Televising the revolution: Pure ETCR takes touring car coverage onto a new electric level with Eurosport Events
Pure Electric Touring Car Racing (Pure ETCR) is a new race series that Eurosport Events is bringing to screens around the world from 2021.
Bringing together the host broadcaster’s background in touring car motorsports, its parent company Discovery’s desire to further its historical mission to educate, and car manufacturers’ urgent need to make electric cars as exciting as their petrol-consuming counterparts, now is the perfect time for Pure ETCR to take off.
While TCR technology is led by the WTCR Championship, also under the Eurosport Events roof, ETCR technology will be showcased by Pure ETCR, which, says Xavier Gavory, Pure ETCR series director at Eurosport Events, “will be the very first multi-brand, 100% electric, touring championship”.
From 2022 the Pure ETCR brand will become part of the FIA World Cup format. “That means that this year Pure ETCR is an international series, as the test year, or the launch year, and from 2022, or from season two, we will be a FIA World Cup,” notes Gavory.
Drama, battles and time trials
Eurosport Events is broadcasting the series, which began on the weekend of 18 June in Vallelunga, Italy, in four ways: linear TV for existing touring car fans and older viewers; over the top (OTT) live and streamed broadcasts; social media, both live and streamed including Tik Tok and Twitch, with each channel formatted for that media and its viewers; and scripted programmes made for OTT, such as Discovery Plus and other platforms.
“Discovery wants to be a pioneer and to be the leader in terms of electric racing. So this is the reason why we jumped, literally, on the project”
For each race weekend, the format is the same yet brand new for viewers. Friday night will showcase the drama of the draw to see who will be up against whom in each race battle – a short form of racing designed to draw in a multitude of new fans – which will be focused mainly towards social media viewers to increase interaction and anticipation. On Saturday the battles commence live on OTT platforms, with 10 different battles taking place over the course of the day including time trials. Finally, on Sunday viewers can enjoy more traditional programming with a 60-plus minute programme providing highlights and opinions on the previous day’s racing.
Speaking to SVG Europe, Gavory notes that while there is already a good distribution network for Pure ETCR, this year is set to attract more broadcasters for the new series. “We have a strong network of distribution and a strong network of broadcast for the very first year. But at the same time, we have to convince some of the broadcasters as well to show them what the product is about, how interesting it can be, how great the races and the battles will be, and how interesting it could be for the viewership. So this we will build up.”
Pure ETCR was announced in 2018 by TCR promotor, WSC, as the electric touring car series. The following year it began looking for a promoter for the series, which matched up perfectly with Eurosport Event’s ambitions. Gavory explains: “WSC, which founded the electric category four years ago, was looking for a promoter to invest, promote and organise the very first championship of Pure ETCR. [Yet while] we have been appointed by WSC, we were looking for [a sustainable racing series]; we were searching for these kind of [electric] initiatives because we belong to Discovery which is involved in Formula E, and Discovery wants to be a pioneer and to be the leader in terms of electric racing. So this is the reason why we jumped, literally, on the project.”
Making electric look cool
Pure ETCR is here today because manufacturers want and need to promote their new electric products to consumers, and make the electric car look cooler to attract the real rev heads out there.
Gavory says: “It was a very natural move for us to go electric with touring cars, because the automotive industry is having a proper revolution. They must change the way they build cars and conceive and sell cars. As it’s a revolution there are more and more electric cars on the street, but [that means] manufacturers at some point have to promote their electric products in an interesting way, and in a dynamic way.
“For a lot of people, electric cars are still a little bit boring, somehow, mainly made to go shopping and stuff like that, but it’s not the case. The range of products are bigger every day and electric cars can be very appealing, and this is what [manufacturers] want to promote, so it totally makes sense to make the promotion of a new product – and especially one in line with sustainability, a new way of life, a new way of consuming things – for [Discovery to do it].”
“The revolution is pretty sexy! One of the things we wanted to do as well, to go in line with the educational spirit, was we wanted to do something very different. So the Pure ETCR will not be just another racing series”
Gavory says the move for Discovery to take on a purely electric touring car racing series was a natural one, thanks to the combination of Discovery’s origins in the educational field of programming with the Discovery Channel, and Eurosport Events’ experience in the motorsport genre.
Gavory comments: “Our philosophy behind [Discovery], especially in terms of sustainability, is to educate people. [We can do this by] showcasing [Pure ETCR], which is great, and show people how good [sustainability] could be for themselves, and also for the planet.
“It totally made sense [for Eurosport Events to take on Pure ETCR] because we are involved on the WTCR with the very same company, WSC, so it was very natural for us. We have a long term experience in touring cars and once again, since we belong to Discovery, we wanted to make something very innovative. We wanted to pioneer electro-mobility and electric racing through these series.
“This is why it totally makes sense [for Eurosport Events] because we are at the cross point between touring cars, which is something we know by heart because we organised the WTCR before it was the WTC for 15 years, and promoting the cars, which are sold by manufacturers, and at the same time, in line with the DNA of Discovery, which is education and pioneering things to show people what they can do and how good it can be for them.”
