Sunday, February 8, 2015
State of North American Rally for January 2015
Lets take it series by series...
Rally America was the only major series with an actual event occurring in January with Snow Drift in Michigan. Though '14 saw TV coverage on NBC Sports of this event, that coverage disappeared after a few events without stated reason and has not returned for '15. Replacing the TV coverage was an Internet broadcast by Jim Beaver (a noted Trophy Truck driver and internet radio host via his weekly Down and Dirty Radio show). Airing during the event were various interviews with drivers and crews, "Rally America Radio" is seeking to provide live content and scoring at all eight of the National Rally America events in '15. Listening in to the broadcasts revealed a professional operation and near realtime updates but its still radio and leaves the action and personalities to exist in the mind's eye only. This also comes after prior abortive attempts such as rallystream.tv, vlirp.com as well as the non-payment of prior RA radio host Greg Strange who died without ever being paid. Rally America also announced the soshutter.com platform for sale of photos and in the future, video shot by Rally America itself and then sold by Rally America. It does seem to have Sno Drift 2015 photos included already so it is fairly up to date but does not seem to have fairly intuitive breakdowns of photos by event with everything dumped in one large folder and relying upon the user to search by driver, event, car, etc. A nice menu with dropdowns to at least the most current events and then breakdowns by class, driver or car would be something you would think would be present. Speaking of Sno Drift, it was the one significant Rally event to occur in January and saw 13 National entries and 24 Regional entries begin the day vs. 19 and 38 in '14 (a drop of 20 entrants). David Higgins would take the win in both '14 and '15, with his '14 margin being 2:10.5 over Antoine L'Estage and his '15 win being 9:05.5 over Nick Roberts. Rally America's next event takes place in late February at 100 Acre Wood where Ken Block has already announced his entrance and will provide a legit competitor to Higgins in this event while extremely fast National competitor David Sterckx is also participating. As of now there are 62 listed entries (19 National and 43 Regional) vs. the 25 National and 29 Regional entries in '14. If these entries come to fruition it would make for a great turnaround in the number of participants from Sno Drift but not completely making up for it. Rally America also saw some great publicity via popular stories and videos written by Alex Lloyd of Indycar fame regarding his entrance in a Honda Fit at LSPR in '14 as well has his driving of Higgins' Open class Subaru for Yahoo. Lloyd seems to have gotten the Rally bug. On the video side of things, Rally America posted two videos of Sno Drift interviews/action, their first videos posted on You Tube in some four months. The quality of the videos and action was good and fairly timely being released shortly after the action was recorded though the aggregate number of views for the two videos is less than 10,000 and shows a decided lack of attention to this media production. Rally America--29,748 Facebook likes, 10,033 YouTube subscribers, 19,700 Twitter followers, 4,246 Instagram followers, 139,632 ranking for rally-america.com in the US via Alexa rating.
Monthly NISMOStuff grade: B (The "biggest" US Rally Series had a low turnout for its first '15 event and was unable to explain or replace its '14 TV coverage while it did have live radio coverage from a well known talent, released its internal photography on a new platform, has a solid # of early entries for 100 Acre Woods and generated some solid media coverage).
USRA (United States Rally Association) is the upstart series that began early in'15/late '14 with its announcement of formation from a number of former current Rally America associated organizers and with a supposedly new insurance backer and a nationally known sanctioning body. It was supposed to have a schedule for '15 as well as a ruleset and other info out by now but none has been forthcoming. They did announce a partnership with Mad Media to assist in the production of PR and other media related items. Without much news, there hasn't been much for Mad Media to do. USRA's first event was SUPPOSED to be the Waste Management Winter Rally in Pennsylvania with its organizer Meredith Croucher being part of the USRA but as stated in a press release "Due to contractual obligations, WMWR 2015 will be sanctioned and insured by Rally America, Inc." What this means to me is that USRA was either threatened with a lawsuit by RA or there were late noted terms in the STPR contract that prevented the WMWR from moving over. So that was 0 for 1. 0 for 2 came with the move of the Arizona Extreme Shortcourse Rally from 2/14 to 9/12 reportedly due to feedback from racers looking to avoid the Valentine's day racing. The first event that looks like it may occur under the USRA banner is the Matthew Marker-Noble "Livin' the Dream" RallySprint organized by Steve Warren. Scheduled for 3/7 it certainly seems to have a lot of local interest but we'll have to see if it comes off as rules, pricing, entries, etc. have not been fully released. No media has been produced by USRA to date and it doesn't seem to have a FB page, YouTube account or other social media presence. Its homepage is currently ranked as the 22,051,690 most popular website in the world with no ranking within the US. In somewhat related news USRA's media partner, Mad Media did announce that they will be welcoming stage rally vehicles again at the Mint 400 (most popular desert racing event in the US and based out of downtown Las Vegas) contingency. The Subaru Rally Team (with Higgins' car likely) have announced they will be there and given the 25,000+ offroad fans present at the Mint 400 contingency, this will likely be the most viewed in person Rally/offroad focused display this year.
Monthly NISMOStuff Grade: C (the new series didn't hold to its announced release of information and had could not put on two events that were anticipated to be USRA sanctioned for various reasons while a new RallySprint seems to be coming to fruition and a USRA partner is welcoming rally vehicles to get in front of the most number of living bodies this year)
NASA Rally like USRA did not have any events in January. Upcoming events for NASA include the California Rally Series Rally School on 2/21 with 38 entries listed and then the Sandblast Rally on 3/7 with some 47 car entries and another some 47 motorcycle entries (both are maxed out and final numbers to be seen on race day). The popular Empire State Performance Rally in New York announced its move to a gravel event from a tarmac one disappointing a number of competitors who liked the difference in surfaces as well as the uniqueness of running flat out through the streets of small towns--something not seen in any other current US Rally event. Reportedly the "new" roads will incorporate some of the roads utilized last by the Rally New York group a few years ago, perhaps back at the Boy Scout Camp they utilized? NASA Rally also announced a "Test and Tune" program, basically downsizing its "Rally Sprint" format to an event held for up to 10 entrants on roads up to seven miles in length. This is not an SCCA Rallycross or SCCA Rallycross test and tune. No need for cones with this type of event, this is full stage rally test/tune or "race" on real roads or course. NASA also saw its stage rally event at the FIRM shown in part on the Extreme Off-Road TV show on Spike TV. The program covered the build of entry level Ford Focus as well as its entry into its first event where program host Ian would wring it out (though not showing on the results page?). Perhaps NASA's biggest announcement was that its Rally West Virginia '15 event will be part of the FIA NACAM Rally Championship. This series will come to the US after two events in Mexico and prior to events in Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica. It will bring some major international attention and competition to the US and hopefully this can be taken advantage of. NASA Rally--2,615 FB likes, 232 YouTube subscribers, 301 Twitter followers, 378 Instagram followers, 526,968 most popular website in the US per Alexa.
Monthly NISMOStuff Grade: B+ (no events took place while near term events look to have excellent turnouts while introducing a new, low cost/impact event option, Rally West Virginia joins with a FIA associated series and NASA Rally gets great visibility through a cable TV outlet)
Again, this is just off the top of my head. I think I have been "fair and balanced here" and if anyone wishes to dispute that or point out where I am wrong in any of the above, I'm open to hearing your view. If there were major developments/announcements/events that I have missed here, please let me know--racers, organizers, advertisers, etc. are reading this...