Matters of moment, February 1971

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The Woolmark British Grand Prix

We are becoming used to motoring surprises, such as a footballer opening the Motor Show, a footballer crewing a rally car, hot-drinks and perfume paying for F1 teams and an F3 driver stepping trimly into an F1 car after a single season’s suceess. So, with “The Right Crowd” and gentlemen racing drivers in the main 30 years behind us, the shock of Woolmark sponsorship of the British GP, named previously as the RAC GP since 1926, when Delage won it, is easier to bear. It is that the Wool Secretariat sees top-class motor racing as one of the premier sports, with an International appeal, especially to those aged 18 to 36 (why thirty-six?) and that the major part of the un-named sum they are donating to the Woolmark GP at Silverstone in July is to be spent on circuit safety, even if this implies more protection for spectators at the expense of flimsy racing cars disintegrating against the Armcos.

To celebrate this costly sponsorship, it would be a gesture if every onlooker at this race sported a wool-tie, or, as it is usually chilly at Silverstone, perhaps a wool overcoat would be more appropriate? We can only hope it all works out; as the GPDA rated last year’s British GP as the worst race of the season, some new mutton seems definitely overdue…

Certainly John Wilcox’s support for F1 racing on behalf of the International Wool Secretariat emphasises the high pinnacle of publicity which modern motor racing has reached—reflected, too, in the success of a scintillating Racing Car Show at Olympia, even if, in our opinion, racing cars on static display in such surroundings, with no sound or energy exuding from them, look even more pathetic than production models in similar circumstances.

Petrol

Having gone up in price by 1d. a gallon last November, petrol went up again, by 2d. a gallon, in the New Year.

This is a good example of the grab-grab which characterises present-day living conditions. Prices are forever rising, services to the customer continually falling. For example—the unreliable 5d. Post, with the threat of a forthcoming uplift to 7d. or even 9d. a letter for first-class mail; the indifference of the Banks; which like to harbour your money at paltry interest rates but have ceased to let you have any at weekends, unless you are a rich air traveller needing some while at an airport; the Telephone Service, which was to cost less if we dialled our own numbers but, once the customer had learnt to be an unpaid operator, soon become more expensive than before. And do not overlook the growing number of self-service petrol stations, where you save the attendants’ wages by fumbling about serving yourself with the costly fluid. The fact is that the cost of living in this otherwise pleasant little land is increasing at an alarming pace. To combat this the class once dubbed “the workers”, who are in fact operatives essential to the National economy and well-being, have their Trade Unions, and by strikes and go-slows contrive to obtain pay increases from time to time, albeit some of the more deserving still get far less than they merit and others much more than the country can afford. So mostly “the workers” are all right.

Executives of Industrial Empires protect themselves from inflation by frequently putting up the prices of their manufactured commodities, from chocolate to petrol. The idea of accepting reduced profits never occurs to these tycoons—if production and distribution costs rise, up go their prices to combat this. So the top-class, and (in theory) their shareholders are all right. The Government, of whatever colour, is always all right, because it ensures that each of us is registered soon after birth in order that any money or possessions we may acquire subsequently are taxed throughout our life and even after death, with heavy Death Duties. Income tax, Surtax, Capital Gains tax and all the rest of it, with the car-owner the most heavily-hammered individual of all, sees that the Establishment is always well padded.

But we feel for those of the population (of whom no doubt many are Motor Sport readers, anxious to spend money on hobby-motoring in its many diverse forms) who have no Unions to safeguard their finances and who do not have goods to sell on which they can increase the price whenever the money-box begins to rattle. It is this class of citizen whom inflation hits so hard, and to which the savage uplift in petrol prices must come as one more particularly crushing blow. We do not imagine the petrol barons are popular at the moment in this quarter! Whether the Oil Industry is being inordinately greedy, whether such increases were justified, is for financial wizards (probably computerised) to explain. But to ordinary motorists this business of twice increasing the price of petrol within two months reflects little credit on the petrol companies, any more than does the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s inability to give a concession on the 4s. 6d. he takes on every gallon of petrol. The Prime Minister, like Mr. Washington, is keeping his promise in respect of an Income Tax reduction. A chop in the fuel tax, say 50 per cent. of that 6d.-off-the-income, would be a very welcome gesture to the many motorists.

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