Oval Thoughts

On the day after a birthday, a very old man (me) received an exciting Press pack, which he actually read instead of throwing in the bin. It was about the Rockingham oval racetrack being built at Corby, to open in the year 2000. I have seen most kinds of motor racing except real American ovaling.

The handout includes a history of Brooklands, accurate except for the misconception that John Cobb was knighted. But I cringe when I see Brooklands described as a speedway oval, which it wasn’t, nor was any of the racing there anything like that on the USA cinder and board tracks, which must be classed as entertainment, not serious racing, which in no way derides the bravery and skill of the drivers. NASCAR’s banked asphalt speedbowls are different again.

So maybe the future looks good for Rockingham, where gates of over 120,000 as in America are visualised. Initially an 11,000-seat grandstand will be built. No noise problems are foreseen, which makes Goodwood’s restrictions seem so unfair. Whether this 55ft-wide 1 1/2-mile oval with cars racing at some 200mph will appeal as Brooklands did is hardly for me to say. Whether this brave new venture, described as the first purpose-built track since the Weybridge one and expected to cost 450 million, will live as long or draw people away from the road circuits it will be interesting to see. I feel that it will need NASCAR-type entries to ensure effective racing and obviate just a momentary thrill which might end on a par with our never-successful midget-car dirt-tracks.