The Ben Evans column: F1 Olympics

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F1Fanatic guest writer Ben Evans pushes the case for motor racing to be part of the 2012 London Olympics.

Every four years at some point during the Olympics the debate rumbles around ?ǣ why is motorsport not included? Usually this is dismissed out of hand – the Olympics is a battle of man not machine, it favours minority sports not the mainstream sports we usually follow.

However I believe that there are good reasons for motorsport to be included in the Olympics. Firstly top race drivers are as talented in their field as many of those competing and that equally most drivers (Paul Tracy excepted) are a great deal more athletic than most Olympic competitors.

OK, but isn?t motorsport all about the equipment and not the driver?

Yes in most levels of motorsport it is, which is why a driver-centric Olympic tournament would be fantastic. Likewise, I would argue that many Olympic sports are reliant on the competitors equipment in much the same way. Equestrian events are all about horsepower, cycling is partly won by the bike, sailing is essential one make racing on water. In short, to exclude motorsport from the Olympics on the basis that is about machine rather than driver is a poor argument.

Yes, we could quibble over the IOC would ever allow motor racing into the Olympics (of course they won’t it’s even written in their rules somwhere). Or we could figure out how a motor racing Olympics event might work, which is much more fun.

For motorsport to be included in the Olympics it would have to be proven beyond all doubt that the machinery is equal. Anyone who have ever raced in an arrive-and-drive or one make series will know this is nigh-on impossible to verify.

Luckily I have a solution. Now, much as I would love to see a knock out competition in Formula Fords a la Formula Ford Festival, it’s not practical because some drivers would be better suited to the car.

It is for that reason that the format for the Olympic Motorsport Event ?ǣ to be run at Brands Hatch in 2012, is as follows:

Four race events on successive days. Each event, depending on entries, is on a knock-out heats and finals basis:

Event 1 ?ǣ Formula Ford ?ǣ Single seaters with no aerodynamic grip, a battle of ability in the finest ??racing? cars ever built. I would say that the latest Mygale chassis should suit nicely.

Event 2 ?ǣ Renault Clios ?ǣ Low grip, low power, a real challenge for the top drivers to gain the advantage and it should produce some great racing

Event 3 ?ǣ Formula Three ?ǣ Single seaters, big on grip, slicks and wings racing. Unlikely to produce a great race but will bring driver technical ability to the fore

Event 4 ?ǣ Ginetta G50 ?ǣ Big hairy sportscars, again it will be set-up and technical skills rather than dog fighting which will come to the fore.

How would the drivers be selected? All countries are automatically guaranteed a single entry, however to enter two drivers a country must have one or more driver currently competing at the top of international motorsport ?ǣ F1, IRL, NASCAR, WTCC and DTM. Why these selections? Well they are the top series, but also those where there are the biggest Olympic stakeholders
And the teams? My picks would be as follows:

UK ?ǣ Andy Priaulx (hugely diverse) and Anthony Davidson (McLaren not wishing to release Lewis Hamilton, inevitably)
USA ?ǣ Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart
Germany ?ǣ Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel
France ?ǣ Sebastian Bourdais and Sebastien Loeb
Finland ?ǣ Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen
Australia ?ǣ Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo
Brazil ?ǣ Tony Kanaan and Felipe Massa
Japan ?ǣ Kazuki Nakajima and Sakon Yamomoto
Spain ?ǣ Fernando Alonso and Andy Soucek
Italy ?ǣ Jarno Trulli and Valentino Rossi
Norway ?ǣ Petter Solberg
Russia ?ǣ Vitali Petrov
Portugal ?ǣ Pedro Lamy
Poland ?ǣ Robert Kubica
New Zealand ?ǣ Scott Dixon and Brendon Hartley
Netherlands ?ǣ Guido van der Garde
India ?ǣ Narain Karthikeyan
Czech Republic ?ǣ Tomas Enge
China ?ǣ Ho Ping Tung
Canada ?ǣ Paul Tracy and Robert Wickens

Nominate more motor racing Olympians – or devise your own motor racing Olympic event – in the comments…

Olympians, like F1 drivers, told to keep their celebrations under control

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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32 comments on “The Ben Evans column: F1 Olympics”

  1. Nice idea Ben but I suspect it won’t fly. As a point of logistics to satisfy the Americans, who let’s face it control the purse strings (through TV money) of the Olympics you’ll probably need some sort of stockcar race.

