Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Motor racing as it should be

I took a very nostalgic trip to Montjuic on Sunday (along with 250,000) others to see a special festival to mark the 75th birthday of the now defunct racing circuit which winds around the beautiful park.

Among the historic cars which lapped the circuit were a dozen F1 cars from 1975, the last time a Grand Prix was held there. Not only was that the time that I followed F1 with a passion, but it was in many ways a golden age of racing. No pit stops, no tyre changes, no computers - just close racing around wonderful road circuits such as Montjuic, Spa, Nurburgring.

All gone now. In fact Montjuic in 1975 marked the beginning of the end. The drivers threatened to strike becuase of the poor safety features and raced only under threat of having the cars impounded. After 25 laps, a car left the tracks, leapt the barriers and killed four people, two of them spectators. The era of road racing was over.

Barcelona still has its Grand Prix of course on the Catalunya circuit, an event that brings millions of euros into the city each year.

It's a very strange business. Under Franco, the sport was very much the preserve of the Nationalists, organised for and by rich playboys, dukes and counts. I doubt there was much of a Republican presence there.

Today you'll see the nationalist and socialist Catalan leaders hobnobbing with the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and dangling baubles to ensure he doesn't take the franchise away from the circuit to some other part of Spain. Most peculiar.

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