Tag Archives: racing

Ok then… guess I should recap…

My colleagues and I arrived via media shuttle from the designated media hotel. Entering the Allstream Centre we headed up the escalator to the “Tim Horton’s Media room”, where a table of timbits and fresh coffee awaited us. We were greeted by a table of volunteers from race partner Toronto Tourism, who handed us our BPA free water bottle (we are after all a green city, using a green facility for the weekend) and a data stick containing a digital visitor guide with everything we would need to get us around this fair city. There was also a map at the table, and information on all of the attractions within the core of the city, including Summerlicious! We do after all have to eat, and having someone there to answer questions, make suggestions, and help with reservations was great! Especially for first time visitors to the city.

And then I woke up…

I was hoping that someday I, or one of my colleagues, would be able to open our post race review with that paragraph. It is after all my home race, once one of the jewels in the crown of top level open wheel motor racing in North America. But as much as I’ve voraciously denied it over the last handful of years, and fought with every ounce of my being to promote, defend, and improve the event (I do a post-mortem every year with a laundry list suggestions) those days are gone and they aren’t coming back anytime soon, if at all.

(*for the record: media shuttles ended years ago, Tim Horton’s has never sponsored the media room, and Toronto Tourism has never provided swag bags or info, this is just a fantasy version of the “Welcome to our City/Race” I’ve wished for for years* )

I was so complacent coming out of the weekend, that I wasn’t even going to bother with this blog/recap. Previous recaps have fallen on deaf ears for years now, so why bother. But I wanted to have something to look back on and point to a year from now either as a triumphant “look how far we’ve come” or as a “well, it’s not surprising” (hopefully it won’t be the latter)

Something is just… off.

I was thinking maybe it was me this year. Maybe the mental/emotional state I’ve been in leading up to the weekend had tainted my joy/excitement, so I was biased. I even tried to muster up a phony state of “hyper-cheerleader” mode the night before the weekend kicked off. But it just wasn’t there. In fact the hype wasn’t anywhere in the city prior to or during the event.

My “nephew” 😉 and colleague Tony DiZinno very eloquently expressed my opinion/words in his piece today. (the Detroit vs Toronto section) (actually I agree with the whole damn thing)

Yes, I know it’s unfair to directly compare one event to another, as each one is unique in it’s facilities and promoters, but this year… this year… I don’t know. There just seemed to be a sense of “meh… whatever *shrug*” in Toronto.

The On-Track schedule was jam packed. (over packed in my opinion with 7 series, 13 races) I’m guessing they make a pretty penny from each series for use of the track and facilities, so the more the better right? To some maybe, but I think having a bit of a break on track would have offered up more of an experience off track. Then again, with the lackluster presentation around the grounds, maybe it was best to keep everyone distracted by the constant drone of engine noise…

I’m not going to review, compare or contrast the on-track stuff. There are enough arm chair drivers/race stewards out there analyzing the shit out it, so I’m not going to jump on that noisy bandwagon. (again, fwiw, TdZ spoke for me in that regard too)

My reflection will be with the event itself.

There was a definite disconnect when it came to the “event” part of the race weekend. (Ironic when speaking of a street race where the main “insult” over the years has been that those attending are “event” fans not race fans) It’s like the writing was on the wall coming into the event, and the absolute bare minimum was put in motion to pull off the weekend, without any extra expense or effort.

Already gone were the days of street parties, restaurant and bar tie-ins, and well attended media kick offs. Next went the multiple beer gardens and entertainment stages on the grounds during the weekend.

Soon gone was the party and fun atmosphere of “Thunder Alley”. Followed by the rows of neatly laid out selections of vendor booths selling great food, sponsor related gear, and handing out samples, etc… (though come to think of it I did get a free sample of travel sized men’s deodorant and body wash)

Last year they tried to revamp the weekend a bit, adding “Fests”. This saw the return of a couple of Craft Beer gardens, a site wide liquor license, and two separate areas of some of the cities most amazing food trucks.

