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Motorsport

Today, another FIA sanctioned championship will make its way to Australia other than Formula 1 at the end of this year thanks to the World Rallycross Championship aka World RX. Although it remains to be seen which location will take place at a later date, but the good news is that the Australian event could make its way into free-to-air for the first time just for this occasion since it will be held at an appropriate time zone & Nine holds the exclusive rights there through Stan Sport. It will be great to see how this looks like with the world feed coverage & if one likes it, they can go try the full suite & subscribing it to Stan.

The last time Nine aired live Motorsport on free-to-air was November last year with SpeedSeries during the Bathurst International at Mount Panorama before the rights were returned to Seven this year under Motorsport Australia. It doesn’t mean that Motorsport will be completely away from Nine though where the following weekend race highlights of IndyCar, Formula E & World Endurance Championship will be shown on most Saturdays throughout this year. So that won’t go anywhere as long as Stan has the exclusive paid live & replay access. Plus, we could see a bit of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race over in France this June like it was last year where the first 1-2 hours were live on 9Go before the rest can be viewed on Stan.

Despite the loss of SpeedSeries, Stan will still have the paid live & on-demand Motorcycle Australia content alongside SBS such as the Australian Superbike Championship & Pro MX Motocross Championship this year. Other than that, there’s not much hope to of bringing back both the World Rally Championship and IndyCar coming back here like it used to be nor an Formula E race or World MX event here has been seriously considered at this stage. There’s one thing we can say for sure that whenever Nine airs live a bit of Motorsport next time with the 24 Hours of Le Mans & maybe the Australian World RX Round, I hope they can make the watermark look good with the WWOS logo & not a 9Gem/9Go one whose recent history with Motorsport isn’t that good unlike the other networks. For now, it’s great to see the World RX showcase itself in our shores soon when the TCR World Tour drivers won’t be able to come back again just for this year due to logistics/transport issues.

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The 2024 Bathurst 6 Hour race will be aired on SBS (yes, on the main channel) during the Easter long weekend since this event has been run and sold separately by Australian Racing Group & not Motorsport Australia who looks after SpeedSeries. The last two Bathurst 6 Hour editions in 2022-23 was covered by Nine and Stan Sport where there was a bit of free-to-air access with the following week race highlights as well as live qualifying only last year. However, the race itself was only paywalled via Stan Sport before Motorsport Australia took back media rights control off ARG at the end of last season that saw the end of Nine/Stan covering SpeedSeries on what has been an underwhelming paid and free TV experiment, with Seven now back onboard again for all races being live & free throughout the year. It will basically be a full endurance race that runs for a few hours throughout Sunday from 11.30am to 6pm with qualifying on the day beforehand alongside a couple of other production car support categories into play including the Australian Formula Ford open-wheel series. Like SpeedSeries, I’m sure it will be a great event if you want to tune in for motorsport on the TV throughout the Easter weekend.

Speaking of SBS, they are back for another season of the Australian Superbike Championship where Chris Vermeulen will be replacing Kate Peck as the host/reporter while retaining every race highlights of the World Superbike Championship that will air the following weekend after the race (if you wish to watch the live races, it’s on Fox Sports via Foxtel and Kayo Sports) and of course the main Speedweek show too on Sunday afternoons.

Speaking of Bathurst, the Bathurst International may still go ahead later this November to round off the 2024 SpeedSeries season but unfortunately the best of the TCR drivers from around the world won’t be back here including the Sydney Motorsports Park round now being cancelled despite originally planning to do so. It’s a shame but the ongoing shipping delays worldwide has saw the organisers that run the TCR World Tour skip Australia just for this year. There is hope though of having Australia v the best of the World rivalry back again at our own backyard only at Mount Panorama in Bathurst for 2025.

And last but not least, Matt White has a new motorsports media job coming up and he will now be commentating the Supercars races on radio for SEN starting this weekend with the Bathurst 500 season-opening race alongside experienced Supercars driver James Moffatt as the expert/colour commentator. He has been in this business for a long time when he first started his career at Ten back in the early 90s, then moved to Seven between 2004-14, back to Ten for another few years until mid-2020, later appeared on Nine for the first time over the last two years via Stan Sport for SpeedSeries before the competition moved back to Seven & now he’s back behind the mic again this time for radio in Supercars. Don’t forget he’s done a lot of stuff with SEN since he left Ten again like hosting his own daily sports talk show during weekday mornings including rugby league and cricket commentary. So still plenty to offer, especially when he returned to commentary for a short time filling-in for Richard Craill late last year in the Australian Trans-Am Series. We wish him all the best in his new role.

