The professional Grand Prix drivers, who seem to spend more time trying to get motor racing organised to their way of thinking, than actually getting on with the racing, are obsessed with “Circuit Safety”. Each year they seem to come up with a new idea and every time one of their number looks at a circuit you hear the “annual song”.
At one time it was Armco barriers, which soon developed into “double height Armco round the whole circuit, on both sides of the track”. Then they discovered “catch fences” and the cry went up to have “wire-mesh catch fences at all dangerous points on the circuits”, often in front of the previously asked for double-Armco barriers. Then they realised that their cars might fly apart and bits might fall on the spectators, so the cry went up for “debris fences” and organisers were asked to erect wire mesh fences of enormous height to protect the public.
The 1975 “song” has already begun. It is “run-off areas”. Drivers are now looking at circuits and with a sweep of their arms are asking for “run-off areas right out to there”. The double-Armco barriers and the catch fences must go, the spectators and their debris nets will have to be moved back as they need large run-off areas to cover up their bad driving. At one time a Grand Prix driver took pride in the fact that he never made a mistake in his driving. He grew up with the knowledge that there was no room for errors; to be a Grand Prix driver you had to do it right. Those ideas are old-fashioned and out-of-date, we now need to cover-up and the way to do it in 1975 is to have vast “run-off areas”.
Already the organisers at Clermont-Ferrand have said they can’t afford to move the mountains, and others are wondering what to do with all the old Armco and catch-fence material. One circuit owner, who does not run Grand Prix events at the moment, has said: “If they want to race their Fl cars on my circuit they’ll do it on the circuit as I offer it to them or they won’t come”, and he was talking American-dollar talk, a language most professional drivers understand.
The provision of “run-off areas” at Monte Carlo and Barcelona is going to be interesting. “Move the Casino back, we need a run-off area” you can hear them saying, and “get rid of the grand-stand at Ste. Devote, we need the space for a run-off area”—”and while you are at it, you can board over the harbour, in case we make a mistake at the chicane“.
One day the circuit owners and the organisers are going to tell the drivers what to do, though some drivers may find it difficult to comply. —D.S.J.