Matters of moment, March 1966

The new season’s prospects

The 1966 Club racing season commences in earnest this month. A very intense year’s activity looks a certainty, with meetings ranging in status from closed to International being held at more than a dozen British circuits. The only disturbing prospect is a curtailing of 12 fixtures at Oulton Park, our best road circuit, because Northwich Rural Council dislike the alleged noise of motor racing at this isolated country venue, and the very recent startling announcement that for safety reasons Goodwood circuit (lap record, 107.46 m.p.h.) will not be available for 1966 F1 G.P. cars or racing, sports and GT cars of over 3,000 c.c. engine capacity. This unhappy announcement was made after Regulations for the first meeting had been drawn up, and Motor Sport feels obliged to withdraw from the B.A.R.C. its Brooklands Trophy Contest, on the grounds that the banning of the bigger, faster racing cars is not in keeping with the sort of racing which was enjoyed at Brooklands Track. (Next month we shall announce which Club will run the 1966 contest.) Otherwise, providing you possess neck muscles of the “That’s Shell—That Was . . .” variety, have plenty of free Saturdays and Sundays, keen companions, and the entrance money, motor racing can keep you very pleasantly occupied every week-end from March to October. The many formulae under which many races can be held almost defy comprehension but can briefly be expressed as the G.P. F1, which looks extremely promising under the new 3-litre ruling (first race, Monaco, May 22nd), F2 for cars up to 1,000 c.c. and four cylinders, F3 for cars with production-type non-o.h.c. power units not exceeding 1,000 c.c., Formule Libre, or unlimited racing cars, Indianapolis, for racing cars up to 4.2-litres, Tasman, for racing cars up to 2 1/2-litres, Group saloon cars, of which at least 5,000 have been made in 12 months, Group 2 modified saloons, 1,000 having been made in a year, Group 5 saloons, considerably modified, Group 2 GT cars, of which 500 a year are made, Group 4 sports cars of which 50 a year have been built, Prototype Group 6 sports cars, Group 9 sports/racing cars, Club racing saloons, Marque sports cars, Special GT cars, Club Sports cars, Clubman’s sports cars, 750 and 1172 Formula racing cars, Monoposto racing cars and Mini-7 saloons.

Rallies are in a less happy position, because, such is the diminishing freedom of the road, that from now on it is illegal to organise one unless it is authorised by either a Chief Constable or the R.A.C., on the order of the M.o.T., and this is bogging up Belgrave Square with paperwork and may kill Club rallying due to its bureaucratic complication—even those innocuous vintage-car affairs which afford so much pleasure to the public. Indeed, Mr. J. Wood, N.W. Sec. to the General Workers’ Union, got his name in the Daily Telegraph for advocating to the M.o.T. the banning of all rallies, on the grounds that rally drivers “use the road as a form of circus and take stimulants to keep themselves awake over long periods of time to perform their task of lunacy”—and if Mr. Brown hasn’t curbed the Unions, can the R.A.C. ?

Even ordinary motoring, which can still be a pleasure, in a sluggish vehicle of ancient merits or in a responsive modern car up to 70 m.p.h., is also liable to ever-increasing restrictions. The existing £17 10s. annual tax is expected to increase with the Budget and there are strong rumours of a sliding-scale to penalise the larger-engined cars, although how the Government is going to justify this when it already imposes a scandalous tax on petrol which already achieves this, the Treasury alone knows! Rumour suggests £40 or £50 a year for cars over 1,500 c.c., with restrictions on entering county towns unless a substantial extra fee is paid.

The V.S.C.C. has been pondering the effect of this on the many fine 3-litre„ 4 1/2-litre and 6 1/2-litre cars within its membership, and opinion has been expressed that to safeguard old-car interests the M.o.T. must be lobbied for a reduced rate for, say, pre-1914 cars, special low licence fees for pre-1931 cars, or sanction to use the same licence and plates (preferably at a low fee) on more than one genuine ancient vehicle. It seems inconceivable that any legislation to ban old cars from the roads is contemplated, in view of their very small numbers and the existence of compulsory vehicle testing, but it would be most unfortunate if such lobbying led to vintage and older cars being permitted restricted use, such as only driving to and from an appropriate rally. By all means agitate for lower taxation rates for vehicles which, like farm tractors and Showman’s lorries, make but limited use of the highway, but let those vintage-car owners keen enough to use their cars almost daily—and there are a few—retain the right to buy a full annual licence—if, after the Budget, they can afford to do So. Finally, defend meticulously the right to motor.

Motor Sport continues to be inundated with letters criticising the 70-limit but most of the arguments against it are so obvious to anyone except the departed Tom Fraser that we refrain from publishing them. However, recent cases like that of the Police-van driver who drove over red traffic lights and killed a 17-year-old student but who was acquitted by Loughborough Magistrates (vide the Leicester Mercury), and the motorcyclist who was fined £3 with £3 costs for speeding, on the evidence of two cycling policemen and a passing taxi-driver(!), although Leighton Magistrates admitted their error of convicting without first hearing the rider’s story and apologised for it (vide the Beds and Bucks Observer), seem to indicate that (in)justices to motorists are such that we must fight hard for fair play and our right to use the roads we (in theory) pay for.