In a few short weeks we will once again be thrust into another racing season, probably the busiest the sport has ever known. With this in mind we posed the following questions to four of Britain’s major race organisers, Nick Syrett of the British Racing and Sports Car Club, John Morgan of the British Automobile Racing Club, Oliver Sear of the Snetterton Motor Racing Club, and John Eason Gibson of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.—M.L.T.
Question 1. Remembering that in the old days changes were made almost every winter at Brooklands, will there be any improvements at your circuit this season?
Question 2. What are your major fixtures this season and which do you regard as your most important 1962 meeting?
Question 3. What type of racing do you find attracts the public most? Do you favour one big race and one supporting race or a number of shorter events?
Question 4. Have you any views on the starting money required by teams and drivers or the lack of starting money as alleged by some drivers?
Question 5. Where do you find your marshals and other officials?
Question 6. Are any of your meetings sponsored by newspapers or other backers and what are your views on this subject?
Question 7. Do you expect crowds to be as big as last year?
Question 8. Do you expect entries to be as good as last year?
Question 9. Any other comments to make as a race organiser?
From Nick Syrett, B.R.S.C.C.
The following alterations are being made at Brands Hatch.
1. Erection of a 300-seat public restaurant close to the main grandstand.
2. Completion of a 100-seat restaurant in the paddock, for the exclusive use of competitors and trade officials.
3. Erection, as soon as adequate extra water supplies are available, of large modern toilet blocks to supplement, and in many cases replace, those now in use.
4. Erection of a start line control tower, prize presentation balcony and photographers’ high point.
5. Erection of a permanent, brick-built television tower.
6. Complete surfacing of the paddock area and extension of the trade servicing area.
7. Establishment of a surfaced paddock testing circuit in the field below the paddock.
8. Erection of a battery of 12 lock-up workshops to be rented on an annual basis to teams and others wishing to have a permanent circuit testing and development base.
9. Erection of a battery of six lock-up shops offering accessories, souvenirs, films, magazines, etc., to the public.
10. Fortifying and heightening all safety banks to a standard unsurpassed in Britain.
The two most important fixtures for Brands Hatch this season are the International meetings on August 6th and October 6th.
We find that virtually any type of meeting on a Bank Holiday attracts a big gate but to attract large crowds on any other day a good field of star drivers in the current Formula One machines is necessary. We favour one main race and two or three shorter supporting races.
I personally favour large-engined single-seater racing cars and I fought a long battle for my own proposed Formula Senior as did other people for Intercontinental, Formula 366 and what have you, but I am afraid we have lost as there will probably be no races for these formulae this season. Since it is impossible to get the Formula One cars back from the German G.P. in time for our meeting on August 6th we are holding a race for large capacity sports cars. We hope to attract some really potent machinery from the major manufacturers in this field and possibly from America, so that this event should be a good substitute for the Intercontinental race. At the meeting on October 6th we are running a six-hour saloon-car race for Group II cars. With an entry limited to 30 cars we will almost certainly have works entries from the major manufacturers in Europe and we already have an entry from America.
It takes an awful lot of money to assemble a first-class field of single-seaters, and our Formula One field on June 3rd last year cost us £8,225 in starting money. With starting and prize monies for other events our bill for this item alone was £10,345 not counting all the other organising expenses. For the Intercontinental race on August 7th the starting money bill came to £10,450 and the total paid out in prize money and starting money reached £14,925. However, being a Bank Holiday meeting our gate was over three times as large as the June event. The huge bill for the big names leaves less than we would like for the other categories but the expenses of Formula One are tremendous and we therefore feel the expenditure is justified. Formula Junior racing was envisaged as an inexpensive Formula and we can hardly be blamed for the rat race which has developed in the search for horsepower and bearing in mind its limited spectator appeal we feel our starting money offers in this category are quite fair.
All marshals are found from volunteers within the Club.
We do have sponsored meetings such as the Guards Trophy last year. They provided a sum of money which covered prizes and some of the starting money and this helped us to make a profit for the Club. They have since pronounced themselves pleased with results and will sponsor the big sports-car race this season. We are naturally very grateful for any sponsorship as it helps us to balance a sometimes precarious budget and as long as the advertising does not become too blatant we are quite happy.
There are more meetings being held every year and naturally only the hard core of enthusiasts attend most of them so crowds are being more evenly distributed. The influence of Television certainly can detract from our crowds and if one of our meetings is being televised at any great length we reckon to lose a fair proportion of the gate. An example was the Boxing Day meeting which was televised on a bitterly cold day, so that a lot of people stayed at home and watched. However, we were fairly happy with a 14,000 crowd.
