News from the circuits
The British Racing Drivers’ Club have been conscious for a long while that they have been playing a dual role, that of a commercial enterprise to run Silverstone Circuit and a club for racing drivers. They have now formed a new company called Silverstone Circuits Ltd. which will look after the Buckinghamshire circuit and its operations on a commercial basis. This new company is wholly owned by the B.R.D.C., and the Club can now spend more time looking after its members. On May 14th the annual, day-long fiesta of speed takes place at Silverstone, starting with a 35-lap race for sports cars (2-seater racing cars) at 10.30 a.m, and going on through a 35-lap saloon-car race, lunch-time demonstrations, the main race of the day, the International Trophy over 35 laps for Formula One cars, to an historic car race, and finishing with a Formula Three race. (cost of admission and time-tables are available from the B.R.D.C., Silverstone Circuit, Nr. Towcester, Northants, or the Trophy Office, Daily Express, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.)
At a recent gathering the Hon. Gerald Lascelles, President of the B.R.D.C., disclosed the interesting facts that in 1951 Alfa Romeo S.p.a. received £350 for the appearance of Fangio in a 158 Alfa Romeo for a 300-mile race. In 1964 Team Lotus received £1,080 for the appearance of Jim Clark in a Lotus-Climax V8 for a 150-mile race. How times have changed and what good times we live in now; in 1951 I was travelling to European motor races on a Norton motorcycle. Fifteen years later I am doing the same trips at 100/120 m.p.h. in a 4.2-litre Jaguar E-type, which is progress I suppose.
Independent of the B.R.D.C. and Silverstone Circuits Ltd., a group of enthusiasts have formed a Silverstone Supporters’ Club, and the B.R.D.C. are delighted to recognise this and give it any support they can. The B.R.D.C. itself has a limited membership, restricted to racing drivers and people in motor racing who are considered to have done a great deal of good for the sport or for the Club. During the winter quite a bit of money has been spent on the Silverstone Circuit, and one item that deserves praise is the provision of a number of huts around the circuit for the use of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. A lot of us forget that the men and women of St. John’s attend our race meetings voluntarily and are always at the ready to give first aid under any conditions, whether it be to a driver who crashes, a spectator who stumbles among the tubular scaffolding of the grandstands, or a mechanic who sets himself on fire with a welding torch. It is nice to know that they will have permanent huts from which to operate in future, instead of tents, and let us hope that they only have to use them to shelter from the sunshine, and not from torrential rain.
The R.A.C. produced a Circuit Inspection Committee recently, who had a look at Silverstone and pronounced it 100% fit for Formula One and large sports-car racing. It was news to me that anyone had considered Silverstone to be unsafe, especially as the big V8-engined sports cars have already raced there, and in the pouring rain what is more. If a 400-b.h.p. Grand Prix car doesn’t make Woodcote corner and finishes up in the grandstands the circuit will be all right, for the R.A.C. have pronounced it to be safe. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we all agreed that motor racing is terrific fun, but very dangerous, and anyone who is involved, whether he be driver, mechanic, official, spectator or gate-crasher, does so at his own risk and peril, instead of kidding ourselves that this is safe or that is safe. Nothing connected with motor racing is really safe, it is just that an awful lot of us have been getting away with it for a long time.
Before the season began the Goodwood Road Racing Co. Ltd. announced that they were banning all 3-litre Formula One cars and unlimited capacity sports cars from their circuit, as they felt that they were too fast for the safety of the circuit. The announcement spoke of speeds in excess of “200 m.p.h.”which is a rather wild statement where British circuits are concerned, and especially Goodwood. This must surely be the backwash from the high-pressure publicity boys, who know very little about motor racing, have certainly never done 200 m.p.h., and I doubt whether many of them have ever witnessed 200 m.p.h. They push out publicity handouts telling us about the “new 200-m.p.h„ GT car” or “200-m.p.h. sports car,” when the only known occasions anyone has done 200-m.p.h. Officially are either at Bonneville or on some of the American proving grounds. Personally I have never seen a car doing 200 m.p.h., though I was at Woodvale when American dragsters clocked terminals of 200 m.p.h., but I was at the start and you could not see the finish line for tyre smoke!
The first reaction to the Goodwood ban was that the circuit owners had been blinded by publicity but perhaps this announcement is only a red herring and the truth lies deeper. Without Formula One and big sports cars the Sussex circuit will become a sort of glorified kart track and will not be taken very seriously in the International scene, so that it is bound to fade into insignificance. Perhaps this is what the owners want, for it can then be quietly folded up and done away with, and there will be no fuss. After all, it was closed down in mid-season last year, and for some while now the only important meeting has been the B.A.R.C. Easter Monday meeting. It is worth bearing in mind that the Duke of Richmond and Gordon has been letting us play motor racing in what is virtually his back garden for a long time now, and perhaps he is getting a little tired of it all.
While Goodwood appears to be closing down. Brands Hatch becomes more and more active, and the 1966 programme of events is vast, ranging from the R.A.C. British Grand Prix to stock-car racing. The new innovation of holding stock-car racing is an interesting one, and racing will be held around the area of Clearways Bend, using the circuit and part of the infield, and will be for the big cars with V8 engines or Jaguar engines. Anyone who appreciates “traffic driving” should see some stock-car racing; it is not all bumping and boring, and the top drivers display needle sharp reflexes and splendid anticipation. Among the many motorcycle meetings that will take place at Brands Hatch one will be particularly interesting, for it is to be run in the reverse direction on the full circuit. This is the Hutchinson “100” meeting of the B.M.C.R.C., and there should be some exciting braking on the downhill bit approaching South Bank Corner, while the rush up Paddock Bend will be exhilarating. Having driven round Brands Hatch in the reverse direction, during a day with the British School of Motoring’s High Performance Driving Course, I can recommend it as an interesting diversion.
On July 16th Brands Hatch has its big day, when the R.A.C. holds the British Grand Prix there, over 80 laps of the full circuit, and during the morning there will be races for big sports cars and saloon cars. When all the racing is over, Chris Barber and his Jazz Band will perform, as is becoming customary at big Brands Hatch meetings. On Grand Prix day spectators will be able to gain admission to the paddock on payment of £1, and the number will be limited to 2,000. While this means another £2,000 in the kitty for the organisers, and a lot of happy enthusiasts who normally cannot get near to the Grand Prix cars, it will mean a lot of overcrowding, for the paddock is not unduly large. If you are one of the lucky ones with a pound note to spare, please don’t stand in the middle of the road expecting to be admired, you might get run over; far better to be helpful and do some pushing of cars or carrying of wheels and toolboxes. The Brands Hatch paddock is not a popular one with racing teams as it is on a steep slope and everything always seems to be uphill. In addition, the circuit is one of those tiresome ones where you cannot take a transporter to the pits, so all the Grand Prix teams will appreciate a helping hand, but watch out for the little man with the green jersey and the whistle. He may be small but he stirs things up, Brands Hatch is like that.—D.S.J.