1986 Soliloquy

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Nineteen eighty-six was the year when the F1 World Drivers’ Championship went the full distance, sustaining interest to the final round, with the ultimate glory richly deserved by Alain Prost, Champion on two years in succession.

It was the year in which enthusiasm for motoring sport of all kinds was enormous, and when the once seemingly-impossible Birmingham Super Prix took place before some 150,000 spectators, who were in risk of being washed away by Jupiter Pluvius along with atomic fallout and other impurities. Will other towns now want to have their street races, as they did Municipal Airports in the 1930s?

It was a year in which the BBC earned high praise for its excellent coverage of all the F1 races (even to night coverage of the Australian race) and of the RAC and other rallies, but neglected the RAC Veteran Car Run which attracts worldwide entries and, it is said, more onlookers than any other motoring event.

Last year saw the final appearance of the fabulously powerful and fast Group B rally cars, banned for 1987 by the FISA following tragic accidents, so that Ford had little benefit from the £7-million it had invested in the new RS200, clobbered by Peugeot and Lancia.

It was the year when Goodyear and Pirelli kept F1 wheels turning, even if the former blotted its copybook for Mansell in the crucial Adelaide GP, and when Michelin tyres were used on the Peugeot 20516 E2s, MG Metro 6R4s and other rally cars — Michelin sending more than 50 personnel, 20 support vehicles, and 6,500 tyres to the RAC Rally. 1986 also endorsed the value of 4WD in this field, and for ordinary drivers after the final stage of the RAC event when, having taken their money, the owners of Margam Park left the vast crowd of spectators to get out across muddy, hummocked fields as best they could.

The year 1986 saw the advent of the brave new Jaguar XJ6 which, under Sir John Egan’s guidance, is restoring faith in British cars and British Industry. Which we hope will be a continuing theme, as the Conservatives think it will, especially if more people buy British products. It was a time of astronomical sums (why is it that these days every big expenditure is in millions?) spent on the development of new cars. Ford, for example, speak of 1,460,000,000 dollars over the next five years and we believe BMW spent more than three times as much as Jaguar on their new models.

But Renault have lost billions of francs in recent years and have the added misfortune of the assassination of their new President Georges Besse.

It was a year of another NEC Motor Show packed with covetable new cars, making a choice for the customers exceedingly difficult, with possibilities ranging from the £2,431 Fiat 126 to the £98,857 Rolls-Royce Corniche. And 1986 was the year in which Nissan opened a factory at Washington, Tyne & Wear, which could lead to Japan swamping British car manufacturers as she has our motorcycle, camera and electronics industries.

Nineteen eighty-six was also the year when “on the spot” fines were introduced, putting drivers in something of a dilemma as to whether an appearance in court will be regarded as an unnecessary waste of magistrates’ time or the route to better justice. And it saw a Breathalyser “back-dated” after an accident, which is a refinement of the law meriting very careful investigation.

A good year, all told, however, and 1987 may be equally so if world leaders do not go berserk and unemployment can be contained, which is about all any Government can hope to achieve in the prevailing world economic situation. So we wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year…