Matters of moment, February 1989

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Enthusiasm prevails

As another New Year gets into gear, the continuing popularity of motoring sport of so many kinds must be a source of satisfaction to all enthusiasts. In spite of bogged-down traffic in our cities (the average speed in London has been estimated at 11 mph, but experience suggests that from the City to the M40 it is scarcely half that during the rush-hour— which means almost round-the-clock) and horrific accidents on fog-bound motorways, enjoyment of the motor car for sport and as an extension of one’s personality has never been more pronounced.

The old-vehicle movement flourishes — there are at least 285 motor clubs in Britain, some catering for one-make interests, others for all kinds and ages of cars, which regularly enrol a most encouraging number of new members — while motor racing and rallying, from 750 Motor Club through Formula Ford to Formula One, represent an industry in themselves, as visitors to the Racing Car Show will have appreciated.

All this activity, extending as it does to club magazines, meetings both competitive and social, anniversary rallies and re-enactments, and spares schemes, gives employment and enjoyment to an impressive number of people, although amongst all this keenness it is rather a pity that the RAC Motor Sports Council has seen fit to impose silencers on most of today’s racing cars at British events.

Even the Government is toying with the idea of selling cherished registration numbers next year, undignified as this may seem for a Secretary of State. But surely anyone prepared to pay up to £100,000 for “MY 9” or “HIS 2”, or whatever, must be astonishingly rich or abnormally big-headed?

Far from having developed into a mere transport medium, the car remains a prized individual possession for so many owners, albeit also a better means of travelling into the city than British Rail or the London Underground! Let us rejoice that the much maligned car remains a means of relaxation, sport and mild adventure for such folk.

Even the demon speed, so frequently cited without qualification as a killer, is becoming the subject of commonsense. The Secretary of the House of Commons Motor Club says that the 70 limit causes dangerous bunching on motonvays, and advocates increasing it to 80 or 90 mph, at least in off-peak periods; and the guidelines of many Chief Constables now say that those driving responsibly, in good conditions, at up to 85 mph on such roads should be cautioned rather than prosecuted. So we are making progress!

After every bad fog-associated crash the police still blame drivers for going too fast. But what does one do: brake and be rammed from behind, or gradually slow down and be accused of mad speed? We do wish they would tell us!

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