MATTERS OF MOMENT, February 1990

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MATTERS OF MOMENT

Into The 1990s. • •

AS THE world, changing quite dramatically in political terms, moves relentlessly into the 1990s, how looks the motoring scene? Two bits of gloom to dispose of first. There is the threat that Le Mans may not be run in its traditional form. Started in 1923 as a brave speed-cum-reliability experiment, it developed into the greatest 24-hour sports car race of all, to which British spectators are especially partial. Remembering all the twice-round-the-clock titanic battles which resulted in those proud Bentley victories, domination by Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Ferrari and Ford, and the ever more effective recent Porsche appearances, up to last year’s Mercedes-Benz win, it will be a tragedy if Le Mans is changed at the whim of officialdom.

As another year begins, rising petrol prices mar the outlook, unless you are buying a £64,500 Ferrari 348tb and couldn’t care less. Fortunately, even small economical cars, the new Ford Fiesta XR2i for instance, now offer fun performance with economy; those who still believe that racing and rallying improve road cars will have been cheered by Ford’s play on this in their Fiesta TV advertisements. Good, too, is the reliability of 1990’s cars, although some road test reports one reads suggest otherwise! Quite what these testers do to their cars we know not, but we are prompted by their troubles to note that the editorial Ford Sierra XR 4×4 has now completed 30,000 pretty hard miles, with not an iota of trouble . . .

The year 1990 will see events for two-, threeand four-wheeled vehicles of all ages, to suit every taste. At top level, the Fl season will commence on March 11 at Phoenix, USA, followed by the Brazilian GP on March 25, and MOTOR SPORT will do its best to tell you of the race happenings and to report significant engine and car developments. If last year’s Fl racing was anything to go by this year, with some interesting driver changes, should be particularly exciting! In 1990 the DVLC looks like being kinder to owners of historic vehicles who want to use original registration numbers — a different thing from the Department of Transport selling “classicregistrations, the first 2000 having already been auctioned at Christie’s. Registration numbers became compulsory in 1903, to help in

apprehending speedsters and other mobile criminals. A registration, once issued, was to remain with the chassis to which it was allocated until scrapped. The sad thing about this latest profit-making scheme is that numbers belonging to historic vehicles may get into this new Government melting pot, apart from which our roads should surely be serious transport arteries, not for flaunting silly inscriptions.

The FBI1VC will no doubt continue to do its utmost to ensure that old car sport in Britain remains free from any EEC antiregulations, and speculators will no doubt do their best to further inflate classic car values . . .

Out on the rural hills the long lived MCC trials will endure; in the engineering shops more enthralling new cars will be conceived. BMW will try hard to keep up with the world’s best engineered cars from Mercedes-Benz (Rolls-Royce have not been far behind recently) and more leadfree fuel will be consumed, making a tiny contribution to the bettering of the environment. And overall we must be prepared for Japan to produce new 200 mph sports cars to dominate rallying as it does Fl racing, and to get a grip on the British Motor Industry from its factories in this country.

There are some signs that our roads are being improved for better traffic flow, so that it may soon no longer be debatable whether the slowest exit from London is that over the Shepherds Bush flyover to the M40; but whether more cars will defeat such improvements is anybody’s guess. If random breath testing is ever introduced, surely no-one should object, but on the safety front, speed limits should be reviewed (upwards!) and here the car manufacturers are making their contribution, with 4WD and anti-lock brakes. We cannot see fog being any less of a hazard on our motorways in 1990 than in 1989 and why some drivers go about in mist and darkness virtually unlit, together with some foolish cyclists, is a mystery; as is the reason for others driving with headlamps, even spotlamps, on in broad daylight, a habit which, if it becomes universal, will reduce the pleasure of rural travel for many of us. On the whole, though, it promises to be a happy New Year, or at least, an interest ing one. . . WB

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