Formula One has been on a crusade to reduce costs for the past few seasons following the withdrawal of BMW, Toyota and Honda in 2008 and 2009, but McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that the sport is currently facing a crisis.
“Formula One works best in a crisis but it is a shame that we have to create a crisis to deal with,” Whitmarsh explained to British newspaper The Guardian. “This sport needs ten or eleven teams and we should fight to keep the eleven teams we have now. But we are not good at doing these things. We seem to drop the ball.
“I fear that we will have a crisis and then we will have to get real and sort it out.”
An informal budget cap was put in place in 2010 to coincide with the arrival of Lotus Racing (now Caterham), Virgin (now Marussia) and HRT (now defunct). Although costs have fallen, the sport lacks parity between the front and back of the grid. This may be considered as ‘normal’ in F1, but Whitmarsh fears that the sport could become unsustainable for some, especially with the new engine regulations being introduced next season.
“What is frightening is that we have adopted important new engine regulations. They are the right thing to do in many regards. They are technologically interesting and relevant to society. But F1 badly mismanaged the cost of the development and supply of those new power plants. We allowed the engineers to be unfettered in dreaming up the regulations, which means teams are now facing big bills. We got costs down to £10m ($15m) and now we are talking about double that.”
Despite Whitmarsh’s fears, Honda have announced that they will returning to the sport in 2015 with McLaren due to the improved financial landscape, and Tony Fernandes has dismissed all rumors suggesting that he may sell Caterham in the near future.
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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