This year, walking around the grounds behind the grandstand, one got the impression that the vendors that did show up to participate for the event were told to “park it anywhere” when they arrived as there was no rhyme or reason to the layout whatsoever (and yes, the giant gaping hole/construction site can account for some of that, but it was mapped out last year, and there was a better set up on the grounds) There were only a handful of Food trucks (half of which were chain restaurant trucks, not the local independent ones) and one beer garden. There was a Fire-Fit competition, but with the heavy on track schedule, I wasn’t able to catch any of that. Apparently there was some sort of lumberjack competition too… (can anyone verify that?)

Anyway, the whole “fest” thing confused many, according to some I talked to at the track, as they thought they were separate events off site. (only highlighting how poorly they were executed at the track) We have a lot of festivals in the city on the weekends in the summer. In fact Toronto’s Festival of Beer is happening this coming weekend… but I digress…

Back to the race fan experience…

We’ve become used to being treated like the red-headed stepchild by the series itself (apologies to red-headed stepchildren everywhere) with the lack of Fan Village set up. At least in previous years there was an attempt at a set up, as weak as it was, but this year there was nothing. Added to that the absence of the Verizon Technology Booth and charging stations on pitlane, glaringly missing as it is acknowledged during every race broadcast south of the border (last time I checked all phones could use a charge, not just Verizon phones) To my knowledge Verizon is still looking at entering the Canadian market… so why the snub? Especially from the new SERIES sponsor. Target, an associate team sponsor, embraced the Canadian market a year before they arrived, with full signage at the track, and branded giveaways. (I still use my free Target travel grocery bag everywhere!) So where’s the love Verizon?

As usual, there was a sad makeshift IndyCar swag merch booth with but a skeleton selection of wares. None of the individual team or driver merch trailers make the trip (too much hassle at the border apparently) but I guess that’s ok, because we can order that stuff online, or get it at one of the American events that most of us travel to (that’s right, we have no problem making the trip across the border to support US events)
And besides, we could get the Toronto event branded swag at the … on no, WAIT… There weren’t even ANY Event souvenirs!!

Wanted a t-shirt that said “Honda Indy Toronto”? you had to sign up for a grocery store credit card. That’s right. No pins, no mugs, no t-shirts, no jackets, no lanyards. Nothing for anyone to purchase to commemorate the weekend besides the program. (which by the way PRN did a stellar job on once again)

Hell, we don’t even get any scanner rental love up here anymore. (something that would have been useful for the stands full of people wondering what the fuck was going on both Saturday and Sunday)

Pre-race…

It was a who’s who of “who??” “celebrities” being driven around in the back of the pick up trucks behind the drivers, with our embarrassing joke of “Mayor” bringing up the rear. (way to taint our event by association doofus) FYI, every news outlet used their entire allotted “talk about the Honda Indy” time to run clips of his slothiness in the back of the truck riding around the track, gut hanging out, jacket flapping. In case you were wondering? There IS such a thing as BAD publicity.

Then came the most horrifying version of O’Canada I’ve heard in a long time. At least pre-race ceremonies (as lacking as they were) would be capped off by the signature, spectacular fly-over which Toronto is known for… or not.
Not even a fucking traffic helicopter to buzz pitlane for those of us looking to the sky in anticipation.

Post-race…

Now, I certainly wasn’t expecting a personal thank you for attending and covering the event. (Kudos once again to the powers that be in Detroit for that extra special touch) But with all of the rumours and speculation circulating regarding the future of this event, one would THINK, this year of all years, that the promoters, or at the very least Charlie Johnstone, would hold a post event wrap up press conference in the media centre. (which happens every year and at most events on the circuit) to quell the rumours, and perhaps lay out the steps being taken/suggested for the future, so we all have something more than a shrug and an “I don’t know” in response to questions from readers and fans.

Nope. Nothing…

So there is it. The weekend started with a whisper and ended with a whimper.

One would think that if this were in fact potentially the “last hurrah’ for this event, that the powers that be would want to go out with a bang! Creating desirability for current partners to re-up and future partners to jump on board, or at the very least to leave everyone wistfully longing for it’s return (see Baltimore) rather than sadly acknowledging that it was time to put the old girl down…

FOOTNOTE:

I would be remiss if I weren’t to acknowledge the “good” as well.

