Posted 26 November 2004 - 06:33
When I was at Motor Sport in the mid-1980s, Jenks and I used to worry about what we could offer than TV coverage could not. Jenks's reports were coming out up to six weeks after we had watched the race on TV. We now have the Internet so why do we need weekly print magazines?
They still have a place if they feature outstanding writers. There was a time when I had to have Autosport each week because it not only was first with the news, but it had some great features. About 15 years ago, Autosport gave up on features, it did sound-bites instead. Autosport's masters realised that having Formula One on the cover added 10,000 to the circulation so we had any daft old thing on the cover, things like "Why Damon Must Win In Hungary", anything to get F1 on the cover.
Answer to that daft question: Damon must win in Hungary because he is in the best car, he needs the points, and he is being paid millions to win. Any other questions?
Sales go up on a classic car mag if you put a Ferrari on the cover, they also go up if you put a red car on the cover. The classic car magazines now recycling stuff they ran 10, 15, 20 years ago. They used to print original stuff, now it is all shoot-outs! The exclamation mark is essential. We decide the Top Ferrari/Porsche/Lotus/Maserati! what you will, but there has to be an exclamation mark.
I have a complete run of Throughbred and Classic Sportscar for the first 25 years. At that point I threw in the towel. A once serious magazine was being run by cretins.
With me, it got to the point when the only reason I wanted to read Autosport was Nigel Roebuck's column, so I went down the slippery path, first WH Smith, then the local library. I just wanted to read Roebuck, there was no other reason for buying Autosport. I have known Marcus Pye for a quarter of a century and he has at his fingertips more information about grassroots motor racing than anyone on the planet. Marcus is an amazing resource, yet he has been squeezed to the sidelines.
I do not like the design of the re-launched Motor Sport. I think it is cheap and fussy. As it happens I told my kid brother about this on the phone last evening and he runs a very successful design company. He could not believe than anyone could be so stupid as to abandon the green cover.
I think that it is unfair to criticise Paul Fearnley because he wears his chin with designer stubble, so does Dave Richards. Come on, that is a silly comment. I'd be surprised if Fearnley had very much choice over how Motor Sport looks, the magazine is part of a corporation and has to work to company rules.
Motor Sport has found a niche and, for the first time in its history (I have read every single copy) it represents an international perspective. One regular feature I have enjoyed has been where drivers speak about their only Grand Prix, that has been a revelation.
I agree with almost all the criticism about track tests. None appeared in Motor Sport while I had a say, I did not see the point unless there was a special angle. In the current issue, Ian Flux provides that special angle with his test of the Hill GH2. Fluxie was a mechanic with Hill when everything went pear-shaped. It is a great piece of writing. It may be the only article Ian Flux has in him, but it is a great piece and it has been lying dormant for nearly 30 years. Give Paul Fearnley some credit for having commissioned it.
The guy likes a bit of stiubble on his chin. So what? If it gets him laid it has achieved its purpose. If not, he can pick up a razor and try again.
In the current issue there is Gordon Cruickshank's interview with Michael Burn, the man who ghost-wrote Tim Birkin's 'Full Throttle'. That reveals a lot about the period. It reveals a great deal more than many an acclaimed 'history'.
If we get over some of our quibbles about layout and conventrate on content we might see a different picture. The magazine had Keith Howard foisted on it, because he is (was?) the technical whizz-kid at Haymarket. He is also a man for whom history (of which he writes) is a fuzzy idea. Howard made so many mistakes of fact that it was embarrassing, but the orders came from above
It's good to see Richard Heseltine progress because he promises to be a very good writer. He is not quite there yet, but give him a couple of years and he should have us gasping, unless the corporate body which is Haymarket swallows him up. If it does, he won't be the first.