The Meeting of the Clubs
Important and useful discussion at the R.A.C.
The meeting at the R.A.C. on September 28th was a most successful and invaluable occurrence. It was called by the Competitions Committee of the R.A.C. to enable the representatives of recognised motor clubs to meet the members of the Competitions Committee and to express their opinions on divers matters appertaining to the Sport and make requests and suggestions. The Competitions Committee has long hidden its light under a bushel, and this meeting was an excellent way of showing the clubs how anxious it is to serve them and to enable the clubs to air their views as to how best they can be served. That 45 clubs took the trouble to send representatives is most gratifying — those represented are listed in the panel below. The Press was admitted, and included The Motor, The Autocar, The Light Car, Sporting Life and Motor Sport. The full Competitions Committee, with Lord Howe in the chair, faced these representatives, while Major Cole, of the R.A.C. General Committee, was present. A few other authorities were also there, including Norman Freeman, of Dunlops.
Lord Howe opened proceedings by saying that no subject was barred and anyone could speak. In 1939 the R.A.C. recognised 336 clubs, including mixed motor-cycle and car bodies. In the six months preceding the war they issued 73 permits for speed events and 188 for other events, and inspected 63 speed courses. They operated a comprehensive insurance scheme covering such events, kept a complete dossier of the successes of British drivers in races here and abroad [B.R.D.C., please copy] and authorised and kept a list of record attacks. They also ran three important events a - Rally, the Tourist Trophy race and the Veteran Car Brighton Run.
The first speaker was F/Lt. Donald Parker (E.C.C. of Great Britain), of whom we were to hear a lot more. Parker suggested that Raymond Mays should open the meeting by asserting his policy. Mays emphasised the value of motor racing, and said the Competitions Committee should move with the times and foster it all it could. He wondered, indeed, whether a separate organisation or an associate committee should not be formed to encourage racing amongst the uninitiated. Parker next rose, and in the course of a long deliverance stressed the beauty of racing as a dangerous sport, but said that before the war he could never learn where to see it. He felt motor racing should be developed as a spectacle; it was more healthy than the cinema. Racing, in fact, needed a "man from the East" to lead it on. He would like one section of the Competitions Committee to control racing and another section to promote interest in it. The publicity aspect should be faced by the C.C. V.H. Tuson (Mid-Surrey A.C.) next asked whether the C.C. could tell us what courses would be available for racing, a point also put by the Ulster A.C.'s representative.
The W. Middlesex A.M.C.C,'s man then asked the R.A.C. to attempt to get road-racing legalised in this country — it seemed "now or never."
S. C. H. Davis (B.R.D.C.) said we needed most of all somewhere to race. Would the C.C. use all its power to get Donington, Brooklands and any other courses? He expected racing tyres to be available in six to nine months, but what good would this be without courses over which to race ? The slow-motion effort, especially in respect of Brooklands, must be overcome.
Fred Craner then told us Donington is ready, but the military must be shifted. The "organised idleness" in military depots threatens to lose us our only road circuit. Would the C.C. ask all club secretaries and others to petition their M.P.s on this vital subject ?
Anthony Heal (Vintage S.C.C.) supported Davis and Craner, but questioned whether parliamentary representation should not come from the C.C. rather than from individuals.
Rivers-Fletcher ("Rembrandt" Group) suggested races on behalf of charity, as suitable courses for sprint events, etc., are owned by local councils, and they might then be proffered. L. Ballamy (750 Club) thought that steps should be taken to foster racing-mindedness in the Government and amongst the public. He pointed to the Axis countries before the war and urged the R.A.C. to rope in every motorist under one policy. We have better drivers and cars than Continental countries, and we should be encouraged. We have lost the export market on quantity but not on quality, and racing will help us to further "improve the breed." Christensen (Berkhamsted M.C. and L.C.C.) quoted the excessive motoring taxes, the raided Road Fund, etc., and said the Government should be urged to do more for us.
