If you are at all a regular reader, you will not have failed to notice the battle that’s been raging on our letters pages concerning the presence or otherwise in the magazine of contemporary Formula One. And, as a regular or not, you will not have got this far without noticing an extremely yellow and rather modem F1 car on our cover.
It’s there because I wanted, once and for all, to take a long look at Grand Prix racing over the years try to discover whether Formula One really was as wonderful then as we like to think now. The good news, as you will read in Shaun Campbell’s surprising and provocative analysis of Grand Prix racing past and present, is that the old days were, in the main, as good as your and my memories would have us believe.
But the real surprise is that, for all its obvious and too abundant problems, F1 would seem to have as much to recommend itself today as it ever did. I’d be interested to learn your reaction to such news if indeed, news it is to you. You might be delighted to learn that you are not missing as much as you thought; equally, you could be appalled that this is as good as it gets. Either way, I hope you’ll understand and agree with our decision to embrace contemporary Formula One as one of the many elements within the magazine. We will not be reporting individual races but, as we have this month, using the modem sport to put historical motor racing in its true context and vice-versa.
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One of the many points raised by Shaun is how Formula One in the past would have been enhanced by today’s broadcast technology. Whatever your view of the spectacle, there is no denying that, until recently, F1-viewing was a once-a-year spectacle for the few able to attend their national GP. Now you can see 17 races a year with vantage points unimagined by the bravest spectator. And very soon, with the advent of the digital era, your television will be able to select the in-car camera in Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F310B and stay locked on throughout the entire Grand Prix. How much would you have given to have been on board at Spa this year?
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There is a danger when writing a monthly mag that, by the time the words that leave your fingers reach your readers, they have become so overtaken by events as to be meaningless. It’s a risk I take in extending the congratulations of us all at Motor Sport to Richard Noble, Andy Green and the entire Thrust SSC crew who, as I write, have raised the Land Speed Record to 714mph and are preparing for the assault on the Sound Barrier.
Richard Noble is one of the most extraordinary men I know, a maelstrom of enthusiasm and passion for his unlikely pursuits. Andy Green, on the other hand, appears quiet and considered. His handshake is firm, Richard’s risks shoulder dislocation. Both, however, have characters of utter conviction and determination, sharing similarly impressive indifference to the odds.
If, as you read this, they have indeed breached the Sound Barrier and these words seem curiously obsolete, do not believe luck or blind British optimism played any part. If man has now travelled across the surface of the planet faster than sound itself, thank only their vision, their sweat and, most of all, the team of dedicated and largely unsung heroes they inspired.