Editor’s Note- This week’s Marbles (reader opinion) is from our long-time favorite Tom Firth. you may have heard Tom as featured on the Forum Podcast with Andrew called Fast Lap. Tom is a dear friend of the site and a keen motor sport fan and we are elated to have his thoughts on the ‘pinnacle of motor sport’.

One phrase is often mentioned in motorsport. It’s the words “The Pinnacle of Motorsport” in specific reference to Formula One. Although in the past few months we have experienced the Acropolis Rally: The Indianapolis 500, The Monaco Grand Prix, The Daytona 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours. All of these events are steeped in history and all form the crown jewels of motorsport’s many disciplines.

Does this really make one series the pinnacle above all others?

In terms of European media exposure, F1 is the most exposed among the media. The series attracts constant coverage from both the motorsport and the mainstream media on a near daily basis. Meanwhile in the USA, NASCAR holds a similar position in terms of media exposure.

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg for example are household names in Europe and F1’s primary markets.

However Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Tom Kristensen for example have had phenomenal success in their own disciplines although the man on the street has hardly heard of them. Does that mean these drivers are any less entitled to be described as been at the pinnacle of the sport?

Personally I believe not, however I watch hours of motorsport constantly so perhaps I am not the right person to ask.

Formula One is certainly the pinnacle in terms of financial strength. Car construction and other associated costs, which are higher than every other series. Teams spend a budget of approximately $470 million in order to enter and win the Formula One World Championship. These are vastly superior costs compared to other series. The top F1 drivers are also paid the highest for competing for the top teams in F1, which makes logical sense for a sport seen as the proclaimed pinnacle of motorsport.

Although does spending immense amounts of money in order to win make a discipline of an overall sport stronger by bringing in the pinnacle of talent or does the cost of participation offset this as seen in recent times?

In theory one would believe that by spending so much on a sport, Formula one would therefore lead the way in terms of innovation. In theory the pinnacle of the sport should bring more innovation that other series. F1 does deliver this in its own discipline of Open Wheel however it doesn’t throughout the whole of motorsport.

It should be noted that most of the open wheel ladder is built on spec chassis series also.

With F1 still being constructor based it has continued to allow more innovative solutions with a far more restrictive rule book than seen in the earlier years of the world championship.

Meanwhile the World Endurance Championship has thrived recently on innovative ways of both powering the cars and has been at the forefront of new innovative technologies.

This year in the WEC, Factory run cars in P1 ran with completely different chassis styling and hybrid systems. Audi ran with diesel power and a Williams Hybrid Power Flywheel. Rival Toyota ran with petrol power and a super capacitor based Systems

So in terms of powertrain development, emerging technologies and chassis innovation, the WEC appears to be pushing itself into more innovative freedom. However in terms of aero development and complexity in composite design, Formula one could, in some regards, be still referred too as the pinnacle of motorsport innovation.

Finally, is F1 still the pinnacle of motorsport in terms of raw speed and power?

In this current era of F1, the simple answer would be no, though not the definitive one. The days of the V12 and V10 powered formula one cars having 220mph top speeds are over. The cars have become slower in recent years as with every series. This has occurred through a combination of reasons such as more environmental pressure and other factors.

In terms of raw speed Indycars are still the fastest on its super speedway oval layout although formula one is still faster on road courses generating incredible cornering speeds. Creating a definitive analysis between all the disciplines of motorsport is impossible due to series excelling in different scenarios that others would be less capable within.

In conclusion I can’t draw a conclusion that makes one series a pinnacle over the others myself. It can’t be clearly defined today which discipline is the pinnacle of motorsport besides using the FIA’s hierarchy in order to determine which series has the most importance. By this method, F1 is the clear leader.

The only true way, in my opinion, to define which series is the pinnacle of the sport is for series regulars whilst still competing in their formula one career to race in alternative series. However with the fragmentation of motorsport in the current era, that is currently impossible.

What do you think, Is F1 the pinnacle of the whole of motorsport today or just of it’s own discipline? Was it ever a real pinnacle or just clever marketing?
Is there another way to define a pinnacle besides a true race of champions?

Your thought’s please and thank you for reading.

Tom Firth

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Rapierman
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Rapierman

The only way that I can see to define a “true pinnacle” is to ask the participants themselves. What do they think is the true pinnacle? What is their ultimate goal? They could be a world champion in any form of auto racing, but what do they truly desire? Is it the form they’re currently in now, or do they actually desire some other form? That’s how you define “true pinnacle”. It’s as elusive as defining “perfection” itself, much less achieving it. That’s why it’s so fragmented, and will remain so until everyone can agree on what it is. Tell… Read more »

Jack Flash (Aust)
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Jack Flash (Aust)

The Vulcan (or Sheldon Cooper) in me would say that the Pinnacle of Motorsport does exist.
It is found at the one competitively used race-track, somewhere on this planet, which resides at the greatest altitude above sea-level.

