The Clubs and the RAC
The annual meeting between the clubs and the RAC took place on November 30th last. There were no casualties.
But clearly the clubs are very dissatisfied with some of the rules contained in the current issue of the RAC Motor Sport Bulletin. The first of these regulations is to the effect that the granting of permits for other than closed competitions will be dependent upon reports from RAC-appointed Stewards or observers and no permit will be granted for a Restricted or Closed Invitation event in 1952 that has not been run already in 1951 under a permit of this type, although Racing and Speed events where an RAC Steward was appointed for a Closed meeting in 1951 and gave a satisfactory report are excepted. No new event may be run under a Restricted or Closed Invitation permit until it has first been promoted satisfactorily as a Closed competition, and before any competition is changed from type “C” to type “A” or “B” the RAC must be satisfied as to the organisation on the basis of appointed Stewards’ or Observers’ reports. Clubs desiring to promote a Closed Invitation or Restricted competition in 1953 must request observation of their corresponding 1952 event, unless it is a racing or speed event, with RAC Steward appointed. The general public shall not be admitted as spectators to a Closed speed event run for the first time. Not more than two Closed Invitation permits per year will be granted to a club for events on the public highway and these two events must not be of the same type, ie, if one is a trial, the other may be a rally.
The other ruling that proved unpopular specified that the road mileage of events using the public highway will be limited to 300 miles or less for CI and Restricted events, not more than 200 miles for Closed events, and that in all rallies there must be Secret Checks to prevent excessive speed between controls.
These rules were introduced without consulting Club representatives and at a time when many organisers have planned their 1952 fixtures. The RAC sought to justify this action and to make our blood creep by reading a letter it had received from the Home Office stating that motor competitions must be so arranged that inconvenience to other road users does not result. As a matter of fact there was nothing unfriendly in this letter and if it does conceal a veiled threat to motor sport on the public highway, we recall a similar letter sent to the RAC in 1938 that implied that unless the trials house was set in order trials might be banned—but trials still take place.
The RAC seems to have given inadequate thought to these new points. Highly desirable as it is for the Sport not to offend the public, big loopholes exist in the new rulings. Earl Howe, from the chair, tried to justify the restricted mileage in CI or Restricted rallies, first by saying that events going up to 300 miles call for organising help from outside clubs which is unsatisfactory and then, when he realised the Club delegates wouldn’t swallow this, that the shorter the mileage the greater the road congestion, when even we, who need fingers for counting, know the opposite to be true.
A more sensible approach to the rally problem would have been to consider restriction of entries, the forbidding of competition numbers and use of travelling observers and even some form of qualification for driving therein. The only real justification for restricting mileage, that of reducing the fatigue factor, was never even put forward by the RAC.
“Jackie” Masters (MCC) rose to put in a special appeal on behalf of those classic Closed events, the Exeter, Lands End and Edinburgh Trials, pointing out their long-standing and the fact that the MCC wasn’t to blame if Lands End was more than 200 miles from London. Maurice Toulmin (RAC) said he thought that the MCC events could continue as before by being classed as National Restricted fixtures. This led AJ Fisher (Lagonda Club) in a polished speech, to remark that as the RAC was thus prepared to assist the MCC to ride a coach and horses through a regulation they themselves had made, it is only fair to amend this regulation so that such divergences are covered. The RAC should make suggestions to the Clubs, not ban their events with exceptions to suit cases the rules do not provide for. TW Carson (Vintage SCC) made out a case for Closed road events of over 300 miles in 1952 and backed Fisher. Toulmin tried to dodge and finally thought that events declared in 1951 to be “classics” might be exempted. N Freedman (Lancia MC) fought the MCC up-grading in contravention of article 8 of Policy for 1952 as unfair and H Birkett (750 MC) described long-distance rally events he had invented, pointing out that they caused no trouble, the