British Motorsport under the cosh

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

As we went to press, British Motorsport was facing a three-way state of emergency:

Silverstone was threatened with the removal of its 2002 grand prix to Paul Ricard in France. Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship was being reviewed following an accident involving spectators and a competing car. And our latest world champion was embroiled in a contractual wrangle that could force him onto the sidelines for 2002.

All of the above might have been resolved by the time you read this — gridlocked Silverstone’s fate was to be confirmed when the FIA World Council met in Monaco on December 14 — but there are longer-term ramifications.

Being at the hub of global motorsport has its attendant problems. Our events have to be whiter than white, better than the best It’s vital we don’t become complacent For though motorsport would not be where it is today without us, that needn’t mean it will always lean on us so heavily. Minardi’s recent Malaysian deal shows how developing countries are hungry for some of motorsport’s cake.

And although power-broken Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley are British, that doesn’t mean they will automatically favour us. If anything, political niceties force them to be tougher on Britain than on other countries. And although Formula One teams like Williams are, to us, intrinsically British, to the rest of the world they are a global product, a position their brand managers promote and exploit.

Television is strengthening the sport’s financial clout — and weakening our grip on the sport.

TV changes everything. A modem world rally, with its squeaky-clean centralised service halts and tight-knit routes, are alien to anyone who spent five days charging along country lanes in England, Scotland and Wales in an attempt to keep up with an RAC Rally of the early 1980s. Trouble is, we can reminisce about the past, but we cannot live in it.

Plain and simple, rallying must get itself on the gogglebox if it’s to flourish. And its new deal with Channel 4 (an hour’s coverage each night of each event) will achieve that. And that’s why Subaru don’t want ‘their’ world champions Richard Bums and (co-driver) Robert Reid parading in front of the cameras dressed baseball cap to boots in Peugeot togs. It’s also why the series organisers, more than ever, don’t want cars flying into crowds, which is exactly what Carlos Sainz’s Ford did on Rally GB.

Coverage can be double edged. Especially when the stakes are so high. Manufacturers (of which few can be British!) and their millions are flooding in, making noises about running their own Formula One series in the post-Ecclestone era. They still, in general, rely on British expertise and our flexible working hours, but the mix is becoming increasingly international, increasingly homogenised.

It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, though. British motorsport, we are sure, will emerge from the other end changed, but stronger for it. Which is vital because, as the BTCC has shown, as WRC will surely confirm, manufacturers come and go. For their motivation is driven by screen-tin-re and market share — not by a love of the sport. While their VIPs are helicoptered into Silverstone, it’s the grassroot fans who are stuck in traffic. The same fans who attend club meetings at Mallory. The same club meetings that nurture the next generation of drivers, designers, mechanics, etc.

On such foundations are empires built.

Paul Fearnley

Related articles

Related products