Matters of moment, August 1958
Blood tastes bad
Motor racing has attained immense popularity. Crowds of some 120,000 watch the Daily Express Meetings at Silverstone. More British enthusiasts journey to the Continental Grands Prix than ever before. The Daily Mail serialises Fangio’s life story. Books about racing cars and drivers pour from the printing presses. In advertisements, children’s comics, women’s magazines, on soundradio and T.V. the theme of fast cars cars and drivers is prominent. The circulation of MOTOR SPORT goes up and up.
Those who disagreed with the prewar Brooklands slogan “The Right Crowd and No Crowding” must rejoice in the present-day popularity of motor racing, with full programmes, no shortage of entries and top-rank drivers earning fabulous sums of money in a now almost completely-commercialised sport.
This public interest in motor racing has, unfortunately, fostered disgusting and quite unnecessary “vulturism” in certain sections of the Press. There is adequate drama and human interest available to those whose task it is to write about the non-technical aspects of racing, without recourse to the blood-bath. Yet what do we find?
Ken Purdy, the American writer who earned acclaim after the war by introducing sound motoring articles in True Magazine, has now, apparently, contributed an article to Australasian Post dealing with all the unhappy accidents that have occurred in motor races since Paris-Madrid. This unpalatable and ghoulish outburst was headed “Death Mows ‘Em Down,” and sub-headed “The old man with the scythe never misses a road race. He’s mechanised today, and cars—roaring sports cars—are his motor mowers,” and was illustrated in the worst possible taste with horror pictures of people dying in fatal crashes, etc. Purdy may say he wasn’t responsible for the title, pictures or blood-lust captions. But this distasteful and unnecessary article is attributed to him, and no doubt earned good money. From now on Ken Purdy is suspect and genuine enthusiasts will no doubt boycott him and his writings, for this horror journalism does motor racing a very great deal of harm.
Purdy is not alone in perpetrating it. Robert Glenton is writing a series of articles for the Sunday Express on famous drivers. Described by his paper as “one of the few men qualified to speak on the subject,” he opened with the story of Portago. Why? Because Portago was killed in a most unfortunate and tragic accident, laced with poignant aspects and love interest, which Glenton elaborates with relish, illustrating his account with gory pictures of the wrecked Ferrari. The next article was less lurid, being an involved story of how Moss won the Argentine G.P. by driving his Cooper over the oiliest parts of the course to nurse his tyres (!). Even so, the Cooper was dubbed by Glenton “the tiny killer,” although, in fact, it killed no-one.
There are others guilty of luridly recalling accidents and tragedy, illustrated by ghoulish pictures of the kind over which the sensational Press gloats. Taruffi sold to various journals an article condemning the Mille Miglia. Even Barclay Inglis, a member of the R.A.C. Competitions Committee, is not immune, he contributed an unforgivably blood-thirsty report of the 1955 Le Mans race to the American monthly Speed Age.
Since racing began over sixty years ago there has been drama and human interest aplenty, making it quite-unnecessary for writers to elaborate the occasional calamity. The hundreds of thousands of genuine enthusiasts should, and will, boycott those journalists who attempt to besmirch motor racing by sensationally recording fatalities and tragedy, with little or no mention of those who live, and win.
Petrol has risen in price by 1/2 d. a gallon. Who led this price increase? Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. The other petroleum companies fell into line, as they always do, in spite of immense rivalry over solus sites, brand superiority and advertising claims. These great companies have immense financial resources. They are able to squander vast sums on publicity gimmicks, competition stunts, entertaining and suchlike. They take a long time to reduce the cost of petrol when things are going well. But like lightning they decide to slap on a 1/2 d. a gallon immediately times harden—not, they explain, because of the crisis in the Middle East but because of “a hardening in world prices.” With the great resources of the petrol companies could they not have spared the motorist this halfpenny grab, even if this entailed reducing their slap-happy expenditure in various directions?
For those who wish to see a motor-race with a difference, there is the 750 M.C. Six-Hour Relay Race on August 16th at Silverstone.
Not content with building F. I. F. II and sports/racing cars and mailing many variants of the Lotus, Colin Chapman has become a motoring journalist.—will his Sunday column tell us why the Elite is still not ready for road-test and what happened to the new single-seater in recent race?