Wednesday, November 01, 2006

DTM - not so exciting

I won't be watching the DTM next year.

I've really tried hard - I've watched many DTM races over the past 4 years. I love the hugely trick cars, and the superstar driver line-up. But something about the series consistently leaves me cold. I've tried to figure out what it is, and can only come up with wildly speculative and frankly bizarre reasons...

I don't care who wins. Not that I'm not cheering for any particular driver - being British I had to root for Jamie Green this year and Gary Paffett last year - but it's just that when they win I don't feel like much has been achieved. This is strange, given the hugely talented drivers in DTM. Perhaps I feel like it doesn't actually matter who wins because this is all some corporate plaything for Audi and Mercedes, who would allow the game to progress regardless of who was watching. The presence of spectators or fans is irrelevent.

Which brings me to another point: many comparisons could be drawn between DTM and Australia's V8 Supercar series. Both feature very expensive, highly modified saloon cars, racing to effectively spec rules with significant factory backing behind every team. But you get the impression that in Australia, the fans are hugely loyal to their brand of choice. If a Holden fan was to bad-mouth Ford in a bar, a fist-fight would seem a logical, expected outcome. Can you imagine two Germans, one an Audi fan, one a Mercedes fan, scrapping over the honour of their chosen marque? I don't see it. Once again, it doesn't seem like it really matters who wins.

Perhaps the generally austere, clinical approach that Germans are known for having simply extends into their domestic racing series. Everything is very efficient, no-one does anything particularly crazy, and a win is seen as a fulfillment of a requirement rather than a good old-fashioned bettering of one's opponents. Even if there is a robust move on-track that results in two cars taking each other out, you'd never expect a dust-up. You'd expect a calm press release saying that driver X was running a careful race and was involved in an incident and that the team is disappointed but looking forward to the next round. In Australia, things are very different. You only need to remember Eastern Creek 2003: Russell Ingall and Mark Skaife came together resulting in Skaife's retirement. When Ingall came round on the next lap, Skaife ran onto the track waving his fists. Ingall in return swerved towards him at high speed. Now THAT'S racing passion! I only know of one such incident in DTM, and it resulted in the perpetrator, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, being fired the next day. Way to spoil the fun, Audi.

Now this might be the craziest reason of all, but I find the telecasts of DTM to always appear "washed out". The MotorsTV coverage has poor colour and poor resolution, and the Speed Channel versions aren't much better. Add to this that it seems DTM races are run in cloudy or rainy conditions more frequently than other series, and the whole thing comes across as a bit "grey". A significant component of racing is the visual excitement, and bright colours only help serve this. Think about how much more dramatic MotoGP bikes look in the flesh than on TV - the dayglo colours really enhance the drama, colours which don't translate well through TV. Humans have evolved to respond to bright colours, so a racing series that features predominantly silver cars racing in cloudy conditions and broadcast with poor colour capture is going to suffer in the excitement department.

I'm of the opinion that a championship that is decided anytime before the last round has been dominated. This year DTM fell into this category (along with World Superbike, the WRC and the Le Mans Series). It was obvious before the penultmate round that Bernd Schneider would be champion, so I didn't watch the final two races. The way the points system is structured in DTM makes it very difficult to come back from a poor result and effectively decreases the pool of championship contenders. F1 is guilty of the same crime. It seems like the system used in FIM motorcycle championships is a nice balance: 25 for a win, 20 for second, 16 for third, 12 for fourth down to 1 for fifteenth.

So it's goodbye DTM, hello to.... well, I'll go over my winners and losers in the competition for my racing TV time tomorrow.

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