To all of the drivers, crews, and teams, (and their families) who bring their A-Game and skills to the streets of Toronto every year, and put on a stellar show for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Big ups and a hearty thank you to all of my Honda Canada peeps. A++ effort all around, in particular your support of Make-A-Wish Canada. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The fine folks at Torchia Communications. I know your hands are tied a lot of the times, but you guys put in a fine effort to work within those limits to make our jobs easier on the weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Keg Steakhouse. Once again, two stellar meal experiences for me and my out of town guests over the race weekend. (the same cannot be said for our experience at Jack Astor’s on Saturday night… )

and the heartiest thank you to my all of my colleagues who do make the time and effort to travel to my fair city to cover this event, contributing to the city coffers with your tourist dollars 😉 Safe travels my friends. See you on the other side of the border soon.

2012 Grand Prix of Alabama *live* (post-delayed) blog ;-)

Ok… so here we go, first race out of the gate for the newly monikered NBCSports Network. (which absorbed Versus over the winter)

I’ve gotta tell you, after yesterday’s lacklustre qualifying show, I didn’t hold out too much hope for today’s show.

Seriously, did anyone else think they had tuned into a Golf broadcast yesterday? Awful. Just awful. No context, no excitement. The only time the commentators seemed to have any energy was when Power got dinged for his fast lap, and they started discussing the first “controversy” of the year and that Beaux Barfield was in the hot seat. If I wasn’t already familiar with the series and the format of qualifying, I would have A) thought “what the fuck am I watching?” and B) had ZERO motivation to tune in today.

Now, on the plus side, every commercial break was Indy-centric, and featured our drivers. and NO DANICAN’T! Woot Woot! Now if only we could lose the Ninja commercial…

So on to today, race day… Continue reading

2 more days til MY sports season begins

alright… Got all of that Football stuff out of your system?

Good, because now it’s time to concentrate on some real sports entertainment! Racing and Cars!

That’s right, over the course of the next week, things kick off in a big way, especially here in Toronto.

First up, this weekend is the annual Canadian Motorsports Expo, or CME as it’s known in these parts. In a stroke of genius, the powers that be decided to push the date from it’s usual dreary January weekend, to the second weekend in February.

Why is this important? Well, a number of reasons, but the main one being it’s close proximity to the Canadian International Auto Show (that kicks off next Thursday, and I’ll be there too) This makes it a great lead in to the automotive season here in Toronto. Plus, the football season is done (apparently they played their last game during the Madonna concert last weekend) leaving a good portion of the male population wanting something to do on the weekend besides tackle their “honey-do list” 😉 And, though they could never have predicted this, the weather has been ridiculously pleasant this winter. (of course now that I’ve said that, there will be Snowmageddon this weekend)

At first glance at the handy electronic version of the show program
There looks to be a much larger presence this year. The layout appears to have changed substantially, and there certainly appears to be a larger corporate footprint mixed in with the smaller “mom & pop” operations.

What am I looking forward to? The discussion!
Yes, it’s the annual meeting of the motorsports minds. The who’s who of Canadian (Ontarian?) motorsports journalists hold a Q & A panel each year (Saturday), while I, the “who the fuck is that chick?” of Canadian motorsports journalists, sits in the audience and heckles… er “asks questions” 😉
There are actually things to talk about this year! In years previous, much of the discussion at the CME amongst my colleagues and friends amounted to nothing more than speculation because as you well know, other than the mega teams, very few deals are signed, sealed and delivered in January. This year of course was a bit of an anomaly as teams were eager to secure drivers sooner rather than later to take advantage of the limited testing of the new car, a time sensitive priority with the first race 46 days away. (not that I’m counting… but I’m counting)

Speaking of the new car; you can get up close and personal with the DW12 at the show courtesy of the Honda Indy Toronto, who themselves will once again have a presence after a year absent from the show. Come down, ask about the car, ask about the race, get revved up for July!!

oh, right, you want to know about drivers?

