Matters of Moment, September 1955

Author

W.B.

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Too Many Races?
Enthusiasm for motor-racing continues unabated, which is a very good thing indeed. Since the second World War public interest in all aspects of competition motoring, indeed, in motoring itself, has increased fantastically and we have truly come a very long way from the days of “The Right Crowd and No -Crowding” and that even earlier era when true-blue enthusiasts were willing to make a pilgrimage to Brooklands on beaded-edge tyres over puncture-prone roads to watch a handful of motor cars do battle for a mere three or five laps of the spacious Brooklands Track.

Today we accept as perfectly natural frequent B.B.C. sound and television commentaries on motor races (although why a T.V. commentary as casual as that of the last B.A.R.C. Crystal Palace meeting is permitted, when Hawthorn wasn’t even seen crossing the finishing line as winner of the big race, we do not know). Tens of thousands of enthusiasts of both sexes, attend races and are knowledgeable about the cars and their drivers. Royalty has attended Silverstone, H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh is Patron of the British Racing Drivers’ Club and an escort of T.T. riders was provided for Her Majesty the Queen when she visited the Isle of Man.

Motor-racing can be said to be, not the “coming thing” as W. S. Shackleton (who once raced a Bleriot-Whippet at Brooklands) used to say of aviation, but to have arrived.

Never before have we witnessed such avid enthusiasm for the greatest of all sports. It is significant that we may soon see the excellent Donington road-circuit returned to us by the Army authorities, that it seems possible that we shall be able to close public roads for motor-racing and it is especially remarkable that in the face of widespread panic cancellations of races on the Continent of Europe and in America, where the A.A.A. has withdrawn its support and the Pan-America-Mexicana Race has gone overboard, following the freak tragedy of Le Mans, Britain has continued resolutely to hold her races.

From the viewpoint of this satisfactory state of affairs it might be thought that there could hardly be too many races. The people support them, so let them be, and multiply. Yet is this attitude in the best interests of the Sport? More than once, recently, very many non-starters have seriously reduced a promising programme. With race meeting following race meeting every week-end from April to October, not forgetting a new fixture on Boxing Day, this can hardly be avoided. Then there are such a wealth of National, International, Trophy and other pompous sounding races that it is exceedingly difficult to assess clearly the worth of each, and victories in consequence become of less value to manufacturers and component firms, who look to racing to provide useful publicity for their products.

Before the war, with a reasonably important race-meeting at Brooklands or Donington on the average about once every three weeks, the repercussion of a race-victory was more lasting and entrants and drivers could breathe between races. Today we have no such respite, as racing mechanics will readily testify, and hurried preparation leads to retirements or non-starters and these, in turn, deplete spectator interest, which will lead to the empty grandstands which, happily, up to now have been so unusual as to be conspicuous.

We are not unaware of the additional allure that a crowded week-end’s racing possesses, when cars have to be frantically transported front one circuit to another and probably be worked-on as they travel, but whereas once such hectic activity was confined to Bank Holiday week-ends, it is now commonplace through the long racing season. For the good of the Sport it seems that it might be sensible for the leading race promoters to thin-out their fixture lists, at all events in respect of their “star” meetings, thereby ensuring saturation of their spectator-accommodation at such meeting because this racing would have a first-class entry, a full starting grid and he who received the chequered-flag would really have won something worth while, to be translated into history.

Point is lent to this argument by the difficulty experienced in booking travel-tickets to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix later this month — the inference being that the Italian race is going to enjoy abnormal support, the reason being that it is the first big Continental race since Le Mans.

It may be that public demand for motor-racing permits of a chock-full fixture list, but race promoters should carefully consider the matter. Even if there is no need to curtail the number of races it would be useful if they were graded so that the spectator can tell which is important and which less so, while duplication of races in given areas should be striven against; for instance the Londoner should not have to choose between Brands Hatch Stadium and the L.C.C.’s Crystal Palace, the Midlander not have to choose whether to set his wheels towards Silverstone, Aintree or Oulton Park. Not only should clashes on the same week-end be avoided, but the spectator should not be expected to want to see racing on consecutive week-ends in the home area.

Organisers should consider this problem from the aspect of competitors and their mechanics as well as spectators, possibly with “fewer races, better starting money” as the aim.

British racing is flourishing. Vanwall and Connaught have G.P. cars which really motor, Jaguar won at Le Mans, M.G. is staging a come-back … Let our race promoters make sure that the legendary goose isn’t killed, by loss of public interest through a mercenary multiplication of motor race-meetings.

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