public wasn’t even aware they were rallies (although speed on the open road was high) and there were no dead. Earl Howe tried to combat these observations by introducing that fine old red herring, Buxton and the trials congestion there in pre-war times. It was not clear what this had to do with rallies. Howe later drew the attention of delegates to the congestion in Markyate village, with its 15 mph speed limit, which seemed to us even more irrelevant. McDowell (Singer OC and Morgan 4/4 Club) considered the surprise new regulations unfair to new clubs, which have accepted invitations to ci events and now must wait a full year before they can return these invitations. Could not observers report on Closed events early in 1952 and bring about up-grading before the end of the season ? “No,” from Maurice Toulmin. Sanders (ACOC) said the attitude of the RAC might drive clubs to run permit-less gymkhana events over big mileages, rather as his sister ran a motor-car treasure hunt for her tennis club without ever having heard of an RAC permit. He was disturbed by the rising cost of permit fees (£1 1s for Closed events up to 50 competitors, £2 2s over 50 competitors, £4 4s for Restricted or Cl permits and expenses for RAC officials (Steward £2 2s per day, plus first-class rail fare ; Observer, £1 for Closed, £2 10s. for other events) which fell heavily on the smaller clubs. The need for an FIA restricted licence was a deterrent to would-be occasional competitors and as the purpose of issuing it was to withdraw it, couldn’t it be issued for life ?
Michael May (Mid-Surrey AC) said the RAC had stolen the Experts Trial from his Club and now he saw from the new regulations that they apparently couldn’t run the “Barnstaple,” which had been a Closed event since 1921 and went over 200 miles. Toulmln (RAC) threw a bouquet to Mid-Surrey and said they might get upgrading like the MCC except that the Club had been moribund so long that it might have to be regarded as a “new-boy.” The Cambridge University AC representative said that there seemed to be panic over public opinion, but he lived at the foot of Bwlch-y-Groes and the locals were very keen to see rally drivers try the famous hill. Several delegates raised the question of what would happen to former speed events, the venue of which had to be changed for 1952 ?—would the public be excluded because of a change of venue ? If so, some events might have to be abandoned because of the cost of running them, met formerly by revenue from programme-selling, admission charges, etc. Howe referred that one to Stanley Barnes, but the RAC, having made the rule, had no immediate answer. Nor could it decide quite what to do in the case of the Jersey Club, whose representative pointed out that when they run sand races they can’t keep the public out Howe said he was satisfied that the Jersey events were so well run as to merit up-grading. Denton (Mid-Cheshire CC) announced his Club’s hope to have a real road-circuit constructed by 1958 and pointed out that if the public couldn’t be admitted until 1954 financial snags might arise. Howe said he knew the venue well and felt no restrictions need be imposed here.
J Lowrey (Hants & Berks MC) wound up a stormy trials and rally session by remarking that secret cheeks do not necessarily render rallies safe and that, on the subject of the new restrictions, he paid large sums of money for permission to own and operate a motor-car and £2 2s annually to the RAC. to look after his interests, and here was the RAC telling him he would be restricted in the motoring he could do !
It looks as if the RAC Competitions Committee may be in a pickle over these new rulings and if it is it will have only itself to blame—for introducing restrictions at short notice without reference to the Clubs, for leaving loopholes in these regulations and for not having the answers to obvious queries pertaining to them.
LJ Onslow Bartlett (West Hants & Dorset MC) spoke on many subjects, from loosely interpreted regulations, the cutting of tyres on trials cars, the need for a Formula to obviate trials freaks, quarrels between competitors and marshals, liaison between RAC and ACU, the interference of National with CI events, the inefficiency of RAC-appointed scrutineers at trials, and generally gave a pocket lecture on How to Win a Motor Trial. His point re tyre cutting was sub judice until a protest had been heard. Howe had no answer to Bartlett who said he appreciated Wilfred Andrews’ statement that the Sport is now heavily subsidised by the RAC, but wouldn’t the RAC be batting on a safer wicket if a balance sheet, even a simple one, be presented to the Clubs ? We, too, would like to know just what the RAC pays over to the Sport.
