Tag Archives: Motorsport

Review – Motor Racing on Playstation VR

The PlayStation VR brings Virtual Motor Racing to reality with stunning graphics and sounds that create an atmosphere as if your actually sitting inside the cockpit.

PlayStation VR connects straight to your existing PS4 console with the help of a tracking camera.  It costs around £350 and Driveclub costs around £30. The camera is sold separately and costs around £42.

In order to get the best out of the VR a 4K TV is essential which increases the graphics and resolution.

Sony’s promotion of the Driveclub experience on the VR with the high-resolution shots is a bit questionable as it’s not quite of that standard, but I was still mostly impressed by the whole experience.

Gameplay

The Logitech force feedback steering wheel which costs around £200 adds to the motor racing experience with vibrations and movement responses from crashes and sharp breaking.

The sounds allow you to feel the power of the car your driving, and the VR allows you to take a sneak peek in the other drivers cockpit before the race starts.

The graphics are pretty detailed and create the illusion that your in a different place; also being in the cockpit of some of the fastest cars in the world is complete joy.

Everything’s rendered entirely in 3D and precise head-tracking means that you instantly forget that you essentially have a mobile phone screen strapped to your face and makes you completely blank out the world around you.

Most complete

When you slide into the vehicle, you’re aware of the cockpit curling up over your shoulders. Floor the throttle and you quickly discover how many of the problems with racing games VR can solve.

Placing your car in 3D space suddenly becomes a breeze, instantly improving your lines through corners, and even little touches like having shift lights in your peripheral vision rather than at the bottom of a TV screen make a huge difference.

Being in first person camera is best as you get more of a realer experience when driving. The PlayStation VR is definitely the second coming of racing games, especially with the new Gran Turismo coming out which his PlayStation’s highest selling racing game.

It gives me hope that the Driveclub experience is only the beginning of something epic.

DriveClub VR turns out to be the most complete game in PlayStation VR’s launch line-up. It’s got 80 cars, a hundred or so tracks and handling that positively begs you to hustle cars through corners.

It’s perfectly playable with the standard Dual Shock controller, of course, but if you have a steering wheel and pedal set the final piece of the immersion jigsaw falls into place and suddenly you’re a racing driver.

Handling

It does take some getting use to at first, especially using a steering wheel, which is much more difficult in comparion to using a controller.

Operating the gas and brake with your feet and the gears as well as steering wheel with your hands is not easy.

Be prepared to spin off track a lot. I found for a newbie like me, it’s best not to just jump straight into a Ferrari but start off in a slower, less powerful car like a Golf GTI.

Once you master the handling on that, then progress up the car classes.

The screen HUB that includes race time, laps and position can be seen when you look upwards into the sky.

Pros & Cons

As its such an addictive experience you do start to come across motion sickness where your head slightly starts to spin once you take off the VR, but I was playing it for a good three hours, so it was expected.

Another negative is that the visuals get blurry at times which makes it hard to see where you’re going. Also if you bought the game originally on PS4 you will not be able to load progress saves from the original.

“DriveClub VR is the perfect game to sell the fantasy of being behind the wheel of your dream car”

In comparison to the actual game, the graphics took a slight drop but perhaps that was because it may be too much for the VR and to reduce technical errors like lags and glitching. But everything’s in a slightly myopic soft-focus and some of the scenery is more simplistic.

Most of the content from the original game is still here, including the online mode. Driving mode is also still the same, with a good balance between accessibility and realism.

If you are a true motor racing fan who is also into gaming I highly recommend you give it a try as I found myself stuck in the cockpit for hours and I’m not a big racing afficionado.

DriveClub VR is the perfect game to sell the fantasy of being behind the wheel of your dream car, and only the first in an upcoming wave of virtual reality racers that will include Gran Turismo Sport.

Sweeping open roads, accessible handling that flatters your driving skills and obscenely detailed cockpits to pore over make this the quickest and most affordable route to becoming a VR true believer.

