Matters of Moment, November 1984
Matters of Moment
The Birmingham Grand Prix
THE organisers of the Chequer Bitter Classic, the parade of racing cars and drivers around the streets of Birmingham, have called the event “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”. No motor racing enthusiast who attended could possibly disagree. Fangio in a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, Moss in a Maserati 250F, Brooks in a Vanwall, de Graffenried in an Alfa Romeo Tipo 159. . . it was a feast for the eye and ear, an orgy of nostalgia.
The organisers are to be congratulated for once again attracting the cream of drivers and cars. An estimated crowd of over 250,000 lined the route and for many it would have been their first glimpse of a real racing car. It was taking the sport to the people in the tradition of the days when cars and drivers would descend on a town in Europe for an annual race around the streets. The next move of the organisers is to apply to Parliament to run a proper race around the circuit. The idea of a real road race on the British mainland has been a dream of many for years and we hope the organisers will be successful.
In our view, though, talk of a Grand Prix is ill-advised. It would doubtless bring glamour and excitement to Birmingham but what would it do for British motor racing? The revenue generated by the races at Silverstone and Brands Hatch help keep those circuits operating for racing and testing throughout the year. Everyone in British motor racing can enjoy first rate facilities partly because those circuits host a Grand Prix.
Donington must take precedence over a Birmingham Grand Prix for exactly the same reason. There are, however, other categories which would satisfy both those of us who want to see road racing and also the broad aims of the Birmingham organisers. ETC, WEC, F3000 are all forms of racing which might suit the circuit, bring in vast crowds, delight those of us who would like to see street racing, and not affect the economic balance of the sport.
Veteran Car Run, November 4th
THAT unique event, the RAC London-Brighton Run for pre-1905 cars, will happen again on Sunday November 4th, when over 300 such vehicles owned by members of the Veteran CC of Great Britain and those of similar clubs in other countries all over the World, will set off on this, for many, long and adventurous journey. This is essentially the Day-of-the-Primitives, gaining significance with the approach of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the homeless carriage. The manner in which the automobile developed can be seen and heard on this November Sunday as nowhere else, as this great cavalcade of veterans takes to the road. Some of the later 1902-1904 models can be quite fast and sophisticated, like the Mercedes and a few others, but most of these veterans are truly primitive, and many are of unique mechanical conception, not forgetting that early steam-cars will be amongst the runners.
Among the entries in this year’s run, car No 169, a 1912 10 hp Wolseley, will be driven by Prince Michael of Kent, as President of the RAC. These days the event has become a social happening, attracting celebrities from the non-motoring world but no-one will question the entry of a 1903 Gladiator by the Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth, Cllr Garrett, who will be taking the Mayor, Cllr Donoghue, with him, when it is explained that they hope to raise a five-figure sum for a local hospital. Racing drivers, too, will be seen, former saloon-car champion jack Sears with a 1904 Mercedes, with his son David of the current jaguar team as co-driver, and ex-World Champion Phil Hill has a 1904 Peerless, Nos 336 and 242 respectively. The 1904 Sunbeam, No 388, was driven in earlier “Brightons” by Malcolm Campbell and Jack Brabham. Back to good causes, the 1904 Wolseley, No 397, has been lent to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, who hope thereby to raise £4,000 towards a new lifeboat. The oldest cars competing are a Benz and a Panhard-Levassor dated as 1892, Nos 1 and 2 respectively, and the Editor of MOTOR SPORT expects lobe on Lord Montagu of Beaulicu’s 1903 De Dion Bouton, No 188, which he drove in the 1962 Run. The start is from London’s Hyde Park from 8 am onwards and the Serpentine Continued on page 1306 MATTERS OF MOMENT — ContInued Road is an ideal place from which to see and photograph the participants (not competitors, for this is nor a race). Another good vantage point is from the Madeira Drive at Brighton, where there is plenty of room on the terraces and pavements, with a commentary to inform. It is best approached along the A27, rather than down the busy A23. The place not to watch those taking part, on vehicles often of little power and less braking, is from the road to the seaside. Admittedly there are good vantage places, such as at Gatwick and elsewhere beside the A23, where modern cars can be parked on the verges. But what is to be avoided at all costs is adding to the traffic-jams and in any way impeding the veterans. It has become a habit of sonic owners of vintage cars to turn out and add support to their mechanical
forebears, on this unique Sunday. But even this support adds to the congestion, therefore the problems, of those at the steering wheels or tillers of the true antiques. Please give every veteran a wide berth; if you are sensible you will watch them from a stationary vantage point, thus better enjoying the spectacle and aiding the splendid efforts of the Police en route to give the veterans a clear passage. Remember that the veterans’ last qualifying time for a medal is 4 pm at the Pylons a few miles out of Brighton, but that the first arrivals should make the Madeira Drive by about 10.30 am It will be all over, at the Madeira Drive, by about 4.30, enabling your journey home to be made in the gathering dusk. Buy a programme, enjoy this Veteran Car Run, but spare a thought for those driving the aged vehicles. — W.B.