Reliving past glories
This is my first column for Motor Sport, and I’ll be back in this space every month in the coming year, which is great because I’ve been reading the magazine for as long as I can remember. I’ll be writing about what’s happening here in the United States as well as looking back on some of the highlights – and possibly low points – of my career.
Right now I’m involved in what is a labour of love for me. Together with my friends Zak Brown and Peter Stoneberg, who have huge experience in motor sports marketing and sponsorship, we’ve put together a group called Historic Motor Sport Productions to stage a series of historic racing events in the USA and Canada this coming summer. We’ve been researching the idea for nearly a year and we now have a commitment to put on high-end events at iconic circuits with iconic cars from Formula 1, Can-Am, GTP and the World Championship of Makes, all of which are well known to an American audience. We start in May with races at the Barber Motorsports Park, which will be great because we also have the Barber Museum there with its fantastic collection of racing cars and motorcycles. We’ll have a special all-Lotus race, which should be a lot of fun.
In June we go to Watkins Glen – a great circuit and, of course, home to the American Grand Prix for many years – and after this we’ll be at St Jovite in July, a truly wonderful track which has recently been restored.
The idea is to bring the best cars, and some real racing, to the biggest possible audience. We don’t have anything like the Goodwood Revival in the States and, frankly, I don’t think you’d be able to get close to that anywhere else in the world, it’s in a class of its own. Nor do we have events like the Masters series, the Nürburgring Oldtimer or the Le Mans Classic, and that’s because most historic racing over here is more like club racing, and I guess that’s fine. But we do have the Monterey Historics, which has never really been heavily promoted or marketed, and we know there is a big audience for high-quality historic racing.
We have a lot of great cars and drivers here, but we’re also talking to owners and drivers in Europe and Australia, and there’s been a great deal of enthusiasm for what we’re doing. It’s not easy for Europeans because we share the same racing season, but for Australians there are great possibilities. We’ve talked to the Formula Junior guys in Britain and the Formula 5000 guys in Australia and New Zealand, and I hope we can make it work. But it’s going to be a lot of work, and getting the cars to events will not be the work of a moment.
I think there’s so much interest in historics right now because people are disillusioned with the modern sport’s preoccupation with ‘spec’ racing, where all the cars look and sound the same. I remember going to Sebring as a teenager and if you closed your eyes you could tell the different cars just by the sound of the engines. There’s no way you could do that now. People like to see cars that were the idea and creation of one man, rather than cars built to a formula.
A lot of people ask if I will race in our new series, and will I be allowed to win? Well, I’m not doing this to race myself, so all I’m concerned with is putting on the best events with the best machinery. We’ll give spectators the best possible access, totally the opposite from how Formula 1 is now. The closer people can get, the better – that’s part of the draw. I’ll still come to Europe and race my own cars, which are managed by Hall & Hall, because I love to race at places like Monza, Goodwood and Silverstone. But over here I’ll simply be trying to make the new venture a big success.
So, a busy year ahead for me. But, hey, I enjoy it and it’s got to be better than sitting around wondering what’s going to happen next. See you next time.