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What's wrong with the 2-day format?

"The racing was great, but where was the crowd?". At home it appears. V8Supercar fans on the Internet and in general have given the thumbs down to the new race schedule used at Phillip Island for the first round of the Shell Series. While all fans are excited about the new series, drivers, and teams, and the new race format at Phillip Island, the decision to split the races over two days was very unpopular.

The depth of feeling was shown in some of the e-mail received by the V8Supercar Pick 10, and some of the posts on the aus.sport.motor newsgroup.

"Liked the two 45 minute races, although they should have been both on the Sunday, say one in the morning starting at 11 am, then one in the arvo starting at 3pm.", was probably the most generous comment the two day split got on the newsgroup aus.sport.motor.

Other comments included "I didn't like it one bit (it may have been good on TV) - but I was there! It was sheer lunacy to pay $30 on Saturday (and get to watch qualifying, practice AND a V8 race) - then pay $35 on Sunday (and watch one practice and one V8 race). I have nothing at all against watching the support races etc., in fact I enjoy it, but there were more support events than V8 racing on the Sunday."

The bad reviews continued: "...from a spectators point of view it sucks plain and simple. Most spectators go out to see the V8's only, and although it makes for good publicity for other categories, people will just show up later. I mean the grounds open at 7am and the V8 races are not till 3pm - BLOODY STUPID."

"I personally think it's just about putting the Saturday gate price up to equal Sunday and make more money."

TV viewers weren't exactly happy either. Posts with the subject "I hope you bastards don't give today's winner away!" or something similar were common on Saturday, forcing organisers to rethink about running future events split over two days which result in no "same-day" coverage of V8Supercar races. While the mainstream media coverage of V8Supercars improves the sports profile, it makes it harder to avoid seeing the result for those who like to keep the suspense up until Sunday.

From the TV coverage, crowds appeared down, due to a number of factors. The early start to the season makes a big difference, with a lot of V8Supercar fans not realising that the 2000 season started in early February. Previous seasons started with the Grand Prix support races in early March.

Being a person in the target audience, there seemed to be less advertising of the race. This problem was compounded by the large amount of advertising undertaken at this time of year by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, and the drag racing nationals at Calder Park.

Ticket prices weren't exactly cheap either. $30 at Sandown will get you in, as well $30 at most V8 Venues in Victoria these days. A lot of V8Supercar fans stayed home to avoid the "double whammy" despite attractive deals and packages offered by Phillip Island for the weekend.

Apart from the crowd, and a few minor hiccups with the new format, the race was a great success. Longer races got the thumbs up from the fans, and seemed to even out the competition a bit, with a different winner for each heat, and a different overall winner again.

The hiccup was the compulsory pitstop. The two air guns per car rule is designed to avoid costs, but the pitstops looked "slow".

Greg Rust did a great job as first time in the play-by-play slot for the TV. The only problem with the Channel 10 coverage was that it was hard to keep track of what was happening while the pit stops were on. For example, they never showed the graphic at the bottom with the race standing. It's understandable that they do not want to show the standings as they may be misleading, but their job is to make it understandable. Maybe next time they'll use using a "P" next to the driver's name in the graphic or a different colour to indicate that a driver has completed their compulsory pitstop(s). With a bit of luck they'll figure it out in time for Adelaide.

The general consensus is that this has the potential to be a great event, but for it to be that, this is how it's got to be done, plain and simple:
1 - 2 x 45 minute races on the Sunday. For convenience and TV, start one at 11:00am and the other at 3:00pm. The extra hour or so compared with the triple sprint format, should give teams more opportunity to get cars back on the track in case of problems.
2 - Pitstops should stay, but with "4 air guns per car" instead of two. Pitstops made the race interesting to watch, but it looked like I could have done a quicker job with a manual spanner.

Overall opinion: a great set of races, just not quite the right scheduling. Mind you, if it wasn't for AVESCO encouraging promoters to experiment with the race format, I may not be talking about this at all. As much as I don't want to say it, as he may not be able to fit his head into the next door he walks through, but it's appears like another good job for Tony and friends.

Phillip Island should be congratulated for taking the risk as well. Hopefully any losses in revenue this year will be made up for next year. I know that I'll be there if at all possible!