So I'm sitting here wondering if a race car series decided that it would put in new cost caps, increased its ties to ordinary production cars, and lost some speed in the process, would fewer people watch?
It's a question that popped into my mind reading through the comments on my article on GT1 racing at Le Mans. I remembered the third-tier N-GT regulations from the tail end of the GT1 era. There was GT1 (like that 2003 Prodrive Ferrari 550 above), GT2, and then N-GT. N-GT cars were slower than their GT1 and GT2 big brothers, but they were more affordable, more-production based, and more sustainable. GT1 is dead and gone, N-GT is actually the basis for today's GT class rules at Le Mans.
I can see that the slower cars make for a longer-lasting series, I'm just not sure it makes for a more popular one.
There have been a number of series that have dropped speeds in the name of cost and closer ties to production cars, though I'm not sure how different those two are. Every few seasons, Formula One cuts down their cars to keep speeds down, as V12s turn into V10s turn into V8s turn into V6s.
The World Rally Championship has been fighting against high costs and high speeds pretty much since the end of Group B in the mid '80s. Every few years, the organizers tighten the rules of their series and it only takes a few more years for all the teams' engineers to win that lost speed back.
The question I have is if these cuts in speed are ever detrimental to a series viewership. This might be a better question for Racingnomics than anyone else, but I figured I could ask here as well.
I know we all miss faster cars of the past, but do we really think that cut speeds lead to cuts in viewership? I mean, if all the cars lose the same amount of speed, the racing would be just as close as before.
If every car at Le Mans was only as fast as a BTCC touring car, would we forgive the loss of speed for the thrill of seeing ordinary cars tear around La Sarthe? If NASCAR dropped fifty miles an hour off their average laps, but went back to using real stock car chassis, would your really feel bad?
Photo Credit: Getty