Consolation Battle Removed? Why?
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the 2014 Sporting Regulations and specifically, the elimination of the traditional Consolation round, A.K.A, the third place battle. In the following blog post, we will address some of the common responses to this change and also lay out why we decided to make this adjustment.
Before, we get into the question at hand, let us put things into context. One of the things that it is of utmost importance to Formula DRIFT is to build a sport that continues to grow and expand year to year. Part of that job requires recognizing certain areas where format and/or rules may need adjusting to help strive towards that goal. From that context is how we should view the reasons behind this particular consequence of new rules and structures. It’s also important to note that the overarching theme behind this year’s Series is to create an environment that makes it the most conducive to have an amazing show. For example, Formula DRIFT recognizes that too many overly complicated and complex judging rules were made in the 2013 Sporting Regulations and because of that, we felt an obligation to correct or smooth out those rules during the 2013 season, in the best interest of the Series and for the fans. This year, we have continued to do that. Judging has gone to a much simpler structure focused more on style. We have eliminated “strikes”, which we believe will increase drivers likelihood of drivers pushing harder because “zero’s” are now much more difficult to receive in both qualifying and tandem. We feel that judging that is easy to understand is paramount to the success and excitement of the events. Many may not know this, but there is a strong divide in the Series between drivers who want traditional (more stylistic and subjective) drifting judging rules and those that want very specific, technical, stringent rules that are unambiguous. The traditional camp is the camp that believes less is more. The other camp wants clipping point sensors, telemetry, strikes, basically to have as many things to be accounted for as possible. With all that said, it’s no easy task to appease all of the entire drivers base in the Series, so for us, we feel that is why creating the best possible drifting with the most simple rules, in our minds, contributes to the best fan experience. So that is where we are headed….
With that in mind, it might seem counter-intuitive to say that the fan experience is paramount, but then we decide to pull the Consolation battle out of competition. How does that make sense? Well, ok, let’s talk about that. This goes back to the very first notion in this post, that one of our primary goals is to grow the Sport. One of the issues and items that we have noticed that has come up not only at our events, but also as we have presented the Sport to media outlets, not only here in the US, but also internationally, is the fact that our Sport has a very arbitrary and ambiguous time frame for Top 16 to conclusion. Sometimes the show can end in two hours, sometimes it can go over three hours. Sometimes even longer. This is a problem because if we ever wish to be able to promote a tight, concise package for live broadcast, we need to be able to say with some certainty that the event can end in X amount time. Slight variations are acceptable, but the wide swings we have are not conducive for a tight, live package. When we looked at why this is the case, almost every occasion, the Consolation battle is the culprit. Besides the necessary tire change and cool down, this battle, due to its nature also has the most OMT’s, CTO’s and wrecks, statistically speaking. Sometimes, this very battle alone can add up to 30 minutes or more to the end of the show and not only delay the final battle, but also reduce the final battle to an anti-climatic event. This seems like somewhat of a disservice to those two drivers and the whole reason people are competing: To win! So when trying to present your Sport as one that has a linear progression that ends in an amazing crescendo, this battle sometimes, and quite often, prevents that. To us hardcore fans who don’t care about anything other than seeing battles, we might accept it as part of the ride, but when taken in the context of how to grow, mature and make the Sport more appealing and accessible to more people, this often times muddies those waters. The event suffers when the event drags on, and while we have fixed the other areas of delay, there is an inherent delay probability in the consolation round, which is a great concern. Moreover, this additional round gives an ambiguous time frame to when the event will end. And in the case of a live TV setting, this is the biggest complaint we get. We received this notion when we did FD Thailand as a live TV event, and in the case of the US series, it has the same issues. Part of it is an issue of structure and that we intend to try and fix.
As we did our research, we also noticed that other similar bracket system based competitive based bodies do not have a consolation round. Our closest cousin, NHRA, does not have one, and neither does the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals), who also in search of greater media appeal, adjusted the foundations of their sports just recently. We think a lot can be learned from these two examples.
Currently, with the Consolation round battle no more, that does not mean the way in which we congratulate drivers who perform well will not change in addition. It is our intention to make the final four drivers the focus of our podium ceremony and with the actual 3rd place going to the driver with the highest qualifying of the two drivers who lost in Top 4, it stands to reason that qualifying may become more exciting since now it has greater meaning. It also stands to reason that if the show can be presented with consistent energy, lack of lulls and constant energy on track, that the Sport becomes more palatable to a wider audience and would now have an even greater applicability for live media. All of these things strengthen the Series, the Sport and thus the drivers, which is what we all want.
Finally, we think what we have presented is real and legitimate concerns about the Consolation round in its current format. We believe removing it helps give us a better competitive package for the future and opportunities that lie ahead. With that said, there are derivations of the Consolation round that will help, but not eliminate the risks we posed in this post. If the public support for bringing the consolation back is at a high enough level, we would consider it, BUT it would be under a new method that helps assist in making the show more in line with what we ultimately need. We invite you to tell us what you think.
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2013 Consolation Battle Comparison