What are "gimmicks" in motor racing?

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    @bullfrog In WTCC where the two races have one qualifying, the second grid is the top 10 in qualifying in reverse order and then the rest. A few guys who have no chance for Q3 (for the top5, where they get a few points) go for second race pole in Q2, so 10th in qualifying/race one. Obviously GP2 race two poles must be an important target for the teams as well.


    This is a very thought provoking question Keith. I would say that gimmicks are inevitable in motorsport, or any sport. Most of the gimmicks that I could think of in motorsport have already been mentioned by previous posters, since I haven’t been on this site in a few days, but I don’t think all of the gimmicks you mentioned were bad. There were some that I strongly disagree with, such as the success ballast (Even the name makes it sound egregious), and the Formula E “Fanboost”, and the current implementation of DRS in Formula One.
    But since I consider myself a regular viewer of NASCAR, I will say that the Chase has generally been good for the sport. I would not like to see it implemented in F1, but it does work well for NASCAR. NASCAR has to contend with the NFL from September to November, and NASCAR is well aware that many of its fans are NFL fans first. It is actually a very good idea to continue interest (a “gimmick”, as you defined) through the stretch run of the season. Even the rule that one win guarantees a chase spot was one I was skeptical of at the beginning of the season, I must say I’ve been won over. The racing has been closer more consistently and teams have been very willing to gamble on strategy in ways they never used to. It is also worth noting that 5 of the 10 “Chase Champions” would have been champions under any of NASCAR’s point systems, and the “Chase Champion” would’ve never been less than 4th under any of NASCAR’s point systems.


    I don’t agree with it, but I found an extremely liberal approach to this.

    According to the dictionary definition, racing in itself could be a gimmick.

    I’ll explain. As soon as someone creates a racing event or championship to ‘attract publicity or trade’ and not to enjoy himself, it could be considered as such (e. g. USCR). Obviously, one has to have a healthy business model to sustain a series in a capitalist economic system, so an element of this definition of gimmickry will always be there. An entirely gimmick-free racing would be realizable (is there such a word!?) only if one pays literally no attention to the economic side of it and makes all the decisions about the event rules based on other factors.

    As such scenario is unimaginable, I consider gimmick in motorsport to be ‘a trick or device, which provides unfair advantage to certain participants.’ Such as DRS. And double points.


    MotoGP have introduced different rules for open class bikes and the factory teams so that the open class teams can use softer tyres, more fuel and more engines/parts per season but these changes were brought in to help the series survive the current economic crisis and they’re only short term solutions rather than gimmicks.
    MotoGP came very close to collapsing in 2008-10 with Suzuki leaving the sport entirely and many other teams facing banckruptcy and in no position to be able to challange the Honda and Yamaha factory teams so the governing body, rights holders and teams worked together to bring in changes that would allow Honda and Yamaha to keep up their relentless development programs that are so important to their parent companies while allowing the smaller teams to survive and still make bikes that were stll competitive (even if they’re unlikely to beat the big two teams in normal conditions), this started with the CRT and continues with the open class bikes.

    The important factor in this is that these are temporary changes that were brought in as an affordable and workable solution while a more revolutionary and long term plan was put together and to give the smaller teams plenty of time to prepare for the big changes that will be introduced in 2016.

    One of the gimmicks that has been introduced recently is that all practice sessions for MotoGP are now timed with a riders average best time from all sessions qualifying them for the new qualifying system. Qualifying has been split into two sessions with those outside the top 10 from the best laps in practice sessions competing against each other in Q1, the top 2 from Q1 make it into Q2 where they compete against those who were in the top 10 in practice sessions.
    I know this sounds quite complicated and convoluted but it’s actually resulted in a lot more action in the practice sessions and a far more entertaining qualifying system without seeming in any way artificial or giving an unfair advantage to any rider or team.


    I think Chase for the Cup makes sense, unless you think there shouldn’t be a knockout stage in the World Cup but there should be a full championship instead….

