Race events like Bavaria City Racing are very popular all over the world. Over the years we have witnessed Formula One cars racing on the public roads of London, Moscow, Rome, Budapest, Caracas, Sao Paulo, Guadalajara and yes, even in Panama and...
Race events like Bavaria City Racing are very popular all over the world. Over the years we have witnessed Formula One cars racing on the public roads of London, Moscow, Rome, Budapest, Caracas, Sao Paulo, Guadalajara and yes, even in Panama and Barbados Formula One cars have been terrorizing the streets. And the fans love it. They have the opportunity to see their Formula One heroes from close by, listen to the screaming engines and enjoy the 'donuts' with the accompanying smell of oil and burned rubber. It's a true feast for all human senses.
On Sunday August 16, the Dutch city of Rotterdam hosted the fifth edition of the Bavaria City Racing event. What once started as a simple event for race fans with a few Formula One cars blasting through the streets, has now matured into a professional and commercial event and has become a Mecca for Dutch motorsport enthusiasts. At seven o'clock in the morning, the fans were already present at the circuit and searching for a good spot to watch this spectacle.
The track runs along the Hofplein fountain, the historic City Hall at the Coolsingel, and the Willems bridge across the river Maas. There is even a real pit lane, and an official safety car follows the cars on the track. Because the Formula One cars reach speeds of 250 km/h, the track is surrounded by 20 km of safety barriers to protect the public and drivers. It took 2 full days to place the barriers and to build the grandstands and the pit lane.
The admission for the event is free, but if you want to, you can buy VIP tickets for the grandstands on the Willems bridge, or a 250,- Euro VIP arrangement including a one night stay in one of Rotterdam's classy hotels. The program not only includes the demo's of the Formula One cars, but cars from all kinds of race classes are represented: WRC, A1GP, pre-war Formula One, Dakar trucks, GT4, F3, WTCC, DTM, Formula Master and Formula BMW.
TV stations are also present and the whole event is broadcasted live on Dutch TV. And a novelty this year: the spectators could also enjoy the images from the onboard cameras of the Formula One cars, and it was really spectacular to see the track from the driver's point of view on one of the many jumbo screens along the track.
Motorsport is for everyone
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is a regular visitor of the event, and he is a genuine race freak. In the morning he drove a Renault Megane to inspect the track together with Fernando Alonso. In the afternoon he drove a Ferrari sports car around the circuit. And did he enjoy it? Well let me say this, when he got out of the car, he smiled like a six-year old schoolboy who had just bought the complete inventory of the local Toys 'R Us store.
Prime Minister Balkenende: "Fantastic. It's the first time I actually drove one of the cars myself, at previous events I was just an ordinary spectator. It is of course a lot of fun to drive this car (pointing at the Ferrari). The cars, the public, it is really overwhelming. There are a lot of spectators and everybody is happy, it's a fantastic experience. It's the fifth time for me, and it is always a pleasure to be here. I stopped a few times on the track, and the public was shouting to me: 'donuts, donuts, we want donuts'. But this is not my car, so I skipped the donuts. Maybe David Coulthard can teach me how to do that, he was the king of donuts today".
Adam Khan was the first driver to make a few laps in a Formula One Renault R28.
Adam Khan: "It was really cool to do this, it is very nice to give the fans an opportunity to see the cars from close by. It was very bumpy, and I was a bit nervous while making donuts, the guys from the team told me to be careful and bring back the car in one piece. It's a fantastic event".
Next was David Coulthard. He had so much fun that he ignored the finish flag and did 4 instead of 3 laps, but still couldn't get enough of it, and much to the delight of the race fans, an hour later he did another stint of 3 laps in his Red Bull racing car and made donuts until there was no more rubber left to burn.
David Coulthard: "What a great show. I simply ran out of tyres and rubber. The surface of the bridge is very abrasive, so it has completely taken the tyres down to the canvas. The left rear tyre is completely gone. I wish there was more time for more donuts. Some parts of the circuit are very narrow, so we do a few burn-outs there. I got a great reception from the fans, not just the Dutch fans, there are also Belgium and German fans present here. Thanks for organizing this event, I love it".
And after a parade of pre-war Formula One cars, the three laps of Fernando Alonso in his Renault were the icing on the cake, almost all fans came to Rotterdam to see double world champion Fernando Alonso.
Fernando Alonso: "Fantastic, I always enjoy this. Especially this time it was great. The circuit has a lot of possibilities to do donuts. We all enjoyed it, I hope the fans enjoyed it as well. David Coulthard said it was a bit bumpy, but David is getting old, perhaps it was bumpy for him, for me it was fun. Of course I would like to come back next year. The people have been very friendly to me, they are very passionate motortsport enthusiasts. It was a great pleasure to be here today, hopefully I can come back again".
The future of city racing
Motorsport fans love these kind of events. For teams and sponsors it is an excellent opportunity to promote and display their business and race activities. Red Bull, Force India, Renault, Williams and McLaren, they all participate in these events because they really love to entertain the fans, the drivers say it is a fantastic experience, and it seems they can't get enough of it. And judging from the ever increasing number of spectators, these events have certainly a bright future, specially in countries where there is no Formula One race.
Earlier this year in Moscow, 200,000 people came to watch the show, in Rotterdam, according to the local authorities, about 450,000 people turned up just to see three Formula One cars. Which brings us to the inevitable conclusion in the form of a question for F1 race promoter Bernie Ecclestone: How many people you think will show up to see 26 Formula One cars, Mr. Ecclestone? Or in other words: do you still think it's a good idea to promote races in China or Turkey, where they do have the money, but don't have the fans?