The British Grand Prix
This is a sad moment in my life. After following motor sport activities since 1926, and deriving such great pleasure from some, I have now been forced to make a decision to reduce these activities because of the strain on my physical and financial resources. I have always enjoyed the "big" occasions and never miss British Grand Prix meetings, but the first victim of my economy "axe" will have to be the 1980 Brands Hatch meeting.
For the past few meetings I have been becoming disenchanted with that organisation (or should I say disorganisation). In spite of travelling over 300 miles overnight I always arrive for opening time on GP day to find utter chaos reigneth. The local police just haven't a clue. This year a plump lad on a motorcycle tried to divert me from using the main (A20) entrance, in spite of my yellow Grandstand Car Park label, saying "That's for contractors only". He sent dozens of cars off in the wrong direction, but I stood my ground and (eventually) got straight into the correct car park area. What the other poor devils said when they ultimately arrived in the wrong areas I shudder to think. I also find the police show remarkable lack of intelligence in the application of dispersal arrangements after the meeting. Three lanes of cars are allowed to leave the main gate simultaneously to occupy a two-lane road. Result - chaos and delay while they slowly sort themselves out on the main road.
Inside the gates the Brands Hatch authorities have little to be proud of in this respect. The car park attendants, like the aforementioned police, just haven't a clue, with the result that lots of space is wasted and cars get jammed into ridiculous positions resulting in more chaos after the meeting. Although this year's meeting ended by 5 p.m. it took me until 11.30 p.m. to arrive, via the South Circular Road, at Kew Bridge. Two years ago the meeting ended later and l failed to reach Kew by midnight. This completely spoils the value of my day out. I do not intend in future to be subjected to such treatment. I feel that the blame lies primarily with the Brands authorities for failing to organise any dispersal, and, in spite of the large number of representatives of the motoring organisations present on what are obviously recruiting-drives, no help is forthcoming from them. With no supervision from circuit management or motoring associations the exodus becomes a mad stampede with bottlenecks created at every internal gateway and road junction. The "cheeky" drivers get away with it and the courteous types get left behind.
Apart from the foregoing, I am divorcing myself from all interest in Brands Hatch because of the callous greed of that management in wanting their money two years before the event. For many years I have been able to reserve my tickets, including grandstand seats and paddock passes, in January or February for that year's event. For the 1978 Grand Prix, however, it became necessary to book ONE YEAR in advance. The pretence was made that this was for the convenience of the customer. As a long-term member of the paying public I can assure the circuit management that it is no less convenient for me to book six months in advance than one year. On the other hand, I can fully appreciate that if all gate monies are collected earlier, and banked, there will be a goodly amount of extra interest to the credit of the circuit finances. What the circuit gains in extra interest is the customer's loss so it is really a hidden increase in admission charges. Unfortunately the Silverstone authorities have not been slow to see the profitability of this ruse and they, also, now ask for reservations ONE YEAR in advance. But Brands Hatch are really greedy. They have to go one better, so if you are a member of the paying public you must book now for the 1980 meeting, i.e. TWO YEARS in advance. The £ 10 deposit required ensures a seat but gives no guarantee at what price, and there can be little doubt that those foolish enough to pay deposits now will get some unpleasant shocks when the 1980 prices are finally announced.
I make no criticism of the race programme or interval attractions, or organisations thereof. That side has always been most satisfact0ry. But I can remember the days when the authorities put themselves out to be helpful. Now - all they want is the money, and as much as possible, for as link effort as possible. It is particularly annoying to pay current grandstand prices and then find one's view of the track obliterated by do-it-yourself scaffolding erections put up in public enclosures in front of you -as happens at Paddock Hill Bend -with no restrictions imposed by the authorities. It was also annoying to find, as I did two years ago, that during the pits walkabout period most cars were sheeted down and all the drivers and other personalities had gone into hiding. To sec, meet and talk with some of the "big names" was all part of the pleasure of motor racing to me. I decided not to waste money on paddock passes this year. I also think the £1 charged for a race programme - once a free issue to all ticket holders - is a bit excessive.
All these irritations have tended to erode the great pleasure I once derived from attending meetings at Brands. In spite of becoming more and more expensive each year I find my enjoyment has become increasingly restricted and, frankly, I have come to the point where I no longer consider it as value for money and must reluctantly break my long association with that track. Although Silverstone charges have also increased I find more of the old "atmosphere" has been retained and I hope to compensate myself with even more frequent attendances at that circuit.
West Monkseaton, Northumberland G. E. PORETT
(These are just a couple of the letters received complaining about facilities, costs and questionable value for money at Brands Hatch. Campsite toilets, haphazard arrangements for opening the gates in the early morning, so that those who had queued patiently through the night were beaten to grandstand seats and prime positions by later arrivals, all came under fire. The question of pre-booking main grandstand seats has caused much wrath among correspondents for several months. Whilst the sheer volume of organisation required to run a Grand Prix requires that the work load must be spread we find it hard to believe that booking for grandstand seats should be necessary two years in advance. Surely the organisers could specify a much later opening date for scat applications, all applications received after that date being treated on a first come, first served basis? Or will the next thing be a Wimbledon Centre Court type ballot? - Ed.)