AND THE CLOSEST IS...
That’s a good question. So how would one go about
determining the most competitive race series?
ften when a racing series makes the
highly subjective claim that it’s the most
competitive in the category/country/world,
we get to wondering if it’s possible to
verify or debunk it by objective methods.
After all, if any sport lends itself to
sophisticated data-analysis techniques,
it’s got to be auto racing, hasn’t it?
So, naively, we thought we’d give it a try –
not necessarily to come up with a hard
and fast answer for the most competitive
series, but to see if there are certain
factors that provide compelling proof.
Pretty much any race series you can
name could pull out one specific
wonderstat that “proves” it’s the most
competitive – anything from number of
different winners, to margin of victory, to
passes per race, to name a few. Yes, those
are all compelling in their own way, but as
Mark Twain pointed out, “There are lies,
damned lies, and statistics,” so we think
a series should be judged across a wide
range of criteria to define its overall
competitiveness, not just one.
OK, time for a little quasi-science here.
First of all, let’s choose our test subjects...
Deadlines, access to relevant data, and a
serious shortage of interns with degrees in
statistical analysis from Stanford meant
The NASCAR Sprint
Cup Series (ABOVE)
and the German-focused DTM (RIGHT)
provide close racing
and diversified winners,
but how do they
stack up in terms of
relative to each other?
being picky (and subjective...) in our choice
of seven series. Firstly, we needed plentiful
data available for each series – a bigger ask
than you may think. NASCAR’s incredibly
detailed and voluminous loop data is an
exception, not the norm. Secondly, we
wanted series that are at least perceived to
be highly competitive. And thirdly, because
not every race can be a barn-burner,
however closely fought a championship
might seem, we wanted a complete season
of results to work with, so 2011 was our
datum. (Apologies to Formula 1 for that,
which, as we write, has seen six different
winners in its first six races.)