We at Jalopnik want people to be racing more cars. But racing is never a simple or cheap endeavor, even if the car itself is. But I have an idea for a spec series—say with an all-Mitsubishi Mirage grid—and its success hinges on getting people excited. Normal people, specifically. Normies. And I take my cues from Dancing With The Stars here.
The inspiration for this story came from this Twitter thread by friend of the site Patrick Frawley:
He’s not wrong. The issue isn’t reaching the people who are already interested. You can’t run a spec series if demand doesn’t exceed the number of spots on the grid. It’s just not a model that lends itself to growth.
If you want to start a movement, you’ve gotta grow the base. And that means getting out there on TV. The kind of TV that people watch and decide they can turn off the TV and do it. No, not Zoom. Reality TV.
Most of us are already familiar with Star In A Reasonably Priced Car, the Top Gear segment which is probably the one you’d fast-forward through if you were watching in America, because who the hell is “Boris Johnson”, anyway? When the alternative is more supercar noises and puerile cheap car challenges, it doesn’t make sense for most of us to learn about what new TV show some C-list comedian was going to start hosting on BBC9, or whatever.
What you probably didn’t skip, though, was the lap. Not much is more exciting than the genuine drama of an unskilled driver doing their best to bring an underpowered, under-rubbered hatchback or dumpy sedan around a quick circuit as fast as they possibly can. I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing that on TV. And frankly, I’m one of those crazy people who usually liked the interviews too.
Star in A Reasonably Priced Car was, when you think about it, a time trial version of a spec race. Top Gear couldn’t get every celebrity thirsty for a little primetime exposure on television all at once (though they did try once or twice.)
So what does this have to do with starting a Mirage Spec Series? It’s pretty simple, actually. We’re going to keep going where Top Gear started by taking celebrities who need to “boost their metrics” or something like that and pit them directly against one another (on the track of course).
For our purposes, though, we’ll need something a little more involved than Top Gear’s format. We can’t just get people excited about watching their favorite comedians, actors and YouTube stars drive around on their own. We need them to want to picture themselves behind the wheel, to want to be out there on the track too. To do that, we’re going to introduce co-drivers.
In a typical rally race, co-drivers are there to help the driver prepare for the curves ahead. Before racing, they’ve already been out on the course and precisely determined the speed and geometry needed to make the most out of every turn. In our show (and in our league), non-celebrity co-drivers will do much the same job, giving directions and feedback to the celebrities behind the wheel.
The idea is to help viewers envision themselves racing too, and if the interactions between driver and co-driver are anything like they are in the pros, it’ll be pretty entertaining too.
You might wonder why all of this effort needs to go into promoting a racing league. I wish it wasn’t this difficult to get people excited about racing, but remember that there are a lot of parts to getting started and that’s a barrier to entry for most. The trick is to help people understand that what they see on TV is doable and luckily for us, there is data on our side.
Take, for example, Dancing With The Stars, a show that was recently renewed for its 7,086th season and still draws in millions of viewers. And it’s had a meaningful impact on the popularity of ballroom dancing. Enough people actually picked up a new hobby because they saw it on television and thought they could pull it off that it breathed new life into the Blackpool Ballroom in England.
Even more interestingly, the first wave of dancing competitions on TV were followed by copycats the world over. Everyone was trying to find the next formula to crack the primetime code, and dancing seemed to be it. If just one of these racing shows takes off, growth could snowball.
Following the the Jonas Brothers in Mirages on So You Think You Can Drive at 9 on NBC could be Donald Glover and Janelle Monae in Toyota 86s on Strictly Come Rallying at 10. You might even see Seth Rogen Drifting With The Stars and Oprah on America’s got Oversteer too.
And when these shows finally take off, I bet you Americans will do what they do best: copying exactly what they saw on the air.