GLOBETROTTER

Luck

I have a friend who has a truly extraordinary ability to find a parking space in Paris. Whenever she drives up a road needing to park her car, a space will present itself to her. I call it luck, she says it is all about having a positive attitude and the right karma. I was never very good at Buddhism and so I am willing to accept her explanation. The other day she complained that for some reason she cannot understand whenever she parks outside her own house the birds in the neighbourhood decorate her car (and no other) with their excrement. I have an urge to explain that it is all about karma and having a positive attitude but in the end I think it is wisest just to put it down to luck.

Some people are lucky and some are not.

It is said that Bernie Ecclestone never hired an unlucky driver because he figured that there are enough problems winning in F1, without having Fate against you as well. Some drivers go through their entire careers having things go wrong while others seem always to get good luck.

Thomas Jefferson might have been right when he said that "I find the harder I work, the luckier I am".

Hard work is a key element in success in motor racing and it does not matter what element of the sport one is considering. It even applies to racing circuits.

The San Marino Grand Prix is to disappear from the World Championship calendar next year, and while there are some who feel that this is a damning indictment of the sport in its modern form, there are some sound arguments that cut through the nostalgia of the critics. It is not wrong to send Grand Prix racing off to new countries with no racing tradition and dump classic events. There are two flaws in the argument: the first is that Imola is not really a classic event and the second is that expanding the motorsport world is something which should be applauded rather than condemned.

The other point which needs to be taken into account is that Imola's crowds have been dropping in recent years. In 2000 the three-day figure for the event was 192,592 but that dropped rapidly to 120,268 in 2001, 108,121 in 2002 and last year hit a low of 82,200, a figure that was below normal because the race was held on Easter Sunday. This year the numbers bounced back to around 130,000 but one must compare this to the Malaysian GP which this year claimed a three-day figure of 140,000. Malaysia also had the misfortune to have the race taking place on the same day as the general election which cut race day figures significantly. The numbers illustrate that interest can be built up in new venues and there is a very strong argument that if motor racing had never gone to places where the sport had no tradition there would not today be any racing outside Europe.

Even the Americans started out by drawing international racers from Europe with big prizes, notably the Vanderbilt Cup. The early editions of this event were all won by European machinery and drivers who had raced in Europe. But the race stimulated the US automobile industry and eventually the Europeans were beaten.

Racing in South America, Australia and South Africa was largely dependent on old European machinery being sold on to local heroes. Race organisers then spent large sums of money to attract the big racing names from the international scene. And so traditions were born.

Interest in motor racing is thus sparked by international events rather than from indigenous growth.

I would also argue that compared to Monza, Silverstone, Spa or Monaco, Imola is not a classic racing circuit. Monza, Spa and Monaco date back to the 1920s, while Silverstone can be traced to the 1940s. Imola was built in the early 1950s and aside from a one-off non-championship F1 race in 1963 which was attended by teams on their way between races at Pau and Syracuse, there was no F1 activity at Imola until 1979 when the non-championship Gran Premio Dino Ferrari took place a week after the Italian GP although most F1 teams only took one car.

After that Imola won a place on the F1 calendar under the rather dubious title of San Marino Grand Prix, named after a tiny republic of San Marino, perched on the top of a small mountain 50 miles away, which everyone forgot to conquer when Italy was being formed.

There were some interesting races at Imola but the major reason for the race's popularity was the contagious enthusiasm from the fans, the beautiful rolling hills of the region, the quirky little hotels and the superb food and wine. It was not about the race track but rather about the region.

Even if Imola was a classic racing facility I am not sure that any one country should be allowed to have Grands Prix these days. The best interests of the sport are served by spreading the word as far afield as possible and if that means races in China and Mexico then so be it. The Formula 1 circus must open its mind a little more and not rely on the same old traditional races in Europe, particularly if the race organisers do want to up their game to have facilities as good as those now being built in the countries where F1 is heading for.

Imola survived because of Ferrari's support but in an era when there is constant pressure to improve facilities, Imola did little, complaining that it never had the money needed to do the job. Its facilities have been out of date for 10 years and very little effort has gone into changing things particularly when compared to other European tracks.

There were plans for a new pit and paddock complex on the inside of the race track but it never got built.

I guess Imola just grew to be unlucky...

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