Matters of moment, August 1963

Variety in modern motor racing

Although it cannot be denied that there is a depressing “sameness” about present-day Grand Prix cars in appearance, and concealment of those who possess the high degree of prowess necessary to their full exploitation, the technical development of such cars contains plenty of intriguing diversity, as study of our race reports, practice notes and technical descriptions of new G.P. cars reveals.

Indeed, Grand Prix racing fortunately remains at a very high pinnacle of technical endeavour, so much so that a closely-contested Grand Prix round a good circuit is sufficient to attract a very considerable crowd of spectators and hold their interest. We wonder whether “curtain-raisers” in the form of short races for lesser cars, automobiles balanced on two wheels and air displays are really essential to Grand Prix day in Britain.

There is variety in the many forms of modern motor racing, too. Formula Junior contests, even if the cars are powered with engines from small production-type saloons(!), are usually fairly exciting, saloon-car racing as run in this country very much so, especially since the notably successful advent of the Ford Galaxie, nor are the more aggressive G.T. races lacking in appeal. A V.S.C.C. race meeting, where vintage and historic sports and racing cars congregate to do battle, is the personification of fascinating variety, even if their acceptance into different categories has become rather ragged.

This variety in modern motor racing should prevent its demise from lack of spectator interest such as killed F.3 racing. But are the rules governing competing cars and the events for which they are eligible becoming too complicated? For two years in succession The Motor has had to change its mind as to which car won its Brands Hatch Six-Hour Saloon-Car Race because, at the post-race inspection, the cars that took the chequered-flag were found not to comply with the regulations. If, as The Motor observes, “it had become the done thing to try to get by the regulations in saloon-car racing,” with everyone “cheating whether they wanted to or not,” because, says our contemporary, if they didn’t they couldn’t compete with fiddled rival cars, saloon-car racing may well have reached a dangerous cross-roads. While scrutineers will not be very amused by this contention, there is no doubt truth behind it. Certainly the issue is confusing when, for example, a B.M.C. Mini-Cooper “S” competing in this Six-Hour Race for comparatively normal saloons is able to accelerate from 0-90 m.p.h. in 16.4 seconds less than a production Mini-Cooper “S.”

Perhaps the solution would be to have two quite distinct categories of saloon, sports-car and G.T. racing—one for as near catalogue cars as possible, the other in which no holds are barred apart from external appearance complying with the different categories. If this led, eventually, to Grand Prix cars complying with no regulations other than those essential to safety, a lot of people would be delighted. Fast as current 1 1/2-litre unblown G.P. cars are, there is the Indianapolis straw-in-the-wind—the highly commendable 1963 Lotus-Fords ran so quietly and effortlessly that they lacked the appeal of the gruffer Indy racers. Some people predict a falling off in the enormous Indianapolis “gate” if all the 500-Mile Race cars reduce to the size and power of Colin Chapman’s clever Lotus 29s. The same could happen in the G.P. sphere, and then any number of two-wheel balancing acts, bathing beauty parades, brass bands or whatever Eaton-Gibson and Mirabel Topham may think up will not bring the crowds to Grand Prix races. We only hope we are being unduly pessimistic?

Marples, you’d better vanish

The very un-British demonstrations staged when the King and Queen of Greece came to this country caused anxiety to the Government and work for the Police. Let those in Parliament and policemen on the beat pause to reflect that these riots were not caused by the motorists of Britain.

Although sick of petty persecution and ever expanding restrictive regulations and unfair red tape, motorists have not demonstrated against those in authority. The average car owner is law-abiding in the extreme except when he breaks inadvertently one or more of the myriad and often pointless laws that govern his peaceful progress. But when a contemporary journal instituted a poll of motoring opinion, 97.4% of those taking part voted that MARPLES MUST GO. Now a parking-meter has been lobbed through the M.o.T.’s window.

We don’t condone violence of this kind. But Marples is going a long way towards losing the Government the next Election. Now this man who calmly declares that British motorists are not being persecuted has had an act of violence perpetrated against him. He should vanish quietly before he causes more trouble or loses more Conservative votes.