Continental Notes, January 1974

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International Calendar for 1974

The International Racing Calendar for 1974 is full to overflowing and, no matter what branch of racing you are interested in, there are Championships and a full season ahead for everyone. In some categories there are some interesting changes or additions, while others continue with the format that we know. All the major Grand Prix races are in the list, with some changing their location by rotation or as a new change. The Spanish GP is due to return to Jarama Autodrome, north of Madrid, where it can be blazing hot and dry, or dry and icy cold if the wind decides to blow from the north. At the end of the 1973 season Jarama had some events cancelled by the CSI because the safety requirements were not up to scratch. It is to be hoped that the deficiencies are being attended to even now, for the Grand Prix circus is due to arrive at the end of April. The Belgian Grand Prix should not present any headaches this year, as it is due to be held at the Nivelles-Baulers Motordrom, south of Bruxelles; it should be neat and tidy and just plain dull. After the roaring success of the first Swedish Grand Prix last year, at the Scandinavian Raceway at Anderstorp, when the largest spectator crowd of any event in Sweden was attracted, it is no surprise to see it in the 1974 calendar, for June 9th. The Scandinavian Raceway is an Autodrome like any other Autodrome, but the organisation and surroundings bred a pleasant atmosphere. While the practice and the event was taking place I was a bit lukewarm to it all, but on Monday morning when the noise and dust had settled I thought to myself “I enjoyed that”, although I could not decide exactly why.

The French Grand Prix or Grand Prix of France, to give it its correct title, is on the move again, this time to the new circuit at Dijon-Prenois, a little way north-west of the town. This new circuit is interesting, for the only part that is flat is the pit-area, and starting grid, the rest of the circuit plunges uphill and downhill, with some interesting blind brows on bends, and it has some good spectator banks for viewing, though the area is a bit small for a crowd of Grand Prix proportions. Our own British Grand Prix is at Brands Hatch this year and once more it is sponsored by John Player & Sons, the sponsors of Team Lotus. When they first sponsored the British Grand Prix they insisted on it being called the John Player Grand Prix, and there was quite an uproar from motor racing enthusiasts. Both John Players and the RAC excused themselves on the grounds that all the advertising and programmes were already printed, so it was too late to change the name back to the British Grand Prix. However, after the event and as a result of all the adverse publicity the John Player people made it known that they were sorry they had upset so many people and would put matters right for the following year. Far from doing that in 1973, they actually tried to pressurise certain members of the Press who continued to refer to THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX. Now, presumably at the instigation of an RAC representative on the CSI, an official notification has come from the CSI in Paris to say that the name British Grand Prix should be deleted from the official calendar for 1974 and the name John Player Grand Prix should be substituted. This is the sort of thing one expects from Governments and Politicians, but in our sport of motor racing it leaves a very nasty taste, a black and gold taste, and if Mr. John Player or any of his minions tell me I’ve got to call the Brands Hatch Formula One race on July 21st, the John Player Grand Prix I shall tell them where they can stuff their cigarette ends, and I know I won’t be alone in saying that. Remember that one day John Player and Sons will pull out the plug and disappear from motor racing, but some of us will be left to enjoy motor racing, whatever the standards are, and to us the British Grand Prix always has been, and always will be THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX, in just the same way that a LOTUS is a LOTUS and not a John Player Special.

The rest of the Grand Prix season continues unchanged, the Mexican race seemingly having gone for good, as there is not even a tentative date for it, and it’s nice to know that the German Grand Prix and Nurburgring are still synonymous.

In the world of long-distance sports car racing, the last but one season for thinly-disguised Grand Prix cars, the Sebring organisers, whose tired old Florida airfield had to be abandoned, are going to run a race at Road Atlanta, and in Italy a new 1,000-kilometre race appears at Imola, where non-championship races have been run successfully. Another new event is the 1,000-kilometre race at the Paul Ricard circuit in August and a welcome return to the calendar is our own 1,000-kilometre race at Brands Hatch. This event that was dropped by the organisers because of poor attendances has been reinstated with a date in September, so let us hope spectators will support this new venture. The best thing that has happened, and it has been a long time coming, is that the Le Mans 24-hour race is now in the middle of the long-distance season. For years and years the sports car season has been packed into the early part of the year and by mid-June the Championship has usually been settled, everyone is worn out by the pressure of the programme so that the odd race held after Le Mans has usually fizzled out half-heartedly. With the 1974 calendar comes great hope for there are five events due to be held after Le Mans, with six before it, so it is not only a very full season, but a well-balanced one, and everyone involved in long-distance racing will be delighted for they have all been going-on about this for years and no-one seemed to he listening.

The Formula Two scene will be a happier one, for last year the European Trophy was scheduled to be held over 22 races and, in fact, 17 of them were actually held, so that the F2 teams hardly had time to unpack their bags. This year they have 14 events counting for the Championship, which is much more reasonable.