Shades of grey

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Champions stripped of titles for refusing to step into the ring; football clubs losing league titles, and facing expulsion from lucrative European competitions, in the wake of allegations about match-fixing; athletes banned for use of illegal stimulants. None of these recent, real-life scandals paints a glowing picture of sport in general, but at least in each case the relevant authorities were seen to take firm, and appropriate, action.

There are lessons here for motor racing, where the international governing body has appeared, of late, to be desperately short of lucid management.

Consider the facts.

In the middle of a World Championship Formula One season, a meeting was convened to discuss the legality of the cars presently competing. This took place while Motor Sport was being printed, thus we don’t know the outcome. Patently, however, it is ludicrous that such a thing should come to pass at the supposed pinnacle of the sport.

Can you imagine a member of the TCCB strolling to the wicket halfway through a Test Match, and advising the umpires that a change to four-ball overs has just been approved, with immediate effect? Any radical mid-season change to the F1 regulations would be tantamount to the same thing. You can’t blame the teams for what has happened. The fact that so many of them have been alleged by officiating stewards to be in breach of the regulations is clear indication that they have all interpreted the rules in similar fashion. When active suspension and traction control began to find their way onto F1 cars, rival teams didn’t protest the technology, they merely followed their adversaries’ lead. In the middle of July, it was far too late for the FIA to kick up a fuss. The problem, and the recent evidence suggests that the governing body has decided it is a problem, should have been nipped in the bud in its infancy.

Fuzzy management is nothing new, of course. In recent years, we’ve witnessed hopeless uncertainty about the future of sports car racing, and even now there’s no clear direction for the replacement GT series. Formula 3000 has been scrapped on a whim and subsequently re-instated.

In this issue of Motor Sport, we take a look at certain aspects of the sport in America, where firm-handed government such as Nascar’s keeps controversies to a minimum. The FIA needs to adopt a similarly black-and-white approach. The July meeting may just have been a shot across F1 teams’ bows, a warning that they will have to accept enforced technological limitations in 1994. Even so, at a time when the British GP crowd was conspicuously smaller than it has been for several years, it was hardly what Formula One needed as it strives to remain a credible showpiece for the industry as a whole. S A