by Russell Jaslow
Racing with Rich Energy: How a Rogue Sponsor Took Formula One for a Ride
by Elizabeth Blackstock and Alanis King
McFarland & Company, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4766-8880-0. List Price: $29.95.
If you had to write a parody of a racing team sponsorship in the style of Veep you couldn't do any better than the disastrously unintended hysterical real life story of Rich Energy and Haas F1. Heck, if you brought these characters to a Hollywood studio, they would blackball you from the industry.
There have been many goofball, con job, illegal, unfullfilled promises when to comes to sponsorship and racing, with the most high profile ones occurring in the most high profile series, Formula 1. But perhaps none can top the charts more so than the combination of a hippie looking CEO, an energy drink company whose product cannot be found, and a team run by a foul mouthed straight shooting manager. Partly thanks to the modern phenomena of social media.
When the Rich Energy sponsorship was first announced, the Internet immediately went into a frenzy. And immediately the questions arose -- who are these guys, where is their product, how much money do they have, did Haas perform proper due diligence (it took mere hours for the common person to discover Rich Energy only had 581 pounds in the bank), etc., etc., etc.
Elizabeth Blackstock and Alanis King were the first ones to write about the strangeness of this affair for Jalopnik. And thus, by de facto, they became experts on the subject. That article turned into a book, with a journey of obsessiveness along the way.
As two proper journalists, Blackstock and King thoroughly researched Racing with Rich Energy, providing complete footnotes and references. They cite a lot of source material, especially on social media where so much of this story played out, as well as interviews. Their style of writing will keep you riveted to this disaster unfolding like being unable to turn away from a train wreck.
Unfortunately for the authors, many of the key players either didn't want to go on record at all or simply stopped talking. It prevented a full explanation of this bizarre tale.
Due to this, the climax comes a bit early and thus the falling action drags on without a complete, proper resolution. But the journey getting there was still fun and has us scratching our heads in bewilderment.
It always amazes me how often we see rich, successful people be so easily fooled. How did these rich, successful people get to be so rich and successful if they can be duped so easily? That to me was the most enjoyable experience I got out of reading this book. Perhaps us dregs of society are a little bit better and smarter and more put together than the one percenters. Perhaps.
Whether you want to relish in that concept or not, as a racing fan, you will still find this book a very worthwhile read. For while it may not completely satisfy your urges and leave many new questions unanswered, it will still fill in a lot of gaps behind this true life tale as well as some nice behind the scenes doings of racing sponsorship.
I may give it a second read just so I can shake my head at these characters. In the meantime, I'm going to go on a snipe hunt with advice from my tarot cards and a can of the ever elusive Rich Energy in my hand...
I can't do any worse than Haas F1.
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