By on July 7, 2015

Our recent post asking what possible relevance most automobile racing has to the consumer side of the auto industry has me thinking about a race series idea that’s been percolating in my head for a while. The goal of the concept is to come up with a racing series that will resonate both with consumers (read: auto manufacturers) and racing enthusiasts. So far, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of cars, rules, tracks and schedules would be involved, but as yet I haven’t come up with some kind of catchy acronymic name.

To begin with, it would be based on production cars in North America and the races would be run in all three countries that make up the continent — Canada, Mexico, and the United States. That should get some manufacturers involved, if not fielding works teams, at least in terms of funding, PR, and technical support.

Perhaps the result of NAFTA, automotive assembly and component plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are now effectively interlinked into one logistical whole, so making a racing series aimed at those three countries make sense. Also, it would allow some weather scheduling advantages.

In terms of a formula and rules, the series would be open to any production car made or sold in North America that meets all applicable safety and pollution standards in the countries where it is marketed. I’m not sure there needs to be a specified number of homologated vehicles, because meeting gov’t regs would almost necessarily mean we’re talking about cars made by the hundreds at least. Rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive; they’re all eligible. Same thing with engines. No restrictions on cylinder count or layout — inline, vees, Ws, and flat engines are all permitted. Naturally aspirated mills, turbos, superchargers — they’re all welcome if they’re factory. If that car is sold with that engine, you can run it. Hybrids, too, though they’ll have to use stock motors and battery packs. Since some of the sports car racing series have handicapped some production engines (the Corvette and Cadillac racing teams have at times run with less power than the production versions of their race cars) to keep them from dominating their competition, restricting the series to production drivetrains shouldn’t be an issue.

Basic architecture, powertrain and layout has to remain factory, though stiffening via roll cages will be allowed. Suspension layouts and mounting points have to remain stock. Production engines will be used, although some performance mods will be permitted, like gas-flowing heads and bigger throttle bodies.

1280px-WIRDragStreetEliminators

The tracks that the series would run on are chosen to appeal to a variety of motorsports fans, close to the grassroots level, but still professional. There would be a rotating four week schedule with the series visiting road courses, 1/4 mile dragstrips, 1/2 mile ovals (some of them dirt tracks), and rallycross setups (perhaps in stadiums). I don’t know if in total more people go to races at big NASCAR/IndyCar level events or at smaller scale events, but there are undoubtedly a bunch of folks who go out to watch those more grassroots races. The number of people who race at smaller venues is unquestionably greater than at the rarefied levels of the sport.

Tires, springs, and suspension settings changes would be allowed for the different tracks, but the cars would still have to be mechanically the same. The events on courses would be relatively short — one hour of green flag racing, to keep things television friendly. I’d bet that a measurable number of folks doze off in front of their television during a 100+ lap race.

In terms of the schedule, the series would start in Mexico in February, after the National Football League’s Superbowl, but before NASCAR’s season opener, the Daytona 500. Those three weeks are a deadzone for televised sports. Spring training for baseball doesn’t start till mid February. The only sports you’d be competing with would be the second tier major league sports, basketball and hockey. [Second tier? Hockey? -Mark] After races in Mexico, have events scheduled in the U.S. from California through the southwest and Texas and maybe some events in the southeast. When it’s warm enough, the series moves to Canada, with events in eastern and western provinces. Then back to the U.S. to wrap things up in September, before the baseball playoffs begin and before the NFL season starts dominating sports news.

There would be championships for each racing discipline, plus overall championships for both drivers and manufacturers.

The cars that would be racing would be cars that people drive so consumers can identify with things and car companies can go back to the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mindset, well, at least a little bit. They’d be racing in the formats that are the most popular participatory motorsports in North America, so racing enthusiasts of differing stripes will appreciate it. By keeping things more or less factory, that would keep costs down, and by making it open to all cars sold or built on the continent, there’d be interest from more than just the domestic American automakers.

I think the idea has potential. If you agree or disagree, let us know in the comments. Also, if you can come up with a name for the series that works out to a clever acronym, feel free to suggest it. I was going to use North American Racing Championship, but I’m not sure if NARC would yield positive Q scores.

[Images sourced from Ford, Wikimedia Commons]

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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20 Comments on “How to Make Motorsports Relevant – the North American Racing Championship...”


  • avatar

    I don’t want to watch a bunch of similarly colored cars driving around in circles.

    I want to see REGULAR production cars forced to compete with each other.

    I want to see 1-5 mile long drag races between new cars fresh off the dealer lot.

    And unless you can promise me spectacular explosions and destruction, I’d rather just watch CNN.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Yes. Bring back truly STOCK CAR racing.

      Most cars these days are capable beyond their drivers’ abilities, so let’s see what they can really do in competition.

  • avatar
    Fred

    How about putting cars in a class based on retail price?

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I was thinking separating them by price, and weight class.

