It’s been a while since I posted on the blog, work has been a reason, sport another but altogether inspiration is also part of the job. As I struggled to find some, it wasn’t worth talking of useless stuff. For once, I will talk about modern motor sport and the way things are going but of course with an historic insight.
Recent look at Formula One or the World Endurance Championship as well as the World Rally Championship shows that history is most if not always forgotten when it comes to shaping up the future of a category or let’s say what it will become. It is no secret that motor sport has become more and more complicated in the last 30 years and I believe the main reason is aerodynamics as well as the involvement of manufacturers when it comes to discussing the future of regulations.
History is a loop and so is motor sport. The sixties are a good reference point to start with, Appendix J was introduced as well as Homologations with evolutions of the different categories such as Group 1, 2, 3 and all the way to Group 8 with standards going up and regulations taking into account the evolution of the automobile but also its manufacturing processes.
The early seventies and all the way to 1975 saw the first big changes linked to performance but also the society we lived in. The main example being the change in sports car racing from 1972 which showed that performance should be kept under control and also the fact that mainstreaming formulas could prove relevant to involve more manufacturers through the 3000cc formula that came into force for Group 6 racing back then.
1975 and the FIA bulletin that cut short the practices of certain manufacturers for Group 2 and 4 when it came to evolutions but also performance was another. It showed the need for control but also and due to the oil crisis that economics were to be a key factor in the future of production based motor sport.
No wonder that Group 1 or “Group 1+” lived its heydays after that break. It was relevant to manufacturers but also helped the sport by bringing a level playing field for privateers which are not to be forgotten in our sport.
The next big break came in 1982 with the new Appendix J and formulas known as Group A, B or C to stay on the production ones. Again, the oil crisis and economics played a key aspect in shaping those formulas, just like it took into account what manufacturers were up to in terms of marketing but without neglecting the aspect of the privateer either and all the way up to 1989 let’s say and before it all collapsed.
Group A, B or C were popular for multiple aspects which were mainly linked to the fact that the formulas were relevant to manufacturers in terms of “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” and that privateers could play an intricate part in the overall bid for manufacturers title.
All of the above formulas saw numerous wins taken by privateers and even factories taking over and supporting full private efforts which proved even better than their own design. The example of the Porsche 962C GTi by RLR and Richard Lloyd being one, when Porsche entered Jochen Mass and gave their factory engine back in Kyalami 1987 to take overall honors there.
Formula One must not be forgotten either, from the introduction of the 3000cc formula in 1967 and all the way to the end of the beginning of the nineties, there were factories and privateers teams all around. Success was not equal for privateers as in Group A, B or C but there was room for them to come and mix with the big names. Who does not remember Tyrrell, ATS, March, Leyton House and such?
What comes out of the above is that ever since the early nineties, it has been going down. Manufacturers have been dictating what the sport has become, costs have gone through the roof and nobody seems to have been considering a way around or even looking at the past history of the sport to think and consider how it could be turned around…
All in all, isn’t it time to simplify and come to a “less is more” formula? I mean, safety levels are high in terms of car design or even considering the tracks all around the world. Wouldn’t it be sensible to therefore go back to a kind of dictatorship and simplify regulations in order to be more inclusive and bring people in?
What I mean is that if we could go back and reintroduce technologies such as ground effect, active ride but keep it simple in terms of drivers aids, the cars could go back to being spectacular and hard to drive an aspect which could bring back the gladiator part of the sport that we miss today. In terms of production, TCR seems to be a formula that proves successful if looking at championships, world or national levels and with simplified “kits” lets say which mirror the likes of the Group A days.
I do think and would advocate for a simpler sport in terms of technologies, with more emphasis on the driver side as in the end it should be all about talent. Aside from that, it’s pretty simple to consider that bringing manufacturers and keeping it road relevant in the world we live in will only make it more and more complicated and costly in the future as electronics, electric technology or even hybrid is nothing a true privateer can handle on his own. Be it the technology, the costs and in the end the budget.
The parallel with historic motor sport is simple, it’s getting ever more successful for the reason that cars being genuine or not are simpler than their modern equivalent, they can be run by a team which would have proved a private effort back in the heydays of touring car racing in the eighties if you consider an historic Formula One or Group C which are the class of the field. And last, the investment does not go away every time a new set of rules is printed and there will always be crowds to enjoy the sheer brutality of Lola T70 Mk3B or Ford RS500 being thrown around any circuit because it’s spectacular even with old mans as gladiators.
Less is more and these are just some thoughts but if I was to design a Formula One today, I would go back to 3500cc and add ground effect or a better version through active ride. Generating 80% of the downforce from the floor, simplifying wings so that everyone can follow another and last, take out drivers aids. I couldn’t have witnessed Ayrton back in the days but what strikes out watching an old video is how destroyed he looked when going up on a podium. Sad is that I wasn’t old enough to see that. Just some thoughts…