Matters of Moment, February 1986

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A Good Start To The Year

1986 was less than a fortnight old before the motor racing fraternity had two things to celebrate. One was Robin Herd’s CBE in the New Year Honours List and the other was the Racing Car Show in the Alexandra Palace Pavilion. Mr Herd’s award, in recognition of the achievements of March Engineering, is a welcome sign that the British motor racing industry is officially recognised as valuable both in terms of export earning and prestige abroad. The presence, at the opening of the Racing Car Show, of Mr Norman Lamont, Minister for Trade and Industry, is further evidence of official recognition. On both counts, we say. “And about time too!”

We congratulate Robin Herd on his well-deserved honour and we congratulate the BRSCC for organising a show which attracted over 25,000 visitors and, as promised, revived the atmosphere of those shows of the early Sixties, an atmosphere which was lacking in recent shows at the Cunard Hotel. Linking these two agreeable occasions is a common denominator, the British motor racing industry.

Being so close to home, the motor racing industry is sometimes taken for granted but it’s one of which every Briton, and not just racing enthusiasts, should be intensely proud. In 1985, well over 90% of the world’s single-seater races, excluding purely local formulae, were won by cars built in Britain. This included all bar one of F1 races, all CART races, all F3000 races and the Japanese F2 Championship as well, and that’s to say nothing of the junior formulae.

When Ford wanted to build a rally car to present itself internationally, it could have turned to any one of its facilities around the world, yet it turned to our industry and though the car has yet to be proven, a list of those involved in the project demonstrates something of the richness of our industry. Cosworth, Ferguson, Pilbearn, Brian Hart, ART (Tony Southgate and John Thompson), Aston Martin Tickford, JQF Engineering and Hewland.

Britain’s motor racing industry should serve as an example to the rest of British industry. There are no unions, and nor does there need to be, for excellence is rewarded. On the other hand, nobody holds down a job in management because of personal wealth or family connections — ability is the sole criterion. Would not some radical improvements be made if this were true throughout British industry?

Employers and employees alike are united in a single aim, which is success. There is no bureaucracy, problems have to be dealt with, and solved, immediately and to Hades with the idea of knocking off at five and calling a meeting for Tuesday week. The craftsman has respect and can have pride in his work. A gifted mechanic is recognised for his worth. A man may come from humble origins and yet, like Ron Dennis, by graft, talent and risk, can rise to the pinnacles of achievement. The British motor racing industry is a perfect model of Western ideals at work. We build F1 cars, the Russians build obsolete Fiats.

Excellence is the key-word in rnotor racing for, when the flag drops, the falderal stops. Motor racing is not the place for the whinge, the whiner, the “if only” man, or the dilettante. It is for the achiever, the winner, the person who cares what he’s doing. He can be a driver, a designer, a welder or a “gofer”, but if he’s good at what he does he gets both recognition and reward — and that is just. If you polish wheels better than anyone else, then every serious team will bid for your wheel polishing expertise.

If the rest of Britain operated to the same high, and hard, standards, as our motor racing industry operated, from the motor home with its smoked glass windows to the guy who shivers at Becketts on a cold, dank, day in October, then this country’s future would be assured. No, “assured” is a weak word, it would be guaranteed.

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