Entries will almost certainly be as good as last year and probably much better. We are re-opening Castle Combe for three Club meetings and expect to get good entries there as well as at our other 22 meetings.
From John Morgan, B.A.R.C.
The surface of the Goodwood track has been relaid during the winter and a new enclosure provided at St. Mary’s Corner so that members can drive from the paddock area to spectate at this corner. A temporary stand has also been provided and may become a permanent fixture if it proves popular on Easter Monday. New earth bankings have been provided in some places to give a better view and the airstrip is now able to accommodate aircraft of the Bristol Freighter type.
This season the B.A.R.C. will hold 20 race meetings, four of them Internationals and four Nationals. The major fixtures will be the British G.P. at Aintree, the Aintree “200,” the Easter Monday Goodwood Meeting and the Tourist Trophy. To celebrate the Club’s Golden Jubilee there will be a Festival of Motoring at Goodwood on July 14th.
The greatest attraction is undoubtedly single-seater racing, whatever the engine capacity. We find that the most popular type of programme consists of a not-too-long race for single-seaters with several shorter supporting races. At Goodwood on Easter Monday there will be five races, and supporting the Aintree “200” F.1 race there will be three other events, while the British G.P. will be supported by one other race, probably for saloon cars this year.
We do not own a circuit ourselves but merely undertake to promote races for a fee at various circuits such as Goodwood, where the owners are the Goodwood Road Racing Co. Ltd. Therefore we discuss with the owners of the circuit in question the amount of money they are prepared to allocate for starting and prize money, then we distribute this as we think fit amongst the various races. Formula One racing is extremely expensive and we expect to pay a good deal of money to assemble a first-class field of F.1 cars. This can often exceed £15,000, so that we cannot be as generous with some of the other categories as we would sometimes like to be.
Marshals are recruited from a band of around 300 B.A.R.C. members, who also supply flag marshals, observers and so on. Other key jobs are filled by permanent staff members from the B.A.R.C. headquarters and other skilled professionals in their particular sphere.
We receive support from several backers for which we are extremely grateful for it helps us to provide a better spectacle. The Daily Telegraph put up £1.000 for the Double Twelve Race at Brooklands before the war and they still support us. United Lubricants provide prizes at our Easter Monday meeting, and the Daily Mirror sponsor the Aintree “200” and the British G.P. The support given by sponsors is much appreciated and in the case of newspapers is twofold for the publicity given to the event in the editorial columns helps to swell the gate. The public also appreciate additional events such as the World Sky-Diving Championships which will be sponsored by the Daily Telegraph at Goodwood on the morning of the Easter Monday meeting.
We expect crowds to be as good as last year.
Entries will almost certainly be as good if not better than last year. In this respect we are lucky in having such competitions as your own Brooldands Memorial Trophy and the recently instituted Veedol competition which are both aimed at the amateur driver, for whom our sports-car meetings cater.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the petrol and oil companies and the various accessory suppliers, for without them racing would not run on the same scale as it does today. On the subject of television, this has introduced a large number of people to the sport, but the TV companies seem to get an afternoon’s entertainment very cheaply and a TV programme can take away some of the gate. Goodwood will be with I.T.V. this year, but of course that is negotiated by the track owners.
From Oliver Sear, S.M.R.C.
At Snetterton we do not carry out changes or improvements at any particular time but have a programme scheduled over the next five years which includes extensive re-surfacing and additional Spectator/Competitor facilities. This winter we have built a Drivers’ Changing Room, and carried out some further re-surfacing. We have also improved the spectator safety facilities, and a lot of new fencing. Obviously improvements can only be undertaken as the money is available and keeping a high standard of racing is a very expensive thing today, and there is not often sufficient gold in the kitty to do what we want.
We have three main events of the year—the International Lombank Trophy on April 14th; The Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy on July 15th and The Molyslip Trophy and Autosport Three Hours on September 29th. I suppose the International Lombank Trophy on April 14th would be called our main event of the year.
I am certain that Formula One racing has an overwhelming public attraction, and I think one major event (100 to 200 miles) with two to four supporting short races is the most popular type of programme. By “short” I mean 10-12 laps.
This subject of starting money is a very thorny question. Our experience has been that large crowds follow a handful of famous drivers, preferably driving Formula One cars. Drivers and team managers are well aware of this, and expect to take the lion’s share of the starting money. The morals of this we cannot discuss in answer to your question. But these are the facts, and we find in order to attract a large crowd you have got to fork out!
