Todt’s first blot in office
What a month in motor sport. First, the centennial Indianapolis 500 offered a climax that would surely make our May issue ‘most dramatic finishes’ story were we to run
it again. Then came the fantastic news that we’ll have a proper world sports car championship to savour next year for the first time in 20 years. Le Mans lived up to its billing and delivered a classic battle between the two giants of the modern era, and on the same day Jenson Button scored what is likely to be the greatest win of his career after great drama in Montreal, two weeks after the most engaging Monaco GP for years. Good times indeed.
These are the events that should define our motor sporting memories of early summer 2011. But for the world at large, a sour note has struck louder and clearer than anything we have enjoyed beside a track or on our TV screens.
Formula 1 faced global ridicule and condemnation for its inept handling of the Bahrain GP affair. The muddled and ultimately vain attempt to shoehorn the race into October 30 and push the end of the season into December not only smacked of incompetence, it also suggested this sport is totally out of step with the rest of the world. Shock of all shocks, it has since emerged that there were other agendas at work, as you can read within this issue. But as the internal (and infernal) struggle for power continues between Bernie Ecclestone, the FIA and the teams, Formula 1 has collectively been shown up as a greedy and unethical business. No news there, then!
FIA president Jean Todt got it horribly wrong on Bahrain, and even worse he was made to look a fool. Which is surprising — because that’s emphatically what he is not. The first blot on his presidency is a pity because in other arenas Todt is making a positive difference. At Sebring this year, sports car racing’s leading lights spoke of the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup as the beginning of a long process towards a true World Championship. But within three months of the 12 Hours, Todt had bridged the gap with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the deal was done for 2012 (see page 19). Todt is a true racing — and rallying — man. He led Peugeot to world title honours the last time there was a world sports car title, 20 years ago. Instinctively, he can make the right decisions on such matters and while he can’t afford another gaffe on the scale of Bahrain, we’re glad it didn’t prove to be his downfall. There’s too much good work to do, and he can still be the man to do it.
Perhaps he can use his obvious accord with the ACO to work on some changes to its circuit. Allan McNish’s terrifying accident could have been much worse, as he and the photographers behind that tyre wall can attest. But while the ‘shark fin’ on the back of his Audi R18 appeared to do its job and stop the car taking flight in a `blowover’, the expanse of gravel it skipped over emphatically made matters worse. Surely high-grip asphalt would have scrubbed off more speed. Le Mans by its brutal nature can never be safe — but it can always be safer. Pity JR Hildebrand when he woke up the morning after the Indy 500. To lose the race at the final turn like that… poor chap. But as golfer Rory McIlroy has shown, precociously talented young sportsmen are made of stern stuff. For Hildebrand, this year’s 500 is already old news. Damien Smith, Editor