MATTERS OF MOMENT, June 1970

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IT’S ALL HAPPENING . . . .

There are compensations about being a heavily-taxed, Police-hounded motoring enthusiast. For instance, there is so much to do, so many diverse events to attend, that boredom is kept effectively at bay. Races of all kinds happen every summer week-end, with the March F1 car upholding its promise, although harried by Jack Brabham, with Rindt’s old Lotus snatching a last-lap victory from him at Monaco, to maintain excitement. The World Cup Rally is creating widespread interest. But we never thought we would see famous footballers driving Ford rally cars orWoman entering for an International rally and devoting nine pages of one of their weekly issues to it, from which we learn with some surprise that amongst the equipment their girl drivers are carrying is “a deliciously nourishing batch of vanilla fudge” (recipe provided) and “39 pairs of disposable briefs”.

All this underlines the fact that motoring sport has caught the imagination of ordinary men and women, and is no longer solely the preserve of fanatical specialists. The “Right Crowd and No Crowding” of the Brooklands days went overboard when the general public flocked to Donington Park in their tens of thousands in 1937 to see the German teams contest a Grand Prix. Public interest in racing caused support to be given to Grand Prix teams not only by the petrol, oil and tyre companies, but by food, cosmetic and cigarette firms, so that today’s European racing cars carry all manner of publicity matter and look as Indianapolis specials did before the war. It is reflected in the enormous number of “championships” which engulf modern racing, at which point it is opportune to say that Tony Trimmer (in a Brabham) now leads in the MOTOR SPORT/Shell F3 Championship, and J. W. T. Crocker (Lagonda Rapier) in the MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest of which the next round will be contested at the VSCC Oulton Park Race Meeting on June 20th, which is one of the most enjoyable of venues at which to have vintage and historic racing.

The sensational rise in the popularity of motoring sport since the end of World War II has brought insecurity in the wake of prosperity. Grand Prix racing is affected adversely by the weight of money it carries, attendances at the smaller race meetings are dropping because the multiplication of circuits and meetings divides spectator loyalties (ending up by many of them watching at home on TV), and presumably it is the “popular” aspect of the game which has brought into race reporting such horrid words as “clubbies” (for club events), “nail” (for a hard-used competition car), “pitted” (to indicate that someone has come into his depot), cars holding “spots” instead of “places” during a race and leading drivers being referred to familiarly as Jack, John, Robin, and Pesky, etc. This acceptance of the sport by the public had its effect on the Welsh Rally, the organisers of which had to ask would-be spectators to keep out of the “stage” areas, in case the WD or Forestry Commission are prompted to ban rallies on the basis of fire-risks and the possibility of accidents to onlookers. Curious, in view of this intense interest, that BBC sound radio and ITV should have abandoned decent coverage of racing. However, BBC TV excelled itself over Monaco reportage.

Older sports than motor racing have been ruined by commercialism, avarice and politics—if “sport” means the same to you as it does to us. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, our particular interests continue to thrive, whether you follow racing and rallying of modern cars or the gentler outings of veteran and vintage machinery. In the latter context, last month saw the successful conclusion of two separate events commemorating the 1,000-Mile Trial of 1900, the event which convinced the public of the practicability of self-propelled vehicles, one by St. J. Nixon, the other by the VCC of GB. The latter marked the satisfactory debut since its rebuild of Philip Mann’s 1914 OP Mercedes, about which an exclusive article appears in this issue of MOTOR SPORT. The ever-increasing popularity of ordinary motoring brings its own special problems, as all car owners are aware. Instead of costs decreasing with the quantity of vehicles in use, they continue to rise, the Budget not sparing motorists one iota. America has introduced anti-smog design stipulations, costly to implement, and is now thinking in terms of compulsory automatically-inflatable crash bags, to replace seat belts, for all cars, by 1972. Soon, perhaps, we shall only he able to export to the US if our cars have two steering wheels, in case one falls off, and dual controls in case the first driver suffers a fainting fit……

Too much attention, we are told, is bad for children and animals. Over-watering withers a plant. The same may well apply to the motor car, which so many of us love so avidly.

