ON THE FUTURE OF THE SPORT
THE future of the Sport is terribly difficult to foresee at present, but at least we know that ” Jackie ” Masters, Leslie Wilson, Fred Craner and H. J. Morgan are reasonably optimistic, so there is every reason to hope for an early resumption of M.C.C. trials, Shelsley Walsh, Donington Mid J.C.C. events after hostilities cease. What many people seem more concerned about are the bigger issues, such as whether Britain will build a G.P. team, whether public roads in this country will be closed for racing, what the International G.P. formula will be, and whether the R.A.C. Competitions Committee will arouse itself to defend the Sport, in its many aspects, from wilful interference by the lay public and the Government. In an attempt to sort out these things, Raymond Mays took the chair at the M.M.E.C.’s Birmingham meeting. We felt that on that occasion too many inexperienced people were attempting to take too great a burden on their shoulders and we said so—which has shocked rather a lot of people. So it seems necessary to briefly consider what has happened since.
Capt. Phillips, secretary of the R.A.C. Competitions Committee, expressed pleasure on hearing that the Birmingham meeting was to be called, but could not attend in person. In a letter to Raymond Mays he stated that he was interested to note a re-occurrence of the phrase, “National recognition of motoring Sport in this country,” and was aware that this aim was part of a resolution made at a ” Rembrandt ” luncheon. Phillips felt that prior to the war our Sport was as nationally recognised as any other. He recalled the occasion when the present King, when Duke of York, entered one of his own motor-cycles for a race at Brooklands, and remarked that the Duke of Windsor and the late Duke of Kent not infrequently visited the Track. He also reminded Mays that the Governor, the Prime Minister and leading members of the Government invariably patronised the T.T. in N. Ireland, and that Ramsay MacDonald, when Prime Minister, attended that race. Although motorracing did not obtain the same amount of publicity as horse-racing, Phillips felt we were building up a bigger newspaper public and getting more space every year up to the war. After the Birmingham meeting Mays replied to Capt. Phillips, and said that at that meeting it was resolved that : (1) The chairman be asked to write to the R.A.C. asking them (a) to circularise all known motoring organisations, (b) to ask these organisations to consider and report their views as to what steps should be taken to further the interests of post-war motoring Sport, and (c) to convene a meeting of representatives of these organisations to discuss the views put forward. (2) The R.A.C. be asked to receive a deputation from the M.M.E.C. to explain the views put forward at the Birmingham meeting. Mays expressed strongly his opinion that Capt. Phillips and the R.A.C. Competitions Committee were the rightful and only body to hear, discuss and further any such views. In
answer to these proposals, Capt. Phillips replied to Mays on December 13th, 1944, stating that he was fully aware of the extent of interest in motoring Sport by all classes of the community, and reminding those concerned that the R.A.C. had controlled the Sport in a wise and flexible manner for ten years prior to the outbreak of war with little in the way of criticism. Phillips thought Mays could rest assured that the R.A.C. would encourage the Sport to the greatest possible extent in the postwar period and exercise control to assist the Sport, and not hinder it. However, Phillips felt that the Competitions Committee could not comply with the suggestions passed at the Birmingham meeting. His reasons were that so many clubs were in a state of suspension that a fair cross-section of opinion would not be forthcoming, and that it would not be practical to circularise “all the motoring organisations” because such bodies as the A.A. have no interest in the Sport and would never be consulted by the R.A.C. in this matter. The Competitions Committee would not be able to receive a deputation because so many of its mem.: bers were away on Service. Phillips felt that the fullest possible discussion and ventilation of opinions regarding postwar motoring Sport could only be achieved when all who are desirous of joining in such discussion are free to do so.