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Image Reference: Lukas Raich via Wikipedia, CC BY 4.0 International

Another Aussie driver to keep an eye on other than Oscar Piastri & Daniel Ricciardo is 21-year-old Jack Doohan, who will simply be backing up for Alpine this season in a simulator and reserve role – just like New Zealand’s Liam Lawson for Visa CashApp RB despite his good limited outings while Ricciardo recovered from a broken hand last year. His racing record through the ranks might not be the best but he too can bag a few podiums and race wins, having gone so close (runner-up) three years ago in Formula 3 as well as finishing 3rd last year following an underwhelming first half campaign in Formula 2. He could’ve also gone over to the World Endurance Championship or even attempt IndyCar such as the Indianapolis 500. But don’t think going for the Triple Crown or achieving anything outside Formula 1 will mean that much to them these days as this is still the top ranked Motorsport competition in the world & that is something Jack would want to do on race days in 2025.

Lewis Hamilton recently confirmed he will be leaving Mercedes for Ferrari next year & someone from Alpine in Esteban Ocon could potentially be his replacement alongside George Russell. Let’s hope Jack can do well when being given the chance on Friday practice sessions throughout the year in the hope that Alpine will be worthy of giving him a shot next year, so they can forget about having previous conflicts with Piastri who hopped onto McLaren instead at the end of the 2022 season.

If not, Williams should try him again had Logan Sargent been unable to obtain enough Super Licence points that would’ve denied him a 2023 Formula 1 seat. But now he is still not getting up to speed following a very poor rookie year as another bad season would see him head out of the door for good. Let’s hope Jack can be like his legendary motorcycle grand prix father Mick who won so much back in his day but through a very different discipline and that will be the highest levels in Formula 1.

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SpeedSeries has returned for another new season that started today at Sandown Raceway in Victoria where a few categories have came back, while some have came into the fold for the first time on what is going to be a huge year ahead – including the Bathurst 6 Hour during the Easter long weekend, as well as the TCR World Tour drivers coming back again to take on the Aussie field this November at Eastern Creek (Sydney Motorsports Park) & Bathurst (Mount Panorama Circuit) respectively.

But there’s also a change of broadcaster too as Seven has returned replacing Nine & Stan Sport as their broadcast partner for the next two years. Yes, the shift of having most of the stuff behind the paywall including elements of free-to-air content didn’t work out for the majority. Although if they did add the three-hour Sunday races on top of the three-hour Saturday coverage including the Bathurst 6 Hour race, then it wouldn’t be bad. However, it was the change of hands from Australian Racing Group back to Motorsport Australia that led to Nine/Stan leaving the series also after two years when ARG brought them here exactly two years ago. Before that, Seven first broadcasted the competition in 2021 (the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID) before the split paywall experiment while SBS aired the inaugural TCR Australia season for one year in 2019.

Now most of the broadcast graphics including the leaderboard haven’t changed much except the SpeedSeries logo being moved from the bottom right to the bottom left. Same goes with the broadcast team like Chris Stubbs (he will still be on Stan’s grand slam Tennis coverage throughout the year as he’s freelance), Matt Naulty, Richard Craill & Greg Rust. Although one new face have now come onboard front & centre in Sarah Burt as a few will be moved on. We won’t be seeing ex-Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard & Rally legend Molly Taylor back again. So does Matt White, who not only appeared on Nine for the first time over the last two years as host after he spent so much time between Seven & Ten, but he also returned to commentary for a bit towards the end of last season in the Trans-Am alongside Naulty due to Craill having to focus on the TCR World Tour’s Australian leg with Rust and Paul Jeffrey.