Five successful sporting switches

We all have an occasional urge to do something new to freshen up our lives, and trying out a new sport is one way of doing it.

But imagine if that urge could lead to a potentially lucrative and dazzling new career when you’re already made a name for yourself as a sportsman.

The most recent star to switch from one sport to another is former Bundesliga goalkeeper Tim Wiese, who made a successful WWE pro-wrestling debut in Munich.

We look at five other moves that paid off.

5. Andrew Flintoff – from cricket to boxing to cricket

Flintoff strikes a pose. Pic by Adam Cool© , flickr creative commons

Many cricketers have shown their talents for other sports. Dennis Compton, for example, played 78 Tests for England but also had a successful career as a footballer with Arsenal.

England legend Sir Ian Botham also played football whilst playing Test cricket, while South Africa’s Jonty Rhodes played hockey and was actually selected to represent his country at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

A more recent familiar example is Andrew Flintoff’s decision to try professional boxing after retiring from cricket. The former England all-rounder made his pro debut in Manchester 2012 against Richard Dawson from the US.

It ended successfully for Flintoff as he won the fight, which was filmed as part of a TV documentary about his switch from the pitch to the ring.

However, ‘Freddie’ decided to quit while and he was ahead opted instead to make a cricketing comeback.

He came out of retirement to compete for Lancashire in the 2014 Natwest T20 Blast, and also went to Australia later that year to play in the Big Bash for the Brisbane Heat, before finally calling it a day.

4. Adam Gemili – football to athletics

Team GB sprint star Adam Gemili’s footballing career started at Chelsea as a youth player since at the age of eight, and he went on to ply as a defender for Dagenham & Redbridge and Thurrock FC.

Maybe he suspected deep down that soccer stardom was out of his reach, so he opted to develop his other talent – for running fast – instead and left football behind in favour of athletics in 2012.

His most successful achievement on the track to date came at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when he finished second in the men’s 100m final.

Still only 23 years of age, he’s surely on course to add to his medals tally on the international stage in the next few years.

3. Fabien Barthez – from football to motorsport

MOTORSPORT - GT TOUR 2012 - PAUL RICARD - LE CASTELLET (FRA) - 26 TO 28/10/2012 - PHOTO : FLORENT GOODEN / DPPI - BARTHEZ FABIEN - TEAM SOFREV ASP FERRARI 458 ITALIA - AMBIANCE PORTRAITFormer Manchester United star Fabien Barthez was known as a fabulous shot stopper, and was named ‘keeper of the tournament as France won the 1998 World Cup.

He also helped his country to win Euro 2000, and won plenty of league titles and cups at club level for the likes of United, Marseille and Monaco.

After retiring in 2007, he swapped football strips for racing suits as he developed a successful career in motorsport.

He has competed in competitions including the Porsche Carrera Cup France, the FIA GT Series and Caterham Sigma Cup France.

In 2013 he was crowned French GT champion, and in 2014 took part in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving a Ferrari 458, he and his co-drivers finished 29th overall and ninth in their class.

2. Sonny Bill Williams – from rugby league to boxing to rugby union

Sonny Bill Williams has had an extraordinary career. An true icon to many, the New Zealander has achieved a ton of success in his time.

From winning two Rugby World Cups and several honours in rugby league, to remaining unbeaten in his boxing career, Williams is surely on of the greatest athletes in the world.

He started out in rugby league, playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters as well as for New Zealand.

He then decided to make a switch to boxing and was unbeaten in seven fights, winning them all, including three by knockout, and claiming the New Zealand heavyweight crown and WBA international belt along the way.

However, rugby union came calling again and he returned to the 15-man code in time to become part of the All Blacks squad which won the 2011 World Cup, helping them to retain it in 2015.

1. Brock Lesnar – multi-sport athlete

Not only he can fight, he can play American football too. Brock Lesnar has success written all over him.

