Legislation has been passed which could herald the return of Birmingham’s legendary Super Prix - when thousands lined city streets to see cars travelling at speeds of up to 200mph.
In what has been hailed as a huge boost to British motor sport, the Deregulation Bill - which enables motor racing events to take place in towns and cities on mainland Britain - has achieved Royal Assent.
It contains a framework for running motor sports on closed public roads without needing a costly Act of Parliament to suspend the Road Traffic Act for each event, something Birmingham had to do when it ran the Super Prix from 1986 to 1990.
Although the Super Prix’s return is thought to be unlikely - given the swingeing public spending cuts that have taken place in the city - the prospect of its return has proved a popular subject each time it has beeing mooted on the pages of the Birmingham Post.
The latest legislative development is the culmination of a long campaign by the Motor Sports Association that began before the last General Election in 2010.
MPs were lobbied by the MSA in a bid to demonstrate the potential value of motor sport events to local communities and the campaign ended up attracting cross-party support which enabled the legislation to be passed.
“This landmark development is the result of a lot of hard work by a small handful of people behind the scenes, with vital backing from thousands of supporters within the British motor sport community,” said Rob Jones, MSA chief executive.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post last year, Martin Hone, who paved the way for the Super Prix to come to Birmingham, said he believed its return would be great news for the city, particularly if it dovetailed with other large-scale events.
He said: “Birmingham needs major events and yes, of course we could do it. It is still a good idea, would stand up to public scrutiny and frankly we could do it even better now.”
Birmingham remains the only UK city to have staged a major motor sport event on its streets and over the decades there have been repeated calls for its return.
The event saw the city centre transformed into a Monaco-style road race circuit with cars travelling at speeds of up to 200mph.
The flagship event was a Formula 3000 race, at that time the last step on the ladder before Formula One, and took place over the August bank holiday weekend.
A special Act of Parliament – the Birmingham Road Race Bill in 1985 – had to be passed in order for the race to take place.
Mr Hone, who owned the Opposite Lock nightclub and a number of restaurants in the city, was initially asked to investigate the possibility of a road race by Birmingham City Council in 1966.
It was the start of a process that saw the former racing driver stage a number of major motor sport exhibition events in the seventies and eighties, with Formula One legends like Fangio and Emerson Fittipaldi coming to the city, although the Super Prix itself ended up being run by the operators of the Brands Hatch racing circuit.
Mr Hone told the Post he would even be prepared to help organise a new Super Prix and urged civic leaders to demonstrate the “political will” to make it happen.
He said: “It could happen if there is political will.
“I am well versed. If someone came and said: ‘Martin put a road race on tomorrow’, it would be done. I have still got the energy and vitality and would love to do it. I would love to see something like that happening in Birmingham.”
A call for the return of road racing to Birmingham’s streets has also come from a city academic.
Speaking to the Post when Birmingham City University unveiled an engineering partnership with Midland sports car-maker Westfield, Parmjit Chima, head of BCU’s School of Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Systems, suggested Birmingham would be an ideal location for a race in the Formula One organiser FIA’s Formula E electric racing car series, given its automotive heritage and the fact it once ran the Super Prix.
“The time is right to get vehicles on the streets of Birmingham again,” he said. “Birmingham would be absolutely perfect for Formula E. I think there is huge enthusiasm for motor racing on the streets of Birmingham.”