“Mo­tor­sport should jump on closed roads”

Lewis: Brakes were to blame

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - SCOTT MITCHELL

Mo­tor­sport’s not avail­able on the na­tional cur­ricu­lum. Schools around the coun­try are far bet­ter equipped (at far less a cost) to have foot­ball, rugby and ten­nis in PE lessons than kart­ing or Ju­nior 1000.

What’s the point? That mo­tor­sport’s not easy to fall into. It’s not a jumpers-for-goal-posts kind of sport. It’s not cheap or easy to get started in. It’s not ex­posed to a wide group of peo­ple and those who are ex­posed to it dis­cover a very high point of en­try when they want to pur­sue it fur­ther.

That mat­ters be­cause the ma­jor­ity of sports thrive off those who find it en­gag­ing to par­tic­i­pate, do so at what­ever level their abil­ity al­lows – and be­come fans of the up­per ech­e­lons.

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity is mo­tor­sport’s big­gest is­sue and Wales Rally GB had a good stab at tack­ling that last week. The re­group’s re­turn to the cen­tre of Ch­ester last Fri­day night, be­fore each car passed un­der­neath East­gate Clock, was some­thing of a big deal.

That put the WRC grid and the na­tional en­tries front and cen­tre be­fore a mix of peo­ple from gen­uine rally fans, and lo­cals who hap­pened to be in the right place at the right time. It’s not a mil­lion TV view­ers, but it’s some­thing – and the streets were packed with those look­ing for au­to­graphs and pic­tures. That’s where it can all start… Tak­ing mo­tor­sport to the peo­ple is one of the only ob­vi­ous ways of eas­ing the hur­dle of ac­ces­si­bil­ity. And there’s some­thing in­ter­est­ing on the hori­zon: the long-awaited closed-road leg­is­la­tion.

When that comes into ef­fect, Bri­tish mo­tor­sport needs to grab the bull by the horns. Push for a closed-roads Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship round in Eng­land. Get the Bri­tish Hill­climb Cham­pi­onship to put on a Craigant­let-style show in Southamp­ton. Try and pull off a Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship street de­mon­stra­tion in Corby.

Big se­ries like the BTCC, and events like For­mula 1’s Bri­tish Grand Prix, are do­ing well at the mo­ment. But where’s the next gen­er­a­tion of fan? De­clin­ing TV fig­ures in grand prix rac­ing are proof that with more com­pe­ti­tion than ever for peo­ple’s at­ten­tion, mo­tor­sport’s long-term fu­ture is far from nailed on.

As the con­sumer pool shrinks it’ll be the na­tional parts of the sport that die first.

There is not an easy an­swer or a quick fix, but outreach events can be a part of the so­lu­tion. Of course it’s dif­fi­cult, of course there would be hoops to jump through, of course some­one, some­where, will have to foot the bill.

But mo­tor­sport – be it at in­ter­na­tional or na­tional level – has to fight harder than ever for its place in this world. If it loses that bat­tle, the cost will be far greater than any of the above events would ever be.

Lewis Hamil­ton has blamed his stut­ter­ing start to the Mex­i­can GP on an anom­aly with his front brakes, which he says he was sur­prised didn’t make him crash.

Hamil­ton suf­fered a huge lock-up on his run to the first cor­ner be­fore skat­ing off the cir­cuit at Turn One and re­join­ing be­fore Turn Three.

“On the for­ma­tion lap I had a glazed right-front brake, I just couldn’t wake it up,” said the Bri­ton, whose win in Mex­ico moves him within 19 points of Nico Ros­berg.

“I had 500 de­grees [centi­grade] in the left-front and 150-200 in the right-front. So when I went into Turn One the right-front just locked. I was car­ry­ing so much speed there I was lucky I didn’t go into the wall or some­thing.

“Af­ter that I had the big­gest vi­bra­tion, I didn’t know if I was go­ing to be able to make the first stint [with­out pit­ting early].”

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