Proabably a hill climb track I suspect.

Question sorted. ;-) JF

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Well, that’s one opinion. There are seven billion people on this planet. You ready to ask each individual? ;-)

MIE
Editor
MIE

Pikes Peak? That will appeal to Tom. To address the question, I don’t think you can directly compare circuit racing and rallying. Top rally drivers have complained about other drivers being able to learn their lines and braking points when circuit racing. Circuit racers have routinely ended up in a hedge or ditch when trying rallies. The difference between them is best summed up by something a rallying acquaintance said to me about his circuit racing son. The son never left any margin for error he used every inch of the road around every corner, in contrast the father always… Read more »

tomfirth
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tomfirth

Ive heard similar actually from the original Stig , with his Son Tom going the circuit route and as a result taking a very different style to racing to his father.

Pikes Peak certainly does appeal to me by the way and I’m really looking forward to it this weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Kiril Varbanov
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Kiril Varbanov

I love when clients / viewers / fans are speaking. For God’s sake, these people pay money to keep the sport on top of the food chain, right?

F1 isn’t the pinnacle – that’s an artificially created label, feed with enormously inexplicable taxes. And artificially created closely guarded world. And that’s what I really, really hate about F1. Le Mans is ready to slap F1 in the face pretty soon, especially if the new turbo engines aren’t as impressive as they are thought to be.
That’s actually a pretty large topic, but not much time is avail. right now.

Elissa
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Elissa

Good article on an increasingly more noticeable and interesting subject. Formula 1 is ‘a’ pinnacle of motorsport, but not ‘the’ pinnacle of motorsport, I think at present it’s impossible to say any series can claim that mantle. I think Tom is spot on in saying F1 is a leader in aero and composite design, but it has most definitely not been a leader in engine/drivetrain development etc. I think there’s certainly some element of self-promotion from F1 to claim it’s the best, it would be foolish to say anything else considering the colossal spend to find a tenth per lap.… Read more »

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Pinnacle of American Average Joes and Good ol’ Boys in an oval: NASCAR ;-)
Pinnacle of straight lines for a quarter of a mile: NHRA ;-)

Elissa
Guest
Elissa

May I further add that I’ve been closely following a conversation regarding the relevance of F1 on a very popular F1 journalist/blogger. There’s a certain arrogance lurking within his retorts to very valid points being put to him that says to me some of the F1 media truly believe their own hype and how popularity ‘proves’ their point with no need for further discussion.

It’s kinda akin to saying Xfactor/pop idol acts are more musically adept then classically trained orchestral players etc….just because they have a larger general audience, no ability to comprehend it’s tailored to the lowest denominator.

tomfirth
Guest
tomfirth

Thanks Elissa for your comments , I agree completely with your division of which areas different areas of the sport are a Pinnacle of. I agree with your points of for the budget, You really would expect a larger difference in terms performance and that by banning alot of new technology that has then found its way into other areas of the sport, it has lost some of that Pinnacle through this by been overtaken by other series. I don’t think it did read as a dig at F1, more a strong reasoning as to what F1 should do to… Read more »

Alianora La Canta
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Alianora La Canta

Besides, statistically, the most popular racing series in 2012 was WTCC, not F1. So the journalist’s comments don’t even work if he’s defending F1 on that basis. Had he been defending F1 on the basis of its general strength, the argument would have held better. F1 is no longer the pinnacle at any specific area except aerodynamics and expenditure (plus media manipulation and politicisation, but I don’t consider that to be a valid criterion for “pinnacle” in this context), but it is perhaps the only series that can claim to be in the top 3 of every field Elissa quoted.… Read more »

danfgough
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danfgough

Great article! I always thought that pinnacle of motorsport idea was started in reference to the driver ladder. A pyramid of lower formula laddering up to a global championship for the best 20-30 drivers in the World. The proliferation of feeder championships de-graded this a bit but then came the massive budgets and tech advances in aero and composites and engine power making F1 cars the most advanced on the planet, and therefore the pinnacle. The ever more strict rules have dampened this area so then there was the manufacturer involvement so it was the pinnacle from a business, global… Read more »

toogood2tell
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toogood2tell

Really nice article. It has articulated all the arguments that I make on various motor sports forums. In my opinion, the entire ” Pinnacle of Motorsport” tag is merely marketing fluff, blindly accepted by “F1 fans.” Any open-minded F1 fan, will follow other motor sports discipline objectively and would arrive at the same conclusion as the author. It’s just the rabid(ignorant) ones that take the “pinnacle” phrase thrown at them by the F1 pundits, F1 journalists on face value. One should remember that the F1 journos and pundits make their living on F1 and obviously have a conflict of interest,… Read more »

gsprings
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gsprings

the pinnacle of motorsport is what ever you, the fan want it to be,or whatever you like the most