  2. if it does fly I feel sorry for Japan already.

  3. As you say Sush, I could forsee a double first-corner retirement for Team Japan in that race.

    Is Pedro Lamy still the best Portugal has to offer?

  4. @ajokay: We have some hopes in Alvaro Parente, currently on GP2, to succeed. But Lamy is still the more experienced and successful one (having won, between others, Nurburgring 1000km and Le Mans 24h in GT1 class).

  5. I’m actually thankful motorsport will never be part of the Olympics – regardless how much I love it, and the suggestion of events would be somewhat entertaining, as well as interesting, to watch. But hey, why not just make Race of Champions bigger.

    On another note, India should also have Karun Chandhok. And Sush…sorry for Japan?? At least they have 2 drivers that made it into F1! Look at China (out of 1.3Bn people!), Russia (largest landmass) and Czech Republic. Norway at least has some credentials behind it’s only competitor.

  6. Oh, i forgot Tiago Monteiro. But between him and Lamy, i prefer Lamy.

  7. I vote Thierry Boutsen and Jerome D’Ambrosio for Belgium.

  8. DanielPT – What about Filipe Albuquerque?

  9. could A1GP be the olympic event?
    they race at brands already and it is a ‘race between nations”

  10. Good idea, but my best advice is forget it. But if you want to get the drivers atop a horse then I’m all for that.

  11. A1GP is definitely the next best thing we’ll ever get to having any type of motor sports in the Olympics.

    Although I am intrigued by who would be the driver of drivers and racer of racers of the “current” generation, for an interesting head to head finale.

  12. Keith – Filipe Albuquerque has that slight problem of being in A1GP instead of GP2. Actually he impressed in few starts he made in A1GP. But, as we know, this series is not that much of a benchmark. He is currently in Red Bull Junior Team crop. Meanwhile, he is not impressing in the World Series by Renault, won in 2007 by Alvaro Parente and having between previous winners gentlemen like Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica. The bloke still needs to prove himself further IMHO.

    By the way, the rookie season of Parente in GP2 wasn’t that great either, but lets wait for next season.

    For Portuguese drivers, since they don’t have much of a chance to get sponsorship, they have to be really great otherwise they wont arrive anywhere. It is difficult to compete outside of the country (except in Spain, where most of they try their luck), which is the biggest barrier they face. Normally, if they do get out, they will do well.

  13. You, me and many others F-oners (that’s my catch phrase Keith, but I’ll sell it to you for the right price!) would love to see your countries colours stream around London on the side of an F1 car but imagine the cost! A hot topic during Beijing, in Australia, was how the British have spent more money on their Paralympic Cycling program than Australia has on their Paralympic and Olympic programs combined. So as I said it sounds like fun but financially many countries would struggle A1GP hasn’t really caught on has it?!?!

    Assuming that you got your idea from that format (A1GP), where is Lebanon? Isn’t Tony Kanaan Lebanese or at least his surname is, that would take some of the pressure of Japan at least! There are also plenty of Schumacher’s in Lebanon, well at least that’s what the sticker on every second 318i says!

    I’ll forgive you for not having Ryan Briscoe up there next to Webber for Australia!

    Last but not least, I would suggest MotoGP would be more viable a sport to introduce.

  14. there’s a chinese driver? wow. the things you learn from this blog site.

  15. I would add Michał Kościuszko to the Polish team. Kościuszko is Suzuki’s factory driver in J-WRC. He took the first win of his J-WRC career on Rally d’Italia Sardegna this year. What’s interesting, he is good Kubica’s mate – they are both from Kraków.

  16. I didnt read all the comments, but i always thought the Race of Champions should be bigger, and could become the ‘Otolympics’ (I trademarked that one just now!).

    But i also think that The RoC needs a change on the cars. last year wasnt as spectacular as it was when it used to run in the Canaries.
    cars are made for the outdoors.

    but if the real Olympics are where you want to go and in doors it should be. then the car should be powered by a clockwork mechanism that requires the two drivers pushing it rear-wards before the race starts. and then the one that is more exhausted will drive. cool hun?? let me know or would pedals be a more athletic answer to your challenging request?

