July 09, 2004


London Chimes as of today is moving to its NEW address


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July 08, 2004

A very British Grand Prix in London. 

My recent silence has been spurred on by the reemergence of my brother in laws blog Glenn Frazier by whom many other blogs espire towards only to fall of the edge, (including London Chimes). So thanks Mac for the moment at least getting me started - again!

This Sunday is the very British of Formula One Grand Prix races to be held again at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire.
To create something of an extra buzz, London was part of the action as the closed off Regent Street and Picadilly Circus to let old, bold and current formula one drivers perform along Regent Street to the delight of a number, you pick, between 250,000 and 500,000 spectators.

The notation of closing off the premier shopping street in London to all traffic for a handful of million dollar race cars seems at best crazy, until you realise that there is a underlying agenda at play.

The Silverstone race is back in the hands of the BRDC, The British Racing Drivers Club, their president no other than Sir Jackie Stewart. Despite heavy financial investment in the roads to the circuit, and the facilities at the circuit, Silverstone this week is being threatened by Bernie Ecclestone the organizer of the worldwide F1 circus that the race is not secure in the future.

For a couple of months the idea of a race around the streets of London, passing Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Picadilly, Trafalger Square has been more than quietly whispered in motoring circles. The actuality that a major road was closed this week and race cars performed their loudest certainly not their fastest lends weight to somthing is stirring, and it has the backing of the recently re-elected Mayor Livingstone.

As a stalwart motor sport enthusiast and organizer of events in the home counties to the north of London, I feel suitably qualified to add my opinion to the mix.

Formula One is more than a sport, it is all about business, and making money, for the sponsors, the organizers, the venue etc. This rolling worldwide sporting machine is huge and commands the attention of heads of govenments to offer incentives to bring the circus to new towns and countries for the obvious benefits F1 attracts.

The 2004 season contains only two street circuits the race in Australia and historic Monaco.

Formula 1 is in crisis, the total dominance of the sport by Michael Schumacher, in part address by his skill, in part by the superior technology behind the farings of the Ferrari team and their car has much to be challenged. Despite other teams being fractions of a second slower each lap, over a 70 lap race, team tactics employed, passing is now in the pits and not on the track. Visually not excting to watch and like Nigel Mansell said this week in London, Formula 1 is boring, I can't sit and watch a race from start to finish any longer. I have to agree.

Something has to be done.

Monaco is the only race this year Schumacher did not win, - he crashed out. Perhaps street circuits offer something different, a slower challenge to all drivers and cars, although the prospect of a Ferrari crashing into the plate glass of Liberty's of Regent Street or Hamley's does not appeal.

If street circuits are being reviewed by Bernie Ecclestone, London has obvious benefits with the existing public transportation and access. However, it is the same access that would create obvious logistically problems ring-fencing a large area of the west-end off for three days and that is just the start of the challenges.

I read thast marshalling would cost a fortune, wrong. Historically marshals are all experienced volunteers and volunteers fundamentally are a negligable cost in the whole model. What about the potential of lost income from some businesses unable to function inside the track for three days. The upheaval in building the track, this is a logistical nightmare but one that London and Londoners might just be up for.

In years past, motor racing has tried to be brought to Docklands in London without any real success. Although national motorsport is not Formula One and vice versa the animals are very, very different.

If a London Grand Prix is given a green light and actually happens against all odds should this be an additional event in the UK or a replacement to Silverstone, or should we hark back to the days of alternating years between Brands Hatch and Silvestone?

Personally, I love Brands Hatch in Kent, although since its last Formula One race it has languished and needs significant investment and rebuilding vast amounts of track to bring up to current and future needs of Formula 1. I site the new circuit in Malaysia as a guide to the future standard of the facilities needed for the sport.

Silverstone I have seen develop from a weathered air base to a state of the art, but no Malaysian circuit and figurehead for british motorsport. Although it is too fast and not challenging enough for the spectators. From trackside it is difficult to see much of the circuit than that in front of you. Not visually exciting.

Donington, used once for Formula One - a European Grand Prix that arguably the late Ayrton Senna performed a magical opening lap that sits in the history of the sport is a great compromise of both Brands and Silverstone, yet as the poor cousin I am not sure Bernie Ecclestone will ever take the cars back their.

With ever increasing numbers of political figures internationally talking to Bernie Ecclestone to attract the circus to new countries, the thought of a econd race in Britain seems very unlikely. But in formula one, tradition is something that seems to be forgotten from time to time.

The british government were involved in investing heavily in new roads to Silverstone in recent years. To see a reasonable return on this investment, I cannot see the bills necessary to be passed in the various chambers to clear racing on the roads of London passing smoothly.

There is a question on the unseen "grey" or should I write "gray" suits in London who want to prevent any major event from happening due to issues of liability. The London Marathon of course is something of an exception, it the liability of a runner falling over is nothing compared with the potential of an accident with an F1 car into a London store front. Then there is the charitable perspective that the Marathon raises millions of pounds for a range of good causes, while F1 that and this is a little known fact does have a charitable image, it is not as high as the Marathon.

So where from here?

It is silly season for the news during the summer. I expect that a London Grand Prix will be spiked as a great newsstory that ultimately will not happen, but makes for good news, especially when the drivers, teams, and the mayor are in principal at least in favor of the initial proposal.

Silverstone has to watch out, with great facilities in the far east being developed and the lack of tradition in F1 followed for the sake of business deals before sport. The British Grand Prix has a real threat of loosing out. The British Drivers Racing Club BRDC may not be the professional promoter that Bernie Ecclestone is looking for. BRDC is very professional in all other events and the way it is managed, yet somehow from this side of the Atlantic looking back to Northamptonshire it would seem like a deep rooted feud between Ecclestone and the BRDC continues for reasons so lost in the midst of time can anyone remember.

This weekend is the British Grand Prix. I shall sit and watch around 8am EST and expect to see a processional race with both red ferrari's at the head of the racing snake. Jaguar may make the top eight, Jordan will make a good showing but sadly again fall outside the points. McLaren may make a third place podium. Then again a mess on the first corner might just mix everything up enough to make for an exciting race.

That is formula one, predicably, unpredicable on occassions.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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