Another thing we won’t have to put up is Nine’s inability on not wanting to use the Wide World of Sports watermark as seen with the SpeedSeries’ free-to-air broadcasts last year where Seven & even Ten and SBS has presented it so nicely when it comes to their motorsports coverage. But I doubt it won’t go away anytime soon since they barely broadcast any racing until Stan Sport was born back in 2021 when Nine will get to air a bit again Live during the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with parent streaming subsdiary Stan still holding the rights there alongside IndyCar, Formula E, Rallying, Motocross & the World Endurance Championship. So there goes your SpeedSeries broadcast guide this season other than Supercars being on Seven for half the time as well as Fox Sports who holds all of the races including Formula 1, NASCAR & MotoGP & both Australian Grand Prix events will stay on Network 10. And that is that for now as we wish SpeedSeries all the best going forward in growing the competition towards better milestones for Motorsport in Australia.

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So there we have it! SpeedSeries including Trans-Am and TCR Australia will return to the Seven Network next season after two years out at Nine through its paid streaming service Stan Sport as well as some free-to-air on 9Gem/9Go & also 9Now. Every round will be live and free on its free streaming platform 7Plus as well as through 2-3 hour TV windows on 7mate. Plus, there should be free to view on-demand replays, the Bathurst 6 Hour Easter race and mid-week to next weekend TV highlights of each round.

Gotta say that the paid and free content split did not work out when SpeedSeries is not on the same level as Supercars, even if Fox/Kayo did share the series with Seven instead of Nine/Stan who did a great job covering SpeedSeries. It’s just that the change of media rights hands back to Motorsport Australia recently from Australian Racing Group makes it complicated when most of their sanctioned competitions are on Seven.

But having everything free-to-air is massive so every Motorsport fan here can check this out whether it’s watching Live or on-demand at anytime, anywhere throughout the year. It also remains to be seen who will be back next year when it comes to the on-air talent where most of them will be staying on except with just 1-2 changes, which I think Mark Beretta will be back for Matt White since he’s always been on Seven with Motorsport as well as reading sports reports for the Sunrise brekky program for a long time.

Other than the Nine and Stan exit, it looks like the S5000s and Touring Car Masters will be following them out the door as they could end up being a regular part of the Supercars schedule. Although the Australian GT World challenge will look to stay on the SpeedSeries categories list after SRO has taken full control recently alongside the Australian GT4 Series.

For now, you can catch these last two-hour replays from the Bathurst International season finale weekend on 9Go tomorrow at noon, as well as midnight Sunday 12.20am that is followed by an hour highlights from the 6 Hours of Bahrain (also a season finale round) in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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First of all, I’m glad that SpeedSeries –  which showcases a range of categories from TCR Australia to Trans-Am & S5000 single seaters – has improved their free to air coverage this year with every race live throughout the season during Saturday afternoons. That way, if you like how the coverage and racing is like, then you can watch the rest of the weekend’s events including a full suite on-demand content only via subscription on Stan Sport.

When Nine came onboard to replace Seven at the start of last year by having most of the content behind a paywall via their own streaming arm at Stan Sport, it was initially just the opening round weekend at Symmons Plains Raceway in Tassie live on free-to-air with the rest being mid-week & next weekend two-hour replays. They even promised to put the mid-week stuff on prime time at one point to get the best out of the channel’s advertisers as well as the series itself.

But then their free-to-air highlights schedule was inconsistent & all over the place at the time while they didn’t show the Phillip Island round live at all. So to respond to that issue, they went on air the rest of 2022 with just the Saturday afternoon races Live in a two-hour window between 3-5pm. Now it’s gone from two to three hours per round with the amount of time allowed on free-to-air between 2-5pm where they showed more than just TCR Australia, Trans-Am & S5000s. Plus, their following week’s two-hour replays has improved consistently as well that starts on a Friday at noon followed by a 2nd showing either late on Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday AM.

I’m also glad to see some International flavour when it comes to seeing the world’s best TCR drivers come here v the locals (TCR Australia) as part of the two-round TCR World Tour Australian leg here over the course of last weekend in Eastern Creek and also this weekend at Bathurst’s famed Mount Panorama Circuit. There is still one more day to go where the next day’s activities tomorrow is only on Stan Sport before the eight-round TCR Australia & SpeedSeries is done for 2023.

The only negative still out of this improved free-to-air coverage is the way Nine uses their logo which isn’t the usual Wide World of Sports watermark, although Stan Sport has made good use by showcasing their logo for the all the sports they got including Motorsport. Instead, they gone straight off 9Gem/9Go with the Live tag below it which isn’t uniquely WWOS & more like a copycat coverage of Seven or Ten, who airs racing way long enough & very well than Nine. I have also emailed my concerns to Stan about it a few months ago & although they took note of it but then they never listen. Maybe that’s because Nine & Stan are only showing it on the air & not have complete control in-house, which is under SpeedSeries itself.

