Never a dull moment
The motoring and motorsporting scene is never dull, which is as well, for this can be libellous word to use these days. But at present the outlook is not bright, either. The RAC is predicting that, very soon, six million cars may be off the road, unable to comply with the new exhaust-emissions legislation. Car sales may benefit, but what a disruption of essential transport! And those who have invested in catalytic converters may find them sensitive to casual usage, ailing engines or incorrect fuel, and expensive to replace.
Friends-of-the-Earth may rejoice in fewer cars to pollute the atmosphere, yet factory chimneys are worse offenders. If those battling for votes in the forthcoming General Election wanted help, we might hear something of reduced taxes on the smaller-engined cars. As it is, none of the warring political parties seems to have anything to offer to the millions of motor-voters.
Even if you get your car through its next MOT test, it seems unlikely that you will be able to enjoy raised speed-limits, with Mr Rifkind referring to motor vehicles as “lethal weapons” and wanting to see them banned from the bigger cities. If you drive too slowly after dark in a built-up area you are in danger of being arrested for sexual crawling. If you speed up a bit, you will be accused of putting children at risk. Even the AA, which used to warn of speed-traps, is now against radar-detectors, on the grounds that speed is dangerous. But no moving vehicle can stop dead — the Highway Code says so — so sadly accidents will continue to happen. Even trains, some of which now run at 100 mph on their fenced-in tracks, indulge in them, in spite of elaborate signalling-equipment, and still shun road users off level-crossings. Teach safe, sensible driving, rather than restrict open-road speed. And let the Government remember that many crashes are the result of our inadequate road system.
The cost of motoring is ever rising and now your tyres will be illegal unless they have at least 1.6mm of tread left, up from the former 1mm limit. A sensible move. But why not put the figure at 2mm, instead of a clinical 1.6? It’s ironic anyway, because we all know that some tyres have better wet road grip than others. So if safety is at stake, shouldn’t the authorities test all makes and types and then legalise only the top tyre? Another car cost-raiser is vehicle theft, which inflates our insurance premiums, as does the “knock-for-knock” settlement the insurance companies make, even if you are not to blame in an accident. And it seems a little unfair to expect manufacturers to take the blame for car-stealing, when most of them are doing their best, as BMW are quick to remind us. However, so-called juvenile “joy-riding” is something else. To help stamp it out or contain it, would it not be possible, in the areas involved, to reintroduce compulsory immobilisation of vehicles, as was done during the war?
However, all is not gloom and doom. Perhaps we may look forward next year to an improvement in the financial recession, and enough sales of £500,000 200 mph plus supercars to keep them in production. Perhaps the time will come when the Greens will be delighted that all cars are consuming unleaded petrol, and owners of older motor-cars finally discover which oils and fuels suit aged engines. Perhaps one day you will be able to have your car railed through The Tunnel, en route for some carefree, and even more costly, motoring in Europe. — WB
Just as we were closing for press, we learned that FISA had decided to drop the Sportscar World Championship from its 1992 calendar. In its place, a non-championship series of events will provide an arena for Group C cars, though manufacturer interest is likely to be slim. Much, indeed, as it has been this year.
While the readoption of two year-old regulations reflates the value of the numerous Porsche 962s to have been acquired by amateurs, it can hardly be deemed a progressive step. Certainly the privateers are likely to stand more chance in 1992 than they did this season, but FISA needs to draw up fresh, cost-effective regulations as soon as possible.
There is already too great a bottleneck of racing drivers hovering just outside F1. The release onto the market of the likes of Derek Warwick and Yannick Dalmas exacerbates the situation. In the recent past, the likes of Martin Brundle have had cause to be grateful to Group C, where they have been able to ply their trade in a professional manner while awaiting a fresh F1 opportunity.
Its absence in 1992 will create a void which FISA must act quickly to fill; teams must have plenty of warning about 1993 regulations, so that sportscar racing can resume secure World Championship status before aggrieved would-be entrants have time to find alternative ways of spending a weekend. — SA