Competitive closed roads
A British Grand Prix in London probably remains a long way off, as does a Formula E fixture on the capital’s streets. But new legislation came into force in April and paves the way for club-level motor sport on public roads in mainland Britain.
Legislation in 2015 removed the requirement for Parliament to suspend key elements of the Road Traffic Act and devolved those powers to relevant local authorities. The mechanism to make that happen is now in place.
The completion of a long-running and complex campaign started by the MSA in 2010 represents “a seismic shift for UK motor sport”, according to its chief executive, Rob Jones. “We can now take motor sport to the people,” he added, “and in turn those local hosting communities have the opportunity to benefit from the economic boost that these events may provide.”
Organising clubs and promoters are required to approach the MSA or motorcycle racing’s governing body the ACU with their ideas, which will be put to the relevant local authorities if deemed viable. The two organisations are the only bodies allowed to issue permits for closed-road motorsport under the new regulations.
“This legislation completes the relevant part of the 2015 Deregulation Act,” said Ben Taylor, one of the prime-movers in the MSA’s campaign, first as its PR boss and now as managing director of its International Motor Sports commercial arm. He insisted the MSA would be “careful and pragmatic” when it comes to vetting plans.
“Where and when the MSA lets loose with this legislation, the watchwords will be safety and reality,” he said. “We don’t want people biting off more than they can chew.
“Motor sport on closed roads is not a cheap alternative to racing on a permanent circuit or rallying on a forest stage. We expect to start slowly; you might see a couple of hillclimbs or sprints, or the use of short sections of public road to join up forest stages.”
Taylor said that the idea of a super-special stage in an urban setting was under investigation for the Wales Rally Great Britain.
“We are always looking at how we can bring rallying to the people,” he said. “If you did a short super-special in town you could attract a lot of people and hopefully get some of them hooked on rallying.”
The most advanced plans for an event on closed roads at the moment appears to be for a stage rally, dubbed the Clacton Stages, in Essex. The local Tendring District Council and the Chelmsford Motor Club have been working with the MSA on an event for approximately four years and an announcement of its intentions is expected in the summer.
Formula E’s plans to bring the FIA’s electric-vehicle series back to London after the demise of its Battersea Park event have not been mentioned since boss Alejandro Agag vowed to have Britain back on the calendar during season four in 2017/18. He is known to have looked at a course incorporating parts of the Embankment and more central parkland options, as well as the Olympic Park in Stratford.
If a Formula E street race in London appears unlikely in the short term, the possibility of a Formula 1 race should be regarded as negligible.