The evergreen matter of the 47 per cent. Entertainment Tax on motoring events cropped up and ST Huggett (ACC) said the Speedway Control Board had spent £2,000 in presenting its case. Julian Jane (Veteran CC) said the Dorking Speed Trial was exempt from this tax, as it was classed as a Scientific Exhibition. (Laughter.) Under-inflated tyres between “sections” during trials were cited by Onslow Bartlett as dangerous, but the RAC, so apt at framing rules when it suits them, thought nothing could be done without introducing tyre-gauge regulations! The same speaker rattled Toulmin when he said that present-day trials drivers should be on the Competitions Committee. DJ Scannell (RAC) was quick to point out that the framing of supplementary regulations is left to individual clubs, so that plenty of variety and practical control is possible.
The morning’s session on racing and speed events went more smoothly. Crash-hats, goggles versus vizors, medical examinations, accidents, etc., came up for discussion and it became evident that crash hats will be compulsory this year, but that any sort can be worn providing organisers approve (unsatisfactory state of affairs) and that medical examinations are also compulsory for all speed events, even Club sprints. Barnes proposed a log-book for each racing car, to assist the work of scrutineers, and Birkett told of the dangers of welding, where a visual check is no guarantee of satisfactory penetration. The Jersey representative felt that it might be useful to circularise the findings of accident inspections in general terms. Tony Rolt (BRDC) made some very useful points. He called for closer inspection of the surfaces of race circuits, the provision of adequate practice periods, with a whole day devoted to practice and the cars divided into racing cars, sports cars and 500 cc cars, and felt that a National racing drivers’ benevolent fund should be started. Howe warmly agreed, saying that failures of material could be traced to dangerous surfaces that the drainage of airfield circuits was often faulty and that he knows of one course where changes of surface render it dangerous and of three airfields whose surfaces were doubtful. AE Moss, (Half-Litre Club) backed Rolt’s desire for a Benevolent Fund. He later asked the RAC to endeavour to get the £1 carnet fee charged on every spare racing engine that leaves the country rescinded, as this is quite an item for 500 cc competitors on long tours (laughter). Be felt that Clubs asking for International fixtures should be required to prove that prizes worthy of an International meeting were available, as this might reduce the number of such fixtures.
The 1951 Meeting of the Clubs had been opened, so far as the Club delegates were concerned, by a speech by H Birkett (750 Club), in which he said that, as the RAC had been unable to assist him in obtaining a copyright for the Six-Hour Sports Car Relay Race he had organised for the 750 Club, he took this opportunity of putting his own plea for this while all the Club representatives were conveniently gathered together (laughter). We will conclude in the same strain by remarking that, vitally necessary as RAC control is, it is your Sport they are controlling. The Clubs must be very wary of unnecessary restriction of their activities, while remaining aware of the widespread and no doubt costly good works set in motion by their National Controlling Body. (In 1951 the Competitions Committee met 12 times, its sub-committee 50 times. It issued 640 permits, 116 of which were for speed events. It organised the International Rally, British Grand Prix, British Hill-Climb Championship, TT and Veteran Car Run to Brighton. It recognises 170 Clubs (146 territorial, 9 non-territorial, 15 one-make), 12 time-keepers, 17 scrutineers, 11 assistant timekeepers and 8 assistant scrutineers.
We would say to the Clubs, be very careful when organising your events not to inconvenience the public or cause grievance to police departments and the Home Office. Equally, make sure that you are not browbeaten by bureaucratic institutions.
Warm congratulations to Stirling Moss on winning the BRDC Gold Star for 1951, as he did in 1950. Other awards of this nature for the past season are listed on page 21.
Fangio secured the 1951 World Championship from Ascari, but the latter is 1951 Champion of Italy, where Cortese is declared Formula II Champion, Scotti the Sports Car Champion, and Stagnoli, Cabianea and Leonardi, respectively 2,000-cc, 1,100-cc, and 750-cc sports car champions. Rosier is Champion of France for the third successive year. Trintignant is the French Formula II Champion.