“Is now the time for a historic superlicence?”
Happily, there was a live stream of the Monaco Historique – a biennial highlight on the historic racing calendar – last weekend. That meant I could catch the action in between the increasingly dramatic events unfolding in Barcelona.
There were some exquisite moments too. Andy Middlehurst’s handling of the Lotus 25 he now races regularly was superb, smashing his previous best lap from 2014. And he completed his Monaco hat-trick, somewhat ironic given Lotus hero Jim Clark’s failure to score a Monaco success during his illustrious career.
From the same era, there was a fine Porsche F1 demonstration by Jacky Ickx and Brendon Hartley, even if the appearance of a pre-war Bugatti and Bentelys during the same run seemed a little odd.
Seeing Alex Caffi put the underrated Ensign N176 on pole for the later Dfv-engined F1 split was also fantastic. The Italian never really had the chance to show his best in F1, though he did score a fourth in the 1989 Monaco GP for Scuderia Italia.
He duly won last Sunday’s race. Throw in a great fight between Katsu Kubota (March 761) and Joe Twyman (Shadow DN8), and Emanuele Pirro’s fourth in a glorious Ferrari 312B3 and the quality at the front was clear.
One the downside, however, driving standards further back were once again called into question. The number of cars involved in incidents – particularly in the later F1 machines – was pretty high, causing red flag and safety car periods. Perhaps it is not surprising, seeing as F1 aces through the decades have described Monaco as one of the great driver challenges, that some amateurs find it difficult to keep their 500bhp racers off the walls…
Given the serious accidents at Goodwood in March, it got me thinking once again about the need for a unified superlicence for historic racing. The problem is nothing new of course, but historic cars aren’t getting any slower. Or cheaper. Or all that much safer.
Previously, I had thought the licence system should be based purely on the machinery involved; drivers should gain experience in lower-powered categories before stepping up to the cars from the history of the sport’s pinnacle. But now I wonder if certain circuits need to be included. Handling a Historic Formula Ford on the Silverstone National circuit, for example, is not the same as driving a 1970s F1 car around Monaco, or a 1960s Can-am machine at Goodwood.
One key problem to implementing this would be getting all ASNS and organisers to play by the rules, but another would be the competitors themselves. How many rich owners would be prepared to do the time to get up to speed, rather than pay to get into the most prestigious events? Some would, some would not, but I am not convinced that is a reason to leave things as they are.