Can the Sundance Award-Winning Documentary, “Senna”, Breathe New Life into American Formula One Fans?

By Kim Ellis

The history of Formula One in the United States has had its share of controversy, low fan and team turnouts, and at best, a spotty and sporadic reception. For several years, the United States has been without a Grand Prix because the race was simply not seen as financially viable for a title sponsor. However, a deal was inked the middle of 2010 that will bring Formula One back to the U.S. for the next ten years. With the advent of the first Formula One race in several years to be held on American soil nearly upon us, American fans are about to be re-introduced to what is widely regarded by the rest of the world to be the pinnacle of motor-sports. An area just south of Austin, Texas has been selected out of several locations that were competing to host this historic event. Ground was broken on a new, purpose-built 3.2 mile, 20 turn circuit on December 30th, 2010. Here, American fans will once again be afforded the opportunity to see one of these thrilling races up close and personal without the need of a passport. There are many die-hard fans among us who have had that date circled on our calendars in red since we heard the great news last year. However, as one of those passionate fans, I feel that the types of motor-sports which exist outside of oval track racing in the United States are still considered to be in their infancy. These growing pains are not so much attributed to one form of racing being to superior to another, but rather because one racing discipline, by all appearances, lays claim to the majority of the fan base in the U.S.

If you don’t believe me, stop 10 or even 100 random people at the supermarket or any other public place and ask them if they have ever heard of Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon; then ask that same person if they have ever heard of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Nigel Mansell, or Lewis Hamilton. My guess is you will get nearly 100% recognition of the first group, but would be lucky to get 10-20% recognition of the second. That is how motor-sports are perceived in America. And unfortunately perception is reality to many of the major media outlets and the advertisers and sponsors that support them. Enter the Senna movie. I firmly believe that this is the perfect vehicle to introduce Formula One, the passion of the rest of the racing world, to a previously untapped mass of new and potential fans in the United States. It has all the necessary ingredients to convey the true drama and spirit of the sport. I firmly believe this movie will provide F1 with the kind of exposure it needs to cement itself as a true form of racing in the hearts of American fans. And this will definitely extend to plethora of other disciplines of racing such as ALMS, Rally, Touring Car and others that have also played second fiddle to the almighty oval here in America for too long.

I know that the producers of the Ayrton Senna movie are currently seeking an American distributor to bring this movie, which was recently the recipient of the World Cinema Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, to the big screen across America. I have started a Facebook group with the ultimate goal of showing potential distributors just how big the U.S. fanbase of such forms of racing is and how lucrative a widespread distribution could be. Between this film and the upcoming United States Grand Prix next year in Texas, our sport is poised for a huge explosion in growth. Please show your support to the entire race community and join our Facebook group. We would like to send a message that there is a massive contingent of fans that are dedicated to the advancement of racing here in the United States.

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