Matters of moment, April 1952

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What is a Racing Driver?

A racing driver is what you make him. To certain sections of the community he was at one time invariably a grimy, scatterbrained mechanic owning a long, lean racing machine with vast outside exhaust pipes, in which he was wont, to roar about the countryside scattering livestock and humans regardless, by way of practice for death-defying feats on the race track in pursuit of fabulous bags or gold—-see any motor-racing movie of the middle-‘twenties ! To the Daily Press almost anyone who handles or has handled a fast car automatically becomes a “famous racing motorist” when hauled into the headlines for beating a wife, fighting a burglar, coming into a fortune, going bankrupt or otherwise entering the celebrities’ circle. So much the better, of course, if the man or woman concerned can be photographed in overalls, goggles and a white bathing-cap, and if he or she is a lord, earl, peer of the realm, stockbroker or even merely a gentleman farmer.

But the Daily Press isn’t particular. We recall a headline many years ago over a story of a gentleman from Clubland who had shaken his walkingstick at a ‘bus-driver who had unbalanced a lady passenger by a jerky start. “Husband of Lady Racing Motorist Accosts Bus Driver” it read, or words to that effect. Searching our memories and then our files we found that a lady of the same name had driven an aged Peugeot for a few miles in a minor race at a very minor Brooklands meeting many years before her husband committed his chivalrous act … On the strength of which we may even qualify ourselves, one day !

Today there is a better understanding of what motor-racing is all about and membership of the BRDC is a pretty sound indication that in the past or present the member has been either a real racer or closely associated with motor-racing in one capacity or another. And now the RAC has issued a new “leveller,” whereby all racing drivers in this country, be they mechanics or company directors, counts or misters, old, young, bald or blonde, will have many things in common.

For in future they must all have a systolic pressure not exceeding 150 mm Hg, a diastolic pressure of not more than 90 mm Hg, an acuity range of 6, 6/6 – 12 or 6 : 9/6 : 9, urine which is free from sugar and albumen, pupils which react to light and accommodation, the ability to make free and controlled movement of shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, ankles and feet, no serious pulmonary lesion, abnormal cardiac enlargement or unusual noises from the heart, and they must be able to recognise red, yellow, blue, black and white—presumably not all colours at once, however !

In future, ladies and gentlemen, your racing drivers, male or female, will, to the best of the RAC’S ability, be fine, upstanding examples of physically fit men and women, hearts able to survive the sudden emission of con-rods, nerves steeled against the dreaded sideslip. Those who crawl away miserably with their infirmities, unable to conform to the Adonis-specification will, however, be permitted to drive in sprints and speed hill-climbs when we have no doubt that they will do their level best to control their cars despite their disabilities—and you mustn’t blame them if they pass quietly away ere they reach the Kennels or get round Orchard Corner. We do not profess to know whether the FIA, in insisting on a medical examination, intended national clubs to trot racing drivers along to local surgeries or whether it had in mind examination by one doctor or a team of doctors prior to GP races, as has been normal practice at Indianapolis for many years. But, the subject does seem very appropriate to an Editorial which appears on April Fool’s Day, don’t you think ?

The support of Fleet Street

The Right Crowd and No Crowding applied to motor-racing is satisfactory in a selfish sense but could soon end in no racing at all, particularly at the present time when everything about motoring is so expensive and a cruel entertainments tax is levied on race organisers, (Since modified, for which our thanks to the Chancellor.)

Big “gates” are essential to successful motor racing and way back in the days when Herr Hitler was still content to decorate the interiors of houses we used to preach for daily newspaper support.

Today this is available in good measure, which augurs well for motor-racing even in the grim times ahead. The big daily newspapers can “sell” the Sport to millions of readers and as their proprietors, along with those of big oil concerns, are about the only people in this island who still possess money in large quantities, they are able to provide handsome prizes, good starting money, and even prepare circuits when this is necessary.

Consequently we are glad that the BRDC has the backing of the Daily Express in taking over Silverstone and organising the International Trophy Meeting and British GP there, that the Daily Mail is interesting itself in Boreham circuit, that the Daily Telegraph sponsors 500-cc racing at Brands Hatch Stadium, and that the News of the World is again backing the Formula 1 Ulster Trophy Race at Dundrod and the BARC’s ambitious International 9-hour Sports Car Race (see page 173) to be held at Goodwood on August 16th. The Daily Graphic also puts up valuable trophies and cash prizes for Goodwood races, and, incidentally, the Daily Telegraph has put up the major prize in the RAC British Rally and the Daily Express sponsors the MCC Rally.

Provided experienced organisers retain control of the actual circuits and contests, much good must result from this geneerous liaison between the newspaper barons and motor sport .

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