Winning multiple championships in the WWE and New Japan pro-wrestling – as well as dominating the MMA/UFC scene – he also had a brief spell at the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.

Lesnar signed with WWE in 2000, making his main roster debut in 2002. He went on to become the youngest undisputed WWE champion at the age of 25, a King of the Ring and Royal Rumble winner as well as ending Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak in 2014.

Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, Lesnar put his WWE career on hold in 2004 in order to pursue a career in American football as a defensive tackle. He was recruited by the Minnesota Vikings for the 2004-05 campaign and played several pre-season games but was then cut from their roster.

UFC came calling, and it was a fresh challenge for Lesnar. He had nine fights, winning six of them, but has now returned to the WWE and has a bout against Goldberg in the Survivor Series on November 20th.

Earl Bamber: A Le Mans winner unable to defend his crown

Earl Bamber is a name which most racing fans are still not familiar with, even though they probably should be.

Having worked his way up through the ranks at Porsche Motorsport, the New Zealander was handed the opportunity to drive its third LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) 919 Hybrid at the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – a race he won outright alongside fellow Le Mans prototype rookies: F1’s Nico Hulkenberg and fellow Porsche up-and-comer Nick Tandy in the same car.

“Get out your diary, look at June and write in there that you have to drive the 919 Hybrid at Le Mans”

But due to the VW emission scandal, Porsche (and sister brand/rival Audi) opted to scale back its effort for the 2016 edition to just two cars at the big race in an effort to cut costs, leaving Bamber and his team-mates without a chance to win again.

After winning ‘the world’s greatest motor race’, it’s bitterly disappointing for Bamber and his fans alike, that he won’t be able to return to the race at the top level and do the double.

Elephant Sport sat down at length with Bamber, to get some personal insight on the #19’s incredible and in some ways unexpected triumph, scoring Porsche’s record 17th win at the Circuit de La Sarthe and how hard it was to hear the news that he wouldn’t be driving in LMP1 again this year.

Bamber’s Le Mans story began while he sat on the floor at a crowded airport gate, waiting to board a plane from Orlando Airport after the Daytona 24 Hours in January 2014. His phone rang – it was Dr Frank Walliser, vice president of motorsport at Porsche AG.

“Earl, I have something important to tell you,” he said. “Get out your diary, look at June and write in there that you have to drive the 919 Hybrid at Le Mans.”

Emotion

That was how Earl Bamber found out he was going to be at ‘the world’s greatest motor race’ for the first time in an LMP1 car, competing in a race that would turn out to be the most remarkable of his career so far.

New Zealand continues to provide talent in sportscars, and Bamber is proof, becoming the third Kiwi to win the race after Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren le-mans-2015-finish-featureback in 1966.

Bamber took up go-karting at eight years old and at the age of 12 was already winning titles. The competition back then was familiar, as Bamber competed, socialised and travelled with his now team-mate Brendon Hartley, which only added to the emotion of standing atop the podium at Le Mans.

“It was great to have Brendon on the podium (after finishing third) with me at Le Mans, as we grew up racing together in the same go-kart club,” he said. “We talked about it when we were karting, we used the same trailer, our families were together and we raced together. But you’d never think aged eight that you’d both be on the same podium at Le Mans together!

Bamber’s career took a path similar to many young drivers, racing in just about every series on the ladder before winding up as a Porsche factory driver. He’d have to wait a few years after being spotted by Porsche for his talents to really be recognised.

“I couldn’t celebrate, I couldn’t tell anybody, not even my parents.”

“I remember the first time I got called to do a test in the 919, it was just before Christmas. Dr Frank Walliser called me and said: ‘I have a Christmas present for you.’ As I’d just signed I didn’t think I’d get the chance so quick, I was just looking to get to grips with my GT career,” he chuckles.

Special moment

“Frank then called again two weeks after the test and from there the journey started with the preparations for Le Mans. It was weird,” he revealed. “I couldn’t celebrate, I couldn’t tell anybody, not even my parents. It was hard to contain my excitement, it was a dream come true.

