Everybody's Working For The Weekend ...
by Chris Jameson
December 28, 2014
When I first delved back into motorsports some fifteen years ago, it might have been difficult to imagine the day would come when I would start to wish for the end of the racing season. Back then however, it was strictly a summer sport as my son and I set out to take on the karting world, a season that pretty much ran from late April until September – a bit longer if we decided to run some of the enduros that took us into the first week of October. This did not mean we lost interest in racing during the off-season, but at the time, running twelve to fifteen weekends over the summer was just great and winter consisted of some basic kart maintenance when the time allowed.
By the end of 2002 things changed. That was the year I started doing some public relations for a team and also started working with a young-up-and-comer who needed a new web site and some pr/media services. It was also the year we decided our racing extend our own racing season and take on a series in Florida. My six-month season had now stretched out to nine months of racing plus three months of prep work as well as writing and design. (Oh yeah, I was also teaching graphic design and e-Commerce full time)
In '03 I added another talented young driver to the roster and was being approached by more families to assist with various things. By the end of that year, I was spending more time working on motorsports peripherals than racing. It had (almost) become a full time job and there was no longer such a thing as an off-season. The following year brought about a complete change and we abandoned on-track activities. I was now involved year round working in everything from karts to open-wheel including Formula BMW and eventually A1GP – a series that ran on track through the winter. Weekends away from the desk became a distant memory.
One important service provided to those I worked with over the years was quick updates for their web sites and as many race notes as possible. Through the first few years this meant adding some computers and monitoring timing and scoring feeds. When possible, there would also be a phone call with the driver(s) to get some post-race quotes. Because of schedules – and the dollars involved to travel, I had to rely on a lot of things to be in place to make this all work. By 2007, I also had to rely on going without sleep as that particular year two of my drivers were competing on opposite sides of the globe at the same time. As one finished sessions in Asia about 2 AM, the other hit the track in Europe around 3 AM - and of course, there were races in North America to cover. I had also started to attend as many races as possible within a 12 hour driving distance (the exception that year being Road Atlanta which is fourteen hours – but we made it in twelve).
It was all about providing information to the fans in a timely manner. I was trying to deliver what I myself – as a fan, expected to see. I learned (and delivered) even more over the next three years working directly with a team racing in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series surviving on Subway sandwiches and caffeine and understanding that sleep is for the weak.
Then midway through the 2010 season I decided to "retire" when my brother – they guy who first got me involved in motorsports some forty-eight years earlier, passed away. It was a bit of a shock to the system and I started to think about the toll the travel and lost sleep was having on me. It was time to take it easy.
But of course, one does not just walk away from auto racing quite so easily.
By the time I walked away from "being the content" side of motorsports, things had long been percolating with Mike (Sullivan) at RaceCanada.ca on the "what's news" side of the sport and it was not long before the pair of us (along with input from my son – he of the TSN pedigree) started to build what you see today. We each have our roles to play and (thankfully) the admin part falls to Mike while I get to focus on the racing – and being the occasional curmudgeon (Oh look! Pigeons! Where's my cat?). Forging ahead we had but one clear mandate – if it races in Canada or there is a Canadian racing in it, we will (somehow) cover it.
Needless to say (but I will say it anyway), my "retirement" lasted about a week.
Just over four years have passed and it has been an evolution. If you read Mike's story from earlier this month (2014: Looking Forward,Looking Back) you will understand what that evolution has been – from a basic HTML site where we tried to keep up to a social media juggernaut with some pretty heady multimedia plans on the (very) near horizon. Facebook, two accounts on Twitter, Instagram and of course the web site (which is now updated almost daily with industry-generated news). This past year we also added some recorded (audio) interviews which will expand to full podcasts and as I am writing this, Mike is off to pick up a new Macbook with Final Cut Pro editing software. Yes kiddies, we are going to add moving pictures! (QUIET ON THE SET! And get that shine off his forehead. Couldn't we find a younger host? MAKEUP!)
But I digress (something I do often) ...
What it still comes down to for us is race coverage. Since 2011 we have tried very hard to get to as many races as possible across North America when time and budget allow. Time is easy – the budget, not so much. I have to tell you, the shoestrings are worn thin – but we do it because we feel there is a need for it. Travel has generally been based on the willingness of various series to work with us (provide accreditation) and the tracks to accept us (when series accreditation is not forthcoming). But it is never easy – and sometimes inconvenient.
