The New York Yankees have bought Lord’s. The world’s most successful baseball club insists that it will make no fundamental changes to the spiritual home of cricket other than to make its playing area triangular.
I jest, of course. One of the Crown Jewels of British sport, Lord’s is not for sale. And nor is Wimbledon. Sure, you can put your name alongside them for a nice round fee, but you can’t buy them, no matter how much money you might have.
But motorsport is a totally different ballgame. It would sell its grandmother if a punter had a few million quid in his back pocket. It’s a business, you see. No matter how you dress it up there is something about the car industry and its affiliates that will always be second-hand car dealer: If it moves, flog it; if you can screw ’em down tight enough, buy it.
Of course, Brooklands was not motorsport’s to flog. But it should have been theirs to buy. What a brand this could have been, a centre from where to celebrate our greatest sporting success: England’s 1966 World Cup win is a six-yard tap-in compared to our global domination of motorsport.
But, no. Bickering ensued. Complacency set in. And a dedicated band of enthusiasts were left to try to keep Brooklands afloat — literally, during recent floods.
It’s ironic that it has taken a German car company (DaimlerChrysler would say global) to recognise the value of Brooklands. It is busy emphasising its historic links with the track but, in truth, MG had a stronger connection with the Nürburgring than did Mercedes with Brooklands, yet British Leyland never made a bid for the Nordschleife. (It wouldn’t have been allowed to — by either side).
I have no doubt that a cheap price tag on a sizeable chunk of land is Mercedes UK’s ‘real’ bottom line. But equally, I genuinely believe they think that a close association with the Brooklands name — and being seen to preserve it — will help it sell more cars. And I agree.
It’s not Mercedes that I have a beef with. (In fact, if its plan comes to fruition, what remains of Brooklands will probably be safer from obliteration than it has been at any time since the Luftwaffe tried to bomb it!) No, my moan is directed at all the people in government who over the years have given motorsport little more than pocket change, and basically treated it with contempt.
Five million pounds might have bought one of The Dome’s tent pegs — or, to be fair, a season in a mid-grid F1 team — yet between them, parliament and the sport’s movers and shakers have let Brooklands slip through their fingers.
Let’s hope that Mercedes is true to its word (see page 6). But what if it’s not? Tough. Only after it’s gone would we realise what we had.