The revolution will be televised
Adds Gavory: “And the revolution is pretty sexy! One of the things we wanted to do as well, to go in line with the educational spirit, was we wanted to do something very different. So the Pure ETCR will not be just another racing series. We want to make it very different from WTCR because it would not make sense to have exactly the same type of cars and look with the same racing format on the same circuits and so on. So the DNA of touring cars is there, because what is interesting with touring cars that you have a real dog fight, you have door to door racing, bumper to bumper and so on; all those things will remain, but at the same time, we completely changed the sporting format.”
The changed format includes no qualifiers, instead using a draw, with rounds of short battles between competitors instead of races with all teams, which drivers will have to win in order to get through to the next round.
“With that connectivity and the interaction between the cars and the pit, we have [had to] put together a very different and very innovative technology to allow all this to happen. We have a mesh system that allows images, data and voice to go from the car to the OB van, together at the very same time, and to have all the information treated on site to provide viewers with a different experience”
Gavory comments on the battle format, which works with the content snacking favoured by many viewers today: “There’s a real link between the sporting format and the broadcast itself. The short battles are perfectly in line with the way people watch TV or consume entertainment on screens today. You can go in and out, you can watch one battle, you can watch two, or you can watch three. You can watch only the highlights or you can watch the final. So it’s a kind a kind of on demand format which allows us to cut and divide the weekend into many pieces.”
The series also uses starting gates for the cars, much like on horse racing, to add more drama to the proceedings. “We really wanted to make something different about an asset of these electric cars; the tork. Its a never-ending power that rushes from the car. The gate [allows us to highlight] that tork and acceleration; it’s something very new.”
Mesh network connectivity
Eurosport Events also wants to highlight the connectivity of the electric cars as well as their power, therefore there are two key things the broadcast will be able to take advantage of. The Hot Zone is where drivers not in the battle about to take place are able to talk directly to the drivers in the race, provide those drivers with information and data that might be useful, as well as commentate on the race for fans and chat to each other.
Additionally, drivers on the grid about to race will be able to talk to each other, which, says Gavory, might lead to “some spicy comments!”.
Adds Gavory: “We really wanted to have short programmes, a little bit around the video game style for that demographic in terms of concepts, a little bit like reality TV with the Hot Zone and the drivers being able to talk to one another.”
Making this mass of exciting content work live has meant that Eurosport Events’ technical partner, AMP Visual, has had to come up with something new; a heterogenous mesh network, to work as a layer over the OBs and cameras it has also provided the host broadcaster. Eurosport Events also partners with AMP Visual on WTCR.
Says Gavory: “With that connectivity and the interaction between the cars and the pit, we have [had to] put together a very different and very innovative technology to allow all this to happen,” he explains. “We have a mesh system that allows images, data and voice to go from the car to the OB van, together at the very same time, and to have all the information treated on site to provide viewers with a different experience.”
He continues: “The technology [we are using] comes from movies and movie production; we’re bringing some new technologies, we are making some proper investments on new technologies to reach a different level [within our broadcast so we can] showcase and broadcast things differently than what has been done in the past.”
There are four onboard cameras in each car and the director is able to see all four feeds at one time thanks to the heterogeneous network. Comments Gavory: “We get all the signals from each of the four onboards at the same time in the OB van, which is due to this mesh design. Normally with an RF onboard system, you can have several cameras but you get only one signal at a time; you have to choose. With the mesh, you can get all the images at the same time.
“So if there’s a slow mo to make because of an incident or because of an action [taken by a driver], or whatever, you can choose and you can pick those four images for the LSM or for the highlights after the race; we can pick all those four images. On a normal setup, you lose three of them.”
Not plug and play
It has been challenging to get this first series of Pure ETCR on the road, thanks to current global circumstances which slowed down the build and development of the vehicles. Explains Gavory: “It is the first year and it’s not an easy year because of COVID. The very first show was supposed to be last year, but because of COVID and the fact that the factories were shut down, and the circulation of people and goods around the world was very complicated…. the technology for the cars needs to travel. [For example] the batteries are made in the UK and the border was closed for months.
“It took a lot of time to put the cars together,” he adds. “When you have existing cars and an existing series, it’s plug and play. It means that from one day to another, you can start everything again. When you develop the cars, when you build up the cars, when you have to test them to get some mileage, to make sure that they are reliable and so on, it takes a lot of time and COVID blocked us being dynamic last year. This is why the very first year [for Pure ETCR] is this year.”
Each venue, including the first one in Italy which showcased the first battle weekend 18 June, has also been chosen for its sustainability credentials. Vallelunga in Italy, for example, produces 120% of its own electricity. The overproduction of 20% is given back to the local neighbourhood.
Pure ETCR’s inaugural season visits five circuits, blending traditional permanent venues with urban street tracks. This pushes the abilities of the drivers and the 500kW electric touring cars to the max as teams face the challenge of making their machine the one to beat across a wide range of venues. The first four events are held in Europe, with the finale – which should decide the first Drivers’ and Teams’ Champions – in Asia.
Next up for Pure ETCR is Motorland Aragón, in Alcaniz, in Spain’s north-west, on 9 to 11 July. It is a sensational facility that is also striving to be the most sustainable in the world through numerous innovations. Already 27% of the Aragón region’s primary energy comes from renewable sources, and many additional avenues of improving sustainability are currently being implemented.
This will be followed by Copenhagen with a street circuit on 6 to 8 August, then Hungaroring, home of Hungarian Grand Prix, on 20 to 22 August, and finally Inje Speedium in South Korea on 15 to 17 October where the drivers will battle it out for the silverware.