Editor´s Diary
August 17th:
When things go wrong, the dilemma for race reporters is just how honest to be..
 ..“Totally” is the obvious answer but it’s not as easy as that. Things to consider range from not portraying the sport in a bad light to the rest of Planet Earth and the fact that one’s words - including one’s interpretations - form a historical record, to the more straightforward considerations that people can be a bit touchy if they feel that they or their facility are being criticised, that one could easily be perceived to be taking sides, and that the web team are guests and good guests do not spit in the faces of their hosts. In my several years reporting on races I have butted heads with race officials and promoters on a number of occasions about the contents of race reports and sometimes it has been about the most stupid of things; more than once, for example, I have been put under pressure not to mention in a race report that it was raining because “It will stop people coming to the track”. People look at weather forecasts and some people, whose dedication to the sport we won’t discuss here, allow their decisions to be made by weather forecasts and they don’t come to the race... but no, the crowd is down because said that it rained for three minutes overnight. One has to show a certain amount of understanding in these situations because people get het-up and are maybe looking for scapegoats and say things in the heat of the moment.

I very much doubt that many reading this are surprised to discover that it is sometimes expedient not to tell the plain unvarnished truth. On the other hand, after all these years a lot of readers are adept at reading between the lines, or at working out what has gone unsaid. One of the finest exponents of picking up on nuances is our US Correspondent Ed, whose absence from this particular race was keenly felt as there were several occasions when we could have done with his unfailing good humour and upbeat outlook.

To be honest, though, there wasn’t much of a dilemma for us at the NitrOlympX because the situation with the track was public knowledge in advance of the event. Pretty early on I decided that all we could do was to say what we saw, to post updates about Pro sessions as soon as we got the facts (our policy of not doing rumour served us very well during this weekend and we got a good laugh out of plainly made-up, woefully stupid stories being presented as fact elsewhere on the Web) and to try not to appear to blame any individual for what was going on. A riders’ and drivers’ meeting was held on the Thursday evening and we got two things out of that: firstly, it was clear that we had called it just right when we had covered the track situation in a news item earlier in the week – I had really sweated over the wording of that one – and secondly the meeting was not closed to the media so we could open the next morning’s race report with a précis of what was said and that set the scene.

Once the racing started the race reporting job became a lot easier (albeit “Manual reporting” and you all know what that means) but the pit reporting job became more difficult. It was easy enough for Your Reporter to say what he saw and to let the readers look at the numbers and draw their own conclusions, but our Pit Reporter Simon was getting his ear bent on every visit to the pits and it was he who faced the bigger dilemma about totally honest reporting because, let’s be frank here, an unhappy racer is an honest, open and talkative racer.

I have said in previous Editor’s Diaries that one of the great things about the team is that each member is pretty much fire-and-forget: they go off and do their job and Your Reporter doesn’t have to spend any time worrying about what they are doing and whether they will do it right. My only suggestion to Simon was “If it’s not demonstrably bollocks and they don’t criticise anyone by name then there’s no reason not to post it”, which was redundant advice since that is what Simon had determined to do anyway, but you all know Simon as a gentleman and soul of discretion and I rather suspect that, to begin with at least, he might have been quietly losing sleep over some of the more frank and honest comments he had to post in his pit notes.

Kirstie and Lena Perés of Speedgroup at work during the Night Show

Anita Mäkelä sent a news item in which she said that she felt very sorry for all involved, on whatever side, and I think we would all agree with that. Sat where I was, right next to the poor sod, I felt the most sorry for Track Announcer Benni Voss who more than once had the job of telling a very large crowd that they would not be seeing many, if any, Pro racers. Although none of it was his fault Benni was visibly suffering and he plainly felt a measure of responsibility which was not his to bear. Had Benni been a girl then I could at least have offered a hug, but as it was I just had to sit there offering the occasional encouraging comment but otherwise I felt totally useless to help him.

I used to have an Employee of the Month badge which I have unfortunately lost but our photographer Kirstie would have been on the shortlist to receive it at Hockenheim as she had a lot of responsibility thrust upon her without much warning. Our former Photo Editor Roger departed the team in the middle of the event which left Kirstie as number one photographer. Friday’s gallery was entirely composed of Kirstie’s photographs and was described in one overnight E-Mail as “The best gallery has ever done”, which was a good start, but then just as Kirstie picked up the mantle on Saturday her camera failed. It didn’t fail at any old time, oh dear me no, but a few minutes before the first Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session. Not for the first time, our good friend Markus Münch quickly came to the rescue with the offer of the loan of a camera which he described as “My baby, so be good to it” – so, no pressure or anything. Markus’ friend and partner-in-crime Mathias Schneider, who ironically has just become the father of a very cute real baby, stepped in to help with photography on the Saturday because, as good as Kirstie is and boy did she step up to the plate this weekend, one photographer is not enough at a European Championship race. Another good buddy, Patrik Jacobsson who photographs for Speedgroup amongst others and who had valiantly tried to help Kirstie with her camera when it failed on Saturday, contributed photographs for Sunday’s gallery. So a huge Thank You to Markus, Mathias and Patrik because they helped to save our own weekend.

All in all then, not the best of times although as ever in these situations you can win little victories. It’s not really for me to say but I think that did a good job of handling what was one of the most difficult situations we have yet encountered at an event and I was very proud of the event coverage. Certainly we didn’t receive a single complaint from organisers, promoters, race officials or racers which, for reasons explained above, is unusual when things go that wrong. So we also owe Jerry Lackey, Christine and Peter Calwer, and all of the organisers, race officials and promoters a big Thank You for trusting us and for letting us do our job unmolested. Whilst thanking people I must also say a big Thank You to Andy Wheeler of sponsor Alamo Rent-A-Car without whose generous assistance we would still be walking from Frankfurt Main Aiport to the track.

Onwards and upwards, and at time of writing we are five days from flying to Sweden to cover the Scandinavian Internationals. Yes, back on the day job for all of seven working days and then off again, it never ends. As ever, please say Hello if you are at Tierp Arena, or stay tuned to and we’ll bring you all the action.

Track Announcer Benni Voss and Tog hard at work on Saturday morning.

Text: Andy Rogers
Photos: Markus Münch and Remco Scheelings

This article is part of the Speedgroup Club Europe Newsletter #11/2012

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