Matters of moment, September 1998

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Given all the fuss about Rolls-Royce and Bentley right now, you’d be forgiven for not noticing that automotive GBH is already being committed on the name of one of our most proud and innovative marques. Have you seen the brand new Rover-BRM? If not you should know that it is neither gas-turbine powered nor likely to be competing at Le Mans any time soon. This Rover-BRM is an entirely unremarkable Rover 200 hatchback equipped with an interior as unsuited to such a car as any you’re ever likely to see. There are too many details to bore you with but if I just mention quilted red leather upholstery with chrome eyelets and a turned aluminium insert around the alloy ventilation controls, I’ll leave the rest to your by now presumably rampaging imagination. To be fair it has a peppy engine, revised gear ratios and tuned suspension, but that is scarcely the point. Too many great names have fallen under the marketing steamroller of the company that now calls itself Rover; remember if you will the Wolseley Hornet, Riley Elf, Allegro Vanden Plas and MG Mastro. I hope that BRM is the Last victim of this horrid policy and that Rover’s BMW parent puts a stop to the nonsense once and for all. If not, I do not fancy the chances of Rolls-Royce clinging to its vital and unique identity over the years and decades to come.

• • •

Formula One would not be Formula One without its fair share of conspiracy theories but I worry that paddock paranoia is reaching epidemic proportion. Since Hockenheim I have been told so many tales of backstage jiggery-pokery that if I published them here, I’m certain you’d change your view of the sport. Sadly, I’m equally sure I’d also land this magazine in court and me in the nearest dole queue so you will forgive me for declining to go into detail. Besides, I wonder how much of it can be believed. Cheating, whether it be by way of professional foul, proscribed drug or launch control system, is a fact of life in all major sports and always has been; it should, of course, be policed as rigorously as possible and proven offenders punished without mercy. But we should not forget that if you are able to cast the shadow of doubt on your opponent, subject them to global suspicion and their operations, however innocent, to official scrutiny then that will have a material and adverse effect on their ability to prepare for competition. Which, from where I’m sitting, doesn’t sound exactly like cricket either.

• • •

A piece of paper has just landed on my desk about fifteen years too late. It comes from the Swansea Institute of Higher Education and contains details its all new Motorsport degree. Yes, dammit, you did read that right. It’s the first time anything like it has been tried in Europe and surprise, surprise, interest in the course is described as ‘intense’. It trains you for a career in the motorsport industry by subjecting you to such educational terrors as crewing for the institute’s championship-winning Darrian Racing Team. I’m not saying the result will be an army of fledgling Franks and Rons but I reckon any teenagers kicking their heels right now could spend the rest of their lives waiting for a better reason to go and live in Swansea for a few years.