Serious Stuff

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I was looking at RAC MSA News the other day, and it reminded me of how very intense all forms of motor sports have become, in the world of big business in which such are now included. It is absolutely right and proper that events in which danger lurks and the results of which mean a very great deal to quite a lot of the drivers, to some of whom even the smaller events constitute part of their living, should be properly marshalled and conducted, with cheating and other evasions quickly stamped out.

Yet looking at today’s saloon-car contests, with the close racing, continual needling, and the takings-off the circuit that have become the norm, to the delight of the average on-looker and the Beeb, of course, one wonders whether such behaviour can be entirely erradicated? Years ago, if you fancied seeing racing of this kind, you took yourself off to the local “banger oval”, where, to win, a driver had to be very adept at dodging the spinning traffic and/or a master of shunting the opposition off. The nearest “banger races” for me and DSJ after the war were run at Aldershot Stadium. The cars were mostly ready for the scrapyard, although they would now be regarded as Classics, I suppose; but occasionally an exotic car would have been adapted for sacrifice on the alter of all this shunting and spinning. It must all have been outside RAC jurisdiction. Astonishingly after the racing the public could have a go round in their own cars. . . .

How things have changed! I note from RAC MSA News that at five Judicial Proceedings those hauled-up were required to pay £250 in fines and £1650 in costs, the latter sometimes having to be paid by the club organising the racing, although in a few instances these were refunded after appeal. I do not cite this as a criticism of the RAC MSA, but simply to emphasise how complex and “official” motor sport has become. But I do wonder whether bad language and fisticuffs need be the subject of action at top level? And in my innocence I was under the impression, clearly false, that only judges, magistrates and similar legal luminaries can inflict fines. I am wrong, however, because I now recall that at Brooklands long ago small fines were sometimes demanded after transgressions of the regulations. Today, they can be of up to £26,250.

Motoring sport has become very expensive! I note that the annual insurance premium for the Birmingham Super Prix was around £250,000, and that these days a competition licence can cost a driver up to £450. A track licence costs up to £2,025 and the aforesaid Judicial fees as much as £315, or £1,155 if an appeal to the RAC is involved. I wonder what dear old Dean Delamont would think of how what he saw as necessary a long time ago has since evolved? And how fortunate that it wasn’t in 1992 that tough Freddie Dixon was brought before the Stewards (as he was at Brooklands) for driving too high on the banking; Fred told them that his fast 2-litre Riley was in the Paddock, still warm, with his chap there to push it off, and asked which of them (they were a bunch of aged, smartly garbed gentlemen) would go out and show him how the car should be driven. . . How would the RAC/MSA judicary respond to that?

I hear that the Secretary of State for Transport has become associated with the auction sales scene, having directed Christie’s to auction registration numbers at S Kensington on December 11 .

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