      <40k$
      And
      Less than 70k

      Weight greater than and less than 3,200lb
      Since it won’t let me use less than and greater than signs

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      I wonder how well things would work if racers selected their own class at race time. Suppose you set a limit of 20 cars per race, and 50 cars show up — that’s three races. First come, first served, but anyone can change race up until the race starts, if there’s a slot available. Management sets prize money for each race, usually more for the fastest, less for the slowest, and while total prize money would be fixed ahead of time or at least as soon as attendance is known, management could change distribution among the races up until the race starts, trying to even out the races, to discourage fast racers from dropping down a class for easy winnings, and to encourage slow racers from taking a chance and moving up a class. You could also give the crowd some say in the matter, say reserving half the winnings for crowd distribution. They wouldn’t look on slumming very favorably.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I think the only “relevant” motorsports racing these days is amateur run-what-you-brung events: local autocross, Wacky Wednesdays, stuff like that.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I guess I’m weird becuase I’m not really interested in watching production cars race each other.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I’m with you on that one. We’ve been down that road many times before: either these series answer a question nobody asked (what street-legal car performs best under artificial conditions?), or manufacturers load the dice with homologation specials that are useless on the street.

      Single-make series can be fun, but only as a way of revealing talented drivers who should be in real racing series.

  • avatar
    alterboy21

    Agree. I think a lot of people (on this site) think the same way. A race series connected to real cars, relevant performance, and manufactures would be great.

    Needs to be minimum modifications of showroom cars. Maybe inline with SCCA stock standards: DOT tires, roll cages, intake/exhaust, brake pads, etc. Classification by price makes a lot of sense. You could have overall wins, class wins, manufactures championships, etc.

    I like the idea of multiple formats. Ovals, road courses, dirt, rally cross, drag all come to mind. The same cars run all races with only changes to tires. Race length should be long enough on road & oval series that fuel economy (pit stops) come into play.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    That photo accompanying any headline with “relevant” in it is a hoot.

    I’d expect a bunch of Success Kids as spectators (if any).

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    I might even watch it.

    I seldom have time, or want to make time, to watch several hours of anything, let alone cars which are so similar that you have to watch every weekend to have any idea of who’s who.

    The idea of real stock cars, with minimal mods (tires, roll cages, safety equipment), mixing it up, is about the only thing I can think of which would get me to plunk my ass down and stare at a TV like that.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I fondly remember watching the North American Touring Car Championship on Speedvision when it ran back in the 90s. I thought NATCC (Nat-Sees) was a weird acronym though. It did check most of the boxes of being production-based relevant, using factory unibodies and driveline configurations.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I really like the multiple event idea. It harkens back to the AMA Grand National events of the sixties and seventies.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Since you’re letting them change suspensions and tires for the events, just call it the Dodge Viper series and don’t get too sad when no one else wants to play.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Even with dirt tires, the Viper would get schooled in the rally cross by cars like the STI or Focus RS. A GTR would likely win overall. I like the class by MSRP idea. It could also bring to fruition some stripper performance models.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I misread the proposal and was thinking made AND sold in NA instead of made OR sold as written. I think an even more hypercar AWD could school the GTR with no cost restrictions though.

  • avatar
    mightyb28

    Yeah… Do we really need another series?
    The problem is advertising. If you want people to get interested in anything you need to ADVERTISE! That is what every series, minus NASCAR, has a problem. And not advertising during a car show or race. That is advertising to the market you already have; for the most part.
    You need to advertise during prime time and across cable networks. Advertise on banners all over the web. When a person searches for belts make sure your series banner add or flash add is showing on the page.
    Make the ads full of energy, intense, and engaging as if you were watching a movie preview. From there people will tune in due to curiosity and then you have to hook them with good commentary and lots of explanation of the series and the setups and what things do. Educate the viewer and then you can hit them with ads for new car sales, oil, lubricants, local car mechanics. It all feeds the industry and you increase your fan base and general interest.
    For proof just watch how Australia does it.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The photo is from Global Rally Cross and if you are a fan of motorsports I highly recommend attending an event. It is about the most fan friendly racing even I have ever been to – other then track days when you use your own car of course. The pits are wide open, the cars and drivers are arm’s length away and everyone is super friendly. Indy comes a close second because it’s popularity isn’t very high thus getting up close and personal with the drivers is not a problem.

    I’d love to see a British Touring Car (BTC) like series take off in the US. A few series have been around like this but none of them seem to gain any traction. I love the idea of seeing real stock cars racing, cars I can actually buy. Just gut the interior, swap out the tires and go for it. Sure there could be classes where various levels of upgrades are allowed from suspension all the way up to engine swaps. I’ve said it before: to keep one manufacturing or model from dominating use the BTC system where a win equals a weight penalty.

    I also wouldn’t mind a more or less open series with very lose rules similar to F1 in the 70/80s where pretty anything goes in quest for all out speed thru crazy ideas (6 wheels! hey why not?). A series where technology is pushed to the limits in order to introduce advanced concepts like hybrid power, adaptive suspension, etc.

  • avatar
    kuman

    I rather watch lemon races…

    Lemons are more intriguing its fun and it inspires mere mortal to make do with what they have rather than waiting for corporate mercy

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