Points of Principle
As we went to press, the controversy over the future of the British Grand Prix was still raging. By the time this issue appears on the bookstalls, it may have been resolved but even so there remain points to ponder.
FISA’s insistance on a single venue for each Grand Prix is daft. The structure of the sport is different from country to country. You cannot make a blanket rule which will be as effective in, say, Germany as it is in, say, Monaco. The Hungarian race will not support Hungarian club racing yet, in Britain, revenue from the Grands Prix not only helps maintain Silverstone and Brands Hatch as year-round facilities, but helps maintain Oulton Park and Snetterton as well. It is for this reason that while we have wholeheartedly supported the idea of a Birmingham street race, we are equally strong in our opposition to the Birmingham event ever being a Grand Prix.
It is unfortunate, to say the very least, that FOCA announced Brands Hatch’s “loss” of the British Grand Prix mere days after John Foulston had stepped in to assure the future of the three former MCD circuits.
We can understand why the RACMSA is upset at having the future of a race to which it owns the title being decided without consultation. That FOCA clearly believes it has the authority to act in such a high handed fashion tells us all we need to know about the reality of power in the upper echelons of motor sport. On the other hand, the RACMSA has been so feeble for so long that it’s hardly a surprise that it is ignored. It would be wonderful if this incident shook the RACMSA from its complacency, for British motor racing has not always enjoyed the vigorous leadership and control it both deserves and needs.
It was generally understood that Donington Park would be considered as a venue tor a Grand Prix in 1988. In order to be considered, Tom Wheatcroft has spent large sums of his own money on improvements to his circuit to comply with FISA’s standards Now, this great enthusiast who has put so much into the sport finds himself and his circuit completely ignored. The cynics among us often wondered how Wheatcroft would be prevented from realising his dream — now we know.
We are told that because Brands Hatch has run a Grand Prix for five successive years, it is now Silverstone’s turn to do the same. But Brands Hatch has only run the same number of British Grands Prix that Silverstone has Because John Webb has had the enterprise and expertise to stage additional races 1983 and 1985, at short notice and, in the latter year, with a constantly changing date, is this a reason for depriving Brands Hatch of the British Grand Prix, Shouldn’t success be rewarded rather than penalised?
We’re told that Silverstone is a circuit which will accommodate more future development. That is perfectly true, but only because Silverstone has been less developed than Brands Hatch in the past.
Silverstone and Brands Hatch have represented two different approaches to the sport. Both have been equally sound and each has complemented the other_ Brands Hatch has frequently been brash yet from it has emerged all the Ford Formulae, Thundersports, F5000, Aurora F1 and so an Silverstone’s great contribution has been as a centre for the sport with its unrestricted testing and industrial units We need them both.
There’s a simple way out of the mess. We could have both a British Grand Prix and, say, an English Grand Prix, or an Irish GP or whatever. After all, the Italians and French each have two races and Brands Hatch demonstrated in 1983 and 1985 that we can support two. More than that, Britain happens to be the foremost motor racing country. If anyone should have two races a year we should. We’ve earned the right to stage two races. Given two races a year, there is no reason why Donington should not then have a share of the annual windfall which is Grand Prix racing in today’s commercial climate.
The venue of the British Grand Prix aftects us all It more than whether we prefer to watch from Stowe, Paddock or Redgate, it’s whether or not the facilities are available for the greater part of the year. It’s not a matter for FISA or FOCA to decide, it’s a matter for British motor racing to decide. It’s our future, not theirs.