The 1980 Season
It seems incredible that it was ten years ago that we said goodbye to the swinging sixties and stepped into the seventies with hope for more rational and balanced living. Here we are stepping into the eighties with a slightly apprehensive look. The seventies were not all bad, though there was much that was sordid but never squalid thank goodness. The keynote as far as Formula One was concerned seemed to be rules and regulations, squabbles and controls, but it all levelled out by the end of 1979. Through all the red tape and wrangles those people that really matter in Formula One, the designers and engineers came out with a flourish, producing really smooth looking cars (Lotus 79), fascinating and intriguing cars (Brabham-Alfa Romeos), startlingly efficient and effective cars (Williams FW07) and as always Ferrari 12-cylinder cars, while a whole new world began to evolve with the Renault turbo. In American track racing and European long-distance racing the exhaust-driven turbo-charger really took over, thanks to the Cosworth DFX and the Porsche 935.
If the sixties were "swinging" and the seventies were "sordid" then I feel the eighties are going to be "efficient". I cannot see much room tor razz-ma-tazz in the 1980s and bull-shit will he a thing of the past. Those who are not efficient and effective will fall by the wayside and there will be no helping hands, for the hands of the successful will be very full trying to maintain their efficiency and to stay effective. In the sixties everyone was on the bandwagon and all were enjoying the merry-go-round, but in the seventies the merry-go-round began to slow down and many of those who did not have a firm grip slipped away into oblivion. Now the merry-go-round has stopped, the bandwagon has gone and only those who are truly dedicated and prepared to work and sacrifice some things will survive. I think it will be all right for those of us who are left; I hope so.
The accompanying list of events for 1980 for all the various racing categories is as big as ever, though do not be surprised if some of them do not happen. At its Paris Press Comference on December 13th, FISA threatened more changes to the GP calendar in the next few weeks, and the list below should be considered provisional. The Argentine and Brazilian races will take place as scheduled, though. Already the Swedish and Mexican GPS have been cancelled. Some people would like to get rid of the Spanish GP and quite a few are trying hard to get rid of the USA GP at Watkins Glen, especially those who are forcing the issue for a Grand Prix at Las Vegas. Many of those who campaigned against Monza are now having second thoughts, especially after the face-lift the whole place was given last year. The Belgian GP is still at the little Zolder circuit, though it might return to the new shortened circuit at Francorchamps in 1981. The French GP takes its turn on the fiat arid wastes of the Paul Ricard circuit and the British GP takes its turn at the cramped Brands Hatch circuit. Monaco is still Monaco, and the other events are stabilised, though there is some lobbying going on to revise the dates of those events due in August, to avoid clashing on Television with the Olympic Games. The TV moguls and those who make large bags of gold from it are far more interested in their own welfare than that of the paying spectator who lines the circuit. If you listen to the ideas of the Television fanatics you get the impression that it won't be long before the paying spectator is done away with and the whole business of a Grand Prix will be staged for the benefit of the viewers and the vested interests of those who are manipulating the money bags (Mr. Ecclestone in Formula One). Eventually the viewer will be shown only what Ecclestone and his backers want you to see; at the moment the paying spectator often sees more than he is supposed to, and quite often not sufficient of what the moguls want him to see. To listen to some people the Grand Prix cars and the racing are of secondary importance.
The long-distance scene is far from healthy, for such racing should be the province of manufacturers, but when Porsche withdrew last year it became glorified club racing, on an international level. The Le Mans organisers did not see eye-to-eye with the new-look Group 5 rules at they opted out of the so-called World Championship of Makes and ran their 24 hour race as an individual event standing on its own merit, without the prop of a Championship. And they succeeded. They formulated their own rules and never looked back, but meanwhile the Championship events dwindled to the farcical. Now the FIA has taken the Le Mans 24-Hour race back into its Championship for what it is worth, but the Le Mans organisers are still running their race to their own rules regardless of any Championship.
Formula Two seems to be determined to struggle and remain self-sufficient, though it does not seem to he heading anywhere in particular, whereas Formula Three has a rosy future and the World of Formula One seems to think that the logical progression of Formula Three, Formula Two and Formula One is unnecessary and a jump from F3 to F1 is quite all right. Certainly Formula Three has the support of manufacturers, for both Renault and Alfa Romeo are marketing engines that challenge the near monopoly of Toyota. Extra to our lists of lesser Formulae this year is the Aurora AFX series for F1 and F2 cars and non-championship drivers. It was hoped that this category would be a stepping-stone up into Formula One. but at the moment it has proved to be more of a stepping-stone in reverse, for failed Formula One drivers. It was also hoped that events could be run on Grand Prix circuits, to give drivers an opportunity to find their way around, but the 1980 list seems restricted to British circuits with a preponderance of events at Mallory Park. — D.S.J.