Long-time F1B followers will remember a podcast featuring Marc Pelltier from Kangaroo TV. The company offers portable television sets at F1 race weekends, helping fans to overcome that age old problem of actually going to the races – the fact that you see far less than you would sat on the couch at home.
Well, the Kangaroo TV crew was kind enough to supply me with a set of my own to try out on my visit to Spa at the weekend. To sum matters up simply, it helped make an amazing weekend even better, and I would certainly miss the product at any other motor-racing event.
What Kangaroo can do
It’s basically a mini television-meets-laptop on which you can follow all the bits of the race (at Spa there are MANY, regardless of where you sit) that happen out of your field of vision. It works for all of the support races on any given weekend (or at least every one I tried), but for the purposes of this site, I’ll concentrate on the F1 viewing.
You have the main world video feed available, just like viewers everywhere, however, there is also a selection of in-car camera feeds available so you can follow certain drivers at any given moment.
For audio, the circuit commentary (which flits – at least in Europe – between English, French and the local language) is always available, and during the F1 sessions themselves you can also tune into the BBC Five Live commentary team, which is preferable for a child of the empire like myself.
But the other – and arguably best – feature on the Kangaroo set is the live-timing device, allowing you to keep track of individual drivers’ pace and the gaps down the field all race long. This is very useful in the race (because when are the cameras ever following the battle that interests YOU?!), and it is utterly invaluable during Qualifying. You can also have a watered down version of this running alongside a minimised video feed in order to get the best of all worlds, so to speak.
You don’t miss anything. You see the start of the race, know if there’s a safety car, are on top of who’s pitting when and if there was a problem, and don’t miss out on the context and insight provided by a professional commentary team. Also, you know when to stand up armed with your camera, as you can follow the cars’ progress more precisely around the track.
It helps people with cheap tickets see more. At Spa, at least, most of the big screen TVs cater for the expensive grandstand seats. Either that, or they’re on a part of the circuit that is dull as ditchwater – probably in a bid to make some people sit there! Having this TV makes the big screens redundant anyway, so you can go and sit where the real-life racing is at its best.
You make friends. I actually owe Kangaroo TV for quite a few (ridiculously overpriced) beers, which were kindly purchased for me by some of the people I kept informed on Qualifying and race results during the weekend.
The big one is cost. At Spa it was 80 Euros for the weekend, or 65 for the day. As great as the product is, that’s a lot of money, and I am not certain that I would pay in the future. I would want to, but I might eventually think better of it.
Sometimes you miss the real action. No, I’m serious! It can be really tough to tear your eyes off the screen when the pack reaches you, especially if there’s something going on elsewhere that is really interesting.
Battery life. It runs on a battery pack, not AAs. There is ample juice to last one full day of racing, but if you’re there for the weekend, be sure that you have access to a power point in the evenings, and put it on charge. Otherwise you might find yourself out of power just as the race gets underway on Sunday.
And in summation…
I honestly don’t know if I’d rent one out next time. But I do know that I would miss it very much if I decided not to spend the money.