No other magazine can boast such a long and unbroken involvement in covering competitive automotive endeavour as Motor Sport. And, 82 years on, you can expect a lot more from the green ‘un
Words: Andrew Frankel
In our family it’s called ‘The Disease’ and, unlike any number of minor maladies that could be so described, this one is serious. It takes over your life and is extremely prejudicial to your financial health. There is no known cure and it is virulently contagious. It is called motorsport, and once it’s got you there is no point fighting it. It’s with you for life.
We all know when we got infected. I was a 12-year-old at the 1978 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, standing at Clearways watching Carlos Reutemann’s Ferrari pass Niki Lauda’s Brabham in a move so audacious it looked absurd until it succeeded. Perhaps you were standing at the same place as me but in the pouring rain eight years earlier, as Pedro Rodriguez flouted the laws of physics in a Porsche 917. Or maybe you watched Clark, Moss or even Fangio in their pomp. You may now even be in the autumn of your life, but you saw things the rest of us can but dream of.
Or perhaps you’re from the younger generation. You might have been smitten by a Group B Lancia or even a Bentley winning Le Mans after a 73-year break. And whatever your age, you may yet feel the thump of your heart as 22 modern F1 cars go piling into the first corner at 190mph. As spectacles go, it remains hard to beat.
In fact it doesn’t really matter how you caught the disease, because the only treatment proven to work for all sufferers is in your hands right now. Think of it as therapy and be assured that, whatever strain you have, we can be relied upon to manage your symptoms because that’s what we’ve been doing, month in, month out, for the past 82 years.
When Motor Sport was first published it was called the Brooklands Gazette, a name that reflected the sad fact that the banked track in Weybridge was our one and only proper motor racing facility, and even that paled beside the likes of the tracks at Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Le Mans.
But this did not stop the magazine, renamed Motor Sport in 1925, from growing in popularity, and in this respect its success followed that of the sport.
By 1936 a new circuit at Donington Park was hosting a grand prix. Not long afterwards a young journalist named Bill Boddy elected not to attend a creditor’s meeting from which he stood to gain the most and was rewarded with the editorship by the magazine’s then proprietor, Wesley Tee. It was the start of an association that has so far lasted nearly 70 years. He was editor for over half a century, ensuring against all odds that its publication continued unabated during the war years, and taking it to sales success in the ’60s and ’70s which made it the unrivalled voice of the sport. At the age of 94 he continues to write in every issue and must be a very strong candidate for the longest sustained contribution to any one title by any single individual ever.
But publishing Motor Sport was not without its difficulties, particularly during the ’80s and ’90s, when competition sprang up from all quarters and satellite television links meant enthusiasts didn’t have to wait even a few days, let alone several weeks, for their F1 coverage. Starved of investment, Motor Sport was unable to compete with its new, younger, better funded and more adaptable opposition and started to wither away and die.
Its survival was only secured when it was sold to Haymarket in 1996 and relaunched the following year as a magazine devoted to the history of motorsport. Not everyone was pleased with the result, but it worked. Back then the choice was change or die and, as its new editor and someone who’d grown up reading his father’s bound volumes in lieu of The Famous Five, I thought change far preferable to oblivion. I still do.
And now, a further decade down the road, Motor Sport finds itself in new hands once more and with new horizons ahead of it. You will have noticed and, I hope, be pleased with the fact that its cover is green once more.
So what can you expect of Motor Sport in the future? Hopefully the simple process of picking up this magazine will have assured you that its quality has taken a leap forward, not simply in presentation and the photography on its pages, but even down to the physical quality of the paper on which it is printed. Motorsport is beautiful to look at and so, therefore, should Motor Sport.
Over the next few months you should also notice that Motor Sport becomes rather more active in the way it goes about its business. Reporting on historic motorsport and telling tales from the history of motorsport lies at the magazine’s very heart but, from now on, we’re also going to spend more time actually taking part in this wonderful business. We’ll be bringing you more tests of the most important and interesting historic racers; we’ll be taking part in more events, be it racing, rallying or regularity.
We are also going to get closer to the stars who made just as great a contribution to our memories of motorsport as the cars they drove. Hopefully we’ll be reuniting them with their old steeds and persuading a few of them to pen some columns, briefed to write whatever they like so long as it’s interesting. And if they choose to use the opportunity to ruffle a few feathers or settle some scores, so much the better.
We’ll also be dabbling gently with modern road cars once more. We’re going to keep it within the confines of a column and be scrupulous about what qualifies for review.
But none of this means Motor Sport is going to change beyond all recognition, because we believe the basic formula for the magazine remains right. We’ll continue to use the best names in motorsports journalism to write our stories and place even greater emphasis on finding the most evocative photographs, carrying on our close historical link with the LAT Photographic archive. And be secure in knowing that the magazine’s most distinguishing features will retain their roles on the magazine.
Indeed our aim is not to create an all-new Motor Sport, but instead to simply improve the one that already exists. We also aim to forge closer links with you, the reader. It is our hope that you share not only our passion for the sport, but also for this magazine’s incomparable history. Other titles may concern themselves with the history of our sport, but only one has spent a lifetime being part of that history. We are all too aware of that legacy and just how precious it is. It is not something we’re about to squander.