Matters of Moment, June 1954
This Is Not Good Enough
Motor racing, rallies, even certain regularity tests, driving tests and fuel consumption trials have a considerable commercial significance and cannot, for this reason, be dismissed lightly as “Jolly good fun, old boy,” or “It’s all for the Sport.” Competitors who are works entries, drive works cars, whose cars have been wholly or partially prepared by a manufacturer, or who draw bonus money for appearing in competitions using certain petrols, oils, components or accessories, must do everything in their power, short of cheating, to win. Victory is important to their backers, and therefore indirectly vital to them, and will in all probability be widely publicised.
For this reason there is a weightier onus than ever before on the organisers of competitions to be able to define with certainty the winner and place-men, not to mention class winners and trophy victors, in the contests they organise and promote.
Nothing is worse for the growing prestige of motor sport than a protest that a declared winner is not, in fact, entitled to be announced as such.
Much of the glamour and publicity due to Louis Chiron and Lancia for their Monte Carlo Rally victory this year was lost due to a protest, which, although not upheld, has only recently been cleared. At Goodwood on Easter Monday the big crowd of obviously keen spectators not only found themselves at an International meeting with no Continental “stars” competing, but had to delay their Bank Holiday homegoing if they wanted to take with them the result of the most important race of the afternoon, because the Stewards had to meet to consider a protest before they could give their verdict and announce a winner.
The recent Rallye Soleil-Cannes seems to have bred more protests, calling forth a stern protest of another kind from our correspondent on the spot. To emphasise how serious, and at the same time ridiculous, this matter of protest-lodging and changed results is becoming, let us tell you that on May 3rd we received a carbon copy of a letter from the Brighton and Hove Motor Club, Ltd., dated April 30th. stating that Mr. Lloyd-Jones had been disqualified from the 1953 Brighton International Speed Trials and therefore his fastest-time-of-the-day is null and void, so that V. Thomas now takes first place and G. A. Parker second place. An earlier letter, dated March 12th, told us that Lloyd-Jones was likely to be disqualified “on technical grounds,” but whether these were mechanical or to do with holding the wrong competition licence, or something, we do not know. The fact is that the winner of an International speed event has been changed nearly seven months after that event was contested. At this rate not only will the annual tables of results published in Motor Sport and elsewhere become nonsense, but motor historians may soon have to accept with extreme caution lists of race results dating back down the years!
We have just received news, as we write this Editorial, that Alberto Ascari has won for Lancia the great Mille Miglia race round Italy. Lancia’s star is now firmly in the ascendant in the sports-car field. Early news explains that Lancia finished first, Ferrari second, Maserati third — a fascinating result in all conscience.
Now the Mille Miglia is a race over 1,000 miles of public roads forming a gigantic circuit, there are 450 or more starters, and the position of the leaders is not an easy thing to determine, especially for those who still use their fingers for simple arithmetic. We sincerely hope that in a matter of days, weeks or months the results will not he in doubt — knowing the ability of the race organisers, we feel confident that Ascari’s great victory for Lancia will stand.
Certainly the time has come for competition organisers to put their house in order to the extent of making quite certain that they can issue results with complete confidence and that all cars taking part comply to the last degree with the rules drawn up. Protests lodged by unsporting or necessity-prompted competitors should be dealt with expeditiously. Every effort must be made for provisional results to be confirmed within a week and remain unchanged thereafter.
Almost as important is to cease announcing International events which are international in name only. We have just had the Aintree International, and International fixtures pending in this country include Bo’ness Hill-Climb on June 26th, Rest-and-Be-Thankful Hill-Climb on July 3rd, the Half-Litre C.C. Crystal Palace Race Meeting on July 10th, the British Grand Prix on July 17th, Bouley Bay Hill-Climb on July 22nd, the Half-Litre C.C. Brands Hatch Meeting on August 2nd, the Mid-Cheshire Oulton Park Race Meeting on August 7th, the West Essex C.C. Snetterton Race Meeting on August 14th, the Brighton Speed Trials on September 4th, the T.T. on September 11th, the Prescott Hill-Climb of the Bugatti O.C. on September 19th, and the B.A.R.C. Goodwood Meeting on September 25th. In cases where a reasonable Continental representation fails to appear the R.A.C. should consider seriously the down-grading of these fixtures in the 1955 Calendar.
Public interest in motor racing has never been greater, but if we are to retain it at its present high level it is essential to ensure that spectators are not drawn to so-called International events at which no foreign drivers or entrants appear and that essential trade and manufacturer support of racing is not undermined by diminution in publicity value due to endless chopping and changing of race results on account of faulty scrutineering, lap-scoring and other shortcomings leading to protests.
The Absence of Ascari
In connection with the foregoing criticism of International events which are so in name only, even worse are those at which Continental ace-drivers are billed to appear and then fail so to do. The absence of World Champion Ascari and Baron de Graffenried at Goodwood on Easter Monday has caused numerous readers to write us bitter letters. Their appearance at the wheels of Thinwall, new Vanwall and new Maserati cars was publicised, and spectators, who only heard of the absence of these drivers from the programme after admission to Goodwood had been paid for, naturally feel that they have cause for complaint. Selecting one letter at random, here is how Mr. D. S. Taulbut, of Derby, views the matter: —
In giving the International fixtures list for Britain a few months ago, you expressed the hope that the entries at these meetings would really justify the issue of an International licensee. The Easter races at Goodwood lend great point to your remark. It cannot be denied that the much-published entry of cars to be driven by Ascari had a big influence on the record attendance there, yet only when the public were inside the gates did the majority discover that he was not present. The excuse that Lancia would not release him was given for his absence, a situation which must surely have been foreseeable to Ascari from the start. In order to avoid suggestions of sharp practice, I think the B.A.R.C. should make it clear as to whether he was under a signed contract to appear, either to Mr. Vandervell or to the club. If he was not, and only a vague entry had been made, then the B.A.R.C. were obviously in the wrong to make capital of his name. If Ascari was under contract, then in fairness to the paying customers the appropriate authority should request the F.I.A. to point out that even world champions must stand by their word.
I am, Yours, etc.,
D. S. Taulbut.
We have taken the matter up with Mr. John Morgan, General Secretary of the British Automobile Racing Club, and in fairness to him append his explanation: —
Permission for Ascari to drive at Goodwood, previously granted by Lancia, was cancelled by them at the last moment, leaving insufficient time for Mr. Vandervell to find a substitute driver for his cars. This in was circulated to the Press without delay and was published in a number or national dailies and London papers on the Thursday before the meeting. On the same day, a telegram was received by the B.A.R.C. from de Graffenried apologising for the fact that he would be unable to attend. The reason, given later, was that Maserati were unable to prepare the car in time.