    Not an analogy that makes sense. The World Cup is a cup tournament- having knockouts is how such a tournament fundamentally works. NASCAR is and always has been a championship, but the ‘knockout’ is very oddly introduced as an excuse to level the field after a lot of the season has already run and make it look like there is still intensity. And unlike in a true cup, those outside the chase still have to compete. That is the problem- sports with more than 2 competitors on the field/track/etc. at any one time don’t lend themselves particularly well to knockouts.


    In terms of performance balancing, I think that’s generally more to do with keeping the competitors and manufacturers happy rather than the fans. As well as WEC, it also happens in near enough every GT championship that runs multiple manufacturers. Certainly anything running to GT3 specifications.

    Another one not mentioned in the original list is reverse grids.

    Keith Campbell

    I’m surprised noone has mentioned ‘designed to degrade’ tyres in F1 (unless i missed it). While i think this is gimmicky (providing an inferior product intentionally to make sure cars have different performance levels on the track), and has definitely been overdone at times (early 2013), i think on the whole the racing has been more exciting for it. Unfortunately during the Pirelli period there has tended to be one dominant team – Redbull 2011-2013 (Vettel) and Mercedes 2014, but if you look at the racing behind the dominant forces there has been a high level of competition, unpredictability and generally good racing. And this year we even have this at the front with the two Mercs.

    Obviously there is constant fine tuning to get the balance right, and killing the tyres by pushing hard behind another car is an issue, but i find a lot of the criticism seems to be driven by perception of the racing rather than what is actually happening on track. At the start of races, or when cars come out of the pits alongside another, i’ve rarely seen a driver give up on position immediately in order to look after his tyres. And if a driver feels he can overtake, he will still push to try and make the pass – it’s only when this fails for several consecutive laps that it can have a detrimental affect and force the driver to go into ‘conservation’ mode. And in those cases, it’s likely that even with durable tyres he would have been unable to make a pass anyway (although perhaps could maintain his attempts for longer). So yes degrading tyres can lead to peaks and troughs in the racing, but in my view this was always the case.


    Reading your replies so far it seems the gimmicks people dislike most are those which are perceived to hand someone an unfair advantage, or damage the sporting nature of motor racing to try to make the racing more entertaining.

    So returning to the list we can perhaps refine and expand it as follows. Which of these do you consider acceptable or unacceptable? And of course do suggest anything else that might belong on here:

    Standing restarts (F1 from 2015)
    Mandatory pit stops (F1, IndyCar, DTM, FR3.5, GP2)
    Mandatory ‘option’ tyres (F1, IndyCar, DTM, GP2, BTCC)
    ‘Designed to degrade’ tyres (F1)
    DRS – proximity-based (F1)
    DRS – time-based (FR3.5)
    Reverse grids (GP2, GP3, WTCC)
    Random reverse grids (BTCC)
    Push-to-pass (IndyCar)
    Fanboost (Formula E)
    DRS (F1, DTM, FR3.5)
    Success ballast (BTCC, WTCC)
    Performance balancing (BTCC, WTCC, WEC)
    ‘Invisibris’ cautions (NASCAR)
    Double points for longer races (IndyCar, WEC)
    Double points for final race/s (F1)
    Chase for the Cup (NASCAR)
    Qualifying handicaps (e.g. ‘top ten drivers start on tyres they qualified on’) (F1)
    Allowing lapped cars to regain a lap under caution (F1, NASCAR, USC)

    (I’ve left Moto GP out because I think it’s going to get a bit complicated if we try to mix in two wheels with four)


    I’m pretty much against all those in the list apart from performance balancing – I don’t like it but can understand why it’s needed in competitions like WEC/Le Mans where you’ve got such different types of engines and power units in the same class – and double points for longer races – I’ve always thought it made sense for a 24 hour race to have double the points of a 12 hour race, for example, but it only makes sense when there is such a dramatic difference with some races on the calendar being double the length of others.

