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GP Week : Issue 158
24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: They’ve been playing football in Europe this last week. Worldwide readers may be unaware of the European Cup, but it was impossible to remain so at Silverstone, where team dining suites echoed to triumphant shouts or desolate groans, as one European nation or another went through to/was eliminated from the next round. I’m not a fan: compared with (for instance) rugby, football is a two-dimensional affair, that puts very few points on the board. In other words, nothing much happens, except for displays of personal ball skill, relieved every so often by a goal. Yet it is hugely, enormously popular. What sustains the interest is the tension. A goal could come at any moment, often quite unexpectedly. It is waiting for these now-and-then moments that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. In this way, even a no-score draw can be a rewarding experience, and in no way means the crowd won’t come next weekend, or will switch channels in frustration. This all becomes more true the higher the level of the game. International matches between closely matched teams are the apogee of tedious tension. If this sounds critical or patronising, bear with me. It’s not meant that way. For there are very strong parallels with motor sport. The higher the level, the more time fans spend awaiting the overtake, the battle, or the crash. Which may or may not happen. It was ever thus. It was what the fans expected. Periods of relative tedium, where superb individual machine control was all there was to see; relieved by occasional spats of very high excitement. Endurance and patience were part of the package, for participants and spectators alike. For years, this was the norm. Junior classes and production or one-make series were there for the elbow-to-elbow knockabout stuff. Grand Prix racing was more austere. Even in the Schwantz- Rainey days, close battling seldom lasted for more than a few laps at a time. And that was the so-called golden age. What went wrong was the modern world, TV, and the need to reach out beyond the fan base to people who didn’t have the interest, knowledge or patience to appreciate the tension. The current and continuing flurry of rule changes is aimed as much as trying to make GP racing closer and “more exciting” as it is to cutting costs. This is in order to fill the wide-screen with non-stop action. Dorna’s and IRTA’s dream result would seem to be a dead heat with the full grid passing the chequered flag side by side, elbows touching. You can see the point. Even some of (actually most of) the older racing hands look back on the rose-tinted past, and yearn for a return to the close racing that seldom actually happened. It leaves just one question. If football, the beautiful game, can retain not only its integrity and dignity as well as its popularity without making compromises, and if football fans can endure a no-score draw, why can’t MotoGP? OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor GRAND PRIX RACING AND THE NO-SCORE DRAW OPINION