Ya, they have those too! As is the case currently in North America, it’s all about NASCAR, (there really is no accounting for taste 😉 ) so much of the special guest action is NASCAR centric (hey, they’re probably footing most of the bill too, so good on them) This year features both CDN & US stars who will feature prominently throughout the weekend: Carl Edwards, Robert Yates, Randy LaJoie & Scott Steckly But don’t fret Open Wheel/Road racing fans, CME stalwart Ron Fellows will be there again (should be interesting to pick his brain about Mosport) and the most important feature, for me anyway, up and coming open wheel SUPERSTAR (though he’s always been one in my book) James Hinchcliffe! (he’s there on Sunday)

So, it looks like I will spend a good portion of my weekend on the fricken Go-Bus to and from downtown to the fricken boonies about behind the Airport to the International Centre. (my biggest complaint about this show, especially as a non-driver) (no, the irony of that is not lost on me) On the bright side, at least I know once I’m there, I will have plenty of sights and sounds to occupy my time! But don’t just take my word for it, come check it out for yourself!

And be sure to say HI! if you’re down there. Tweet me a hello @whatimthinking

You can’t handle the truth!…

or can you?

I’ve been mulling this one around for a while now, and as we get deeper into the depths of the silliness that is silly season, mired knee deep in rumours and hearsay and bad news, I thought I would purge the brain and perhaps start up a conversation with y’all to see how you feel about it. Bear with me as this is going to be pure stream of consciousness…

This stems from a couple of incidents this week. Firstly, the not so surprising report that Rahal Letterman may or may not, but probably not, but they don’t want to say No just yet, so they’re going with ‘we’re still working on it”, but who are we kidding, it’s probably not going to happen, and if it does, it’ll only be for the 500, proving once again that the business model for this series is all wrong cause it’s crazy to market an entire team/season around one race… and…. wait, I lost my train of thought…

where was I? Oh ya, there was a big kurfuffel over an AP article that hit the newswires on Thursday. An innocent little 2 paragraph note saying that RLR was likely not going to answer the bell in 09.

Well, as always happens with these AP articles, it got picked up almost instantly by everyone and their brother… and their brothers brother. In the process it got misread and re-titled and the sky was falling and the series folding and… well you get the picture.

When it landed in my hands, it came as no shock to me, as I had just had a conversation with the PR guru at RLR, wherein he had told me pretty much the same thing. “Nothing is set, it’s not looking good, but we’ve not given up yet” So when I presented this “breaking news” to the 100 or so people that religiously follow OWW.net (we’re hoping to kick those numbers up a notch this season!) I was careful to use journalistic buzz words like “allegedly”. I was also able to dig into my personal stash of correspondence and add another quote lending credence to the story while supporting the “we’re not dead yet” theory.
Of course I still willingly wrote an amendment to the story immediately when the RLR team went into spin control about an hour later.

Yesterday a couple of other tidbits hit the interweb rumourmill highway. As one involved a friend, I immediately reached out to clarify the story. Turns out it was much ado about nothing and I was asked to nip it in the bud if possible. I won’t repeat it as we all know how broken telephone works.

I will say as well though that I do believe where there is smoke there is fire… this is inbred in me from years of being a Champ Car fan and proclaiming “it’s only a flesh wound” while series bled to death before our very eyes… but I digress..

So here’s the thing… every week there seems to be a one step forward/two steps back situation. Every week another little “hey didja hear??” rumour makes it to the surface (both positive and negative) and rides off in an internet air bubble… to be popped sooner or later by the fickle finger of truth.

So what’s better? Blind faith that the season will happen, while we swat at the rumour bubbles, or a consistent, controlled message, released by the teams/drivers themselves. (and here is where we get to the actual purpose of this long winded ramble-a-thon)

I believe, especially in this economic climate, and especially after years of both sides of the split riding the precarious “will they or won’t they answer the bell” fence, that it is important for everyone; teams, drivers, series, to stay ahead of the rumours and control the message.
The off season is a breeding ground for negativity and doubt. Sure we all know in the back of our minds that things slow down, people get laid off, sponsors fall away… because we’ve been through it season after season. And season after season we laugh it all off at the first race when the green flag waves.

But what of the new fans who aren’t aware of this? What of potential sponsors who may be interested but are put off by the spinning and beeping of the backpeddling news stories?

