A massive threat looming over track days in Europe
As you will read in #TrackAddict’s Jason Hardy’s column in this issue of Track Car Performance, he went above and beyond to get his Ford Puma to a track session at Rockingham.
As he writes, it was a combination of having good mates at hand, caffeine and determination to get the job done that saw him through. At the other end of the scale, track cars have now become toys of the super-rich with Aston Martin, McLaren and Lotus to name but three, all offering bespoke machines for those who can afford them. Not for them the scrabble to fit a new pair of drive shafts after a long overnight flight back home.
Such is the growing importance of track days, though, that both have their place. You might be lucky to afford a multi-million Aston Martin to go and play, but you can also have an everyday car costing a fraction of that which will probably give you as much fun, maybe even more if you survive the day without any mechanical problems.
The trend is also global. Wherever you look, track days are being held with circuits being built, especially in the US, specifically for this purpose. It is a growing industry and in time could exceed motorsport in terms of turnover. The beauty is that the parts are not homologated by a sanctioning body. You, the track day driver, can fit any part you like to your car and not be compelled to fit one as directed by a remote authority. Long may that continue. It means, of course, that the competition to produce the best damper, spring, diff or whatever is fierce as quality will always win.
As I write this, though, there is quite a threat on the horizon. I have already written about the Environmental Protection Agency in the US trying to assert its authority on all vehicular activities in that country, to the point that if it had its way, it would be the death knell of a large chunk of the performance aftermarket. In Europe, we have an even greater threat, but it’s nothing to do with the environment, but insurance.
It was a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union is September 2014, and its implementation that will apply to all 27 EU member states, that’s the big threat. It also includes the UK, because despite Brexit, it will still be part of the EU for at least another year. If implemented, the ruling will force all motorised vehicles in Europe, everything from electric bicycles, golf buggies, quad bikes and ride-on lawn mowers, through to forklift trucks, agricultural machines and construction plant, along with static vehicles in museums and SORN’d vehicles being required to have compulsory third party insurance. Naturally it also includes all motorsport vehicles from karts, single-seaters, saloons, rally, rallycross and cross country vehicles, trials cars, production cars in autotests, and even land speed record vehicles and Formula 1 cars. Any accident during a race or on track would be treated like a road traffic accident and would require the involvement of the police.
Many competition vehicles are already road registered, taxed, MOT’d and insured, but this insurance is usually limited to their activities on public roads, and not during competitive sections. A similar situation applies to vehicles on trackdays. The thing is that no insurance policy is available to cover such a compulsory obligation. A track operator would not be allowed to have cars compete on their land without this insurance, but this form of insurance as required by the ruling doesn’t exist.
There was a consultation period that closed on 20 October, so there is hope that enough representation has been made to divert this threat, but if it is not, it could literally spell the end of motorsport of all kind across Europe, including track days, so cross your fingers for a positive decision.
William Kimberley is the Editor-in-chief of Track Car Performance