50 things I don't love about motor sport


Those who know me will be aware that I am not averse to a grizzle, a gripe or a groan. According to some I fit that Northern standard of dourness.

Certainly I will admit that my musical taste veers sharply towards Joy Division and The Smiths and away from George Formby and Gracie Fields, and that compulsory fun is anathema to me. This blog, therefore, should have been a breeze.

I’m pleased to report – more for my own sanity than for your benefit – that, despite my geographical typecasting, it was not.

In no particular order my selections are:

1. The 1926 French Grand Prix: three identical cars, 100 laps of a bland symmetrical circuit, one classified finisher. Jeez.

2. Drivers receiving a jumped-start penalty after they’ve lurched, pecked and been swamped. Natural justice.

3. Success ballast.

4. Rory Byrne’s Toleman TG183: bristling with praiseworthy innovation but, boy, it was fugly.

5. Slow Italian drivers blessed with ‘fast’-sounding names. An unfair head start in the ‘entry list’ confidence stakes.

6. That teams at the highest level feel they cannot survive without paying drivers.

7. The politics – every last petty, niggly, self-serving scrap.

8. The precise moment I realised rallying’s rear-wheel-drive era was over: SS23 Witton Castle, 1981 RAC Rally. (Have just discovered that ‘Pondy’ in a Chevette HSR beat Mikkola’s quattro to that particular fastest stage time. Odd.)

9. That the World Rally Championship cannot find a place for the Safari Rally. Lack of ambition.

10. Run-off areas the size of a long-term car park at Heathrow.

11. Modern NASCAR drivers who look as if they might be teetotal – or might not own a pet alligator/grizzly. I exaggerate, but you know what I mean.

12. NASCAR’s pinball-esque scoring system. Boggling.

13. Discovering that a celebrity of whom I am not fond is a fan of motor racing.

14. Discovering that a celebrity of whom I am not fond is not a fan of motor racing yet has been given access to the grid in Monaco and has the brass neck and televised opportunity to impart their ‘knowledge’ to those less fortunate.

15. Commentators musing on the next round while the current race has yet to conclude.

16. Turning vanes and all other aerodynamic bodywork flicks and tricks. Clever, yes, but a visual mess.

17. Dopey rally spectators who stand in stupid places and spoil it for everybody else in both the shorter and longer terms.

18. Grooved slicks. Oxymoronic.

19. Early-1920s attempts at streamlining: the ‘beer barrel’ Ballot and Bugatti GP cars of 1922, and the latter’s ink blotter-shaped ‘Tank’ of ’23. (However, Gabriel Voisin’s Laboratoire, also a ’23 car, is to be applauded as a work of Bond-villain genius.)

20. When Scuderia Ferrari scarlet gave way to Marlboro hi-viz orange.

21. My morbid fear of spelling Ferrari Ferarri – particularly on a front cover. Nightmares.

22. Corners – especially challenging ones – being called Turn 1, Turn 2, etc. Lack of imagination and/or history. (Ovals are exempt from this criticism.)

23. Drivers referring to it as Turn 1, etc, even if said corner has a perfectly good long-established name. Cause? Too much acquisition of data and insufficient knowing of stuff.

24. ‘Marbles’.

25. The long-received wisdom that ‘dirty air’ is inevitable and insurmountable.

26. That today’s backmarkers are expected to ‘disappear’ on demand.

27. Brooklands’ slogan ‘The Right Crowd and No Crowding’ – and that this ethos still holds true at F1’s epicentre. Aspirational, they call it.

28. Calling them John Player Specials – the thin end of the corporate wedge. Literally in the Lotus 72’s case.

29. John Watson’s twin-window Bell skid-lid. Looked silly.

30. That Archie Scott Brown was denied by prejudice the GP career his talent so obviously deserved. Juan Fangio thought him good enough and that’s good enough for me.

31. Benetton’s Option 13 and the gut-wrenching thought that Ayrton Senna entered Tamburello on May 1, 1994, convinced that the car hounding him as he did so was beyond the regulations.

32. That there were accusations of cheating circulating the BTCC paddock at Snetterton the day that Senna died. Felt grubby.

33. That fiddling with qualifying’s formats and processes have cost pole position some of its potency as F1’s measure of pure speed.

34. When people insist that you cannot compare racing drivers from different eras. Of course you can. Is it possible to imagine Tazio Nuvolari and Senna climbing into a racing car of any type from any era and them not being sensationally quick in it? No further questions, m’lud.

35. The FIA World Touring Car Championship: halfway round the world for a couple of 12-lappers.

36. Midland – the dullest F1 constructor name.

37. The unseemly recent argument over the Lotus name. Not sure either team warranted the eventual honour.

38. BRM’s V16 up close. Too shrill. Echoing from the far side of a circuit, it’s spine-chilling. The ‘bagpipes of motor racing’.

39. That my Corgi 1:32 Lotus 72 had an Emerson Fittipaldi figurine in it rather than a Ronnie Peterson one. Disgruntled six-year-old, straight out of the box.

40. That engine note and gear changes are rarely in sync with the image in early examples of onboard footage. Maddening.

41. The name Footwork. Terrible. No wonder that team never won nowt.

42. PR guff: ‘an encouraging 18th place’, etc.

43. Drivers who regularly alter their crash helmet’s design, i.e. more than once. Like my mum used to say in C&A: ‘Don’t worry, you’ll grow into it.’ She was talking physically, of course, whereas I’m talking psychologically.

44. Silverstone traffic jams.

45. That the Austrian national anthem is played every time Milton Keynes-based Red Bull Racing wins. Yes, yes, I know where its money comes from, but still…

I couldn’t think of 50 in the time I allotted for this process. But I reckon that’s a good thing – as is the fact that not all items listed stem from the past five years of the sport. Either my specs are not as rose-tinted as I thought they were or, heaven knows, I’m not as miserable as I – and others – thought I was.

You can read Paul’s list of 50 things he does love about motor sport here.

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