Matters of Moment, May 1985

Birmingham Street Race

We must congratulate Martin Hone and his team of supporters on the fact that the reading of the Bill to allow road racing in Birmingham received an overwhelming majority in the commons. We are proud to have played some small part in this success for Sir Reginald Eyre, proposing the Bill, included in his speech our last editorial on the subject.

The Bill does not open the floodgates to road racing in Britain, which would be to the detriment of the permanent circuits whose work is too important to be undermined. The Bill is specific to Birmingham and any other city wishing such a race would have to steer through its own Bill. We oppose a proliferation of such races because they would undermine the permanent circuits. The Bill does not allow a Grand Prix to take place for, if passed, it will enable the streets to be closed for only two days a year and a Grand Prix meeting covers three days. A Grand Prix in Birmingham would require a separate Bill, and that is something we would oppose because a street Grand Prix would put nothing back into the bedrock of the sport, the permanent circuits. We believe that a successful Birmingham meeting will attract unprecedented attention and many spectators new to the sport, and so will benefit both the permanent circuits and the RACSMA, though neither party seems to have the imagination to see it.

The Toleman Affair

In common with other magazines, MOTOR SPORT has received letters from readers expressing frustration and outrage over the likely withdrawal of Toleman from F1 because of a lack of tyres. We share those sentiments for we have friends in the team and are not only appalled that we may be unable to see Stefan Johansson and John Watson drive Rory Byrne’s beautiful TG185 but we feel, too, for the mechanics and others who have moved their families to Witney and whose future employment is now uncertain.

Some of the letters called for a boycott of Goodyear and Pirelli road tyres and, at first glance, the tyre companies seem to be the culprits and such a boycott would at least give vent to the feelings. Unfortunately, the politics of Formula One are such that nothing should be taken at face value. The truth behind so many stories in present-day motor racing is stranger than any fiction writer would dare to guess at.

Only a handful of people know the truth behind the affair and none of us in motor racing journalism is included in that number. When the truth emerges, we will print it. When all of us have the facts, then is the time to launch campaigns and boycotts, if they are likely to be fruitful. The issue is not dead, we shall be keeping a watching brief on it. In the meantime, nobody should jump to conclusions. Very little in F1 is what it appears on the surface, which is one reason why it is so fascinating.

Motorway Madness

Those of us who regularly use the motorways cannot have been surprised that, on Good Friday, the M1 claimed a new record, Britain’s first 40 mile traffic jam. We were not surprised because there are so many incompetent drivers using the motorway system.

The trouble is that once a driver has passed a test, almost always conducted in a town at under 30 mph, he is then allowed free rein anywhere. The driving test is now 50 years old and the conditions which existed in 1935 bear no relationship to conditions which exist in 1985.

The police must share a small part of the blame for its patrols seem to concentrate on being punitive, not on being preventative. Drive at over 100 mph on a deserted motorway at 5am one clear summer morning and you can lose your licence. Drive in fog without headlights at 60 mph bare feet away from the vehicle in front ( like a criminal lunatic, an accident waiting to happen) and nobody will turn a hair — until interviewed on television later.

Holding a driving licence should not be regarded as a right but as a privilege. Like all privileges it should be worked and paid for. Learner drivers are banned from motorways but after 30 minutes of successfully negotiating town traffic, they are deemed to be as qualified as a driver of 20 years, or more, experience. Those of us who care about our driving standards, and who give thought to them, know that something must be done to improve matters. We would welcome readers’ suggestions on how driving standards can be improved without making the cost of obtaining a licence prohibitive.

Spen King retires

Spen King, CBE, whose name has become synonymous with the Rover marque has retired after 40 years with BL and its predecessor companies. His first major involvement was with the pioneering Rover gas turbine car, JET 1 and was thereafter closely associated with all Rover and Triumph models up to the mid-’70s whereupon he became Director of Engineering and Development (1975) and vice-chairman of BL Technology (1979), leading the team developing ECV 1, 2,3 concept cars.

Readers are reminded that Motor 100, a celebration of the centenary of the motor car, takes place at Silverstone on May 25th, 26th and 27th, 10 am to 6.30 pm. Admission is £5 while children under 16, accompanied by an adult, go in free.