“So many Indy Car drivers, F1 drivers, you name it, contacted Porsche and ask if they could drive for them at Le Mans, and instead they chose me to fill that seat at the world’s biggest race.

“Together we merged our ideas and experience and pushed each other in testing and every aspect”

“It’s really special, you don’t quite believe it. When I was waiting for that first test, I was nervous, I did loads of simulator training and the moment I closed the door on the car it was a special moment.”

Getting in the car for the first time was a nerve-racking experience for Bamber, but he quickly adapted.

“The biggest thing for me was the vision,” he says when asked about his first impressions of the car. “It’s a really small box of a window in front, with pillars and stuff. It’s difficult in that sense, but aside from that it felt normal, it’s still a racing car, it still has a steering wheel, pedals.

“It was really nice to have proper downforce again as I haven’t really driven a car like that since I drove for Team New Zealand in now defunct A1GP (the World Cup of Motorsport) series. I adapted to it well, I enjoyed it.”

Chemistry

Alongside him in his two-round contract for the WEC in the #19 would be Nick Tandy and Nico Hulkenburg. Being effectively a third bullet for the team though, meant team-building and chances outside of the few weekends spent testing and racing to get to know his co-drivers were few and far between.

Tandy was alongside Bamber in the US but Hulkenburg was consumed by Force India, meaning the trio had to gain chemistry together on the job.

“Race week can be overwhelming for a driver, but Bamber seemed to just soak it all up”

“When I got the call that I’d be driving, I was told immediately I’d be with Nick and Nico. I think it was a great combination, as Nick and I had come from GT racing and obviously Nico has an F1 background. So together we merged our ideas and experience and pushed each other in testing and every aspect,” Bamber says.

“We trust each other, we get on well so all the important stuff was easier to get on with.

“We kept in touch via WhatsApp all the time, but we didn’t get the chance to really get out and meet with each other much. During the races and longer tests though we spent so much time together and we got to know each other in difficult situations.

“When we came to Le Mans, it just felt like another test day.”

Overwhelming

19-Spa-Porsche-Bamber-2015-WEC1

But when I met Bamber at Spa, and spoke to him for the first time face-to-face, he didn’t seem quite as confident. “I’m here for Porsche,” he said, giving the impression he was very much considered the new kid on the block.

“This weekend is all about learning, we are all so new to this. After doing so much running in GTs, it’s taken a bit of time to get comfortable dealing with the traffic.”

After downplaying his chances, he finished sixth in his P1 World Endurance Championship debut at Spa in Belgium, headed into the Le Mans test day, and then the race.

He treated Le Mans – a race with over 260 thousand spectators in the stands – as if it was just a normal race weekend, so when he found himself leading the race in the closing stages after a costly penalty handed to Mark Webber gave the #19 crew a healthy margin, he was able to watch Nico cross the line with his nails in tact.

“It was just a nice drive through the French countryside really.”

“It was clear that all three cars were there to win, it was important that Porsche won. Porsche were clear to us, it didn’t matter which car, Porsche needed to win. We did the test day, and we realised that the trio we had were quick and capable.

“We qualified third and said to each other that we’d have a shot at a podium if we kept it clean. We didn’t have a special tactic, we just relaxed, and did what we love doing, which is driving race cars fast!”

Whirlwind

“I remember when the sun came up that we had it, we had a lap lead it was our race to lose, we just had to be careful. It was still massively enjoyable though, I can’t believe how relaxed I was.

“Porsche is one big family, that’s a big part of the reason why I won Le Mans, and why I keep winning things”

“My stint at lunchtime on Sunday was amazing, it was just a nice drive through the French countryside really.

“Everyone asks me to describe how I felt at the end of the race, but I can’t. Just look at the images of it, you can’t put into words how happy we were and what it meant to us. As a kid I dreamt of it, and when we crossed the line I realised it. It was also our first time in LMP1, we were rookies, it was a risk to be there and it paid off.

