Forgive me for returning to an issue already covered on this site by Steve Cropley, but British motorsport fans have just one week left to take part in an amazing opportunity to benefit the sport.
Back in February, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport opened a public consultation on a proposal to authorise motorsport events on public roads. That would be a major step for the sport in Britain. While it is perfectly possible to close a road at the moment, it takes an Act of Parliament to suspend the Road Traffic Act. And securing an Act of Parliament is incredibly difficult.
Only three events in Britain have secured such an Act of Parliament. Organisers of the two most recent events to secure such an Act – the Mull and Jim Clark rallies – both spent close to a decade, and considerable expense, to secure the right to hold rally stages on public roads.
The Government proposals would give greater power to local councils to approve closed-road motorsport events. It would still be a difficult process, but it would make running closed-road motorsport events far more achievable. That would be a huge shot in the arm for grassroots British motorsport. And make no mistake: these proposals are all about motorsport at the grassroots.
When the consultation first launched, there was plenty of misguided talk about it leading to a London Grand Prix. Such uninformed chatter spectacularly missed the point, not least because anyone with enough cash to pursue an F1 race in London would almost certainly be able to secure an Act of Parliament anyway.
The reality is that the events that will benefit from a change in law will likely be far smaller in scale. Think hillclimbs and sprints in rural areas, the occasional closed-road street stage as part of a rally, and high-speed street demos. The highest-level plans are probably on Wales Rally GB, where event chiefs want to use one short stretch of closed public road to combine two short forest stages into one massive test.
Anything that could open up new venues and opportunities for grassroots motorsport is hugely welcome. At the lower levels, motorsport faces a number of issues. Noise challenges have put limits on a number of permanent circuits – the most recent being Mildenhall Stadium. Multiple single-venue rally venues have been sold off in recent years to make way for new housing.
Closed roads won’t solve all the issues in the sport, but they will be a huge boost. And that’s why anyone concerned with the future of British motorsport needs to act – now. The Motor Sports Association, which governs motorsport in the UK, has been pushing for years simply to get the proposed changes this far. Such a chance is unlikely to come around again for years, so we need to make it happen.
The MSA has published guidance on how to respond on its website, including a set of ‘template’ answers. Read that, and then submit your opinion on the DCMS consultation site. You have until 10 April to do so.