“Remembering the Birmingham Superprix”
Once again while having a little dig around the web, I came across a classic clip from the mid-80s.
In 1985, the International Formula 3000 replaced the defunct European F2 Series as the final stepping stone before Formula 1, although things were a little different back then.
Whereas F1’s current final step, GP2, trails the Grand Prix ladder around Europe and parts of Asia and Middle East, F3000 generally ran independently.
Although the series would on occasion visit Grand Prix circuits, it was rarely part of the F1 weekend package. Other parts of the calendar were made up of treks to the likes of Thruxton (!!), Pau, Vallelunga, Enna and Donington.
Come the end of ’85, Christian Danner emerged as champion, quickly embarking on an often pointless stint in F1, followed by a patchy career in CART.
As 1986 dawned, F3000 altered its schedule slightly to include races at Imola, Bugatti Le Mans and Jarama; however the destination that stood out like a sore thumb was “Birmingham”.
Indeed, the Birmingham Superprix – the first street race on mainland Britain – was dressed around Birmingham’s city centre.
The race was initially proposed in 1966 and following a push from Sir Stirling Moss looked like it may finally happen in the early 70s; however even then politics got in the way. Even a demonstration through the city by Patrick Nève in the Brabham BT45 in 1976 failed to persuade the powers that be to accommodate a street race.
That all changed at the tail end of 1985 when Parliament passed the the Birmingham Road Race Bill after a year of debate, allowing a race to held on the streets of the city. Course developments began almost immediately, ensuring the city would be ready for its first F3000 by the following August Bank Holiday.
When it did finally come around, Birmingham would play host to the likes of Ivan Capelli, Pierluigi Martini, Emanuele Pirro, Luis Perez-Sala, Gabriele Tarquini, Roberto Moreno, Satoru Nakajima and Mauricio Gugelmin amongst others on a wet, wet, wet afternoon in the midlands.
The Superprix did not last long – only five years in fact and (legalised) street racing has not returned Britain in the time since.
There was much talk earlier this year about the possibility of a London Grand Prix. It was bullshit, of course, designed to deflect bad news raining on the head of Bernie Ecclestone — and it worked, sadly for the media.
Alas the Birmingham Road Race Bill was rescinded several years ago, ensuring a London Grand Prix would be a difficult endeavour at the very least. But if we cannot have a London Grand Prix, let’s at least enjoy the 1986 Birmingham Superprix. It’s probably far more entertaining anyway.