Kerr grabs podium
A1 finished its second season as it started its first, with extremely enjoyable and competitive racing and a large crowd that truly entered into the spirit of a one nation one car Series.
Jonathan Palmer and his team put on a superb range of other entertainments which made it an attractive family entertaining weekend. All in all a superb example of what motor racing has to offer to compete in 2007.
For A1 it was yet another example of where it is very much up to the country and promoter to make it work. We saw that in 2006 at Zandvoort in Holland and in New Zealand earlier this year, plus of course Brands Hatch, where the local input did a tremendous job. Czech Republic tried hard as did South Africa. South Africa being spoilt I understand from the tremendous show it put on the previous year by the large increase in admission charges.
Throughout the Series, however, there has been good racing wherever it has gone. But some very careful thought needs to be put into the calendar for next year as the Series obviously cannot go on having a large number of its events just consume money. Perhaps it would be different if the racing was on terrestrial television. Sky and its various partners do a good job but it is limited. So the Series does depend upon getting people through the gates which in many locations just doesn’t happenn in sufficient numbers.
From the outset I believed that A1 offered an opportunity. An opportunity for racing to be taken into countries by their participation in the one nation one car Series that had previously not been noted for their motorsport interests. So far one nation possibly stands out more than any other for having benefited from this and that is China where you have actually had a Chinese driver stand on the podium. Another benefit for motorsport, and particularly for the British side, was that this was an off season Series which meant that many teams and independent engineers could extend their activities throughout the year allowing them to keep personnel together. But the main benefit that I saw that could materialise from this Series was relative to drivers. Although it was purely a single car entry it would allow young drivers to get experience and perform on the world stage and hopefully, as we have practised in the Canadian and Great Britain teams, without them having to find an enormous budget to do so. Some real talent has been able to show itself, as with this year’s winner Nico Hulkenberg who has driven superbly all the year. Other young emerging talent like Johnny Reid of New Zealand, Jonathan Summerton of USA, Oliver Jarvis of Great Britain who amongst others all received very helpful boosts to their careers by their A1 performances.
But the question everyone asks is, is it sustainable? If I had to answer that today looking at the problems that we have faced I couldn’t give a positive answer. There is hope with a business executive of the standing of Pete de Silva arriving from Siemens and the fact that RAB Capital have not only stated their intention to support and grow the Series but have also made a substantial investment which must support the fact that there will be a third season. The fact that genuine franchise holders totally controlling and financing their teams are few and far between is not a development I welcome. However it is one which has come about because for whatever reason business, except in isolated cases, has not supported the Series. The sponsors that everybody believed would flock to support what by Formula One standards was a relatively low priced package have not materialised. Of course, although it does not compete directly with Formula One in the calendar or in its concept, with the global economy that now exists it is the same money that everyone is chasing. Unless the one nation one car principle brings forward really talented drivers from the emerging nations it is hard to see new money coming into support A1 in a way that we have seen in Formula One with the Alonso factor and what he has done for motorsport in Spain.
So the question-mark is still there. There has been some improvement in management but it still needs to look very hard inwards if it is going to truly compete on the world stage. It is sad to say that the jury is still out.
14 May 2007