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Non-Championship Races

Like everyone else, I am desperate to get into the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend and so escape the constant rehashing of rumors of driver changes and politics that has occupied us over the last three weeks. Yet Friday practice is so meaningless that it is hard to get excited about it. So Kimi is fastest with Schumacher (M) and Jenson Button next up – so what? The times have little significance for race pace and the Renaults did not even complete a timed lap.

Instead, my thoughts turned to the mists of history again, back to a time when there were non-Championship races to interest us as well. Some of these were important pointers to future talent and I remember very well when Keke Rosberg first came to the fore, winning the 1978 streaming wet Silverstone International Trophy race in a hopelessly uncompetitive Theodore car. All the greats departed into the weeds on that occasion but the fact remained that somehow that crazy Finn managed to go faster than everyone else and yet keep it on the black stuff too.

But the heyday of the non-Championship race was in the sixties, when most of the teams would stuff a 2.5 liter engine into their cars and go racing in the Tasman series down under. They were great races, a chance for the heroes of the premier stage to enjoy racing without the pressures of F1 and an opportunity for drivers in the far antipodes to match their skills against the best.

Tasman series

For the fans, too, it was something to follow during the off season. Without the Tasman series, the winter break could be very long in the northern hemisphere. A quick look at the results in the series shows a fascinating mix of famous names and local heroes. They were great races.

Nowadays, of course, such extra-curricular shennanigans are unheard of. The teams’ investment in their drivers is far too great to be risked in anything as dangerous as motor sport when no points are on offer. And the cost of transporting everything halfway around the world just could not be justified by even the best results.

Every age mourns the changes that time brings. Many of those changes are for the better but some take us further away from something that was good and valuable. And I think it would do no harm for the occasional non-Championship race to be reinstated, with suitable monetary incentives added to tempt the teams.

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