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little weekly or heck, how about monthly updates from the shops themselves. “we’re on our annual break, the crew has been let go temporarily as a cost cutting measure, but we are confident that come (Jan? Feb?) we will regroup to prepare for the season ahead” blahdy blah blah… or a brief Q&A with the team owner reflecting on the past season and their hopes for the one ahead.. How about a “hey isn’t our sponsor great!?” article. You know the kind of thing that there is no time for during the season or would get buried by all the other news, but in the off season would be a nice thank you to the sponsors that are still sticking it out, and would act like a big dangling carrot to sponsors that are on the fence.

I personally am a “give it to me straight” kinda gal. I want to know, for better or worse, what the situation is, so I can prepare or rally or whatever. If it’s bad news, tell it to me straight, up front. It’s not going to get any better the longer you hold on to it. Case in point, RLR. They know they are in a shitty situation. Why give a misconstrued quote to Mike Harris at the AP only to have to fix it later? Why not utilize the awesomeness that is your director of communications, Eric Mauk (little plug for my bud!) and put out the story yourself? “The struggles of a team trying to survive in trying times” Right away you’ve garnered the sympathy of people who will rally around you rather than the suspicion of folks who now feel you are back-peddling.

As a potential sponsor I would be more inclined to hang my hat on a team or driver who maintained a positive buzz in the face of a negative situation, than one who remained mum while rumours of their demise swirled the drain.

IndyCar itself gets a B+ for their off season efforts. There has been a nice mix of fluff, and information and the occasional fire outputting since the checkers waved in October. Every week some little tidbit of information about the series or a driver lands in my inbox. That to me signifies strength and growth or at the very pessimistic least, sustenance. If all of the teams/drivers within the series followed suit, and if other series did the same, then we wouldn’t be subjected to months of speculation every off season. We would all be more inclined to talk UP the series rather than talk it down. That in and of itself can only be seen as a positive in a time when the decision to support can be made or broken based on the smallest perception of “this might not be a good thing”

So, my lurking interweb brethren, what say you?

living the dream…

So I haven’t had a chance to watch the IndyCar race yet, thus no *live* blog this week. (I was working) I’m sure it will be the usual TSN butcher job, and I won’t be happy about what I’m seeing, but I’ll find that out later tonight… In the meantime, a little personal bloggy blog…

Slowly but surely I’m racking up experience, making connections and testing the waters…

This weekend it was PR/photographer/driver wrangler at Mosport with the AIM Autosports Star Mazda team, as their main PR dude *cough* future boss *cough* was living the high life at Infineon with the AIM Grand AM team (woohoo! A podium finish!)

It was neat as this is a teeny tiny squad (3 crew,1 driver) so I didn’t feel out of place or over my head. It was also interesting to spend the entire day with the team (save for an hour or so when I visited with friends in the ALMS paddock)
I’m so used to being pulled in a dozen directions at the track and looking for the story, it was kinda neat having a singular focus and living the story as it unfolded.

I do rather enjoy the team side of things, (I knew I would) and even though I was PR by proxy only for one day, I felt immediately possessive and protective of “my” team and driver!

I love the secret language of racing.
I love being around racing people.
I love the sights and sounds of the track no matter the hour.

The minute I drive away from one track I’m already working out in my head when and where the next one is. There isn’t an aspect of it that doesn’t appeal to me. Being tired at the end if a long day only means I fall asleep quicker. The travel isn’t an issue at all. I love traveling. I’ve always been a bit of a nomad so laying down roots is not really my style. I already keep in touch with most of my friends (who pretty much all live far away) via the internet, so it’s not like it would be a big adjustment to suddenly be on the road a lot.

I guess the most important thing I learn each time I do one of these “tests” is that this is what I want to be doing.
This is what I need to be doing.
This is what I’m going to be doing in 09 dammit.

too fun not to share…

No, not racing gossip (although I have a little of that in my bag of tricks that can’t quite be shared yet)

A little video humour for your Tuesday evening.

The funniest part is the reactions of the presenters! hehehe!

I know what I’m doing Thursday…

In Person: Jackie Stewart
Indigo Bay & Bloor, Toronto, Ontario
Thursday, January 10th at 7:00 pm

Join us as Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music, interviews Sir Jackie Stewart, winner of three F1 World Championships and 27 Grand Prix races, as they discuss his autobiography, Winning is Not Enough.
Book signing to follow. No memorabilia.