Formula One returns to Brands Hatch! Well, up to a point… That’s one of the teasers which Jonathan Palmer mentions in his Q&A interview [see p71] on the place of historic racing within the brief of Motorsport Vision, the consortium which has bought four of Britain’s race circuits.
To come clean, he’s talking about the Thoroughbred Grand Prix historic series for 3-litre Formula One cars— dramatic and closely-fought as it is — not the current World Championship. In itself it’s a thrilling prospect: Brands was just about everyone’s favourite track when it was a current Fl venue, so a phalanx of DFVs barking through Paddock has to get the heart racing.
But what’s significant about it is that Palmer, the guiding force in the new combine, already has this plan as part of his challenge of making the four venues sustainable, and preferably profitable. In other words he is confident that historic racing can make its contribution to the business. What a contrast to the way some outfits have steadily sidelined old-car racing, raising fees, retaining gate monies, and pushing traditional meetings towards the chilly outer reaches of the season.
Not that Palmer is suggesting costs won’t rise. But he does see ways of improving revenue from an area which is expanding, while it’s getting harder to make money from current series such as F3. His problem is that in this country the major profits in this department flow directly to the glamour events — the brace of Goodwoods, a Louis Vuitton concours or two, and now Johnny Bute’s Mount Stewart extravaganza. Compared to these once-a-year fiestas, Palmer has to try to recoup more cash from everything from the Oulton Park Gold Cup — the historic event with the most potential in his portfolio — down to 750MC racing at a wet Snett. He mentions “readjusting perceptions”. But he also talks of making circuits more attractive to pull in more spectators. It’s just what we want to hear.
Can he do it? Palmer is that rare combination of serious racer and successful entrepreneur — look at the success of his Bedford Autodrome. I make no predictions — but isn’t it good to know he’s on our side? Gordon Cruickshank Deputy Editor