RACING ON PUBLIC ROADS

THE closure of public roads for racing and rallying is common enough outside Britain, such practice resulting in fast, demanding competition of the highest order, popular with participant and spectator alike. In the British Isles, only Ireland and the Isle of Man has this facility, the huge success of the two major rallies in those island standing as proof that roads can be closed in Britain without undue hardship or strain on the legislature.

In August, Britain will host the 1970 World Cycling Championships, which will be based in Leicestershire, and we hear that certain public roads in that county and in Nottinghamshire will be closed to all other traffic whilst the road races are in progress. This is not without precedent, of course, for we remember a certain section of coast road in Glamorgan being closed for a cycle race held during the British Empire Games in 1958.

It is admirable that legislation should be thus used to facilitate the better running of a sporting event, but we do feel that the same should be offered other, major, prestige-bringing International events-the RAC International Rally of Great Britain, for instance.

The Leicestershire road closures will be made by the police after consultations with the Home Office, the Ministry of Transport and the Minister for Sport. The statutory authority, it seems, is already vested in senior policemen.

We would not wish the cyclists to be denied their opportunity to race on traffic-free roads; on the contrary, we would support their claim to such a privilege. But we do feel that no one sport should be given precedence over another, particularly as cycling would appear to be far less popular than motor racing or rallying.-G. P.

FORD ESCORT RS 1600

AEROPLANE & Motor Aluminium Castings Ltd. are now supplying exclusively aluminium cylinder head castings for the 16-valve Cosworth BDA engine. The new engine is a production version of the Formula Two FVA racing engine, and develops 120 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m., a cogged belt replacing gears driving the two -overhead camshafts.

THE FAST LADY

JOYCE WILKINS has been acting the fast lady again. She won herself a Dior dress by driving a Ford fast from London to Rome. Now she has driven a BMW 2800 from the BMW Park Lane showrooms in London to their showrooms in Nice, in 14 hr. 30 min., her average Speed front Le Touquet to Nice being 65 m.p.h. for the 780 miles. Mrs. Wilkins thus achieved her ambition of driving from London to the Cote d’Azur between breakfast (a rather early one, for she left at 6.40 a.m.) and dinner. The total distance was 856 miles, plus 75 miles flown by grace of British Air Ferries. From experience last year of the BMW 2800 we appreciate that Mrs. Wilkins could hardly have chosen a more restful car for her rapid journey. It disposed of 103 miles in 63 minutes, 260 miles in 225 minutes and 300 miles in 252 minutes on the Arras Autoroute and Autoroute du Sud, but lost 20 minutes in a traffic jam at Aix-en-Provence and finished with headlights on. The BMW gave 20.5 m.p.g. and used no oil. Gordon Wilkins passengered his wife, so domestic harmony was ensured front the start.

The purpose of the run was to demonstrate that in a good car such average speeds are safe and comfortable, due to the excellence of the French Autoroutes. The BMW did 100 miles in the hour on two occasions, which Mrs. Wilkins said appeared much safer than holding to 69 m.p.h. as demanded by the speed-limit on French main roads. It is interesting to compare her time with that of James Radley who got his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost from London to Monte Carlo in 26 hr. 4 min. in 1913; he did not have an air lift across the Channel and had delays at locked level-crossings, but Joyce Wilkins did stop twice, for petrol, and again, for 20 minutes, for coffee. We see no objection to these runs, of which that by this girl in a BMW Should constitute a challenge to others of the fair sex, or even to mere males.-W. B.

* * *

We are sometimes asked whether Sports cars can be hired. Sports Hire Ltd., of 4a, Deodar Road, Putney, SW15, have MG-Bs, Triumph GT6s, Triumph Vitesse convertibles and MG Midgets available for those over 25 years of age.

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