H. Bowler (Vintage S.C.C.) had found, the C.C. very helpful in the past. It had two headaches to cure — courses, and the obviation of congestion in the fixture list experienced pre-war. He advocated an extension of the Invitation Event, perhaps embracing twelve clubs in a single event.
N. Freeman said we needed courses as well as tyres. In the former respect we are in a very, very poor state. We should press for Donington, and for Brooldands. Can the C.C. pull the necessary strings, please? Aerodromes are normally no use, certainly not for racing events. Re tyres, this meeting was held a trifle too early for him to make a statement. But he could say that his company had held a board meeting at the instigation of France to clarify the position. France is going all out for motor racing. The revenue from the recent race at Boulogne was ten million francs. Forty-five cars competed and in practice alone they must have used up 300 tyres. These were old tyres; not a single synthetic tyre was used. We should say to him, "You will turn our tyres down!" but while he would reject dangerous tyres, he thought many might serve, at the driver's own risk. The point was, France was racing-minded. Faroux hoped to hold a Six-Hour race at Nice, the Pau G.P. is being revived, etc. [Ponder this, the most significant statement at this meeting.] The rubber position was easing, and while national transport had the priority in natural rubber tyres, racing tyres made partially of natural, partially of synthetic rubber may soon be possible — but not for full G.P. cars. Our biggest need is courses to race over.
The next speaker, Gagen, of Bicester Garrison M.C., was sensational. He told us he had the permission of the C.O. of Finmere aerodrome to run a speed event there, and only that morning had seen the Air Ministry about the matter. It seemed likely that permission would be granted. [We believe the R.A.C. has already approached the Air Ministry on this subject generally, only to receive the usual bureaucratic, evasive answer. We only hope the Bicester M.C. obtains permission to use Finmere.] Tett (Harrow C.C.) didn't give a damn what sort of racing we get providing we get it. He suggested that the C.C. might meet the S.M.M.T. before it approached the Government, and frame a racing policy that would appeal to the Motor Industry. If racing results were pooled for Trade use, we might get Trade support. What was the future of International G.P. racing?
S.H. Capon (750 Club) put in his plea for co-ordination and a realistic approach to our problems. Racing should be developed as a public spectacle.
Lord Howe then rose to reply. The R.A.C., his lordship said, encourages and develops the motor movement. He agreed with Mays on the need for a British racing team, but reminded us that a G.P. team could easily run away with a quarter of a million pounds sterling. The C.C. does organise events, as witness the T.T. On the subject of courses, Howe saw the Secretary of State for War on August 22nd last, and stressed the value of Donington from the viewpoint of the industry, cyclists and the public. He asked to be allowed to write to the Secretary of State for War and obtain his considered reply. This he read. It was to the effect that until building sites and public carriageways had been cleared of surplus military vehicles, there could be no question of clearing Donington. This would not satisfy Howe and he will send his reply after the opening of Parliament, asking that a deputation be received from the R.A.C. on this matter. So far as Brooklands was concerned, negotiation is likely between the M.A.P. and the Track's owners, but its Condition is bad and may well call for complete resurfacing. The Government may find it cheaper to purchase the Track than to repair it, and much haggling is to be expected, in which the S.M.M.T. may or may not be interested.
Howe thought aerodromes unlikely to offer a solution to present problems, because both runways and perimeter tracks are too rough for high speed, and cause excessive tyre wear. [Finmere may settle this one way or the other.] He had had eleven years in the House of Commons and thought legislation of racing on the roads of this country impossible to obtain. This is not a party matter, as he well knew from receipt of this motion in the House of Commons. Racing in the Royal parks, perhaps, but even here public opinion would probably force the Office of Works to turn down the proposal. Continental countries are poorly off for sport, and motor racing has developed in consequence — there is less desire for it here. However, we can do a lot, and the R.A.C. may even combine with the A.C.F. and hold races at Dieppe and Rheims. The C.C. would consider the desirability of this. Howe felt, nevertheless, that racing before the abolition of the basic petrol ration might lead to opposition.