After paying the star names there arc just the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel to go round. It is not that we would not be very happy to distribute the funds we have more evenly, but we must face the facts, and they are that 30,000 plus people will turn up to see Moss, Brabham, Surtees, Salvadori, Clark, Ireland, McLaren, etc., and if you do not have a fair selection of these chaps the crowd will drop back to about 10,000. This is well known to all and, of course, Team Managers have every right to expect that they should take their proportion of this increased revenue. Sad as this may seem to the struggling private entrant it applies to all entertainment in post-war Britain for have we not plumped 100% for the American “Star” system? Speaking for myself, I would like to see much more publicity given to the sport and the overall positions of the race and not, as is usual, to one or two famous drivers, brilliant as their performance may be. But this, of course, is a pipe dream, and is not in line with modern journalism.
All Marshals and Officials at Snetterton Motor Racing Club Meetings are provided by this Club and, I should think, 90% are members of the Club. The Marshals’ club can also be a great help.
We receive partial sponsorship for our three major meetings in the form of limited financial assistance, but in none of these cases do our patrons try to tie our hands or direct us into channels we would not normally follow. We are most grateful for their financial help and their interest in Motor Racing. I cannot see anything wrong in this type of sponsorship, but where heavy conditions are laid down and the effective control of the meetings could fall into the hands of a sponsor not interested in the future of Motor Racing and using it for example as a temporary sales gimmick, the overall effect could be injurious to the true sport of Motor Racing, though I feel at the moment there are no grounds to worry about the sport’s future on this count.
We do expect crowds as big as last year, in fact larger. In East Anglia we are always a bit behind. We will reach our peak in 1999.
We hope that we shall enjoy the splendid entries we have had in the past, and I see no reason why this should not be so. We work in the friendliest possible way with all drivers and entrants, and although we cannot often pay them the Starting money they richly deserve they support our meetings all the same.
Without trade support Motor Racing would be very poor, and I think a big debt of gratitude is owed by us all to the Petrol Companies and firms like Dunlop, Lucas, Castrol, etc.
On balance I would think Television has harmed Motor Racing, for it is very rare that a camera captures the real magic of this sport. Let’s face it—it looks desperately dull. On the other hand, of course, “catch the camera” banners bring honest gold into that greedy fund for track maintenance, and improvement. One or two lucky circuits find this a major source of revenue I am sure.
From John Eason Gibson, B.R.D.C.
I cannot agree that in the old days changes were Made almost every winter at Brooklands. At Silverstone improvements and modifications are not necessarily carried out each winter, but have gone on steadily throughout the year, as B.R.D.C. policy insists that profits from race organising be ploughed back into the circuit. The most recent improvement carried out was for the sake of the paying. public and consisted of the construction of six permanent toilets, four of which were in the cheaper public enclosures, Emplacements have been provided at Flag Marshal and Observer points where these officials are exposed to any danger.
Our major event this year is the 14th International Trophy meeting due to be held on May 12th.
It is our opinion that to attract a really large crowd as distinct from the true enthusiast, it is essential to provide a full day’s racing. Over the years we have not organised any International Trophy meeting or even a British Grand Prix meeting with less than five events and the programme normally lasts from approximately 10.15 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. We are convinced that this is what the public wants.
In most cases the starting money required by teams and drivers is fair, bearing in mind the fantastic expenses in which competitors are involved in today’s motor racing. It has to be remembered, however, that it is not compulsory to go in for motor racing and some competitors’ demands are perhaps a little unrealistic. I can only assume that the allegation regarding the lack of starting money offered by some organisers emanates from some Formula Junior drivers. It should be understood, I think, that this Formula was designed for amateur drivers anxious to promote themselves eventually to the top class and some limitation of starting money was considered essential by some organiser’s to prevent the instrusion of very professional drivers.
Almost all our Flag Marshals, Observers and Senior Officials. are members of the B.R.D.C. but all other officials are provided by the members of the 15 clubs which have supported us by organising club meetings at Silverstone. Needless to say many of these officials are also members of the British Motor Racing Marshals Club.
Since 1958 none of our meetings have been sponsored by any newspaper or other backer. Until 1958 we were sponsored and supported by the Daily Express and there is no doubt in our mind that it was the association of the Daily Express with Silverstone in obtaining previously unheard of crowds that assisted in putting British motor racing properly on the map in post-war years.
We expect spectator attendance to be as good as last year. The general pattern of attendance at Silverstone after many years, does not confirm that crowds at major meetings are diminishing. I think it is possible that because there are so many meetings in the country now on what one can only describe as a medium scale that spectators are becoming more selective.
We expect entries to be as good as last year.