Raymond Mays considered that this reply was not entirely satisfactory, and in a further letter to Capt. Phillips, dated January 18th, 1945, suggested that some discussion should occur right away. He emphasised that demobilisation is likely to last several years: and that enthusiasts in the Forces expected their interests to be protected by immediate action. Mays pointed out that quite a number of clubs were still active, and anxious to put their ideas and views before the Competitions Committee. He referred to a recent report in the Press that Alfa-Romeo had some potent racing cars ready for postwar racing, and said that people were questioning why a conquered country should be so prepared, and asking : “What is England going to do about it ? ” In conclusion, Mays particularly asked that a small deputation of the M.M.E.C. be allowed to meet the Competitions Committee. To this Capt. Phillips replied, on January 26th, that before the suggested deputation could be received by his Committee, the Committee itself would first have to meet to give its consent. Congestion of work and shortage of staff at the R.A.C. made this quite impossible at present. There was, he declared, no lack of interest in the Sport, but more topical matters, such as taxation, petrol rationing and war-time regulations, were keeping the R.A.C. fully occupied. That, then, is all that has so far been achieved. In attempting to take an impartial view of the matter one cannot overlook Raymond Mays’s anxiety to help, in every way possible, to put the future of the Sport on a sound footing. He seeks to do this because so many enthusiasts in the Forces have requested it. The M.M.E.C. has come to realise that °pit ions more influential than its own, or at least a complete consensus of opinion, are needed before anything of value can be achieved. Through Mays it has made a suggestion to the R.A.C. as to how this might be done. The R.A.C. has replied that nothing can be done at present. On the one hand we have the excellent record of the R.A.C. Competitions Committee in controlling the Sport in this country before the war—for far longer than the ten years modestly mentioned by Phillips. We have never failed to emphasise the need for such control. On the other hand, lots of people feel that the Sport will get a very raw deal after the war unless a firm stand is taken, and, naturally, they look to the R.A.C. to take this stand
Capt. Phillips is the only person who can know whether or not the Competitions Committee can be called together at the present time, and he says emphatically that it cannot. We feel rather distressed, however, at the trend of his arguments. We believe that some 50 per cent. at least of the Competitions Committee are not in the Forces. We are aware that Royalty and high Government officials have often visited motor races—Capt. Phillips omitted to mention the visit of the present King, when Duke of York, and H.M. the Queen, to Brooklands in 1932—but do not forget that a single unfortunate accident killed the T.T. in Ireland. Whether Press support was increasing up to the war is debatable, for the Sport got an excellent Press in the early twenties, when even small meetings were usually well written-up. As an aside, racing cars always have attracted Fleet Street, and we recall a headline : “Husband of Famous Lady Racing: Driver Threatens ‘Bus Driver,” and another : “Racing Ace Instructs Army.” In the first case the lady concerned had driven a Peugeot at Brooldand.s on very isolated occasions many years earlier than the incident reported, and in the latter the person referred to had won one race at Brooklands in a Morris-Cowley, again many moons ago. Phillips was probably right in deciding that nothing much would be achieved by circularising all the clubs at the present time, but his allusion to the A.A. seems entirely irrelevant. It does seem as if the R.A.C. prefers to wait and watch, rather than evolve and adopt a policy which will ensure a fair deal for the Sport when hostilities cease. It has been suggested that fresh blood on the Competitions Committee would do a lot of good, and Phillips himself has expressed a favourable view of such a development. Unfortunately, membership of this Committee, like the Jockey Club, is by invitation. True, the members come up for re-election annually by the main committee ef the R.A.C., hut as this committee has little interest in sporting matters, there is little hope of voluntary election of this “fresh blood.” Ordinary members of the R.A.C., and members of the various clubs for whose events the R.A.C. issued Permits, have no means of electing new members to the controlling body of the Sport. The main committee of the R.A.C. has recently been enlarged to the extent of ten new members, amongst whom are Lt.-Col. A. T. Goldie Gardner, M.C., and Mr. Geoffrey Smith. Is it too much to hope that these gentlemen will press strongly for new members on the Competitions Committee ? We have never suggested that the R.A.C. is the wrong body to have national control of the Sport. But we are beginning to feel that it should wake up and take active steps to further the interests of the Sport in all its forms. How this can be accomplished without calling a meeting of the Competitions Committee it is difficult to see. It is comforting to know that, if a decision is required of the Committee on a major issue, and there is considerable difference of opinion, a vote is taken,
because, as at present constituted, of its 16 members we consider that well over half of them are fitted to take a sane view of any sensible requirements put forward by the younger generation. The problem is, how to present these requirements to these gentlemen. Capt. Phillips is very busy. He correctly decided that the M.M.E.C. was not a sufficiently experienced body to meet the Competitions Committee for the purpose of discussing matters of major policy. But he has always expressed himself very willing to consider new ideas, and has assured us that his Committee is receptive to outside influence. So the next step seems to be to convene a meeting between the R.A.C. and a body of recognised authorities, composed of experienced organisers, racing drivers who have represented this country abroad, and future competitors, who are anxious to settle now such things as the next G.P. formula proposals, how to obtain racing over public roads of this country, the need for Class I in club events, the trials position, etc. We have put a suggestion along these lines to Raymond Mays, who is keenly interested. At the time of going to Press he is putting it before the sub-committee he appointed in Birmingham, for their consideration.