Rich history, exciting future
26th April 2016
Just how difficult is it to be at the helm of one of the most influential clubs in British motor racing? MSD spoke to Bernard Cottrell, Chairman of the British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC), to find out.
Having been involved in motorsport for more than 40 years, for almost 14 of which he has served as BRSCC Chairman, Cottrell knows the industry far better than most, including what goes on behind the scenes.
A fountain of motorsport knowledge, it is surprising to learn that he was never a racing driver himself. “I’ve been in the sport since 1973, but I never drove,” he explains. “I started as a marshal, but it’s always been a passion for me. This has been something that has completely consumed my life and a few years ago I left Haymarket, after running the Autosport International show, to be full-time with the BRSCC.” Even a recent battle with leukaemia has failed to dampen his passion for the sport, and in his own words Cottrell, who is also International Race Director for the MSA/FIA, is now “back in the stirrups and going forward”.
The BRSCC has a rich history in the sport and since its formation in 1946 has grown to become a major force in British motor racing. With over 50 race meetings and 25 championships now under the BRSCC umbrella, the Club plays a leading role in the British motor racing scene, organising both club race meetings and FIA sanctioned international events.
However, as a non-profit organisation, it is not always plain sailing for the BRSCC, with the likes of the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) and Jonathan Palmer’s MotorSport Vision (MSV) also in the mix. While the relationship between the BRSCC and the BARC “used to be a cartel”, Cottrell says he now sees it as “healthy competition”. After all, the two are “probably united against the Palmer steamroller”, he adds.
This united front led, in November 2014, to talks between the BRSCC and the BARC about a potential merger, but why didn’t anything come of this? Cottrell tells MSD he “felt there was nothing that the BARC would bring to the table that we don’t already have”. “If someone calls us and says that they are interested in us running the series, we don’t turn them away, but at the same time we won’t go actively looking for it, or chase people’s business.
“Motorsport has always been a passion for me. It has completely consumed my life”
“BARC are the same as us – we won’t jump on other people’s toes and we don’t need to. We run the World Endurance Championship, we run the GT Open, and it shows we are doing good things.”
With making a profit not among the BRSCC’s priorities, finances can be an issue. Cottrell tell MSD the Club made a loss of £80,000 in 2014, but considering the outgoings that have to be paid to make the races happen, it is easy to see why balancing the books is a tricky task.
“We were at Donington one year and it was thick fog, and it got to quarter past 12 and I wanted to call it a day, but everyone else said ‘let’s wait a little longer, until late lunch’,” he remembers. “It lifted while we were waiting and it would have cost us, as a business, £45,000 if we hadn’t have done that one day’s racing, as we would have had to pay for the circuit hire, ambulances and so on. So that’s how finely tuned it is.
While Cottrell is used to being trackside at the BRSCC’s portfolio of championships, ranging from the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup to the TVR Challenge, he also takes a keen interest in ensuring the younger generation of racing drivers are taking the right steps towards a successful career in the sport.
“One thing I remember is that Bill Sisley, who owns Buckmore Park Kart Circuit, asked me to be a clerk of the course,” Cottrell says. “I was told not to do it as I’d be involved with the parents, but it was the best move I ever made.”
With the Fiesta Junior Championship on the BRSCC calendar, Cottrell sees it as a good stepping-stone for anyone who is ready to make the move up from karting, but after his own experiences in karting, he remains wary of the role some parents play at this level.
“Some parents are racing through their kids,” he states. “The thing about junior racers is you’ve got to talk to them and not at them. I always used to say to the kids, ‘you have to go to school, you have to go to work, but you don’t have to do this, so if you don’t want to do it, then don’t’. And lots you could see didn’t.” With this in mind, he suggests we should all remember that the key to motorsport is enjoyment, regardless of which level you are racing at, or what age you are.
As for Cottrell himself, the satisfaction he still gets from motorsport is enduring, and he is relishing what lies in store over the next 12 months. Looking ahead to 2016, he says: “We have lots of exciting championships taking place next year, in the UK and abroad.” He may have already given more than 40 years to this sport, but Cottrell still has plenty left in the tank.
Track Days / Test Days / MotorsportDays.com