The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb went off without a hitch last Sunday, with the biggest headlines coming from Sébastien Loeb, and his 875-horsepower Peugeot 208 T16, just crushing the previous course record.
Of course, if you were following along online, on Red Bull TV (posted below), you might have had a harder time watching it happen. Helicopter shots kept cutting in and out, images were static-ridden and unreliable, and at times it was just generally difficult to figure out what was happening. This was hell for the people watching, but it was certainly hell for the announcers, one of them being Colorado Springs media member Dan Cochell.
And, of course, this was also the first time an attempt had been made to broadcast the race, now in its 91st year. Despite that, thousands of commenters on YouTube and Facebook ripped the production up and down. Here's a few from Sunday (everything sic-ed):
"Thanks for posting this video," Ivan Nenov wrote. "The redbull.tv broadcast was less than impressive though. Gearheads want to hear the car engine, not two gentlemen talking."
Or, from Ralph Gaume: "Amazing race by Loeb and Peugeot, but redbull this coverage suck! Espacialy the two guys, they seem nice but I wasn't here to listen to them."
Or Mario Sergio Arcanjo's thoughts: "WHAT A CRAP TRANSMISSION, HOPEFULLY RED BULL HAS A BETTER COVERAGE OF THE RECORD RUN.....USELESS TV STATION THAT COVERED THE RUN.......BUNCH OF AMATEURS!!!!"
We even received letters written to Cochell's personal e-mail address, which was posted in the comments, CC'd to our newsroom. It's all just a little ridiculous, Cochell says in a phone interview with the Indy.
"The Hill Climb partnered with me to be the play-by-play announcer, but the production crew didn’t have their shit together whatsoever," he says. "So, when we arrived up on the hill to do the race, my audio cables aren’t even plugged in four minutes before race time; I didn’t have IFB; I had no contact with any of the announcers up and down the hill; I didn’t have any monitor to see any footage.
"We essentially did what turned out to be a six-hour race with about 15 minutes of the race, and the rest of it, all the cameras were failing from the connections. And then the cameras, as you saw, on the helicopter would freeze. And that’s what happened all day, so what was I supposed to do?"
Cochell says all the cameras were linked over Wi-Fi, but a 14,115-foot mountain sort of got in the way.
"If you understand how big Pikes Peak is, to hook up all the cameras on a wireless Internet system and have all that technology work flawlessly is asking a lot," he says. "And the person that did the production arrived on Wednesday, and really didn’t have any chance to set up any of the cameras, which didn’t even arrive until Saturday at 5 p.m. Saturday! I went up there on Saturday to do a run-through, and it was pouring rain by 3 in the afternoon so they couldn’t even hook up anything."
Eventually the summit camera was hooked up — 15 minutes before the race started, Cochell says. A second camera at the 16-mile mark failed to ever come online, leaving the helicopter camera as the main one. Of course, the announcers couldn't speak with the pilot, and had no help determining which car was on the road.
"I don’t want any PR off this," Cochell says. "I wasn’t gonna say anything, but when you have 20,000 people commenting and ripping you apart, and ripping the Hill Climb apart — and part of this is me defending the Hill Climb, because these people have no idea what they’re talking about. They have none. They just sit and watch the thing and think it should just come off magical, and it doesn’t happen that way. It doesn’t work that way in the real world."
Cochell says he also built the broadcast set in the first place, though was not responsible for getting it into shape.
"So, the moment I walked on the set and nothing is set — I mean, no cables are run, no power cord for the monitors — I mean, when none of that is in place, and it's still not in place four minutes before we go on the air ... What was I gonna do?
"If I go into that set and I know everything that's laid out before me and it's not ready to my standards and all of a sudden I say, 'We're not gonna do this' ... all of a sudden it's a disaster from the beginning. But when I do go on the air and try and make something out of it, and it still turns out bad, then I'm really looked at as being unprofessional and unprepared, which is the furthest thing from the truth."
And, for fun, here's some fans who were nearly killed by Loeb while crossing the road: