Sir, Peter Wright (Letters, January 2013) makes the case for the Balance of Performance approach to racing, which, as he says, has become the norm. I’m afraid much has been lost by that approach. It used to be understood that racing was between types of cars; if you built or ran a car that was faster, you would have an advantage. An equal driver in the best car
would win. That’s the way it was for the first century of motor racing. To put it simply, in the 20th century we had car racing; in the 21st century we have driver racing.
In the 20th century, one of the excitements was a superior driver compensating for an inferior car and winning anyway — eg Stirling Moss and his Lotus sometimes beating the much more powerful Ferraris in 1961. Another excitement we’ve largely lost is the drama of a superior car coming along and knocking the previous champ off its pedestal, such as Ford taking Le Mans dominance from Ferrari.
The most important thing that’s disappeared is character. A GT Ferrari, Porsche and Lotus didn’t just look different from one another; they were different in their attitudes and capabilities. Sometimes a car came along that was just plain superior — such as the Ferrari GTO, Porsche 917, Porsche 962, or Jaguar XJR-14 — and racing had a new star. Note that those are the cars that are revered in racing history, the cars that draw the crowds at historic events and concours — cars that were allowed to be individual and superior.
Fortunately those days are not gone completely. In Formula 1 and WEC, Balance of Performance has not been allowed to take over completely; some cars are still better than others. We still have the drama of Alonso almost compensating for a slightly inferior Ferrari in 2012, and Vettel dominating in a superior Red Bull in 2011. It is no coincidence that these are today’s most exciting series. Steve Bleier Trumansburg, New York, USA
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