So Farewell Then, PowerTour.

04 June 2001

(Paul Truswell wrote this thoughtful piece just before the weekend of the first ISC meeting.)

The recent announcement that promotion of the PowerTour will be terminated with immediate effect has caused a stir through the UK national racing scene. The details are announced elsewhere on this web site, but simply put, many of the frills which were introduced by PowerTour at the beginning of last year have been cut. And although the content of the race meetings will remain unchanged, even the name “PowerTour” will be dropped, unless the organisers at Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Thruxton and Donington specifically want to keep it. Roger Etcell, whose brainchild PowerTour was, has been removed from his position as series director, and has been replaced by John Taylor, whose enthusiasm and practical approach will ensure a stable short-term future, but don’t expect him to bring the vision and innovation of Etcell.

Fortunately, the racing aspects of PowerTour remain in place for the remainder of the year. British Formula Three, more popular than most people can ever remember, plus the endurance-style racing of the Privilege GT Championship, make for a solid foundation to the package. Bolstered this year by the arrival of Formula Ford, TVR Tuscans and the Porsche Cup, it is hard to fault the content, except perhaps that one sheds a tear that Minis will not be seen this year. The loss of the National Saloon Cup seems a small price to pay, and the competitors in that category are having a great time over with the touring cars. So everyone wins, don’t they?

Maybe. When one considers the speed with which Octagon have acted in pulling the plug on PowerTour, one must wonder whether they quite knew what they were getting themselves into when they acquired it in the first place. While one might accuse the BRDC of focussing too much attention on PowerTour at the expense of the British Grand Prix at the beginning of last year, one might equally accuse BMP of not noticing what it was getting when it acquired PowerTour along with the rights to the Grand Prix this year.

Certainly, had events not turned out the way they did, the BRDC would have continued to pour money into PowerTour, and this money, now controlled by Octagon, can now go elsewhere. Considering the payback in terms of crowd figures so far, you have to admit that they have a point. But we are far too early into Etcell’s plan for PowerTour to judge. PowerTour was different. Whether the crowds were ever going to appreciate what was being served up is another matter, indeed the razzmatazz and the hype might well have better suited Touring Cars than the anorak-wearing fans who attend Formula 3 and GT racing.

But I fear I am getting distracted by the short-term aspects of the announcement. In the longer term, by which I mean after the end of this year, we can expect a completely new package from BMP. Remember, BMP now controls Touring Cars, Superbikes, Formula Three and GT’s – all the major British racing championships in the UK. And BMP is controlled by the major circuits. This itself is not particularly healthy, and is under the investigation of the Competitions Commission.

So, can we expect a ‘SuperTour’, featuring the BTCC, F3 and GT’s? Possibly, but think about how that would work in practice – you’d get everyone squabbling over pit garage allocations, hospitality space, race schedules, and so on. Far from promoting the F3 and GT championships, it would probably end up reducing their stature. So, do we have competing tours, as we do at the moment? Despite best assurances, inevitably you end up with date clashes, diluting the best in British Motorsport.

What I would like to see is a mixture, where you’d get different categories racing every two weeks, drawn from a pool which would include all of the classes currently in TOCAtour and PowerTour. Throw in Caterhams and Minis for good measure and you’d have all the ingredients for some great race meetings, and you’d never have to repeat the menu served up to the hungry racing fans.

The drawback with this approach is that it would lead to a two-tier system, consisting of those who were in this ‘Premier Pool’ and those who weren’t. There would need to be a mechanism in place to ensure that new categories could be promoted into the pool, and which would weed out those classes which no longer should be there.

Maybe the RACMSA has a role to play here. And while they’re playing it, maybe we could reduce the number of championships in the country at the same time. If we’re going to consolidate and co-ordinate the top championships, then why not sort out the rest of the national sport at the same time?

There’s certainly an argument for more premier championships – particularly involving historic racing. Why should historic cars only come out for historic race meetings? I’d like to see a race for historic cars featuring at most meetings. When the British Grand Prix meeting featured a historic race, it was very popular and I’m sure many spectators would like to see a historic race, rather than visiting a historic festival. And the big single seaters – BOSS or Thoroughbred Grand Prix cars are worthy of a guest slot at major meetings as well.

These are all things with which BMP has to grapple. From its position of power comes responsibility. Not just to make money, but also to look after motor racing at all levels, and that means ensuring it develops, not just preserving what happens at the moment. I hope they can strike a balance between careful financial management and the creation of innovative ideas to keep the sport alive.

Apropos of innovation, we have the Interactive Sportscar Championship finally kicking off at Donington, this weekend. Sports Car racing may have more avenues that you can shake a stick at, but I reckon that there might be a future in “Interactive” motor sports – Dominic Chappell might just be ahead of his time and if his still there in five years time, he’ll almost certainly have contributed to the UK racing scene, and made some money along the way. If Octagon is going to still be around in five years time, it will have to find a way of making as much of a difference.

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