“I was also so tired, it was unbelievable. I was up from 6am Saturday until 10pm Sunday. I don’t remember much, it was all adrenalin. I remember going to the Porsche employee camp in Weissach after and seeing all the workers, and how excited and proud they were to have been a part of it.”

Good position

Since the big win, Bamber hasn’t driven an LMP1 car. He had to go back to his roots with Porsche, driving GT cars during the second half of 2015, before being told his dream of driving at the top of sportscar racing in LMP1 with the marque would have to be put on hold for the year.

“Hopefully I’ll get another shot in the future, I’m eager to win the race again”

He know’s he’s in a good position, with so much left in his career. So what’s next?

“I don’t pay much attention to my future and speculation surrounding that,” he admitted. “At the moment I represent Porsche, and I want to represent them the best I can. I’m not worried about where I’ll be, I’ll let the guys above me decide. Porsche is one big family, that’s a big part of the reason why I won Le Mans, and why I keep winning things.

“Sure, I’m very disappointed that I’m not driving in a prototype this year, but that’s how things go. Things change quickly.

“Hopefully I’ll get another shot in the future, as I’m desperate to win the race again.”

Middle Eastern motorsport on learning curve

Until you see a place like Yas Marina for yourself, you don’t get the true impression of just how new everything is.

Prior to 1960, Abu Dhabi and it’s neighbouring Yas Island (until remarkably recently used as a bombing range) were practically uninhabited. The rush for oil in the 60s and 70s brought with it rapid growth and modernisation forging what we see today.

Everything feels so incredibly recent, westernised and friendly; and that’s as eye-opening as it is refreshing.

The same can be said about motorsport in the area. Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy (pictured above) is the first of his kind, a pioneer of his sport when he started racing back in 2006.

Prior to 2004, the Middle East had no circuits. Just over a decade later, it has four and hosts Formula One Grand Prix’, a 24-hour race, a Moto GP race, and a World Endurance Championship (WEC) round each year.

It’s all growing so quickly, but why? And what does the future for the region hold? Al Harthy’s story sheds some light on the subject.

Foundations

“My first experience in any proper racing would have been in 2006 in a championship called Thunder Arabia based at Bahrain,” he explained. “It was a project for Martin Hines and the Zip Karts, they were like Formula Fords I guess just smaller. That made me the first Omani circuit racer, and for quite a while too.

“And then I decided to move, I did well in the championship, scored quite a few podiums, so I decided to experiment with what I could do. I had two options, Formula Renault UK BARC or a championship in Asia which was more glamour than anything else.”

“There is a wealth of young potential – it’s what you need if you want drivers to get into international championships”

And from that point onwards, his career path changed, after a few years in single-seaters, Al Harthy shifted to GTs and has built up a personal reputation as well as a race team run by Motorbase – Oman Racing Team – which has become a stalwart in the European GT scene.

During that time though, the motorsport interest in the Middle East has shifted and grown around him too.

“I think the foundation is important,” he stressed. “In Oman I can say that motorsport was always really quiet, and once I started it was still quiet in terms of karting too.

“The karting track in Oman re-opened two and a half years ago and now we’re seeing a huge potential from youth, it’s what you need if you want drivers to get into international championships. So there is a wealth of young potential drivers.

Attracting the masses

“We’ve got one budding talent in Formula 4 for instance (Al Faisal Al Zubair) with my ex-team Hillspeed. There’s a path for them now, and you can see that with his successes, finishing on the podium and getting a driver with Fortec.

“This is my tenth year in circuit racing, which is important for me, I like to represent the region. Based on what my fellow Middle Eastern drivers have decided to do: Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Khaled Al Qubaisi, they’ve been showcasing their talents in the WEC, Blancpain, Le Mans, all sorts of things, it helps GT racing get more coverage in the region.”

