Advocacy for a racetrack in Switzerland
If Switzerland can pride itself on hosting the main international motor sports federations, numerous champions, and a fleet of cars with a strong emphasis on premium vehicles, the absence of a circuit worthy of the name in the confederation is still deplored.
So it is true that the legislation allows the cantons to organise races on temporary tracks, whether for rally stages or for Formula E races in town. However, it is agreed that a safe circuit, with no trees, houses or surprises on the tarmac, should also be welcomed. This is not the case.
Another concession is that activities on closed circuits are allowed, but without a stopwatch and therefore without competition or the possibility to progress in one’s sport. Moreover, the only TCS pseudo-circuit in Lignières (NE) only allows instructional courses on its 1.35 km mini-track with 6 bends, whereas the one in Bremgarten (BE) was 7.28 km in 1955.
So there is still no room for safe recreational flying.
The story of a 66 year old trauma
This situation has its roots in a dramatic event that plunged the country into a form of obscurantism 66 years ago. During the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race(in France), a horrific accident caused the instantaneous death of more than 70 people, with over 120 injured. Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300 SLR, trying to avoid a collision with a Jaguar that braked late to enter the pits, swerved and found an Austin Healey on which it leaned to be ejected into the stands, where it exploded, in the middle of a compact crowd. The explosion was such that it sent a lot of debris flying around, including the engine and the deck. A charge of prohibited fuel additive was even launched, as the power of the explosion seemed enormous.
The reaction was radical, emotional, and unambiguous: A ban on all motor sport in Switzerland, stamped by article 52 of the law on road safety. Since then, our conservative system has locked down any desire for change, discarding every initiative that has been launched so far. Whether it be that of MP Ulrich Giezendanner in 2003 to lift the ban, or those aiming to create circuits in the Jura or in Valais.
However, there is no shortage of arguments from the proponents
In fact, it seems that everyone would have something to gain
The market is there and waiting:
- According to the FSO, in 2020 there will be 4.7 million passenger vehicles in our fleet. And figures published by RTS show that in 2017, 43% of these cars had an engine of more than 160 hp, and 11% even exceeded 270 hp! This represents a not inconsiderable total of 517,000 carsfor the latter. Yes, that’s a lot for vehicles that can only fully play on the track.
- Motorcyclists are also concerned because they could also benefit.
- The training of police, ambulance and firefighters is partly dependent on this type of infrastructure.
- Just like the large number of resident pilots, whether they are still young or already famous.
- Not to mention the automotive press, which is also systematically forced to cross borders.
Industry would also benefit:
- Many national companies are part of the automotive sphere, but without the appropriate infrastructure: Sauber, Kyburz, Rebellion-motors, GreenGT, the tuners, …
- High schools that take part in the eco-marathon, where the aim is to cover as many kilometres as possible on just one litre of petrol.
- International federations such as the FIA and FIM, which are based in the territory, would find it easier to organise local events.
- It would also probably encourage the resurgence or creation of national brands, such as Martini, Stella, Hispano-Suiza, and other wonders buried in our museums.
Our heritage would be honoured:
- The many classic car clubs would have a place to meet and keep our automotivehistory alive in safety.
An educational function could be developed:
- Young, thrill-seeking drivers would find it a safe outlet. A strict ban is much more dangerous in that it only retains the most compliant and pushes dangerous behaviour onto roads open to all.
- Whereas with an accessible circuit, novices could learn the limits of their cars without putting themselves or others at risk. Indeed, once a user knows the limits of any machine, it is much less likely that he or she will use it in a dangerous way.
A circuit on the territory would therefore be economically very profitable and at the same time would bring more security to the whole community.
An opposition full of good feelings
On the opposition side, we find the ecologists with their prohibition which imposes their morals and their vision of a better world, populated by new men turning away from “stinking and polluting engines, from these games unworthy of ancient Rome”(Franziska Teuscher). But what do they know of the history of the automobile, of this formidable human adventure that unites us under the values of freedom, audacity, creativity and technical progress? Without this passion, we would still be consuming 30 litres per 100 km. Not to mention all the ships and many aircraft that directly benefit from the development of automotive engines.
And why force motor sport enthusiasts to travel hundreds of kilometres to spend the fuel and money of their passion abroad? And who takes their share of responsibility when the youngest seek their limits on open roads?
An environment to respect
So yes, there are nevertheless observations to take into account in order not to do anything wrong. And it must be borne in mind that the aim is to have a circuit for sports driving open to as many people as possible. In short, it is necessary to be careful not to be too greedy, and to avoid getting carried away by the pharaonic opportunities that a real circuit could offer, and which have already been fatal to previous projects. Here are some non-exhaustive ideas of limits to set:
- All regulations for new buildings must be respected
- A tour must not involve the destruction of forests or the endangerment of wildlife
- The number of seats on the Tarmac must be limited, and must be secured by prior reservation
- The number of seats in the stands should be limited, depending on the requirements of the locality
- Thetype of timed races for which the circuit will be eligible must be discussed in advance with the municipalities concerned
- The noise level and pollution generated by its activity must not bother the local residents
This last point is the most sensitive, as it depends on a very subjective assessment, based on very personal value judgements. Everyone considers their right to pollute according to their convictions, or more prosaically, according to their own interests. This is why air travel is well accepted, whereas having fun at the wheel is more likely to be considered stupid. But then again, can’t we reuse all this abandoned heritage of former shooting ranges or military airfields to return them to an activity that is much less noisy and polluting?
The airfield in Raron, which hosted the 2015 Federal Shooting, would do well
A future happy ending where everyone wins?
So now that the new wave has had its way with the world car market, imposing the electricity fairy everywhere (no doubt due to an excess of green fairy), will it finally be possible to enjoy a safe and recreational circuit?
Because here we are. Despite prognoses that have always proved wrong, the share of electric cars will finally take off with 43,400 units in 2020, compared to 28,700 units in 2019 and 750 units in 2018 (source: FSO). The trend is now clear, even if the slope is still difficult to extrapolate. However, the cost-effectiveness of an all-electric circuit is looking more and more opportune. The only additional investment compared to a European circuit would be the acquisition of fast chargers to allow customers to return home after a great day of driving pleasure.This dream seems to be becoming possible, and I hope to see a new standard bearer appearing soon who will finally get his way!