FIA Historic Championship

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Sir,

I suppose that all motor racing is better for having its eccentrics as they are mostly amiable buffoons who usually make entertaining reading or listening. Chris Draper thus hardly qualifies, as his ill-informed blinkered tirade against those who try to help the likes of him is neither amiable nor entertaining. To reply to his comments in order may be a rather boring approach but probably appropriate.

(a ) No one is trying to stop anyone having fun at vintage-type race meetings; his competing at Montlhery in 1968 was probably “illegal” in FIA terms anyway, and thus verges on irresponsibility, particularly if an accident had occurred which might have affected the whole subsequent European historic movement. Fun is still enjoyed by all who compete at such meetings except perhaps for Draper who seems to suffer more than his fair share of mechanical misfortunes.

(b) When the FIA Championship rules were published, Draper was among the first to misunderstand them, believing that the championship’s 2-litre sports car lower limit referred to all cars at any race meeting, rather than a few in one race. Others too had pen in gear with mind in neutral. However the purpose of organising a championship for the fastest sports cars (1945-60) and single-seaters (1930-60) in multiple classes was to encourage many cars out again that had been frightened away by faster cars – notably Jaguar Cs & Ds versus Listers. The idea of imposing a 2-litre lower limit on sports cars’ was two-fold: (i) that they weren’t the fastest cars as long as they were using “correct” engines and (ii) that people with faster cars might prefer to use their cheaper alternatives to the detriment of the front end of the field. Having a championship was felt to be a good idea to get attractive grids to the newer meetings – Zandvoort, Zolder, Monza etc. – and thus help to establish them as events of the calibre of the British and Nurburgring meetings.

However, following the complaints of Draper et al, the CSI sub-commission had a meeting with historic race organisers and agreed to allow the sub-2-litre brigade to make up the field where necessary and to review the situation after this first year. Come Zandvoort, which unfortunately became 4th in a line of successive week-ends of competition, and there were a number of non­starters. This might have meant that the billed championship round would have been cancelled at the last minute. To avoid this and incidentally give Draper a longer race than usual I (as CSI representative) found a loop-hole in the rewritten rules which suggested that 12 starters make a race – this clause hadn’t been modified after we rewrote the rules for the Drapers. He says it would, in theory, be possible therefore to have a championship race only for makeweights which couldn’t score points, but it couldn’t happen, as he has missed out a further clause which says that championship races must include starters in at least four of the ten classes!

(c) The FIA Championship has not caused all “club” meetings to become Internationals. Firstly, you can’t have foreigners at a club meeting so it has to become International and that happened before this year. Secondly, the requirement for fireproof overalls applies only to championship competitors and is a not unreasonable requirement when our Le Mans round saw some cars running at 165-170 m.p.h. Yes, they are an expense, but they represent only a very small percentage of the amount tied up in a championship car – a larger proportion of a 2-litre makeweight! And you can’t have “fun” under a gravestone with an epitaph which reads –

“here lies the last of the short-sleeved, nylon­shirted, cloth-capped funsters; he feared not fire nor foe.”

(d) The “homologation” form is a car passport or log-book which confirms its authenticity and that it is not an overmodified hot-rod. It is filled in by the owner and countersigned by the appropriate club (VSCC, HSCC etc. in this country). Its purpose is to avoid needless eligibility discussions at race meetings and, as a document to accompany the car, it also avoids doubtful descriptions to potential buyers. Once filled in it is just like a log· book. The sole expense to the owner is a postage stamp and a photograph, unless of course he has a modified hot-rod and has to convert it back to standard’

I’m not sure who Draper thinks is in charge of such homologation procedure, but we have two owners of small British sports cars on the CSI sub-committe (Lotus and Frazer Nash); if he is referring to his country of residence, the German representative has the interests of owners of Porsche etc. to consider so presumably he too knows what was currently available for their rivals. If Draper’s letter is anything to go by, the rubbish-content of their utterances is somewhat inferior to his own.

(e) And finally to the last point. Where is the historic movement going? The CSI sub­commission has tried to get uniformity of standards across the European racing board and has sought to keep, cars as near original as is possible and safe; this should ensure that we can all go where we want to race and compete against similar cars running to the same set of rules. Inevitably, those rules have to be written for all forms of historic racing from the beginning to the end of 1960, and there may have been the occasional anomaly in the first set, but they are being changed in the light of experience and informed comment. What more can one do?

Admittedly the championship has been a little slow to get off the ground in its first year and the rules will be slightly changed for next year, but there will have been at least six eligible events with at least four very good grids. We hope that next year the other three or four will fare as well. The championship may well get sponsorship at its individual rounds like any Grand Prix, but there are plenty of other races on the same day for those who have slower cars, either pre-war or post-war. But none of the competitors are racing for reward so presumably they all still enjoy it.

Next week -in common with many other UK, French, Dutch, Italian and German competitors I am going to enjoy racing at Nurburgring, to take the events seriously and to haw my “fun” off the track; doubtless I will have seen Draper enjoying the event too, and we will discuss his pretty Salmson, the continuing saga of his broken Climax engines and the failure of his supercharged Lotus 7 over an enjoyable jug of wine, but he can’t shoot off his pen without expecting some sort of informed reply. I have written to him before but I hope this time it might penetrate.

Heronsgate MICHAEL BOWLER

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