Call me old fashioned, but modern day motorsport doesn’t quite captivate me in the same way that it used to.
An office discussion on the current state of F1 brought about the fact that I would rather watch old tapes of 1970’s Grand Prix Racing than today’s Formula 1, something that raised a few eyebrows. Surely nothing today is as spectacular as Sir Jackie Stewart all crossed up in a Tyrell at Watkins Glen?
This isn’t limited to Formula 1 either. Rally has suffered immensely with the death of Group B. Sure, Group A was exciting – the Lancia Deltas and Celica GT-fours were primal enough to still draw interest – but rallying has never been the same. Group A was the beginning of the end. Now, with service crews at fixed points and rallies like the infamous Safari Rally (possibly once the crown jewel of the WRC) pretty much dead and gone, rallying is at a low point.
Blame safety regulations or feeble cost-cutting if you must, but the reality is that it’s a combination of things that have watered down motorsport. For Rally, the arrival of All Wheel Drive in the form of the S1 Quattro certainly contributed, and once Group B was banned due to safety reasons it was never the same.
Of course, this isn’t to say Group B wasn’t the greatest few years rally had ever seen, in fact it was its pinnacle, but take me back to Group 4 any day!
Despite the office’s differing views on how F1 stands today, we all seemed to agree that something very special came to an end with the Williams “computer car” of 1988. Since then, technology has certainly removed a large portion of spectacle from the sport. It’s less of a fight between man and machine than ever before, and no longer are race cars unruly animals to be tamed by the few with the nerve to do it.
Winning a race, something that was much a matter of national pride as anything else (think of when Pescarolo won Le Mans for Matra and for France in 1972), is now about personal glory and sponsorship revenue.
What fans can possibly be compared to those at the Targa Florio? The Italians have always embodied the passion for motorsport we all share. It is my firm belief that motorsport needs to be experienced with every sense of the body. It’s not enough to see and hear the cars; the filthy AvGas stench and the purely mechanical vibrations you feel through the seat of your pants is part of the experience for me. Ask any F1 fan what they think of the current generation of turbo V6 “power units”. It smells different now. Trackside, it’s all E85 and clinical efficiency.
Sure we’re quicker and more efficient now, but it is computers that do the innovating, not Kiwi engineers with tin snips and a bouncy fuel flap.
It has become a technological arms race. It always has been to an extent, but now it’s diluted the sport more than ever. I grew up as one of the kids hanging out at Oran Park, sliding down hills on cardboard boxes pinched from behind the cafe. I can still recall the rusty swing set near Stop at Amaroo. All of this means that I may be looking back through rose-tinted glasses, but I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Featured image: Imgur