Thursday, 31 March 2011

Government announces consultation into 'closed road' motor sport

The Motor Sports Association’s campaign to bring closed road motor sport to mainland Britain received a major boost yesterday. In an announcement that was welcomed by former F1 champions Sir Jackie Stewart and Nigel Mansell OBE, the coalition government confirmed that it would begin a three month public consultation to establish how existing legislation can be amended to allow motor sport to take place on public roads.

The announcement was made during a debate at Westminster Hall, secured by Ben Wallace MP (Wyre and Preston North) and involving Mike Penning, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. Both Members of Parliament were unanimous in their belief that the MSA’s proposal could significantly boost not just UK motor sport and the related motor sport industry, but also bring benefits, both economic and social, to the communities that wish to host this type of event.

The MSA has been pushing successive governments to empower local authorities with the right to suspend the Road Traffic Act without having to resort to an Act of Parliament. Such an amendment would open up the way for competitive motor sport events such as stage rallies, sprints and hillclimbs to take place on a limited number of British roads, as happens across most of mainland Europe.

Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive:
“We are delighted that the government has recognised that a minor change to the Road Traffic Act could have huge benefits, not only for the sport itself, but also for the communities involved and we are grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport for listening to our proposals with such an open mind. As the governing body, we are proud of our excellent track record of safety and risk management, and throughout the consultation process we will be demonstrating that proper safeguards are already in place to ensure that these events would be safely and responsibly staged.”

Three-time F1 world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart said:
“I whole-heartedly support the initiative to introduce the opportunity for motor sport to utilise appropriate public roads for sporting events. The British motor sport industry is one of the UK’s most successful enterprises and we indeed lead the world in this field. There are many other countries that use their roads on a temporary basis for significant sporting events that attract worldwide interest. In many cases it can even progress safety standards on those same roads for the benefit of the general public and all road users.”

Former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell OBE has also given his backing to the proposals:
“This would be a great move forward for the sport in the UK and would bring visitors and pride to parts of the country that wish to stage such events. I am delighted that this government seems to be willing to embrace motor sport which will assist the UK’s world-leading position, and improve the sport’s ability to help provide opportunities and focus for young people.”

In announcing the consultation, Mr Penning said that he wanted to “establish how we can deregulate the matter from central Government bureaucratic control, while ensuring that local communities do not have such things imposed on them. Those involved can perhaps come together in a consortium with the MSA, which will issue the licence for any motor sport activity. We are in a very exciting situation.”