The Sportscar World Championship was confirmed by FISA on January 20, but it was a touch-and-go matter. President Mosley asked the World Council to vote by telex on a proposal to run the SWC without precondition, and he got a substantial majority.
In effect, he asked the World Council to overturn two major decisions taken as recently as December 5 (a) not to insist on a minimum of 20 cars registered for the full World Championship, and (b) to drop the clause making recognised manufacturers responsible for any failures to attend a race, even if they were also-rans.
Between December 20, when Mosley resolutely insisted that “it’s up to the teams to comply with the World Council rulings” and January 2, when he said “it would be a shame to cancel the World Championship with 13 serious contenders” the FISA president performed a massive about-turn, and we may never know why. One can assume that he yielded to pressure from Peugeot and Toyota, although he denies that. More likely he and Bernie Ecclestone belatedly recognised the facts of life in 1992, that you don’t simply cancel a championship in the middle of a deep, worldwide recession. Peugeot, Toyota, Mazda, TWR-Jaguar and Lola have invested massive amounts of money in the series and thousands of jobs would have been at stake, not only within the teams but at suppliers like Goodyear, Michelin, Brembo, AP, Cosworth and Judd.
“I don’t think in the current economic climate that we should cancel anything,” said Mosley on January 20. “We’ve got to try to keep everything together until the recession is over, then build upon a strong basis.” It’s a pity, some would say, that ‘Ecclesley’ didn’t think that way on November 11, the day of the infamous meeting when the Sportscar World Championship was seemingly voted out of existence. For the next two months nobody involved in Group C racing had any idea what to think, sponsors were lost, and the loss of confidence was most harmful.
The guessing game went on between January 2 and January 20. Were they playing Tom-and-Jerry with teams? Were they window dressing, so that they could tell everyone how they tried to keep the World Championship in existence? Now we have a World Championship in 1992. The series just scraped over the bar, and we may see 20 entries in total (13 World Championship, seven in the FIA Cup). What about 1993, though? Will the sports car teams have to go through this agony again next winter? In the winters of 1989, 1990 and 1991 Jean-Marie Balestre was giving the Automobile Club de l’Ouest the heat treatment and on Le Mans depended the health of the SWC and in 1991-2 we have sweated over the very existence of the championship. The private teams were driven to the brink of bankruptcy by the awful economics of the business, then Mosley pronounced the RIP in November saying that Group C “committed suicide”. ‘Murder’ would have been a truer verdict, had the victim not responded to life support treatment.
In an unguarded moment Mosley disclosed that the Mexicans have budgeted £2 million to put on what may be a very thinly attended World Championship race on September 13, as he explained why it would be “too expensive for them” to invite the IMSA cars from America and make up a decent grid. Of course, as Mosley says, it is a very expensive business to put on a World Championship round – FISA will allocate the teams $3,000 per car, perhaps $50,000 altogether, one-fortieth of the Mexican budget! Heaven knows how much the poor organisers, the OMDAI organisation, might have budgeted if the teams, which actually provide the show, were paid properly! Even a modest budget for a two-car team crossing the Atlantic to Mexico is slightly in excess of $250,000, and this sum has to be found entirely out of sponsorship or a private purse . . . as it will, again, for Suzuka, and for Autopolis if that event is added to the calendar.
The future of the Sportscar World Championship will not be assured until FISA addresses this problem in a realistic manner, and lets go of the purse-strings. The handling of finance remains a scandal, because the SWC needs private teams to ensure its survival. Dish out some real money, make the private teams feel welcome, and the World Championship will make a full recovery.
SWC inscriptions at January 20: Peugeot, two cars; RM Motor-sport Jaguar, two cars; TOM’S Toyota, two cars; Euro Racing Lola, two cars; BRM, two cars; Citra-Sport Allard, two cars; Mazda, one car (total 13).
FIA Cup inscriptions: RM Motorsport Jaguar, two cars: Chamberlain, one Spice; Randaccio, one Spice; ALD, one car; Argo, one car; Morno Gebhardt, one car (total seven).
Sportscar World Championship dates (somewhat revised since last month’s MOTOR SPORT went to press): April 26, Monza (500 km); May 10, Silverstone (500 km); June 20/21, Le Mans 24 Hours; July 19, Donington (1,000km); August 30, Suzuka (1,000 km); September 13, Mexico (1,000 km); October 4, Jerez (500 km); October 18, Magny-Cours (500 km).