Matters of Moment, July 2014

“In introducing a new journal, it is usual to commence with a word of apology.” These are the first, typically peculiar words to appear in this periodical. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that sentiment, but then I’m from a world entirely different from the one that existed in July 1924, when our magazine – your magazine – began its oddball odyssey through nine decades of competition motoring.

Having stated the need for apology (well, we are British), the first editorial offers an abrupt contradiction in the next sentence. How very ‘us’.

“We feel that very little apology is called for in respect of the appearance of this publication,” wrote my distant predecessor. “We are confident that The Brooklands Gazette” – as the magazine was called – “will make its own appeal to many thousands of keen motorists.”

The magazine, which would adopt the name Motor Sport in 1925, was by no stretch the first of its kind. But from this beginning it promised to differ from anything else available on the bookstalls.

“This journal is not merely ‘another motoring paper’ added to the several which already seek public support,” the editorial continues. “It is something entirely new, and something which we are convinced has been very much wanted. It regards motoring from a new angle; it seeks to meet to the full the requirements of those whose chief interests are in the sporting and competition side of the movement.”

Sound familiar?

“We are confident that with the support of a large circle of readers and the benediction of those who control motoring sport and the motor industry, this journal is going to widely extend the general appreciation of motoring. Motor racing and competitions in general are the life-blood of motoring evolution. The motor car and the motor cycle of today are largely the excellent productions motorists know them to be, in virtue of the refining influence of strenuous competitions.

“By concentrating our main attention upon such competitions, and thus helping to foster and develop them on sane and practical lines, we hope to do more than provide fine sport for those who participate in competitive motoring, and trust that we shall be serving in no small measure the larger cause of the improvement of motor vehicles to the benefit of multitudes who would themselves never enter for a motoring competition.”

Got that? Lofty ideals from the start.

The editorial also points out that “another important phase of our activities will be the reviewing of new cars, accessories and equipment. This we shall do, in all cases, only after personal trial of the products concerned, and our criticism of them will be entirely without fear or favour… We trust that The Brooklands Gazette, following upon the favourable reception it is assured, will show consistent improvement as time goes on.”

As we mark 90 years in publication with this special celebratory issue, I hope you’ll agree that we’ve delivered on that promise. Now we press on, with the ‘magic ton’ within our sights.

Every time I’ve bumped into David Brabham at a race circuit these past six or seven years, I’ve made a point of asking: “How’s your dad?” The response was nearly always the same.

David would smile and say, “You know, a month or so ago we were preparing to say goodbye. But then in the past few weeks he’s picked up again, against all expectations. Now he’s doing great!”

Sir Jack Brabham battled serious ailments for years and doctors were always predicting ‘not long now’. But they hadn’t taken into account exactly who they were dealing with.

When the end could be prolonged no further, Sir Jack passed peacefully, on May 19. To the last he remained the same twinkle-eyed hardnut, who gave no quarter in the heat of battle.

The timing of his passing made it impossible to produce a tribute that could go any way to doing justice to such a man, leastways in this issue. So please forgive us: we’ll return to the matter next month, when his old friend Doug Nye will offer a true and meaningful perspective on a figure who was so much more than the first to win an F1 world championship with the engine behind his back, and the first and only to do so in a car bearing his own name. As headline epitaphs go, however, neither is too shabby.

In the meantime Mark Hughes has offered an eloquent tribute on our website, where you can also now find our recently launched archive of every page of every issue since 1924. You’ll find Jack gets a fair few mentions through the years.

He was, of course, inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2011, and more can be found on the great man on our dedicated ‘micro-site’. Find it by clicking on the Hall of Fame tab within the main navigation bar at

To David, his brothers Geoff and Gary, Jack’s wife Lady Margaret and the whole Brabham clan – including his grandsons Matthew and Sam, who are beginning their own chapters in this sport – we offer our sincere condolences. Jack Brabham was a true one-off. We’ll never see his like again.

Somehow it’s fitting that, as we return to the monumental innovations from the past for this celebratory issue, we face the reality of 21st century progress in Formula 1. The sport is in a state of transition, and it’s a bumpy ride right now.

Over the years, our writers have become used to finding themselves entirely in tune with our readers. Not this time. Nigel Roebuck, Mark Hughes and Simon Arron have all soaked up the sight and (lack of) sound in F1, placing what they have witnessed in context with what has come before – and independently finding themselves unified in the view that Grand Prix racing, as a spectacle at least, is in pretty good shape.

But many of you have told us you don’t agree with that assessment. The verbal battering Simon received online left us in no doubt that our consensus, for once, is a long way from being an accepted truth.

No matter how positive we might remain about what we’ve seen, we recognise the sport will lose some of you along the way. The disenchantment of hard-core fans has never been more palpable – and it should be a huge concern for all involved in motor sport.

At this magazine, we’ll continue to listen to, and respect, the views of our readers. But we can only write as we find, and at this point in time we believe F1 is facing greater challenges that threaten its future. How motor racing’s premier tier is structured is rotten to its core, with problems that require a bigger fix than a mere blunderbuss exhaust.

On that final point, we can at least be grateful for something: it didn’t work!