From 1986 to 1990 there was, believe it or not, a Grand Prix held in Birmingham city centre. Called the Birmingham SuperPrix, it was an anti-clockwise street circuit race for F3000 cars. It was a strange affair, really, far from the glamour of other street circuits like Monaco or Singapore, racers fought their way through corners with typically dour names as Halfords, Dynaglaze and Bristol Street Motors. Still, the races themselves were entertaining, from 1986’s road sodden event which descended into mass pile ups at every turn to the sunshine of 1988 where David Hunt (James’s brother) put his car through the wall of a shop.

The event folded after 1990 after Labour took control of the council and the likes of Claire Short deemed it wasn’t bringing in enough money for the city, and *deep sigh* wasn’t ethnically diverse enough, despite only 8 of the 30 entrants in 1990 being British. That final race attracted big names such as Damon Hill, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Allan McNish and Eddie Ervine who was driving for Eddie Jordan’s fledgling team. Contemporary reports say it was a magnificent event and I wish I had been there to see it. And that got Dr Octane and I thinking. What if there were to be a Birmingham Grand Prix held today? We jumped aboard the Morgan (literally, these things only have tiny door openings) and thrapped our way over to the rough end of the Midlands to investigate.

The first thing to consider is the layout. Street circuits are all well and good when they’re set around a harbour and casino (see Monaco) but less appealing when it’s around a Gala bingo and poundshops (see Birmingham). Regardless of setting, street circuits do not permit much overtaking and therefore don’t often produce entertaining races. The answer is to hold the race not in, but above Birmingham. Spaghetti junction offers 13.5 miles of elevated tarmac wide enough for overtaking and with sufficient turns to add interest. We set off on a lap to make some notes. The Morgan is the perfect car for scything through heavy traffic because simply everyone loves it and waves you through. This one is powered by the same BMW V8 found in the E39 M5, albeit it slightly detuned, and goes like stink. The hood mechanism is likely to take your fingers off and the CD player is an ugly afterthought, but this car has that rare quality that makes you love it in spite of (or perhaps because of) it’s superficial shortcomings. Anyway, we don’t do car reviews so back to Brum, where we had already gotten lost on the long circuit whilst discussing corners. We propose the following corner names, chosen simply for their Brumminess; Noddy (Holder), Bullring, Duran Duran, Lenny (Henry) Balti, Shanghai Industry Automotive Corporation, Fort Dunlop, Ozzie (Osbourne), Jaguar, (Aston) Villa, Jasper (Carrot), Star City and Claire Short is a right cow. The last one might have Murray Walker tongue tied but we feel that her efforts in sinking the last Grand Prix should not go un-recognised. She also fiddled £8000 on expenses to pay her mortgage. I can’t find a way to even tenuously weave that into this story, sorry, but I feel it shouldn’t go unmentioned.

The further into our daft hoon around town we got the more the idea of a Birmingham Grand Prix made sense. It’s in the middle of the country. It has excellent air, road and rail links. Birmingham is the original motorcity, one of the cradles of the industrial revolution and still home to a sizeable chunk of the UK’s automotive output. It sure as hell could use the economic boost, have you seen Benefits Street? If Bernie can defend races in hell-holes like Bahrain then why not Brum? The Midlands has Silverstone and Donington already, of course, fast and open and each with their own unique history but there isn’t a street circuit in the UK. Street racing is stop-start, noisy, unforgiving and thrilling. Spectators sit on top of the action, not hundreds of yards away straining at big screens. The Aston expressway has some excellent acoustics, we thoroughly enjoyed wringing the neck of the Morgan, an F1 car screaming down there would be a wonderful sound. As Slade say, and I apologise for both the horrendous spelling and the weak pun; “cum on feel the noise”. We’d done a tank of Super running around motorways folks normally pay to avoid and had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in Birmingham. We wonder if there’s a (straight) politician with the balls to take this race a bit closer to reality. Now, we’re a bit lost, which exit is it for civilisation again? Lichfield or Coventry?

About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich Duisberg* has had work published in Classic & Sportscar, Practical Performance Car, Modern Mini, Banzai, MogMag, Evo, GT Porsche, Complete Kit Car, Absolute Lotus, Alternative Cars, Classic Retro Modern, and elsewhere. Rich often appears on CBS’s XCAR and Carfection channels, and Motors TV, plus JayEmm on Cars, enthusing about historic motoring. His latest book (find his work on Amazon) was described by SniffPetrol as "hilarious", although he was also threatened with legal action by elderly DJ Tim Westwood. In his Midlands man cave is a 1972 Fiat 500, a Lotus Elise, a BMW barge and a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike. Previous machines of interest include an Mk1 MX5 (owned for 14 years!), an Alfa GTV6, a Porsche 968 and a Sinclair C5. The Metro (right) was bought for an experiment, and abandoned in Africa. "I am not getting in a car with him" -  said Le Mans winner, Derek Bell. *A nom-de-plume inspired by the BBC's League of Gentlemen.

4 Responses

  1. Lewis

    Civilisation is in Coventry – where every year our inner ring road is turned into a racetrack for Motofest!


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