Motor racing on television — we’ve never had it so good

These are good times to be a shallow-pocketed motor racing fan. There is one good side-effect to the Lewis Hamilton hype-fest. As far as I can tell, there is more motor racing on terrestrial television now than there ever has been. For those of us who don’t want to fork out the cash on a Sky subscription, ITV4 is a godsend.

For the first time ever, GP2 is being shown live on terrestrial television. Straight after qualifying has finished on ITV1, you can turn over to ITV4 to watch the feature race live. Then on Sunday morning the sprint race is also live. That does mean an early start to your Sunday, but man — this is live GP2! It’s worth getting up for. For the first time, I can truly get into GP2.

ITV4 is also showing the FIA GT Championship. I’ve watched a couple of those races and I have to say I’m not really a convert. To think that those races used to last three hours… Who can be bothered?

More impressive, though, is ITV4’s commitment to show BTCC. In the past BTCC was shown on ITV1, so this might actually be seen as a step down for the championship. But ITV4’s coverage is incredibly generous in the amount of time it gives over to BTCC. Most of the programmes last for an incredible five hours!

In addition to showing at BTCC races in full, usually (perhaps even always) live, ITV4 also shows the support races in full. I am just amazed that quite minor events such as the Renault Clio Cup and the Seat Cupra Championship get so much airtime on ITV4 now.

Best of all for an F1 fan like me, one of the BTCC’s support races is Formula Renault UK. This is quite a good championship that can be an enjoyable watch. Among its graduates are names such as Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Mike Conway and Kimi Räikkönen (who amazingly — controversially — made the leap all the way from Formula Renault UK to F1 with nothing in between!). It’s a great place to look for tomorrow’s F1 stars.

I’m a bit so-so about BTCC — I can take it or leave it. But if I have nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon I’ll happily put my feet up and watch it, keeping an eye out for the Formula Renault UK race. You really have to take your hat off to ITV for putting so much faith in the BTCC and its support races.

It’s not just ITV who are impressing with their commitment to motor racing this year. UKTV’s Dave channel has given WRC more coverage than it’s had in the UK for a few years now. ITV4’s old highlights programme was pretty dodgy and was often on at a strange time. On Dave, WRC now has a regular weekly slot. So in addition to coverage of the rallies themselves, there is also an ‘access all areas’ programme. It’s not always the greatest television (think of ITV’s pre-race F1 show), but it’s impressive that it even exists given that WRC has been in the doldrums of late.

All this is in addition to the motor racing coverage we already got, which includes of course F1 and MotoGP. If you keep your eye on the schedules you can also catch highlights of British Formula 3, British Superbikes and the British GT Championship.

All that is required now is some better coverage of A1GP. I used to hate the idea of that series, but when I caught some of the highlights on Channel Five this year I was really impressed at the good racing that was going on. Let’s hope it isn’t just stuck on Sky in future. And let’s hope the highlights aren’t buried away in the middle of the night on Channel Five.

16 comments

  1. Will you be along to Knockhill in August to watch the BTCC and all the support races in person?

  2. Also worth mentioning is the excellent coverage of the WRC on channel Dave.

  3. It would appear you guys in the UK get lots of motor racing programing. Here in the U.S. it’s mostly boring NASCAR events.

  4. Futwick — Gaah! I knew there was something I forgot! Dave’s commitment to WRC is also incredible. It’s the first time for a few years WRC has had such good coverage in the UK. Even when there is no rally there is an ‘access all areas’ programme or something similar. Good stuff. I have to edit the post now!

  5. Certainly enjoying GP2 on ITV4 – the sight of the dog being run over in Turkey, not so good…

    Also, ITV have out of nowhere started doing really comprehensive streaming video of F1 on their website, so now every last moment of practice as well as qualifying and the race is available to diehards.

    If you’re taking to A1GP then it might be worth keeping an eye out for the August test at Silverstone. Don’t know whether a visit is practical (it’s on a weekday) but last year they let the punters in for free to watch the whole event. Even parking was free and you could potter around the track practically without restriction. We’ll certainly go again if they repeat that this year.

    Of course, this being Silverstone, your waterproofs and a packed lunch are highly advisable…

  6. The Silverstone test sounds great! Unfortunately a visit probably isn’t practical for me — not because it’s a week day, but because of the fact that it’s hundreds of miles away from where I live! I’d have to take a packed breakfast and dinner as well as a lunch!

  7. A lot of people have been knocking ITV’s GP2 coverage but I do think it’s better than it was on Eurosport. I’ve been toying with the idea of live blogging them on Maximum Motorsport if anyone’s interested?

    The BTCC coverage is much better than it was.

    But there is one downside – Sky are hardly showing any of the Indy Car series live, which is hugely disappointing as the series has just re-united. Instead we get NASCAR which is just rubbish. If Sky aren’t going to show Indy live they should let Eurosport, Motors TV or ITV4 pick it up.

  8. Duncan – had a feeling that Silverstone might be a fair trek south for you 🙁

    Keith – we’ve been getting our IndyCar fix from streaming video on the website and timing sheets. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

  9. Keith — An early draft of this post featured a couple of paragraphs about ITV’s GP2 coverage. I have to say that Charlie Webster is one of the worst television presenters I have ever seen. Nothing against her personally. She certainly seems to know enough about motor racing and at least she doesn’t have the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look. But she can’t seem to form proper sentences when she has to think on the fly, and those post-race driver interviews are just plain awful. The fact that she makes Mark Blundell look like a top-class broadcaster says it all.

    I can’t compare ITV’s coverage to Eurosport’s — never seen it, so I’ll take your word for it that ITV is better. Certainly the decision to have David Croft in the commentary box was a good one.

    I wonder if ITV will show the British GP2 races on ITV1. That would be good.

  10. Oh, and as for live blogging for GP2, I was thinking of doing that as well actually. If you want to do it for Maximum Motorsport then that would be ace, I would probably join in!

    Scott Woodwiss already does live commenting for GP2, but it’s Sidepodcast-style blog comments rather than CoverItLive.

  11. Having been nice about ITV in my earlier comment I have to take it back after today’s showing. Everyone involved seemed to have taken their brains out.

    Whenever a driver lost a place David Croft described them as being “caught napping” (even when, as with Grosjean at the start, they obviously weren’t).

    The graphics team put up the wrong race results.

    And Charlie was in ghastly form. She was trying to get Pantano and Maldonado to commentate on video footage of Grosjean and Senna! After several events she still looks terrified to be in front of the cameras and keeps repeating everything she says. It was painful to watch this afternoon.

  12. I can’t stand to watch the post-race GP2 coverage. It is just so painful. Charlie Webster is obviously completely out of her depth.