Woodhouse (S.U.N.B.A.C.) requested that the C.C. encourage minor speed events, as these are the recruiting ground for racing proper. He asked the C.C. to look after trials and rallies, etc., and not concentrate entirely on racing, and for the present form of meeting to be called again in a year's time, as an inquest, as it were; or even twice a year. He felt that the R.A.C. should refrain from organising additional events — there was enough to do as it is. The classification of permits should be revised, and joint events, like their recent evening trial with the M.M.E.C., should be encouraged. Would the C.C. take counsel with clubs having vested interests in certain districts? What was being done in respect of the public parks report?
Raymond Mays now spoke again, emphasising that the large accessory manufacturers held strong views in favour of racing and would lend support. He was not clear as to the exact function of the C.C. Does it attempt to encourage the Sport or only control it? Does it encourage people to organise races or to race? Does the C.C. meet and try to attract latent resources in furthering the Sport? He had several ideas for tapping hitherto untried sources of possible support which he would be pleased to discuss with the CC. Peter Monkhouse asked for an explanation of the relationship existing between the C.C. and the General Committe of the R.A.C. We had just competed in an event costing 15 millions a day, not unsuccessfully, so surely the Government and the Trade could afford to sponsor a G.P. team if the case were put to them.
Lord Howe, in reply, read Rule 1 of the R.A.C., re encouragement of motoring. He went on to say that one of our largest manufacturers was very hostile to racing. He had, privately, obtained the opinions of all the leading car manufacturers on this matter. One or two would support sports-car races; none would support G.P. racing. He did agree with Mays on the desirability of a British G.P. team. Seven members of the C.C. are also on the General Committee, Howe stated, in reply to Monkhouse.
Monkhouse said, as the CC. may now have several very startling suggestions to put up to the General Committee, arising out of this meeting, could the attitude of the General Committee to the C.C. be clarified?
Lord Howe said, replying to Woodhouse, that the R.A.C. does try to "telescope" events. Someone suggested that the A.C.U. "group" events be copied, and Capt. Phillips said an extension of the Invitation Trial would cover this point and could for the time being embrace 15 or 20 clubs. It was a matter of "give and take."
Monkhouse now requested Lord Howe to answer his point. He gave an example: If, for instance, the C.C. wished to approach the Government and press for road racing in this country, would they be allowed to do so direct, or would they have to do so through the General Committee. Capt. Phillips said that in 1924 the C.C. asked the General Committee to stand the expense of a Bill in the House of Commons to sanction road racing. This Bill was blocked. The C.C. tried again in 1925. Again the Bill was blocked. The idea came from the C.C., was supported by the General Committee, and the necessary finance came from the General Committee. It really amounts to the General Committee delegating to this expert committee the job of looking after matters pertaining to the Sport.
F/Lt. Toulmin supported Woodhouse, especially in calling for this meeting annually. He would suggest a trials and a racing session in the late summer of 1946. He hoped the CC would maintain a continuous publicity campaign on behalf of the Sport. The value of competition motoring to the war effort should be emphasised — the German Army held reliability trials, both car and motor-cycle, for years before hostilities commenced, whereas the British Army only decided to do so six months beforehand, and then only for motor-cycles. [Forgetting Dunkirk, the bright British public will doubtless retort that even so, we won, didn't we!]. The daily Press should be approached. [We believe Capt. Phillips recently obtained some worthwhile Press, support for a sprint event.]
White (Liverpool M.C.) put the important point that the rules for car trials should be identical with those for A.C.U. events, to facilitate the work of the mixed clubs running combined car and motor-cycle trials. Ballamy thought this opportunity of putting on record our feelings was very much worth while. Surely the position was not so hopeless? The C.C. must start a definite campaign in the House of Commons and obtain support from the Industry and the public. The R.A.C.should give us a lead as to how we can, individually, approach the Industry and the Press and write to our M.P.s.
