of the season as he took the Moscow ePrix. Piquet, Jr. leads the championship with just the London doubleheader remaining on the schedule.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike weekend at Portimão. Jules Cluzel ended Kenan Sofuoglu's winning streak in World Superbike. Cluzel picked up his second victory, Sofuoglu finished second and American PJ Jacobsen finished third in his first race for Core" Motorsport Thailand Honda. Jacobsen lost his ride with Intermoto Ponyexpres after the team lost their funding from Kawasaki.

Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns swept the weekend in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS ultra at Zolder.

Yvan Muller and Tiago Monteiro split the WTCC weekend at Moscow Raceway. It was Monteiro's first victory since Shanghai on November 3, 2013.

Matt Crafton won the NASCAR Truck race at Texas, his third victory of the season.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans.
IndyCar makes their annual trek to Toronto.
NASCAR goes to Michigan.
MotoGP is in Barcelona.
World Rally heads to the island of Sardinia.