There is also talk about next season’s broadcast lately since Motorsport Australia will now handle the media side of things rather than the Australian Racing Group, having taken half the control of SpeedSeries ARG that began at the start of 2023. Maybe the exit of Supercars Media running the production with the TV trucks control & graphics before the 2023 season started has probably caused Nine to revert to the 9Gem/9Go logo rather than the WWOS logo which was previously used for most of last year except Round 1. Now there is a chance that Nine as an exclusive rights holder may not be back next season.

If they’re really coming back, then great. If there is plenty of SpeedSeries articles up on the WWOS website which happens regularly, so why can’t this be extended on TV? Let’s hope it finally happens if Nine/Stan stays on. If not, we could see SpeedSeries go to Seven & Fox Sports or Ten/Paramount +. Regardless of that, the balance of having both paid & free content is here to stay that needs to cover the $$$ back to all types of participants involved as they will be back to set even more breakthroughs in 2024.

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What an amazing finish to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season after 36 points-series races across nine months of the calendar year where the same Ford team has won another championship in Team Penske, but this time it’s Ryan Blaney who is now your new drivers’ champion for the first time at age 29. Great start by William Byron with his opening stage win but was inconsistent as the race goes on where failure to stay ahead up front was the one weakness that ultimately costed him the race & championship itself in 4th. Meanwhile, unlucky from Christopher Bell due to a brake issue before things went bad to worse after he made contact with the wall in Stage 2. Then Byron’s team-mate at Hendrick Kyle Larson may entered the fight late into the 3rd & final stage in a bid to add Championship win No.2, but he couldn’t defend & stay ahead of Blaney under pressure at the last restart in 3rd where he had to settle as runner-up on the final drivers’ points standings of 2023. 

And last but not least, it’s the man of the hour Ryan Blaney who steered this No.12 Ford Mustang home that secured him his first major silverware of NASCAR, despite finishing 2nd in the race to Ross Chastain (Trackhouse). He may have started slow & steady from outside the Top 10 earlier on, but he gradually improved along the way towards the Top 2-3 places before Blaney locked out both Hendrick Chevy cars at the checkered flag. Roger Penske will be thrilled to see another championship-winning race car showing up at his race shop in Mooresville after Blaney’s team-mate Joey Logano won his 2nd Cup crown just one year ago in the sister No.22 team. Enjoy the 14-15 weeks of off-season before we go back all over again for the next NASCAR Cup Series season beginning with the 66th edition of the Daytona 500 on Sunday February 18th, 2024.

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Wow!! What a day it has been from Australia’s own Oscar Piastri who dominated both the Sprint qualifying shootout & the 19-lap race itself for McLaren-Mercedes at the Qatar Grand Prix in Lusail. He had a great opening few laps & although he lost a spot to George Russell (Mercedes) for a while, but Oscar managed to regain top spot off Russell & stayed there comfortably this time through the end with the win. 

How good was that to see Oscar record his next best moment in Formula 1 as a full race win will come his way sooner rather than later hopefully to wrap it up tomorrow at 4 AM AEDT time. We thought he will be starting 3rd, but will start 6th instead because his final lap time was invalid due to exceeding track limits which was also applied to his team-mate Lando Norris.

Regardless of that, he will hope to make the most of his starting position through a decent race car by challenging up front against the Mercedes & Red Bull cars including now 3 x World Champion Max Verstappen from the Netherlands.

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A few days after the FIA has accepted Andretti Autosport’s application to enter Formula 1 as the possible 11th team, things didn’t go off to a good start when it comes to entering commercial discussions with the current 10 teams & the sports promoter Liberty Media itself. So far McLaren is 100% supportive through boss Zak Brown who has a great business relationship with Andretti in Supercars here, as well as Renault’s factory team Alpine as a honour to initially supply Andretti their engines if accepted. Then Aston Martin said that if the sport’s ain’t broken don’t fix it despite initially being happy to see Andretti enter the sport last year, but then probably Cadillac joining forces with Andretti at the start of this year saw their heads turn & say it’s best we stay with 10 teams. Meanwhile, Ferrari is not convinced what value Andretti can offer to this sport when a few teams didn’t do so well before shutting down last decade between 2010-2016.