Lord Howe would, he said, wish to see the wording of any petition the C.C. might draw up. He thought Ballamy was pushing an open door. The R.A.C. is doing its level best. On the matter of the Dower Report, which sought to establish public parks and prohibit motoring at Buxton, the Lake District, and the north-west coasts of Devon and Cornwall, action would be taken. On the racing side, he, Guinness, Bertram, Martin, etc., would do all they could. He felt if we waited we should not be disappointed. Parker then dropped a bombshell. The members of the C.C., he said, were so thick-skinned he was obliged to get to his feet again. They could not drive racing cars and they were all old men. Youth was needed to get something done, and he wanted to see a new committee, or new members on the existing committee to ginger up these old men. (Laughter and confusion.) S. C. H. Davis said he would take Parker on in any car and thrash him, and felt Guinness and Bertram could do the same. He agreed youth had drive, and he had never failed to encourage young men. But they wanted guiding, or they would break their necks! Col. Brown, as the oldest member of the C.C., replied to Parker's remarks in a charming speech. He was there to help and he greatly enjoyed helping, but he would retire as soon as he was asked to do so, and the C.C. intended to elect younger members, in any case. (Both Davis and Col. Brown were loudly applauded.)
Lund (M.M.E.C.) asked for Sunday events, special races for amateurs with an annual championship, either abolition of entry fees or lower entry fees, zoning of the clubs, and a radio and Press publicity campaign. He asked if Mays would form a separate sub-committee of the C.C. for the last-named purpose and run it for the R.A.C.? Someone then suggested that the C.C. should be empowered to co-opt anyone from the hall at this meeting, if it becomes an annual affair. [As it must.] Flather (Sheffield and Hallamshire C.C.) wanted to see more trials and motor-cycle representatives on the C.C. George Symonds asked a personal question of Leslie Wilson : "Are we going to have a Shelsley Walsh meeting in 1946?" "Yes!" from Wilson. "Then I am quite satisfied with this meeting," retorted Symonds. (Loud and prolonged clapping.)
The Royal Scottish A.C.'s representative then announced a rally for 1946, and was assured of R.A.C.'s support, if petrol rationing permits the event. Lord Howe said the C.C. would meet in a week's time to discuss the many points raised. It co-opts its own members and realises that it should represent all sections of the Sport. Marcus Chambers (Vintage S.C.C.) said the clubs do not know all that the R.A.C. does for them, and suggested the issue to secretaries of a news-bulletin. [We heartily agree.] Capon asked how the decisions arising from the meeting would be heard, and Lord Howe said he did not know how Capon would hear, but a report would, of course, be put out.
Morgan (E.C.C. of G.B.) thought new blood on the C.C. desirable and asked when they last co-opted a new member. Answer: in 1939, when Leslie Wilson was elected. Someone wanted three members of the C.C. to be persons elected by the clubs' representatives, and Craner then asked Lord Howe how he felt about a petition to M.P.s on behalf of Donington. Lord Howe said a petition always went into the waste-paper basket, but if individuals wrote to their M.P.s much good might be done.
The Brighton and Hove M.C.'s representative said a big rally of manufacturers was due at Brighton in 1946, and his club hoped to run the Brighton Speed Trials in conjunction therewith. [Good news.] The Brighton and Hove Council seemed likely to give every encouragement to this project. That concluded the meeting. Lord Howe thanked the club representatives for coming, and Heal thanked the R.A.C. for calling them together. We now await the findings of the Competitions Committee with keen anticipation. By calling this gathering the R.A.C. has exhibited in practical form its desire to do its best for the Sport. For our part we are convinced that it is the only body fit to control the Sport, and we do not think the Competitions Committee will let us down. If it does err in any respect, the clubs' representatives will have every opportunity of putting on record their wishes and of seeing that they are granted, in so far as the R.A.C. is able to grant them. Nothing could be fairer than that, and the meeting of September 28th must be counted as an excellent happening in every way. Let us hope for another meeting between the Competitions Committee and the clubs in six or twelve months' time.
The following letter has been sent by the R.A.C. to each of the clubs which sent representatives to the meeting. This has been received too late for Editorial comment to be added, but we hope to return to this subject very shortly:—
October 9th, 1945.
