Another Unjust Tax
Many people who spectate at speed venues this year will grumble at the admission prices they will be required to pay. Consequently, rather than take sides, or try to determine whether or not the crowds that pack the terraces above the Madeira Drive at Brighton, line up in their hundred-thousands behind the linked arms of voluntary marshals at Silverstone, or who crowd the paling fences at Prescott, Shelsley Walsh, Goodwood and similar places to watch the fine sport of motor racing and sprinting represent a substantial profit to organisers, we feel disposed to give further publicity to a matter which the B.A.R.C. has already aired in an editorial in its March Gazette. This is the matter of Entertainments Tax as it affects motor racing.
Did you know that your Government takes a mere 8d. on every 5s. admission money earned by the promoters of football matches, but that whenever the organisers of a motor race or speed event, or for that matter of any “trial of speed of animals, vehicles, motor vessels or aircraft” receives 5s. in gate money, he is obliged to hand over 2s. 6d. in Entertainments Duty? If you were not aware of this, ponder it when you hand over 30s. for a grandstand seat which might otherwise have cost you 15s. 8d., or when you pay 10s. to stand, very likely in oilskins under an umbrella, in an enclosure to which the admission charge could have been 5s. 8d. Indeed, the motor race organiser might well have been a decent chap and knocked off the odd pence. As it is, he has to double any return he deems essential to solvency, success or profit in order to pay the Piper — and, as a car owner, you should be fully alive to the fact that the Piper also has 9d. on every gallon of fuel you buy, 25s. for every rated horse-power of pre-1947 cars, imposes a severe purchase tax on the price of new pleasure cars after limiting their use to a microscopic 90 miles a month, and makes you pay the fee if a doctor is called to any case in which your car is involved, regardless of the Law entirely exonerating the driver from blame. He even requires a driving licence to be renewed (mit cash) every three months unless you have passed the official driving test, to do which you join a long queue.
Reverting to Entertainments Duty as it applies to speed events, it should not be forgotten that a specially-reduced rate came into force in June last year applicable to all games and sports except those we have referred to above
It may be some small consolation that this horse-minded, horse-age Government has not released horse racing from the 50 per cent. tax. But is shows poor appreciation of the industry that last year led the Export Drive to impose such a heavy burden on those who wish to see motor cars race, for such spectators constitute a large proportion of the persons engaged in the motor industry and its subsidiary trades and others who use its products for their business and their pleasure. It may even be argued that the proud position occupied to-day by at least 50 per cent. of our motor car manufacturers can to some extent be credited to publicity for their products gained by letting large numbers of people see their cars in action in past conpetition events. Nor is it only the spectator who is affected, for the lower the admission charges the bigger the “gate,” and the bigger the gate the more likelihood there is of reduced entry fees or better prize money for those who engage in the costly sport and science of motor racing. In this present age, alas, more and more restrictions are being imposed on certain sections of the community. If you resent the 50 per cent. Entertainments Duty peculiar to motor racing and other demonstrations of speed a letter to your M.P. may do more good than you might imagine.
The Success of Goodwood
The feature of an Easter crowded with sporting events was undoubtedly the success of the B.A.R.C. meeting at the Goodwood circuit. A really large assembly of spectators attended, and the racing, still to some extent experimental, can be written down as highly satisfactory. Some criticism has been heard, but, remembering the many storms that Brooklands Track had to weather in the course of a useful life of over thirty years, the Duke of Richmond and Gordon need have few qualms about his new circuit which he intends shall replace Brooklands.
It is true that a small section of the crowd invaded the track, but the Duke’s handling of the situation was masterful in the extreme, and those who demanded the return of their entrance money were immediately granted a request that would have availed them nothing, under similar circumstances, at a packed football match or horse-race meeting. Actually, it seems likely that this unsportsmanlike invasion of the course was largely the action of persons who had not paid anything to see the racing.