  17. RaV – Very interesting! And as we know Kubica fancies giving rallying a try…

  18. Keith – That’s true, Robert is a big fan of rallying. He often watches WRC live, especially on Sardinia and Corsica. Not everybody knows that in 2004 and 2005 Robert took part in two rallies in Poland – Warsaw Barbórka Rally where he had finished 6th and Kraków Wawelski Rally where he started as a guest in Zero Car with his friend and Polish F1 commentator Mikołaj Sokół as a co-driver (there are some photos in the net). What’s even more fascinating, in 2005 Kubica won Polish Colin McRae Rally Championship – of course he took part in this event as a special guest, but ‘by the accident’ he outperformed all the competitors playing this game almost 24/7. :) If it comes to Michał Kościuszko – I suppose that English speakers may have some problems with pronouncing his name, so I prepared this:ł_Kościuszko,_Robert_Kubica

  19. hm, Olympics, big waste of money and resources already, even without motor racing. any sport that manages to stay away from that theater should be proud of itself :-)

  20. Any form of auto racing as an Olympic event is- with all due respect- rubbish. Olympic competition is about the human effort, with minimal equipment, not about technology.

    And as cited somewhere above, A1GP is a close equivalent. So why burden the Olympic games with meaningless auto races? If it’s wheeled action you crave to see, bring in bicycle racing; if you can find anyone who would pass the drug screening!

  21. Gee, didn’t they used to have bicylce racing in past Olympic events? Did they have it in Bejing?? Shows how closely I watched it this year!

  22. Yep – bike racing was in the Olympics

    I know this would never happen, but if you saw the cycling, sailing and especially equestrian in the olympics you can see that technology is playing an ever increasing role

  23. Brazil – Rubens and Felipe Massa

  24. for the man and machine argument, there was the pistol event, so that is kind of man and machine already

  25. As much as I love auto racing,and as boring as I think the Olympics are,I prefer the two never meet.I do see race drivers as atheletes(from some forms of racing anyway)but,I just don’t see a reason for them to be in the Olympics.There are too many events in the Olympics that already don’t belong…..shooting,ping pong,synchronized swimming,what’s next?…marbles?billiards?….two weeks of that is enough.

    What about a motorsport olmpics…racing in all classes,only motorsports,nothing else.

  26. @#22 Ben-
    and if anyone has ever watched bobsledding or luge you’ll notice technology really, really playing a role.

  27. I think Olympic motorsport would end up too much like A1GP. You’d end up with drivers nobody cares about and it would watch like the rally event in the X games: not terrible, but not really indicative of the sport.

  28. what was that Hemingway quote, something about “there are only three true sports, mountain climbing, bullfighting and motor racing – the rest are games” – ? something like that – maybe that’s why motor racing has to stay separate :) – but seriously, this idea (as part of the Olympics in some form or otherwise) has great merit, I think – even in the US where F1 has no following, NASCAR is (I think) the largest spectator sport –

  29. Martin- EH’s comment was driven (no pun intended!) by the fact that the three “sports” he cited involved serious life threatening consequences in the event of failure. Your smiley indicates that you understand that concept.

    Relative to technology playing a role in the Olympics, it’s exactly the wrong direction to take, whether in sailing, pistol shooting or swimming. It would only be ultra-magnified in auto racing. Can anyone doubt that the degree of driving success between the top ten F1 pilots is due to the car as opposed to the driver?

    Once every four years to test this difference would be a massive waste of resources and effort.

  30. @ Martin
    I think it was”boxing,bullfighting and motor racing”
    I have visited Hemingway’s old house in Key West twice and all of the photos hanging throughout the house are contain one of these three sports.

  31. Since nobody has said it yet, I will. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are really good drivers. They would represent this country well I am sure. But they are borderline has-beens and imagine what they will be in 2012? How about some up and comers? Kyle Busch is young and can drive anything. I cannot wait to here about his F1 Test for Toyota. Carl Edwards is young too. However neither one of these guys has much open wheel experience (or any?) I suggest Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick, or even Scott Speed to represent the USA in the 2012 Motor Sport events in London.

  32. Tony would have to fast for quite a while to squeeze his “tub” into an F1 tub!:)

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