The last round of the 2015/16 Toyota Finance 86 championship was held over Easter Sunday at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park with Ashley Blewett dominating most of the season and winning the title.
The season saw 27 drivers take part — ranging from the new breed of young ‘rookies’ to the vastly more experienced — and over the weekend there was good racing with a lot of classes taking the opportunity for some fine weather.
While at Taupo for the event, I also managed to spend a lot of Easter Sunday with a good friend who has been, I am not ashamed to say, a hero of mine for many years. Christopher Arthur Amon MBE is one of the most fascinating and entertaining raconteurs you could ever hope to meet.
We talked about things as diverse as ride on mowers, Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, cars sales figures, driving standards on our roads, the weather, the attributes or negatives of various road cars, food, wine and of course the state of motorsport; the Le Mans 24 Hour race and Formula 1 in particular.
Chris Amon sitting in the Ferrari 412T F1 car. Picture/Supplied.
Stories of Ferrari, both the man and team, are entertaining to say the least although most cannot be retold in print.
His opinions on the current state of the highest level of the sport comes from an innate understanding of what is needed to make the simple act of “racing“ a priority. “It’s not Hollywood, it is Formula 1 racing,” Chris told me.
“This constant fiddling with the rules, be it tyres, qualifying, radios, whatever, is not getting to the main problem and that is the spectacle of the actual racing.
“If the drivers are having to spend half the race looking after their tyres and the other half having to look after their fuel economy and then not being able to overtake because of the extreme aerodynamics, the purity of the racing is being lost.”
Chris is a big fan of the transfer of technology from racing to road, especially hybrid technology.
“Much of the hybrid technology being used by the engine manufacturers in Formula 1 can never be applicable to passenger cars, so to a great extent the technology in Formula 1 has overtaken the actual pure element of racing in its simplest form — that is to go fast and overtake other cars.
Ash Blewett leads Ryan Yardley on his way to the TR86 series title. Picture / Mark Baker.
“It got to a ridiculous point where, at the Melbourne F1GP, people were questioning whether a small leaf caught in one of the multiple front wing elements of a leading car actually affected the handling!
“The rules for 2017 call for even more aerodynamics and wider tyres making the cars perhaps seven or eight seconds a lap faster but will that make the racing better? I don’t think it will if the drivers still cannot actually overtake and it seems that nobody is listening to what the drivers have to say about it.”
With the move to pay TV in the core fan areas of Europe — something that has been evident here in New Zealand over the past few years — Chris also feels that most of the things happening in the sport at the moment are pointing in the wrong direction.
“There is a real danger of the fan base, the public, abandoning the sport,” he continues, “close racing as we saw in the Toyota 86 Championship races is entertainment and if the public feel they are not being entertained then they will not watch and that then will be a slippery slope for the sport”.
Chris is an astute, incisive observer of the sport and his views should be heeded by all, perhaps most especially by his friend Bernie Ecclestone. And 1977 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve also has some strong views.
“It’s going the wrong way with trying to add more ‘show’,” the outspoken former Williams and Honda driver told French newspaper Le Figaro.
“We are trying to be the X-Games, appealing to teenagers who spend their lives doing something different every 10 minutes on the internet.
“But Formula 1 will never be a show like that with exploding cars and drifting and 10,000 overtakes.
“F1 is not artificial Hollywood and going in that direction will destroy it.
“What is needed is to restore F1’s former glory and prestige and, above all, its credibility.”
Much has been said and written on this subject but the words of respected personalities such as Chris Amon and Jacques Villeneuve, as well as the current drivers, should be seriously heeded.
The last word goes to Chris: “I just hope that it doesn’t come down to the stable door being bolted too late.”