ESPN Broadcast Shows GRC Coverage Has Long Way To Go

Video capture via ESPN broadcast

Sunday’s ESPN2 broadcast of the Global Rallycross Championship was a tape-delayed affair, meaning that production had almost 24 hours to package the raw footage of Saturday night’s ESPN3 broadcast together in a neat, 60-minute block. But only those who watched the ESPN3 broadcast from Las Vegas Motor Speedway—as late as it ran, especially for the east coast—know just how “raw” that footage truly was.

The ESPN3 broadcast began at 11:30 PM Eastern, no shock given the Camping World Truck Series event scheduled before the GRC race. But when that ran long, series officials had to set up the track later than they wanted, and viewers were treated to an hour of a shaky city shot and chatter from commentators Tes Sewell and Jen Horsey.

But it was when the racing actually started that the commentary team truly broke down. Besides numerous instances where they couldn’t actually hear each other, their reactions to Richard Burton’s crash into the jump in the first heat were less than stellar, as has been highlighted by Deadspin.

Video capture via ESPN broadcast

From failing to identify that Burton had even crashed for the first few minutes of the broadcast, to hasty Facebook research, to quips about Burton’s background (“he was an executive in the Royal Bank of Canadia,” offered Sewell), to Alyssa Roenigk’s identification of Burton’s chief mechanic as simply “Greg” (his last name is Frechette, and he’s been tweeting updates on Burton’s condition at @gregoryfork), the entire thing showed off a lack of preparation from the broadcast team. Frechette has chosen not to make any comments on the broadcast:


Here’s what actually happened: before hitting the jump, Burton—whose older model Subaru has been plagued by mechanical issues in every race it’s entered—locked up all four wheels. In order to minimize the impact, Burton smartly turned the car to avoid a true head-on collision, instead letting the car fall off of the jump and hitting the safety barrier with primarily the right front fender.

Video capture via ESPN broadcast

Members of the Olsbergs MSE crew, who were nearest to the crash site, ran to the car to ensure that Burton was alright (in what should have been a tipoff to the broadcast crew that Burton had indeed crashed going off of the jump). After about ten minutes, Burton was finally removed from the car on a stretcher, during which he gave a thumbs up to the crowd. MRIs at a local hospital were negative, but Burton remains in a Las Vegas hotel, with plans to return to Toronto later in the week to seek further medical attention for a lower back injury.

The entire first running of the first heat was edited out of the television broadcast, except for Roenigk’s medical update. Since the Deadspin article, Horsey (@jenhorsey) has not tweeted at all, while Roenigk (@ESPN_Alyssa) and Sewell (@2Elevens) have not made mention of the on-air content.

The final GRC event of the season will take place on Tuesday, October 30 at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. That broadcast will be live, meaning the ESPN crew will have to do a better job of keeping their fingers on the pulse of the action. Not only does a struggling broadcast reflect poorly on them, it also reflects poorly on the sport itself, and given the GRC’s relative infancy, that’s something that nobody can afford.

– Chris Leone


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