With so many Canadians racing in many different series, plus the racing here at home, sometimes it is damn near impossible to meet our mandate when I am on the road. There are certain tracks lacking the space and/or technical infrastructure that allow us to cover everything on a given weekend. I have travelled 12+ hours to a track only to discover that it was going to be impossible to provide proper coverage. I made the best of the first day and a half there, but left early and drove home in order to cover a race in Europe the next morning. I was then able to cover the races from the track I had left by going back to the old standby of monitoring live timing & scoring then contacting teams/drivers for post-race quotes. Over the years I have also built up a network of friends and colleagues who are prepared to "give us the skinny" when I can't make it to the circuit.
Throughout 2014 however, it became increasingly obvious that getting to all the tracks and covering all the races was an impossible task. Weekends had once again become simply part of the work week. Then add some issues regarding broadcast and streaming of various series. But we made it work for the most part. I didn't realize how well we made it work until early September when sitting down to review just exactly how many events RaceCanada actually reported. When tallied it up I asked myself, "Is it over yet?"
DTM, Indy, Road to Indy (three series), IMSA, Continental, World Challenge, Trans-Am, GT3 Cup (Cdn & US), IMSA Lites, Toyo Tires F1600, NCATS and so on and so on in a season that started at Daytona in early January and ended in Hockenheim in mid-October, there is not one weekend, save for the month of February that did not have a race or motorsport event scheduled – although February did have the Canadian Motorsport Expo and The Canadian International Auto Show, both of which we attended. From grassroots racing to international competition, RaceCanada watched, monitored, attended and reported close to two-hundred races in 2014. TWO-HUNDRED RACES! And we did it while also concentrating on no less than twenty-five (regular) Canadian drivers in major racing series on all those weekends plus those in local events when possible.
On one particular weekend in August, TUDOR, Continental, Lites, GT3 Cup, and Lamborghini Trofeo (all with Canadian entrants) were at Virginia International Raceway while IndyCar, Indy Lights, ProMazda, USF2000 and World Challenge (GT/GTS) raced at Sonoma (all with Canadian entrants). With some classes running double-headers, the weekend totalled fifteen races. As you can see from this picture above, I sucked up a lot of bandwidth that day including live streaming of all the races from VIR plus both World Challenge races at Sonoma. On-track activities started at 8 AM and finished around 9 PM each day.
Meanwhile, Mike was starting to cover Pete McLeod competing in the Red Bull Air Racing series and spending more time following and reporting on NCATS and F1600.
With all that, plus a deluge of industry news coming in – and then all of the 2015 schedule announcements, it's not difficult to imagine (once again) why I ask myself, "Is it over yet?"
Well the season ended in October with the last DTM race (Trans-Am did run at Daytona in November but by that time we were well into planning 2015 and gave it a miss. Not much in the way of Canadian content for that event anyway), but already, TUDOR and Continental teams were gearing up for Test Days (also in November) because the Roar Before The 24 is coming up next week, and there was all the driver/team news to monitor. Who was going where in 2015 – and a lot of that is still not settled.
So while the series, teams and drivers figure out their plans, here at RaceCanada we are trying to figure out ours. We are also looking at what worked for us – and what didn't this past season and figure out how to improve what we do and address problems. Some series gave us phenomenal support. Others, not so much. Some teams were proactive and supportive. Others, not so much. We worked around any issues because in the end, we need to get you the news, updates and results but looking forward, there have to be decisions about who helps us get those things, and who does not. For the most part, there are just two of us looking after this beast on a regular basis with the support of some very important people when available. For the past month I have been staring at the 2015 calendar with all the race dates plugged in and trying to make decisions as to where we will go. But I have also (pretty much) completed a new office equipped with dual-band internet, cable feed, six computers and two televisions so that we don't miss a trick. As you can see in this picture, the podcasting system is already in running off one computer and the system will be expanded (more mics) when we start bringing in guests for interviews. And then there are the videocasting plans.
Years ago when we raced karts, people would often ask what I did in the off season. My reply was usually, "If we aren't racing, we are getting ready for racing." Nothing is closer to the truth these days, no matter which side of the desk. Oh and this year, I just might consider an invitation to get behind the wheel. Heck, I'm not that old ... yet.
We sincerely hope you have enjoyed what we do and will continue to follow us. Despite our occasional protestations and lack of sleep, we enjoy doing it – because we love motorsports. We look to bring you even bigger and better things next year and in the years to come.
On a final note, I do apologize for this rather lengthy missive, but when I spend most of the year simply stating, "The race was won by X" and "Driver's standings are as follows", it's nice to let loose and type a few thousand words. Not everything can be said in 140 characters.
Cheers, and well see you at the track! CJ