MATTERS OF MOMENT Avictim of its own sucess?, May 1994




A victim of its own success?

Consider an event which causes a jam of up to 10 miles’ standing traffic on a major dual carriageway. Could this be a Milanese football derby we’re talking about, a World Cup final perhaps, or maybe the British Grand Prix?

Think again.

It was the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton, the first of 21 races at a total of 13 TOCA meetings this year.

While the current popularity of the BTCC is good news for the sport as a whole, no part of the entertainment industry, however well supported, can afford to turn away the paying public.

The simple truth is that most British circuits lack the infrastructure to cope with five-figure crowds. Hardly surprising, when they have been accustomed, in the past, to a trickle of spectators, whatever the event. No matter how good the road networks leading to and from the vicinity of the circuit, access to the track itself is invariably via a bottleneck.

It seems strange that the Thruxton problem was apparently not foreseen; after all, there were similar scenes at Snetterton last year.

And this season, of course, the hype has increased, with snappy television advertising to back up the excellent TV coverage. And that is likely to attract those who don’t understand the nature of British circuits. Some of those who were unable to reach Thruxton assuredly won’t return, and one can’t blame them. There are, however, ways

of preventing future repeats at all venues.

It’s of little use asking people to stagger their journeys, and to arrive several hours before the racing starts, unless there is something to do once they get there. Waiting for four hours inside Thruxton would, with hindsight, have been infinitely better than spending the same time outside (and then perhaps not getting in at all), but convincing the general public of as much may require more than a brief pre-race air display and an official autograph signing session.

The fact that Thruxton is serviced only by a small access road can’t be changed overnight, but you can reduce the number of cars which need to use that road. There are several sizeable towns nearby, which have car parks that are little used on a Bank Holiday Monday. Surely it wouldn’t be too much trouble to set up a park-and-ride service? Knockhill has practised a similar scheme successfully in the past. Spreading the traffic load between a number of predetermined parking sites around the circuit perimeter and there’s no reason why these shouldn’t be 10-12 miles away would ease congestion, soothe tempers and generate goodwill. Those who blanche at the potential cost of running such a service would do well to ask themselves whether it wouldn’t be covered tenfold if an extra 5000 people (and some estimates suggest that was the number of would-be racegoers who either couldn’t, or gave up up trying to, get in) had been able to spectate at £1 2 per head. . S A