Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Motorsport can be is exhilarating

I stumbled across a gem whose sparkle I've spent all day today admiring. A 6½-hour documentary which I watched in one sitting; only taking breaks to eat and to visit the loo; it was that compelling!

It was about Tim Schrick and his exploits when he went endurance racing and it was rather wittily called "Team Schrick" because as you might imagine, he didn't do it all on his own. I say "stumbled" because when I came across it, I was actually looking for clips from a German TV show called D Motor, screened on DMAX and presented by Tim Schrick.

It's a show I fell in love with for the technical detail Tim goes into when analysing the behaviour of cars he tests. Unlike some, he has remarkable car control skills and he doesn't get confused if you start talking to him about torque.

In any case, I've watched many motorsport documentaries before, most recently, Truth in 24 about the diesel Audi R1 TDi rennwaggen and its success at Le Mans in 2008. It was a very 'slick' documentary but it was utterly soul-less. I didn't feel anything like the connection I found with the characters in Team Schrick. And I say characters because like any other good 'drama'/"real-life-with-all-the-mundane-bits-taken-out", the individuals involved in the story were all developed to fill 3D[imensions].

In contrast, the biggest persona spanning the 92 minutes of Truth in 24 is Audi AG. Because it was a promo film, there was a desire to bolster Audi's reputation for reliability, and unlike in Team Schrick, the concession to reality that in motorsport, things can and do go wrong could not be [and wasn't] made.

Team Schrick was a true emotional rollercoaster and I fully recommend it to car, motorsport and drama fans alike. The sheer ambition Team Schrick display throughout the programme and enormous desire to succeed really hooks you in.

I think motorsport has a bad habit of presenting itself as various combinations of dour, sterile and aloof (F1 moreso than all the rest). That's what's fresh about Team Schrick; all the turmoil, emotion and passion for the sport is on show. Much unlike you get with Ron Dennis batting on about passion in press releases and press conferences but only rarely displaying any.

It's a must-watch, athough if circuit-racing isn't your thing, put Engineering the World Rally on your list. It's about Petter Sohlberg and the Subaru WRC team's 2007 season and is equally as good!

Monday, 21 December 2009

What's wrong with new TopGear?

So the show-makers finally admit fans think the show is in crisis and that they think it is too. It also seems they are trying very hard to fix it but they don't know what's wrong with the show or what to do to fix it.

Well I too, like the Monk, think I have the solution! Going with the band analogy, I think they would do the equivalent of an "acoustic set".

Everyone on the show keeps batting on about the Bolivia film and how it's the best part of this series and the 'races' and 'challenges' that fans 'loved' from, "back in the day when Top Gear was good". They also seem to love talking about the presenters and their 'on-screen chemistry' and how it's a show about 'three blokes cocking about with cars'.

It's a case of their making a fuss about everything else and forgetting it's a show about cars. It'd be like spending all your time as a band thinking about the onstage show and forgetting the [real] fans are there primarily for the music.

The part of Ep 5 I enjoyed the most was the Noble test because it was about the M600 and nothing else. Cars are interesting enough without exotic locations, 'brilliant cinematography' or contrived plots and staged humour. The clips of Top Gear I watch repeatedly on YouTube are always the 8-10 minute tests where they talk about the cars and nothing else and the best film they've put together in a while was James May's FCX Clarity test.

Nowadays, I enjoy watching clips of Tim Schrick on DMAX D Motor more than I enjoy watching TopGear. The tests are done on a featureless airfield and don't always involve supercars, all speech is in German and I have to read subtitles to follow it, but it's compelling because although there is some humour every so often, 90% of the dialogue is about cars and the joy of driving them.

I understand TG need to cater to those who watch the show for 'entertainment' but this shouldn't be at the expense of those who watch it for the cars. I propose one show in each series devoted to 'power' tests, one each from the presenters. And nothing else!