    DRS is a great example of the sort of gimmicks I don’t like, it’d be fine if it was something drivers could use whenever they want but to have it only available when you’re within a set time or distance from the car in front makes overtaking under DRS boring and far too easy. Qualifying handicaps and success ballast also make it to the top of my pet hate list.


    I think that we could even include the tracks as gimmicky. I’m not going to list them all, but just as an example in NASCAR, one could easily argue that Short Tracks and Super Speedways are both gimmicky. That said though, I hate 1.5mi ovals, so…

    I think most Tilke tracks are gimmicky as well. They are just straights with hard 90° turns, aimed at improving passing and “the show”.


    Would non-championship races count as a ‘gimmick’?

    I know DTM have now stopped but they had that ridiculous round inside the Olympiastadion.
    And NASCAR has the All Star race which has a billion ‘gimmicks’ in it.
    You have the constantly changing rules on what qualifies someone for the all star race, the sprint showdown race to get into the race, the fan vote to get into the race, the absolutely mental qualifying format where you had cars going into the pitlane with no speed limiter, the mandatory pit stops every 20 laps with a 10 lap showdown, the $1 million prize bonus for winning all 5 segments and probably a load more I’m missing.

    All of this for no points in the season just money for the driver.


    I divided the items from this list up into thing I find unacceptable, tolerable (so things I can tolerate but which I think are still pretty dubious) and acceptable (things I consider to be fair):

    Standing restarts
    ‘Designed to degrade’ tyres
    DRS – proximity-based
    (Random) reverse grids
    Success ballast
    Performance balancing
    ‘Invisibris’ cautions
    Double points for final races
    Chase for the Cup
    Qualifying handicaps
    Allowing lapped cars to regain a lap under caution

    Mandatory pit stops
    Mandatory ‘option’ tyres
    DRS – time-based

    Double points for longer races

    So yeah, I don’t really like gimmicks in general. Double points for longer races are nothing more than fair, in my opinion. The things I put under tolerable are things that still give the competitors equal chances.


    @matt90 @davidnotcoulthard

    I think the Chase is less comparable to “tournaments” like the World Cup or UEFA Champions League, and more comparable to the playoffs in US Sports. The first 26 races of a Sprint Cup season act as a means of qualifying for the Chase.


    The worse gimmicks in my opinion are those that are unfair – because they give an advantage to particular competitors

    Reverse grids
    Success ballast
    Quali handicaps
    Fan boost
    Giving laps back (although I can see the point of the lucky dog rule in NASCAR given the absence of blue flags and really short laps in most ovals)

    The second worst category in my perspective are things that don’t make any sense – I find them really hard to explain logically to someone that doesn’t follow Motorsport

    Designed to degrade’ tyres

    Cautions (not only for debris but the general approach of nascar for throwing a caution for anything for ex if a car spins and immediately recovers they throw the caution)

    Mandatory pit stops and option tyres

    Double points for no reason

    Personally have no issues with

    Performance balancing (in something like the wec)


    Double points for longer race

    Chase – it’s just a format for the championship (and an acceptable one – although this years version is a bit odd!)


    Circuit racing is inherently artificial, I think it’s easy to cast the net too wide on what is a ‘gimmick’.

    For me a gimmick is something that does not test or reflect the skill of the team or driver, but is there to increase tension in a fake way.

    So I’d say:

    Double points

    That’s it. Other things might be arbitrary or unfair but not a gimmick.

    Titanium skids isn’t a gimmick for example, because they wear much faster and don’t shed dangerous heavy pieces.
    Standing starts are a test of skill, even if I’m nervous about how long they’ll take to set up and the effect of marbles and if they’ll be unfair and misused.

    I think it’s legitimate for the sport to look for ways of making the competition fun to watch, as long as it’s still a true test of sporting qualities.

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