Follow the French
In our summary of the final two European 1 Formula 3000 races of the season (see page 1104), we have remarked upon France’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to young racing drivers. This position of strength is at least partially due to substantial financial support from national fuel giant Elf and the French government itself, whose sports ministry has agreed to help following the enforced withdrawal of the tobacco companies.
In Britain, we have often heard pleas for state aid to assist young sportsmen and women. We’ve got inadequate tennis facilities, and we need to invest to maintain the standard set by our international athletes. Horse racing wants betting tax re-invested in facilities. Soccer would like to see the government redirect some of what it earns from the football pools towards the development of new stadia.
British motor racing needs something similar.
But where are we going to find it?
France’s position can only get stronger still. Renault sets the pace in Formula One, is returning to Formula Three next year and, in the long term, has hinted that it may also become involved in Formula 3000. What better way could there be to channel the best young drivers to the top? Remember the glut of Frenchmen who graduated to F1 in the 1970s, helped by Elf and Renault in Formula Two? Peugeot has now moved into F1, too, and the presence of such national giants in the motor racing limelight can only stimulate further interest, among both the general public and the world of commerce.
So what have we got in the UK?
Vauxhall has an excellent staircase which runs from karting to Formula Three and supplies its Formula Vauxhall (ne Vauxhall Lotus) champion with a competitive F3 engine for the following year, but this is where the problem starts, for there has been no shortage of talented Britons in F3. This season, however, we had only two regular competitors in Formula 3000, and one of those was never always sure where the money for his next race was coming from. By way of comparison, there were seven Frenchmen (and seven Italians).
So is there anything that can be done?
Schemes such as Racing for Britain and Motor Racing GB have toiled worthily to provide welcome, but token, support for young drivers. What is needed, however, is something on a much grander scale.
Car and petrol taxes are redirected, supposedly, towards rebuilding our crumbling, often inadequate road network, so there seems little hope there.
However, according to official statistics issued by the RACMSA, the motor racing industry in Britain accounts for 50,000 jobs, turns over in excess of £1 billion and brings in £650 million from overseas.
Surely enterprise on that scale merits governmental support?