“We need people from outlets and channels coming to events like the Gulf 12 Hours to get a better understanding for what we do”

But just how much coverage does it get in those countries? There’s a dedicated regional channel called Gear One which – like Motors TV in Europe – shows a variety of racing, and is available to the majority of homes.

“Public exposure has increased dramatically though from when I started racing. People are reading and understanding more about GT racing now compared to anything else, but there’s still a lot to be done.

“For example, Blancpain races are now televised on regional channels but not the Blancpain races my team is doing, because the Sprint Series gets more coverage.

“I think there’s also still a big role from the media to learn more about the sport,” he continued.

‘Racing first’

“We need people from outlets and channels coming to events like the Gulf 12 Hours to get a better understanding for what we do.

“We need that because my team’s budget focuses completely on racing, we don’t have the budget to focus on marketing and PR related areas. My philosophy with the Oman Racing Team has always been racing first.”

There was one problem though, and that was that Yas Marina was unfortunately a ghost-town during the Gulf 12 Hours meeting, an event which has the potential to attract local entrants and fans. Nevertheless, Al Harthy believes that getting people into those grandstands isn’t an impossible task.

“We’re so close to getting crowds at races. I mean, for me it’s easy to get my sponsors to bring people. This weekend at Yas Marina, there’s the most people I’ve ever had come to watch me race.

“So in that combination, along with our current partners. We try and bring our team and the championships we race in closer to the people of Oman. Although there’s no circuits there we want to get people excited.

“We try and give people a chance to see the race car, win things. We put an Aston in Oman for two months like a road show, we moved it around, getting people aware of what we do. It’s very important.”

Starting from scratch

In Oman, there are currently no facilities above karting to race at, and that’s a big hurdle to jump. Sure, the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina aren’t too far away, but those circuits still suffer from a lack of national events.

dubai-24-race-feature
Event’s like the Dubai 24 Hour are attracting more teams each year

“We hope to have a circuit in Oman within the next few years too,” Al Harthy revealed. “Nothing has been fully decided, and it won’t be anything like a Formula One circuit – we just need something like a Brands Hatch, we need something to get the national racing scene going. We want it used throughout the year rather than to just host one-off events.”

It’s clear that Al Harthy believes in the discipline he races in, because to him, the progression in the area isn’t stemming from the globalisation of F1 and its extended calendar, but instead the events like the Dubai 24 Hours which engage people from the region.

The grid for next year’s Dubai 24 Hours is due to reach 100 cars, showing its increasing relevance as an event in the yearly calendar.

Even so, there’s still so much more to be done before the Middle East’s infrastructure matches that of the UK or USA.

A need for F1?

“It’s not enough! Formula One’s growth here? It’s not enough!” he stated firmly. “Personally I don’t think F1 is what is going to get people from the Middle East into motorsport. The GT championships I think is what it’s about. Obviously the problem is that all young karters want to race in F1 but that’s not realistic, we all know that.

“I don’t think Formula One is what is going to get people from the Middle East into motorsport”

“I think the region needs to give exposure to things like the Gulf 12, the Porsche Challenge but other than that I don’t see how local championships are ever going to do it without international interest.

“Young drivers need to realise that it’s not all about F1, they should start focusing on a different path, like mine through GT when they start. The more drivers that do that, the more it will become economical as well, more feasible for Arab teams to start. We are an Arab entrant, and have been for over a year now in Europe but the backbone is British, it’s all Motorbase.

“I forget too sometimes that Oman is getting exposure out of all this, it’s a small country, it’s a country that doesn’t usually relate to motorsport, but Oman has become known in some circles through our programme. It’s about partnering for the right reasons because at the end of the day the people who fund our programmes rely on what we do outside of the circuit.”

So in 10 years time, in the future, what’s the state of racing going to be? There’s potential for a boom, but also for it to slow down. More drivers like Al Harthy need to blossom and fly the flag for a part of the world which certainly has the potential to become a power in global motorsport.

