Rory Cummins: Another Year of Shouting at the Moon!
January 31, 2013 by Rory Cummins
A few months ago I eventually made it to the Donington Grand Prix museum. Now I have never been one for static displays of racing cars- much preferring to see them at full noise but this was Donington for Gods sake. I was lucky in that it was the middle of the week and I had the place virtually to myself and I could wander around in quiet contemplation. There is something about older racing cars that appeals to my soul, sitting there in reluctant retirement they reminded me of old soldiers. The battles and heartache that they have witnessed and you get the sense that you only would have to give the word and they would be ready to go in a heartbeat. Thankfully most of Donington’s collection are ‘on the button’ so to speak and are taken out for a thrash now and again.
But that visit and a trip to the Silverstone Classic in July have confirmed a festering feeling that I have had for some years. Motor racing has embraced technology so whole heartedly that it has left its very soul behind. Maybe I have been over exposed to it in the last 22 years of following it but it takes a lot to get my heart beating faster these days. I am like a junkie who has had too much of a good thing. I need bigger and bigger hits. Modern motorsport has lost its charisma.
Granted when a Grand Prix grid comes around for the start I do move to the edge of my seat and hold my breath but it is all too fleeting, soon enough I am only half watching and last year was better than most. So what is it that has caused this loss of charisma. I am afraid that for the most part it is pounds shilling and pence. The more of that you have to spend the more technology you have and the more analysed the sport becomes. Formula One has been the biggest victim of this. There are no grey areas anymore. Every inch of a modern Grand Prix car is engineered to perfection, every one of its operating parts analysed to the nth degree. Where is the magic and the wonder?
Last year saw the anomaly of the teams not fully understanding the tyres and look at the entertainment that brought! When Pastor Maldonado is on the pace then you know that something somewhere has thrown a spanner in the works, and praise the Lord for that. A little while ago I read an entertaining article about John Watson’s win in the 1983 United States Grand Prix West. Starting 22nd in a car that he could not get a handle on, he struggled in the early part of the race until it came back to him and he started to lap at a ferocious pace passing cars as if they were stopped. His win on that Long Beach street circuit was one of his best but when asked what was it that changed in the car his response was “ Nearly thirty years later I still have no idea”.
Teams hate unpredictability, well the ones that win regularly do anyway! The fans, on the other hand, love it. With all this analysis and engineering something has to give, where does it all end? The 1993 McLaren was considered, at the time, the most technologically advanced racing car in history but even with its fly by wire throttle and traction control it sizzled with magic at the hands of Ayrton Senna. His five wins that season against the might of Williams defied convention, he was the difference. My point is that Formula One cars have become so much more advanced and engineered that we are not allowed the excitement of a driver having a special day and making a difference. We understand too much and we are losing those days when you stand and wonder.