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Drivers' World Cup

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Top Gear
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Drivers' World Cup

Bill Crittenden
June 27, 2014

I'm guessing by now most "car guys" have seen Top Gear playing football (soccer to us Yankees) with compact cars.

Why can't we have a World Cup of Car Football?  Every time I see a football match, I think, "this would be so much more fun in Volkswagens."

How would someone match all the cars involved to each other to be fair?  Does a car designed in Japan and made in America count as a Japanese or American?  What about Canada?

I say, just throw out all notions of even trying to figure out a car's nationality.  The FIFA World Cup doesn't have to figure out where every player's shoes or every team's ball is made.  That's just equipment, and it's equipment that can bring in lucrative sponsorship.  I'd imagine a company with a cute & fun image like Kia would love to supply a fleet of stripped-out Rios and spare parts to the teams at below cost for the opportunity to call it the Kia World Cup, right?  Throw in official fuel and official tire supplier sponsorships, and you've got equal, affordable "equipment"  for all nations and sponsors for the sanctioning body.

The cars could, of course, be in colors that would resemble their regular football national kit rather than international racing colors, which would be really fun for merchandise suppliers.  Fans could buy shirts that resemble their country's football jerseys but with the logos of the car football team on the front and the name & number of their favorite driver on the back.

For anything more than the one-off stunts on Top Gear the cars couldn't be stock, but would require a lot of the equipment that makes racing safe: cage, safety fuel cell, interior stripped of all flammables, fire suits and rally-style helmets for the drivers.  Car-to-car team radios would help the strategy and should give TV broadcasts some good audio material.  Any additional performance modifications would have to be weighed against the increased potential for injury-causing crashes.

Speaking of crashes, rules would be instituted to prevent hard crashes, and unlike other sports where penalties are an often-challenged judgement call, penalties could be called based on accelerometer telemetry from the cars.  A hard enough hit would trigger an automatic red flag and the refs would give the driver who caused the incident a yellow or red card.

Drivers, I assume, wouldn't be the all-star cast of each nation's greatest that shows up for the Race of Champions, but rather a mixed group of professional road race, rally, stunt, and drift drivers.  Tanner Foust and Ken Block immediately come to mind.

And you know damn well that hoon-happy football-mad countries like Australia, Brazil, and England, would just go nuts for a sport like this.  Japan, Sweden, the U.S., Finland, Germany, France, and Italy are also likely participants.  Countries that don't have the resources for Formula 1 teams or tracks, small countries that love cars and football and don't have a problem finding a parking lot to practice in would welcome the opportunity for a chance at national glory, nations such as Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, or any number of South American countries.

Just like ARCA reuses old NASCAR cars in stock car racing, when the current generation of cars is replaced by the next, the old fleet would trickle their way down to second-tier leagues.  In a country where race tracks are constantly under assault from new neighbors who move in next to a historic racetrack and then decide that they don't like the noise, the muffled 4-cylinder cars can play at just about any parking lot with a 50-yard or so open space.

It could be a motor sport accessible to all, one where driving skill matters so much more than budgets, with the thrill of door-to-door competition and the dream of international glory as a strong draw into local leagues where all that may be required for entry is a $2,000 beater car and a safety fuel cell.

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