Planning for the past
A raft of new proposals may affect historic events and car eligibility
The role of the FIA in historic motorsport may change dramatically following the final report of one of the organisation’s working groups.
Notable recommendations include the creation of a comprehensive database of race car information and a stable international historic calendar, a back-track on ‘continuation’ cars eligibility, a general ‘wind back’ of historic racing with more focus on the cars and the enforcement of higher driving standards.
The report, presented to the World Motor Sport Council, follows nearly a year of research and discussion under John Hughes, new President of the FIA Historic Commission. A group of 16 people was selected to represent international historic racing organisers, drivers and officials.
One of the most contentious recommendations is that re-creation or ‘continuation’ cars should now be deemed undesirable. The view is completely at odds with that previously expressed by FIA president Max Mosley. The working group reasoned that cars such as the ‘new’ Lola T70 raised serious questions over adverse publicity, as they effectively represent modern-build race cars that may not have been subject to the crash test regulations demanded of contemporary cars. Indeed, it was the ferocity of response to Mosley’s previous statements on this subject which was one of the reasons for the creation of the working group.
Christopher Tate from the Masters series is one of the organisers eager to know what rulings will be made on such cars. “It’s a good thing to have a new perspective on the sport, but we need rapid clarification on things like continuation cars,” said Tate. “There are clearly some very contentious issues in here.”
The working group recommended that more effort should go into ensuring historic correctness across the world, and urges a wider adoption of Appendix K regulations for all historic racing.
“One surprise was the strength and accord of feeling,” explained working group member, Simon Hadfield. “It has to be about historic cars. We wanted to establish that if a car is legal in Europe, it would be legal in Australia and the US.”
To support identification of correct specification, the working group advocates the creation of a comprehensive database, covering all cars previously and currently used in international events and, therefore, potential historic race cars of the present and future. While acknowledging the scale of the project, the working group’s view was that gathering data now from teams and manufacturers racing in contemporary classes would provide a detailed benchmark for historic racing of the future. And, says John Hughes, “The FIA is the logical party to maintain this database”.
“The Working Group believes that the creation of this database, which will be available to owners/preparers and event organisers, must be at the heart of the FIA’s involvement,” states the report.
“The Historic Technical Passport is not working well for series organisers,” says Carol Spagg, architect of the U2TC touring car series. “It seems that the FIA now sees it as its job to provide the information, and that’s really good news for us organisers.”
The group has recommended that the FIA encourages a ‘wind back’ of historic racing, with the focus on ensuring that cars run as they did in period. Tyres and shock absorbers are singled out as areas where development has allowed corner speeds rise, with a negative impact on other parts.
Enforcing higher driving standards, partly by making the licensing system more robust, is another key recommendation.
But much competitor and organiser interest will focus on the FIA’s involvement in race meetings and series. The report says that the FIA intends to recognise either events or championships with the highest standard of vehicle quality and driving standards. It also says that the FIA should build stronger links with prestige historic meetings and should work to create a stable calendar of events.
The whole issue of FIA involvement in existing pan-European race series is likely to raise concerns among current organisers and competitors. Many point to the general perception of FIA-run series and FIA-sanctioned events as being overly expensive and bureaucratic.
“In a sport that is not professional in the true sense, an element of deciding how you run things is a long-established right. Too heavy a hand is something that will almost certainly lead to problems,” says Christopher Tate.
The group also considered the period that should be covered by historic racing and believes that the natural technology breaks – 1985 for F1 cars and 1991 for Group C – should remain. Industry experts consider that the historic race cars of the future are most likely to come from current prototype and GT racing, where present-day technology should still be within reach of teams in years to come.
“I feel that there’s an opportunity for the FIA to behave differently for historic motor sport than for modern motor sport, to be more helpful and be a positive influence in the community of historic racing.”