Plus, Williams said that the price money pot will get smaller if they join in, as well as having to look after their big 900 + staff first where they’re happy with the direction F1 is heading right now. Although they wouldn’t be against having a new manufacturer like Cadillac/General Motors, just not a new team like Andretti. The score is 2-2 all right now as don’t think any other existing 10 teams will lend its support to Andretti. Red Bull/Alpha Tauri’s concern is the distribution of profits which is what WillIiams said the other day, while Haas would still straight out just say no like Aston Martin. All we can hope for now is for Toto Wolff from Mercedes to be 100% convinced on what Andretti has to offer in Formula 1 like the resources, budget, etc. I’m sure that will help Ferrari & Alfa Romeo/Sauber change their minds on how a potential 11th entry will look like when competing v 10 teams on-track.

The good news is that the 10 teams will have no say on whether or not if Andretti is the correct 11th team to join F1 as we can hope from Liberty Media now is for them to be on the same page as Andretti. That way, not they can work something out in order to give Andretti the opportunity to make a competitive name for themselves in Formula 1, but also help ensure the current 10 teams some stability when it comes to the commercial value as well. So the anti-dilution fee will no longer settle at $200 million, they should instead work at a counter offer of $400 million for the first year, then $500-600 million afterwards if Andretti can post regular Top 7-10s + occasion Top 3s – everyone wins.

Growth/Expansion should be taken one step at a time. Since F1 has reduced a 10-team series back in 2018, that Netflix documentary + seeing all teams being competitive saw its value rise overtime that comes with 2-3 US races now (Austin, Miami & Las Vegas). That is something Rugby Australia & Super Rugby needs to learn if they wish to become competitive by winning games again by having three strong teams instead of five right now. A US-based team is something the sport’s fans love to see as the next step, we just hope to see both Andretti & Liberty Media reach an agreement in three ways:

  • Ensure the 10 teams their financial security by growing the prize money pot as long as Andretti is willing to pay double the anti-dilution fee of $400-500 million.
  • Give Andretti the chance to show its worth in Formula 1 from their own home in the US when it comes to a manufacturing, resources & competitive standpoint.
  • And keep F1’s value intact while growing even further where all 11 teams thrive that will in turn have a lot more US-based fans alongside Andretti as the years goes by.

It’s going to be a difficult couple of months but let’s hope Andretti will finally be accepted before taking their next steps towards producing their first Formula 1 car at the earliest given time possible.

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Another huge news out of Motorsport yesterday that the FIA governing body, who runs Formula 1, has formally approved Andretti’s bid to enter the top flight as the next possible 11th team. 

It’s been a long process so far where they passed the first two phases with one final big hurdle left, which is the sport’s commercial group where they run the media side of things including global broadcast rights as well as looking after the existing ten teams when it comes to prize money, etc. We’ll have to really, really wait & see if all of these teams will be sold of Andretti’s idea in the hope of having really good competitive on-track competition alongside a really good race car.

So far most teams are against it where they’re happy where they are right now while expressing concerns of having a smaller cut of the prize money. But at the same time, Andretti is 100% serious about being competitive where they’re not bereft of financial support while hoping to take America’s relationship with Formula 1 to the next level thanks to their own team.

How good would it be where Andretti is also constructing their world-class headquarters right now that is akin to other big Motorsport powerhouses like McLaren? That would be a huge boost to their Formula 1 goals if the ten teams do give them a chance that can reflect Andretti’s all-round value on the world stage. Although half of the resources will be based in Europe, but they can be the first team to build a Formula 1 car right at their own home in Fishers, Indianapolis.

Yes, that can be a bit odd since all of the Formula 1 cars are currently built across Europe. But it also be great if the US has their own cutting edge of the way they run Motorsport which is huge & I for one would love to see Andretti-Cadillac show the sport how it’s done for their own country. Speaking of the US, they will of course save a spot for a home-grown driver which is most likely going to be Colton Herta, while a team-mate will be experienced racer like Daniel Ricciardo, who is so popular over there even though he’s one of us from Australia. It’s going to take time for the 10 teams to really pay attention to Andretti’s wish of competing in Formula 1 by saying yes this time, but let’s hope it happens before they start racing in 2025 or 2026.

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