RACING AND THE PUBLIC
A BRISTOL CIRCUIT?
SOME reference has been made recently In the weekly motoring Press to a possible post-war racing circuit near Bristol. The original suggestion came from Mr. G. H. Draft, whose views were published in a letter to the Bristol Evening World of March 7th. He suggested a course using the Partway (re-surfaced), Stoke Hill, Sea Walls, down Fountain Hill, and then down Bridge Valley Road to hairpin back into the Partway. A sketch map was published, and Mr. Draft made clear the immense benefit that Bristol City could be expected to gain from holding motor-races of international repute. What followed is of interest, if only to show what we are up against from the man-in-the-street when attempting to focus public attention on the importance of establishing new road-racing circuits in this country—the opposition is astonishing in view of the part the mechanised army is playing, and has to play, in winning the war.
Mr. Draft’s letter was followed by sensible support from Mr. A. W. Morrish, of Redland, who emphasised Germany’s advantage over us in matters motoring at the commencement of the war, due to her youth being motor-minded, but, in view of the Government’s antagonism to motoring in this country, asked whether it wouldn’t be wiser to begin with a less ambitious circuit to that outlined by Mr. Draft. Mr. Morrish suggested the Downs “Ladies’ Mile” and the 200 yards of Stoke Road crossing the Downs, and thought that if sufficient support were forthcoming, the Bristol M.C. and L.C.C. would be pleased to organise the racing. Two days later Mr. F. J. Warren wrote to protest strongly against Mr. Morrish’s suggestion. His outburst contained such observations as “The Downs . . . this glorious piece of God’s own garden, perfect in its answer for the best recreation of the ordinary folk—the estate park of Bristol’s citizens—is too old-fashioned for these racing sportsmen, so we must ‘paint the lily’ and make it up to date, modern and progressive. . . . They want
something for nothing—a venue for their racing by robbing the people of their recreation. It (the Downs) should never be desecrated by speed, noise and, perhaps, casualties.” Two days later still the Bristol Evening World published a cartoon headed “Bristol Merry-Go-Round” over a poem reputed to be written by a soldier who had not heard the suggestion that part of the Downs should be used as a motor-racing circuit. The soldier dwelt on the peace of the Downs and the cartoon depicted fantastic, partially air-borne racing cars crashing in a big and multitudinous way behind a man sitting on a seat, reading a book—presumably he is Mr. Ordinary Folk. In the same issue Mr. Draft had a restrained and sensible reply to Mr. Warren, pointing out that if Bristol decides not to take advantage of a road-racing scheme, another city will, and will benefit commercially and recreationally. Mr. Walter Watkins later pointed out that other countries have taken just as “glorious pieces of God’s own garden,” and in no way harmed them with an occasional motor race. He went on to say that the West Bristol M.C. and L.C.C. is gaining valuable experience by organising motor-cycle grass track meetings this year [this is possible by using wood-alcohol fuel, and the first event was held on Easter Monday—Eu.], the proceeds from which go to Bristol’s Own Fund for prisoners of war—hardly a case of racing folk wanting something for nothing. Mr. Morrish reminded Mr. Warren that racing on the Downs would entail only sandbags and a wooden barrier once a year, and would not be anything like so disturbing as the carnivals and agricultural shows already held there. Notwithstanding, Mr. Warren wrote to display his appreciation of the anti-motorracing cartoon and expressed the opinion that arguments relating to prosperity, progress and commerce are trite and whiskered, demanding to know what all this had to do with the Downs “which is held in trust for all citizens.” He had
support from Mr. C. R. Northcliffe, of Hanham, who sarcastically suggested that racing should embrace the City’s blitzed ruins and so involve pedestrians, that air-raid shelters should be retained to give the non-motorist a chance of survival, and that parachute jumping from University tower, Spitfire flights under Suspension Bridge, and M.T.B. races up the Avon, be added. This futile correspondence finally concluded towards the end of March by Mr. F. W. Thomas, of Clifton, writing to say that in “the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century horse-racing, athletics, dancing, cricket, pugilism, bowls, rounders, and swordsmanship were enjoyed by ordinary folk on the Downs ” ; by Mr. Jarman, of Taunton, reminding us that racing “improves the breed” ; and by Mr. Morrish reminding Mr. Warren that after Dunkirk it was the motor industry which saved us from disaster, and that Germany recognised the value of motor-racing over road circuits.
We do not think that this correspondence in any way decides the future fate of Bristol’s road-racing scheme, but • it does indicate the sort of opposition to be expected from the provincial Press. Those who delight in attacking such schemes are presumably glad when night fighters are heard overhead as they cower in shelters and relieved that we won the Battle of Britain. Let them remember that, whether or not Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, our present air supremacy originated at Brooklands and Calshot. Let Mr. Warren consider Weybridge, Derby, Sydenham, Le Mans, Monaco, Boulogne, Tours, Dieppe, Pescara, before he condemns his own city to a motor-racing-less future. We understand that Mr. Morrish and fellow enthusiasts intend to return to the scheme at a more opportune time. We hope that they will then have the backing of ex-Service men and women who have seen something of Germany’s motoring might, to assist them against the opposition.