Matters of Moment
• Places for Races
A faint cloud of ominous colour is drifting about on the motor-racing horizon. The rumour is abroad that Silverstone circuit may be engulfed by a Government scheme to build a third International Airport in the Towcester area. Only a rumour at present, and nothing may happen for several years. But, rumour or truth, the thought is a disturbing one.
The demise of Silverstone, present home of the B.R.D.C., Britain's fastest and most-central circuit, and the last stronghold or genuine Club racing, would be a calamity. Apart from me B.R.D.C., Dunlop, too, have cause for concern, for they have invested much money in the Woodcote Press and TV Tower (a timely substitute for the old Paddock Pressbox, which the ladies of the Dog-House Club selfishly took from us).
In these matters complacency can be fatal. Racing in England (unless on bicycles) is illegal on public roads; we are dependent on private circuits and tracks. Until Mr. Locke-King spent a fortune in 1907 on building Brooklands our competition motoring was restricted to infrequent sprints up Shelsley-Walsh and along Brighton's Madeira Drive and occasional forays over friendly seashores. The opening of Brooklands marked the beginning of a new era of bright and busy motor racing. It was many years before the scope was extended, at Donington and the Crystal Palace.
Brooklands has now been torn apart by avid aeroplane builders, the War Office never restored Donington to us, and even post-war circuits have gone—popular Goodwood, Aintree where the dismal locale was off-set by substantial permanent buildings, interesting Blandford, etc. Thruxton has only been re-opened this year as a car-racing venue and the anti-nose-fetish limits activities at Crystal Palace and Castle Combe. Britain is hardly over-stocked with good race circuits.
If aeroplanes oust racing cars from the B.R.D.C. circuit we shall be confined to merely a couple of premier courses, neither as well sited, as fast as, or having quite the "atmosphere" of Silverstone, the pioneer post-World-War II track. We should have to make do with picturesque Oulton Park road circuit and Grovewood-controlled, stadium-styled Brands Batch, at opposite ends of the land. The B.R.D.C. would have no-where to organise races, the Clubs no-where to race. While hoping sincerely that rumour will never become fact, we would remind you that local residents shouted very loudly against an Airport at Stansted. Sooner or later it may be necessary to make just as vehement objections to the annihilation of Silverstone race circuit.
• "Cause for Concern"
The B.B.C.-1 TV programme "Cause For Concern", which enquired into allegations that the Metropolitan Police Force has marked racial prejudice and to which the Police objected in its original form, causing a fortnight's postponement, went on the air on August 9th. A stormy showing had Scotland Yard's Deputy Commissioner leading the defence of the Police.
If this exposure of ill-feeling and prejudice was considered worth having, in the face of possible legal action against the courageous B.B.C. producers, it is obviously high time that something similar is put on for motor-vehicle owners and drivers, who are so often at the mercy of policemen and ill-informed or prejudiced Magistrates.
Whereas the Police/Racial Prejudice programme dealt with one area of London and a comparatively small coloured population, there are some 13-million driving-licence holders in Britain, who probably pay more every hour in taxation than our coloured visitors do in a year. Most of them (we have definite proof of 280,000 objecting to one aspect alone!) are heartily fed-up with being trapped by radar on deserted roads (268,444 convictions last year, an increase of 44,686 over 1966!), being persecuted for parking, even in empty places, and savagely fined for failing to comply with any of the 2;000 or so technical regulations which apply, some of them very quaintly, to motor vehicles. They are furious about being reported by lay-observers for imagined driving offences, etc., while all the time being required to pay more in vehicle and fuel tax (total, £1,200-million a year) and being forever threatened with more restrictions and controls. Especially as reduction of accidents is now a thin excuse for this state of affairs, the accident rate having decreased most encouragingly in spite of a great increase in traffic on roads which have suffered a cut-back in modernising expenditure.
Let us, then, have a TV programme in which the Motoring Organisations (St. Christopher help them!), ordinary drivers and the Police can meet to examine the damage done by this continual, unwarranted persecution of drivers over the entire country. It should appeal to non-motorists as well as to motorists, because the ill-feeling against the Police which is being generated in a wide section of the community and the money-consuming time wasted over trivial motoring Court cases, must be of concern to the country as a whole.
Because car drivers are, on the whole, mild and law-abiding. They may not get their arms broken in Black Marias, but they do go in fear of losing their licences and their livelihoods for inadvertently committing non-criminal, often solely-technical, motoring offences. We are sure they would welcome the opportunity of making this plain, via TV.
• More Cause For Concern
In motor sport circles at the moment the four-letter word is "Kent". This is due to the reporting by Motoring News of the offensive and unwarranted victimisation, by constabulary from the Dover area, of competitors in the Maidstone & Mid-Kent M.C. Harold Rally in July. This astonishing report was published in Motoring News dated 1st August. There is thus no need to repeat the details here. However, this was apparently no mere attempt to tone down a little over-enthusiasm in a minor rally, which might have offended a few citizens. It was, according to an experienced reporter at the event, a full-scale offensive, engaging many police, fleets of police cars, and multiple radar traps, mounted before any complaints could have been registered. The tyrannical questioning of competitors and the great pains taken to catch them out one way or another, and to harass them even when no offence had been committed, sounds scandalous and an inquiry has been started into who promoted this non-British action by Kent Constabulary.
If the idea is to attempt to stamp out motor sport, Kent has left it rather late! These days the R.A.C. sells something like £30,000-worth of Competition Licences a year. Nor must it be overlooked that competitors in approved rallies, driving properly-taxed cars burning tax-laden fuel, have as much right as other car owners to venture out on our roads. The mass-action taken against some of them in the once-pleasant county of Kent should be noted by more people than competition motorists. Not only have rate-payers a right to ask why so much costly police effort was so badly misdirected, but they may think that the Gestapo is forming in this Garden of England, the cells of which need to be burst wide open before they spread to other spheres of British living and sport. In fact, here is another "Cause for Concern", with the police again the central figures. . . . They might do better to attend football matches, where violence can start before the players have appeared.