Starting the trend

“We have the foundation. Instead of 10 karters, we need 200. We need 100 drivers going to Europe instead of 10 to compete and lift the standards. We just need more and more young drivers and we need a proper way to support them. It’s difficult, it all comes from money, numbers and figures.

“Through the exposure we get as a big GT team here, we can open the eyes of our partners and guests who maybe have the capability to support young talent. People just don’t expect it to be this professional, whereas in the UK everyone has been around it for about 30 to 40 years, generation after generation know about it.

“I’ve seen businessmen support drivers for the love of the sport, that’s what needs to happen. Motorsport is also heavily dependant on parental support, most drivers come from that which is also a push that needs to be made before exposure. It’s all so new to the region.

“But it’s overall positive, as I can see the karters from all the different countries here starting to climb up the ladder and get to bigger championships and achieve good results too.

“Whatever we’ve been doing seems to have been worthwhile, but I still need to push so hard to be a part of this campaign to make motorsport relevant in the Middle East. It needs to pay off.”

Organising the Race Of Champions

Since 1988’s inaugural event in Paris, the Race Of Champions (ROC) has been travelling the globe, bringing some of the biggest names in motorsport together to compete for personal and national glory in equal equipment at various world-famous venues.

This year the ROC was held in London for the first time since the event took place at Wembley Stadium back in 2008. Tt this time, it was run at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium situated in the Olympic Park in Stratford after ROC president Fredrik Johnsson, who had been openly keen about running there for a while, struck a deal.

Then came the process of organising it, and as usual, it was quite a task. It’s safe to say that in every facet the RCs has come along way since the first event, but that’s not made it any easier to put together. In fact, it requires more time and effort than ever.

Months before a horde of workers set foot in the stadium to build the circuit, there were all sorts of hurdles to jump for the event organisers. Every aspect has to be meticulously planned to ensure it’s an enjoyable time for both the drivers and fans.

All together now

One of the toughest parts of making the ROC happen is getting the drivers together, in one place, on one weekend; and with a seemingly ever-expanding/never-ending global motorsport calendar, finding the right weekend at the end of the season – when the ROC is traditionally held – has become quite a challenge.

Drivers, media, organisers, team members and fans alike complain each year about the sheer number of event clashes. Take a look at the weekend the World Endurance Championhsip is held at Silverstone as an example, as it has run parallel with the opening rounds of the British GT and Blancpain Endurance Series in recent years.

“If available, most drivers lap up the opportunity to compete”

For those at the top of the ROC, it’s even more of a headache, as for one weekend, they try to get drivers from every corner of the motorsport world to attend.

“Because we are very limited on what weekends we can run at each stadium, ROC usually takes place after the racing season has ended, during December. But this time round it was even more dictated by the stadium’s availability so we had to organise it before the end of the Formula One season,” explained operations director Dominic Olliff.

Then there’s selecting the drivers themselves. With a limited amount able to compete, and so many series to consider, creating an all-star-cast is no easy task. Thankfully, if available, most drivers lap up the opportunity to compete in what has become a United Nations-type selection.

Diverse line-up

Olliff said: “We try to avoid clashes, especially with the big series, but the stadium’s very limited availability meant we had little choice but to run it the weekend we did. That was great for F1 drivers but disappointing for the likes of WEC, GP2 [which added their Bahrain round after ROC’s event was announced] and F3.

“But I think we did a great job to still secure such a diverse line-up, and one of the best in recent memory actually. F1 is the most well known form of motorsport so it’s important to have those established, household names like Vettel and Button for casual fans.

“They all come along for the pleasure of doing it, because they get back to the essence of why they love racing”

“But ROC is also about bringing the best of the best together, and the likes of Tom Kristensen, Alex Buncombe and Andy Priaulx provide credibility from the wider spectrum of motorsport. That Priaulx and Jason Plato beat Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg in the Nations Cup final proves how important diversity is.

“When it comes down to securing drivers, it’s a combination of things, as they want to drive at the event and they want to know who else will be there too.