Unquestionably Parnell’s handling of the Scuderia Ambrosiana 4 CLT/48 Maserati was one of the high-lights of the day, and how much that car had in hand was indicated by the way it lapped progressively faster as the opposition increased — Parnell’s first new lap record was at 86.4 m.p.h., which he increased subsequently to 87.1 m.p.h. This establishes Goodwood as faster than was Donington or any other English circuit. Other performances that shone with brilliance were the victories of Dudley Folland’s Ferrari and of Frank Kennington’s Cisitalia on the initial appearance of these cars in racing, and 19-year-old Stirling Moss’ win in his V-twin Cooper, undaunted by his recent spell in hospital. But the show which Peter Whitehead put up in his 18-year-old E.R.A. on his first appearance in racing since his injury in an aeroplane accident, in finishing second to Parnell in the Richmond Trophy Race, was perhaps the most commendable drive of all, and one which made the performance of many far more modern cars fade into comparative insignificance. Harrison, too, drove splendidly to finish third in this race in his elderly E.R.A., and Tony Rolt and Denis Poore handled their Alfa-Romeos with spirit.
These short Brooklands-style races please spectators and competitors alike and certainly much of the anxiety experienced on account of the loss of’ Brooklands has been appeased by the advent of Goodwood.
– And a Wise Decision
As we state above, the Easter Goodwood Meeting was a success from the viewpoint of the competitors and the majority of the spectators. But some people in the public enclosures and in the lower tiers of the grandstands have since complained of not having been able to see the racing, and these complaints, coupled with the fact that the fencing proved inadequate to quell the invasion of a hooligan element, have caused the B.A.R.C. to announce that its Whit-Monday fixture is cancelled. Improvements are to be put in hand but these will take time, and the next Goodwood meeting will not take place until September.
This must have been a hard decision for the organisers to make, but it is a wise one. If any criticism of the B.A.R.C. is justified, it is that, after telling its members that sports-car racing must be forgotten until motor-racing had been popularised, it was not prepared for the public support it received on Easter Monday. As a result, a proportion of the crowd left with a vow never to visit another motor race.
Brooklands was called snobbish because it professed to cater for the “Right crowd and no crowding” — but if you are going to bring the masses to a motor-race you must be certain that they can be accommodated properly and that you have control of them. How sensible were the spiked iron railings which Locke King had erected at Brooklands way back in 1906 — and over which, to our knowledge, the crowd only once intruded, and then only to a localised extent. In fairness to Goodwood, however, it must be admitted that those who go to, but see little of, races like the Derby or the Grand National do not complain to the organisers or expect their money back, while certainly the attendance at British motor races is increasing. Thirty thousand spectators used to constitute a “big day” at Brooklands, whereas 40,000 or more went to Goodwood, and over 100,000 to Silverstone last October. With the best will in the world organisers cannot be expected to cope with a crowd double or treble that which they expected to turn up, yet, especially when they have burnt rationed petrol to attend, those who are unable to get a good view from approved vantage points are apt to penetrate elsewhere. An accident involving spectators is to be avoided at all costs, but it must be remembered that anyone who disobeys officials or is obviously trespassing is in a negative position from a legal standpoint if he or she is involved in an accident. On two separate occasions cars at Brooklands unfortunately fatally injured spectators in the enclosures, but that did not lead to a cessation of British motor racing.
We can expect better spectator facilities and stronger fences at Goodwood next September. Meanwhile, we now see no good reason why B.A.R.C. members, many of whom staunchly paid their subscriptions throughout the quiescent war years should not be allowed a club meeting at Goodwood on Whit-Monday providing the public is not admitted. It will be a thousand pities if this excellent circuit lies idle throughout the summer months, and members of the B.A.R.C. should press John Morgan strongly for a resumption of those enjoyable club races and high-speed trials which were a feature of J.C.C. programmes pre-war and also for day-to-day testing facilities such as existed at Brooklands for a quarter-of-a-century.
British Grand Prix Prospects
From amateur (and exceedingly good) short-distance racing at Bristol and “professional” short-distance racing at Goodwood, thoughts turn to long-distance racing, one’s appetite for the R.A.C.’s 300-mile British Grand Prix at Silverstone effectively whetted by the B.A.R.C. race at Jersey.
Long-distance racing has a particular appeal, enabling spectators to study the tactics of rival equipes and to watch skilled work in the pits and it will be interesting to see whether last year’s splendid six-figure attendance at Silverstone is repeated on May 14th.
As we close for press, entries include: — Parnell and Ashmore (Maseratis), Whitehead with a “works” G.P. Ferrari, possibly some additional “works” Ferraris, Villoresi (Maserati), Chiron (Talbot), Mathieson (E-Type E.R.A.), Mays with an unspecified car, Gerard’s, Ansell’s and Walker’s E.R.A.s, R. Ansell’s Maserati, etc. The Alfa-Romeos will not run.
LETTERS, October 1951
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