I have pleasure in enclosing brief notes of the meeting between members of the Competitions committee and representatives of clubs, which was held, at the R A.C. on Friday, September 28th, 1945. You will, of course, realise that this must necessarily be short, and in no way a verbatim report.
As promised by the chairman, the Competitions Committee (which met on Thursday last, October 4th) has given its most careful consideration to the various points raised in the discussion and has already taken action on these points.
The suggestion put forward that an informal meeting between the Competitions Committee and club representatives should be an annual affair was considered, and it was decided that a conference should be called at some convenient date during the autumn of 1946, prior to the compilation of the 1947 fixture list.
Efforts will be made to bring into line the general competition rules of the R.A.C. and A.C.U., and for this purpose Mr. L. A. Baddeley, Mr. Lionel Martin and Mr. H. J. Morgan were appointed as members of a joint sub-committee. The Competitions Committee of the Auto-Cycle Union has been approached, and has appointed Mr. V. Anstice, Mr. M. D. Ball and Mr. B. Marians as its members of that sub-committee.
Those representatives who were present at the conference will be aware of the action which the Competitions Committee is taking to obtain the early release of Brooklands and Donington; Since the conference further efforts have been made.
Steps have already been taken to obtain permission to use W.D. ground, much of which is eminently suitable for reliability trials, scrambles, etc.
The report on national Parks in England and Wales by John Dower has, as was explained at the conference, received the consideration of a sub-committee appointed to deal with the matter, and appropriate action has been taken to get the very strong views of the R.A.C. and A.C.U. properly represented.
The question of general publicity for motor racing as a national sport was considered, and it was agreed that the best type of publicity was the holding of races with the consequent reports and comments that appear in the Press. During the war, with a complete cessation of motor racing, there has naturally been a total absence of such reports. With a revival of racing in this country and abroad, motor racing news will reappear, and as courses become available and the number of fixtures grows there is every reason to expect that motor racing will receive its fair share of publicity in the national and provincial Press. The extent of such publicity before the war was impressive. This is probably not appreciated by those who had no experience of pre-war racing conditions.
The Competitions Committee has considered very carefully the possihility of launching a propaganda campaign in favour of a programme of Grand Prix races, and the construction and formation of a British team of racing cars to compete in such events in all parts of the world.
The committee feels that it would do more harm than good to initiate such a campaign until there is a reasonable prospect of its success. It is not thought that manufacturers would be prepared, or be in a position, to delay or impede their programmes to undertake the research, experimental and constructional work which would be entailed, nor is it thought that the personnel required could readily be made available at present. At the same time, it is intended to keep the whole question under very careful review, and to take action at the earliest possible moment that it appears to be advisable and practicable.
The Competitions Committee wishes me to re-affirm the chairman's statement that it found the conference of very great assistance, and to thank representatives — many of whom came from a considerable distance — for attending. It is hoped that in 1946, when clubs have had an opportunity of becoming re-established, the meeting will be even more representative of Motor Sport in all branches.
G. L. Samuelson.
Meeting between R.A.C. Competitions Committee and Club Representatives at the R.A.C., on Friday, September 28th, 1945.
Berkharnsted M.C. and C.C.
Brighton and Hove M.C.
Bicester Garrison M.C.
Bristol M.C. and L.C.C.
Bugatti Owners' Club.
Derby and D.M.C.
Enthusiasts' C.C. of G.B.
Frazer-Nash and B.M.W.
Harrow Car Club Junior Car Club.
Light Car Club.
M.G. Car Club.
Middlesbrough and D.M.C.
North London M.C.
North-West London M.C.
Riley M.O. Road-Racing Club.
Royal Scottish AM.
Scottish Sporting C.C.
Sheffield and Hallamshire C.C.
S.S. Car Club.
Standard Car O.C.
Veteran Car Club.
Vintage Sports C.C.
West of England M.C.
West Middlesex A.M.C.C.
Yorkshire Sports C.C.