“The drivers this year were so relaxed,” he said. “As it’s not like a race weekend, there’s not much pressure or media – it doesn’t exist at ROC. They all come along for the pleasure of doing it, because they get back to the essence of why they love racing, and thet get to socialise and test themselves against key names in their field in equal machinery.

“They have a good time, it’s refreshing. There’s a real camaraderie at the event, guys like Vettel are a real advocate for that, as he claims he ‘get’s to know the driver under the helmet’. It’s old school.”

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Vettel proved why he’s one of the World’s best, winning this year’s event

While the drivers love it, trying to keep a consistent roster right up until the day can be difficult, however. Olympic track cycling gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy this year, for example, was drafted in to compete in place of MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was busy celebrating his title success.

More than just racing

Outside of the drivers, there’s other forms of entertainment to think about. Over the years those looking at the target demographic of the ROC have realised that not only is it best to cater for every type of motorsport fan, but also for more of a casual audience who enjoy just seeing a different kind of sporting event in such a rare setting like the Olympic Stadium.

Therefore, other forms of entertainment have become part of the programme at the ROC, and rightly so.

“Of course it’s a motorsport event,” Olliff stated. “But you have to attract casual fans too, which is why there’s celebrities, Terry Grant, FMX, all those things going on too. You have to come up with something that works for everybody, and everybody can be impressed by Terry Grant, it doesn’t matter how many times he does a donut around someone’s leg, it’s amazing!

“Not only is it best to cater for every type of motorsport fan, but also for more of a casual audience.”

“Then with the celebrities there’s always going to be people there at ROC who will get something out of it, it’s all entertainment in the end. A lot of people come in groups, half will love these things, half may not be interested, but overall, everyone leaves feeling like they’ve had their money’s worth.

“It’s important, especially in a place like London. It’s more than just an event for hardcore motor racing fans.”

Transformation

Before they know it, the set-up process then dawns on the team, which while quick, is by no means simple. An army of contractors comes in, sets it up and dismantles everything to suit both the stadium and ROC organisers’ needs.

The first time everyone from ROC got to take a look round the stadium was the end of June in the same year, which stresses how much of a challenge it is to get everything together so quickly at a place which they don’t have access to freely.

Later on in the year, two more recce’s happen as things come together, and before the big week arrives. This year in particular, a change had to be made to the Olympic Park circuit due to its size. Instead of a dual-lane layout, a single track, pursuit-style system had to be created.

It didn’t detract from the experience however.

“They were keen to try something different anyway,” Olliff revealed. “We didn’t have a great deal of time on our hands because of the Rugby World Cup finishing and England playing New Zealand in the Rugby League series. You can’t just build a track and hope it works, it has to be tested.

“The track itself was built in four days in the pursuit style, an awful lot goes into it. Michele Mouton, Audi’s Group B rally driver is still involved primarily and is responsible for the design and concept. When she’s happy with how it is after it’s in place it gets handed over to other departments.”

“An hour after the racing finished on Saturday night people were digging up the track.”

“The transition between the Olympic Stadium and what will become West Ham United’s stadium was still going on around us during planning, so we had to factor that in. It wasn’t until the Rugby World Cup that we could get a real feel for where everything was going to be. A lot of the areas like the media centre, mixed zone, press conference room, places like that were in action for us to see.

“We work with the stadium, but we take it over when the time comes, it’s our responsibility.

“We broke the record of de-rigging afterwards, the previous one was 40 hours and we did it in 27 this year! An hour after the racing finished on Saturday night people were digging up the track and everyone worked on their own areas. It’s difficult to get the stuff out, especially all the concrete metal work and tarmac from the track so we could hand the stadium back on time which was Monday morning this year.

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“It’s like a building site,” Olliff concluded. “But on fast forward.”

And once the final piece of track leaves the stadium, the focus immediately shifts to the next year, when behind the scenes, the same process starts all over again.