by David Bellamy
I first thrilled to Formula One back in the early days of Silverstone where Fangio, Farina and Prince Bira of Siam were jockeying for pole position. Happy days when you could buy a vintage Bugatti for a couple of hundred quid. A group of us between school and conscription had stripped down a 1932 Austin 7 ready to build and we hoped race in 750 special meets. Sadly, we all went our separate ways before we could complete the rebuild.
Holiday jobs helped me to raise £30 to buy a 1925 French Salmson that had held the lap record at Brooklands in 1924. After pushing it 6 miles to home I spent a happy weekend filing a new universal joint out of a chunk of scrap phosphor bronze. With a roar and a plume of Castrol R , twin overhead cams and a float chamber the size of a bucket, it roared back into life. Even with petrol at 5 bob a gallon, consumption was a nightmare so I fuelled it in part on waste lab solvents that in those days just went down the drain.
University then gobbled me up and 5 years later I was a real gone Don at Durham, a salaried member of the faculty of science, so my dream car soon came true. With a lot of hard work a kit was metamorphosed into a Lotus Super Seven, British Racing Green, of course. Fitting transport for my son homeward bound from the local maternity ward.
The need for family friendly cars did their best to shrink my petrol-head but the thrust of Formula One, never went away.
So what about me and the three fff’s, fossil fuel footprints?
At an ecotourism jamboree in Korea, Tony Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame worked out that when it came to fuel use, our personal travel schedules were in the league of Formula One meetings. It did not make me too popular when I posed the question that with the problems of peak oil around the corner what about conference calls next year?
The same of course goes for all those climate conferences and summits with thousands of delegates navigating a never-ending circuit of PowerPoint chicanes that could be accomplished on line.
What’s the difference between a carbon tax and a fuel tax? One frightens people into paying more taxes while the other dangles carrots of hope that we all can save fuel and hence money while creating breathing space for science and engineering to get our energy act together.
There are plenty of real alternatives out there, like Tidal Lagoon Technology and Concentrated Solar Power that could produce all the green electricity we need without messing up lives, livelihoods and landscapes with intermittent wind that cannot give a single house grid security without back up from conventional power sources.
Likewise, biofuels done the wrong way, using fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides irrigation water and lots of fossil fuel are yet another South Sea Bubble waiting to burst on a food and fuel hungry world.
If the Government really believes in petrol-head driven catastrophic global warming scenarios, why are they building new air terminals, new runways and new motorways to serve already grid locked destinations? Surely they should believe their own ‘the end is nigh’ PR and do something radical.
How about the mandatory use of cars with sleeping policemen built into satnav systems, administering immediate automatic fines every time you exceed the safest and the most fuel-efficient speed? I don’t know about the drivers, but if the fines were big enough the traffic would be calmed overnight, there would be fewer bad accidents and the police could focus on much more important things. Personal fuel costs (if allowed) could plummet and we might all be able to claim carbon credits as the Government coasted down the European road to Kyoto and beyond in a green Toyota.
At the launch of Honda’s new entry into Formula One, the media asked what I was doing there? To cut a long interview short I said that it was my considered opinion that Formula One is a much better mother of invention than another war. Vroom vroom not boom boom.
I did offer that when I bought my next automobile I would be proud to have it in Earth Car livery so I could find it again on the expensive parking lots when I returned to my local railway station.
DAVID BELLAMY JUNE 4, 2007.