An Alternative GP System
Rather than argue which system is best can I widen the discussion on the World Championship a little? Like it or not, with television now a major factor in the sport we simply cannot go back to the old formula. A one-off Final, albeit great for the supporters, is not enough to interest TV and the casual armchair fans, which we are trying to entice to our stadiums. The qualifying rounds were complex and would not show enough top riders in action leading up to the final. Even the final could be a let down if too many top stars got eliminated for some reason.
That said, the current GP series leaves much to be desired. It can be all over 2-thirds of the way through. With only 15 riders taking part, some of the best riders of the year are not in contention (ie Hans Anderson in 2006). Even the points scoring system is really not as fair as it should be. Is there a solution? Probably not to please everyone, but here's a rough idea for a change in format which could be considered something of a compromise.
We increase the number of riders competing in a GP series to 32. This gives us a 2 semi-final mini-series (say 4 or 5 venues each) of which the top 8 from each would qualify for the Final series (4 or 5 again?) to decide the year's champion. With a reduced number of GP's for a final it would increase the probability of only being decided at the last event. To explain this more fully:
We have a GP semi-final A series & B series, comprising of 4 or 5 venues each. The top 8 riders from the previous year would qualify as seeds to the S-F's (1,4,5 & 8 in s-f A with 2,3,6 & 7 in s-f B). The other 8 finalists would also have qualified but would be drawn out of a hat, 4 in each s-f. The other 16 semi-finalists would have come through qualifying rounds the previous season.
From each s-f the top 8 would then compete in the GP final series at another 4 or 5 venues with all riders starting from scratch again. From which the top scorer becomes World Champion. The top 8 becoming seeds the following season.
Qualifying for the GP series could be achieved by having all riders not involved in the GP s-f's competing in a pre-determined system which would eventually arrive at 48 riders qualifying for 4 Quarter-finals along with the 16 eliminated GP riders (4 in each). Top 8 from each go to the qualification semis & the top 8 from each semi reach the GP qualification final. From the final the top 10 would automatically join the GP series next year. This leaves 6 places, which could be used, similar to the selection process which nominates riders now, specifically for riders who may have missed out due to injury etc.
I would also like to see the GP scoring revised to be fairer. In the GP semis you could have the 20 races with the top 4 qualifying for a double points final. Then in the GP final series, the top 8 who qualify for the meeting semis get 3 bonus points plus what they score in the semi followed by a double points final again. This would do away with the 25, 20, 18 & 16 allowance. The winner of the final would be that particular GP winner but the points would reflect the riders' performance throughout the whole meeting.
The GP semis A & B should be run on the same night and TV could decide which venue they wanted to cover, if not both. The GP semis could be spread around 8 or 10 venues accordingly with the GP finals going to another 4 or 5 venues at top tracks. At the moment the chances of breaking into the GP series is slight and doubling the amount of riders who set out on a World title quest at the outset of the season must be an improvement. There are a lot of good riders who deserve a chance at the top level. Just in Britain we should be allowing the likes of Mark Loram, Simon Stead, Chris Harris, Dave Norris & Chris Louis, amongst others, a better opportunity to mix it with the big boys.
This system would eliminate the need for riders to gamble on their being selected for the following year if they don't finish in the top 8. All 16 GP finalists know they are in the GP next season and the other 16 eliminated semi-finalists are automatically entered into the latter stages of the qualification rounds with their future in their own hands. This idea can obviously be expanded upon, but hopefully it is now in a forum as a means of getting fans discussing how we progress the sport. If more of us ordinary fans chip in with ideas then the powers that be will recognise the ones with potential and consider them objectively. I know I have suggestions that I believe would improve many aspects of the sport, it's knowing the right channels to go through which I (& others like me) are unsure of.
One final thought, which may help improve the GP's. With them all being televised, all the racing incidents requiring an exclusion could be analysed by the referee & 2 ex-riders. A 2 out 3 verdict would then decide the outcome. Over the last few years we've seen decisions to exclude riders, after crashes, which have ranged from poor to downright atrocious. Experienced riders generally recognise what causes a crash and their insight would make the decision justified. This is not a reflection on the referee, merely an acknowledgment of how difficult their task can be.
This article was first published on 12th October 2006
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