Matters of moment, March 1983

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It happens on March 13th

What does? Why, the opening of the 1983 F1 racing season, with the Brazilian Grand Prix, of course! We can expect a very interesting and competitive year, with the additional bonus of seeing how the new racing cars with flat bottoms turn out, it being a fact that these are regarded as a good aspect of such cars, whatever you think about them on girls. . . .

Whatever the critics may say, in our opinion motor-racing at F1 Grand Prix level is the most exciting, interesting, and exacting of any sport in the World. It involves cars of great technical merit and ingenuity and it calls for drivers of the highest skill, fitness, and courage to drive them properly.

When the writer was making this point in Blackwood’s Magazine back in 1979, pointing out that even a top tennis-champion is able to rely on two attempts to get his service over the net and that whereas they stop play at Wimbledon and in Test Matchet if it begins to rain, at Le Mans and elsewhere motor-racing, in very fast cars indeed, continues in the wet, the fog, and even in darkness, the Magazine’s Editor (who raced his 30/98 Vauxhall at Brooklands before the war) weighed in with the comment that a batsman can bat on after being dropped at first slip . . . The inference being, of course, that to make even momentary errors such as those permissible in ball games could end in retirement, very likely in disaster, in motor-racing.

So let us pay tribute to the F1 drivers, as another competitive season of GP racing is about to commence, remembering also that the cars are just as important, a fact some race-commentators have forgotten. There will be a full report on the Brazil GP, by A.H., in the April Motor Sport.

The nanny state

The compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars is now Law, making anyone who fails to comply (with a few oddly-contrived exceptions), or even momentarily forgets to “Clunk, Click” in that babyish phrase that has cost we Tax-payers so much in Media-advertising, a Criminal.

On the eve of this nonsensical compulsion Geoffrey Wheatcroft (a belt-wearer) had a very well-reasoned article in The Sunday Telegraph, in which he pointed out that this latest infringement of our freedom is what is so sad and serious, not the principle of belting-up as such. Mr. Wheatcroft made it clear that this new requirement (which could make Criminals out of quite a large number of previously law-abiding and highly-respectable citizens, even through simple forgetfulness) is a political question but is not a party-political one. If anything, he says, it is the Extreme Moderates rather than Conservative or Labour Party members, who were enthusiastic about seat-belt compulsion on the political spectrum.

The point made in this well-balanced article is that once it is admitted that the State has the right to protect individuals from the consequences of their own folly there is no limit to the extension of the principle. As the writer goes on to say, driving without using a seat-belt (ridiculously, these were compulsory for years before they had to be worn!) may be suicide, but suicide, grim as it maybe, is an elementary human-right. The Law against it was repealed by Parliament in an enlightened moment, Mr. Wheatcroft reminds us.

Seat-belt compulsion, on the contrary, has moved this country closer to the “Nanny State” in which we are treated as if we were children, instead of like grown-ups who sometimes behave like children, with the option to do so. The mark of a truly Free Society, concludes Wheatcroft, is one that finds nannies good — for young children. Not one which infantilises everyone. He expresses surprise that this is coming about under a Conservative Government that professes to believe in individual freedom and finds this, as we do, “sad beyond words”. How could Mrs. Thatcher, herself against seat-belt compulsion, brave enough to conduct the Falklands War, fall for this restrictive seat-belt compulsion? Well, the Suicide Law was repealed, so it could be that the seat-belt thing might also be. Already compulsion, from the moment the wheels of a vehicle begin to turn, is taking the pleasure out of car-ownership for some, is disliked by a far greater number of people than perhaps Mrs. Thatcher realises. and it is showing up differing opinions among the Nation’s Police Forces (the Kent Constabulary, for instance, coming down heavily on those who do not, or who have forgotten to, attach themselves to their cars (no doubt the Criminal content excites them), while the Chief Constables of the Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall, Avon, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, London, Essex, Northamptonshire, Worcestershire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire and Merseyside Police Forces are adopting a more lenient initial outlook), at a time when good relations between public and Police are of great importance.

This new Law will impose further financial burdens on savagely-taxed vehicle-owners, not only in keeping belts in good order, but from replacing old ones: and what of clothes soiled on dirty harnesses, in hire-cars for instance? Predictably, the Media mostly welcomed compulsion with special films and features, although TV did show one young lady quite rightly exempted because her car was a pre-war Austin 10/4.

What few people realise is that this law will operate for a trial period of three years, and will then be reviewed by Parliament. If enough people wish to form an organisation to repeal this Act, Motor Sport will be very willing to lend its support and not because of our title, for has not Jackie Stewart the Apostle of Safety, said that most accidents happen when vehicles are travelling at less than 45 m.p.h.?

Croydon’s future

It is good news that, subject to planning permission, parts of the one-time London Airport at Wadden, Croydon, are to be restored, including returning the main booking-office and control-tower to the condition in which it was known to so many hundreds of thousands of passengers and air-crew, after it was opened in the late 1920s. The scheme is being funded by Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance, under the guidance of the Croydon Airport Society, whose President is Sir Peter Masefield. Waddon was a military aerodrome from 1915 and became a commercial airport, serving London in lieu of Hounslow, in 1920. We believe that the Flying Club building at Brooklands is also being preserved and no doubt this and the entire Brooklands restoration project could do with similar funding.

Present facts

By now you will have realised you have only paid 70p for your copy of Motor Sport. We have taken what we hope will prove to be a successful action and reduced the increase price by 5p. We hope you will give it your sympathetic support and help the motoring journal which has for 59 years and still does give the widest coverage at the lowest price. You could help, tremendously, by introducing Motor Sport to at least one of your friends.

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