Rumblings, October 1946

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Take Heed
Motoring sport is, possibly, in a slightly happier position than it was before the war. People seek excitement these days, not so much as a natural aftermath of war, as to enable them to face the peace. And that we won freedom by mechanised means in a battle of mechanisation is still faintly remembered by the public mind. So motor-racing does not seem quite so criminal to ordinary mortals as it once did. It is even possible that were one of our great daily newspapers to print the facts of how Italy was preparing new racing cars while Britain fought, and consequently now beats all corners in the classic Continental races, Mr. and Mrs. John Citizen would clamour for Raymond Mays to get cracking at once on his proposed team of Union Jack Specials. Be that as it may, dangerous prejudice still smoulders when it comes to local motoring sport.

Persuaded by the B.B.C. and the “Black Widow” scheme that motor-cars are, as ever, lethal luxuries, people dislike them even more if they appear as fast, noisy, expensive or sporting modes of transportation. One bit of (actually quite safe) spectacular driving in a sports-car can destroy most of the good which promotoring (and perfectly honest) statements and statistics can do us. If that sports car has been competing, or is about to compete, in a speed event, untold harm can result to the Sport. We want official recognition of a British G.P. team. We want racing on our public roads (racing on the roads of Jersey should be provided for, by the time this editorial appears, by the excellent Bill put before the Jersey States). We want to be able to compete in trials and rallies over public roads and to be asked by owners of suitable speed-trial courses (such as the Brighton Corporation) to stage our sprint events thereon. In achieving or maintaining these desirables, we cannot afford to ignore public opinion. It rests with individuals as to how public opinion is swayed.

John Bolster tells us the time has come to air these views. Otherwise we might have withheld them. It is not easy to resist the temptation to “show off” in a controllable, fast car. The atmosphere of motoring sport is “heady.” To avoid playing at boy-racers isn’t easy, especially for beginners. We did it ourselves, when first confronted with super-fast, fully-fuelled, comprehensively insured road-test cars. Our best friends told us . . . Now we are telling you, we hope without offence, if only because we ourselves are by no means blameless. It is so easy unwittingly to create a bad impression. So we earnestly ask all of you, and especially new participants in the Sport, not to do anything likely to bring motor-racing or trials into disrepute. The golden rules might be concisely expressed as: —Take off competition numbers as soon as an event is over, drive quietly and at moderate speeds in the vicinity of a sprint venue and at all times in a rally or trial, conduct yourself in an exemplary manner both in and out of your car at such events, and show tolerance to interested parties, whether they be knowledgeable engineers or misinformed spectators. Motorcycle enthusiasts set us a good example, in one respect at all events, by invariably covering up their competition number while riding to and from race meetings.

Are these words of warning necessary? We need only cite the case of racing numbers still on certain cars the day after Prescott and West Court, of dangerous passing by cars bearing competition numbers following another sprint event, and of frantic “dicing” by competitors in the paddock at two separate meetings. Let us, one and all, try to do a little better in this respect. After all, you know how a low-flying aircraft clearing your chimneys seemingly by inches makes you feel, and you are mechanically-sympathetic, which the general public is not. Incidentally, the Police School at Hendon turns out first-class motoring policemen (although, as someone was bound to remark, the one who stops you is never one who has enjoyed this superior education!). They will speak to you of sixty and seventy m.p.h. as quite a matter-of-fact pace — in the sense that speed, as such, doesn’t cause accidents, only speed excessive to prevailing conditions. And they are extremely skilful both on the skid-patch and at driving-tests of the rally-type. We suggest a contest between the crack Police team and a team of expert rally drivers, thus doing a little more towards demonstrating to Authority that sports-car drivers drive skilfully as well as rapidly, in the manner which makes for greater safety on our inadequate roads.