Thursday, 17 July 2014

David Cameron has given great street racing events the green light

IMAGINE the sight of a Jaguar D-type doing battle with a Ferrari 250 TR, or perhaps a pair of Caterhams ducking and diving as they fight for the perfect line through a tight corner.

It’s an entertaining enough prospect to make you book a ticket for Brands Hatch or Silverstone, but what about watching some proper, full-throttle action on, say, Ormskirk’s one-way system? Well, thanks to the concerted efforts of some racing buffs and a largely unexpected move by the Prime Minister, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

Last Friday, seemingly out of nowhere, David Cameron announced he was going to give local authorities the green light to close off public roads for motorsport events. In other words, the powers-that-be are free to close off your nearest high street, suspend the normal speed limits for an afternoon, and stage races – or time trials or sprints, for that matter – for your entertainment.

Personally, I think it’s a corking idea. Having long been involved with West Lancashire’s efforts to re-enact the street racing glamour of Monaco, the Ormskirk MotorFest, I’ve asked for years why the road closures can’t be used for something a bit more dramatic than parades of old cars and motorbikes. The local authorities liked the idea.

The event organisers seemed up for it. The petrolhead public – who were already sold on the idea of seeing a 1978 Saudia-Williams F1 car tootling past the parish church – were all in favour. Yet, thanks to an obscure clause in a bit of legislation passed more than 25 years ago, shutting off a road and using it for racing was very much against the law.

That’s why a display of sports cars in Ormskirk town centre last Saturday to promote this year’s MotorFest couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. By sheer coincidence, the team behind one of the few shows in the country which actually puts racing cars on real roads were showing off cars to the town’s shoppers, the day after the Prime Minister effectively gave them permission to up the stakes.

Mike Ashcroft, chairman of event organisers Aintree Circuit Club, told me: "The announcement is excellent news, because that aspect of the law has been the single biggest stumbling block for events like the MotorFest, which is now attracting more than 30,000 people into Ormskirk every year.

"The event brings so much money into the town centre, and hopefully this change will give other local councils the confidence to host their own events in other parts of the country. I think there could definitely be an Ormskirk MotorFest with a more competitive element in the future, as long as there the people in place to organise it."

By all means don’t hold your breath; there won’t be any flat-out, fully-fledged racing battles on Ormskirk’s one-way system at this year’s event, but it’s great to know Ormskirk – or a street near you – could play host to some Monaco-esque motorsport magic in years to come. I’m really looking forward to it.

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