49 years waiting for a motor racing circuitSunday, February 12, 2017, 20:49
Today, 49 years ago, on 17th February 1968, the Office of the Prime Minister wrote to the Malta Automobile & Cycle Racing Association (MACRA) informing it that “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 19th December, 1967 regarding your request for Government permission to make use of Ta’ Qali Airstrip for a period of one month for the purpose of holding motor-car racing and have pleasure in informing you that your request has been favourably entertained subject, however, to the following conditions.”
MACRA had applied for permission to use Ta’ Qali to promote the Malta Grand Prix with Formula 3 racing cars. The Managing Director of Motor Racing Developments, John Webb, who managed a number of racing circuits in the United Kingdom, including Brands Hatch circuit, had agreed with MACRA to promote such a Grand Prix, bringing a whole fleet of racing cars and their drivers to Malta.
Among the conditions indicated by the OPM, the first one was “(i) it being ascertained in the first instance that the road-surface at Ta’ Qali is suitable for car-racing”. This was eventually cleared when John Webb joined the Director of the Public Works Department in Mr. Mangion’s Alfa Romeo to tour the road network at Ta’ Qali.
The second condition was “(ii) appropriate regulations be issued as suggested by Crown Counsel”.
The OPM informed MACRA that “With regard to (i) and (ii) of the preceding paragraph, appropriate action by this office has already been taken with the respective Ministries to expedite the issue of the licence to hold the race-meetings.”
Unfortunately, the regulations were never issued, and in the next general election a new government was elected.
MACRA had been campaigning for a motor racing circuit for a number of years, and at that time Ta’ Qali was ideal for such a circuit.
The electoral programme of the Malta Labour Party in 1971, was themed “Malta for the Maltese: in Peace and Progress”.
46 years ago, the Labour Party committed itself in the following terms, in the last paragraph of Section 11 (a) of its electoral programme: “For adults, it is equally necessary that the nation provides a centre for car, … racing …. It is only in this way that we can help the coming generations to avoid drugs and other vices that affluence in developed countries brings with it.”
Unfortunately, the oil crisis of a few years later saw such a dream being shelved, but there is absolutely no reason why the motor sport followers in Malta have been kept waiting for more than 49 years.
Maltese motor sport enthusiasts have every right to enjoy their favourite sport in Malta as the followers of other sports disciplines. The size of our country is no excuse to prolong the development of a motor racing circuit in Malta.
If one were to add all the area of the various football grounds around the island, one can easily see that the size of our country does not matter when it comes to football!
Incidentally, parliamentary question number 26558 of 6th June 2011, which asked about the total area occupied by football grounds in Malta, was never answered!
During the past 50 years, political parties have included a promise to develop a motor racing circuit several times, but none of them fulfilled their promise. In Section 14.18, the current administration promised in its 2013 Electoral Programme that “Together with the stakeholders involved, we shall identify a site to develop a motorsport circuit, possibly with the involvement of the private sector”.
It is not known what happened to the proposal submitted to develop a motor racing circuit on reclaimed land. The exhibition of the proposed projects was never held!
The call for the expressions of interest for a Motor Recreation and Education Park was a step that no other political party had taken during the past 50 years. But for some reason, this government is taking too long to implement its promise. The implementation of the Individual Investor Programme took a very short time!
Thousands of motorsport followers are waiting anxiously for the commencement of the development of a racing circuit, and they are not prepared to wait any longer. Some of them are already declaring on Facebook “No track, no vote”.
These followers cannot be blamed. Motorsport followers are not second-class citizens, and their sport will generate the best sport tourism in addition to generating a substantial amount of economic activity.
A manufacturer of racing cars from South Africa was prepared to transfer his business to Malta but could not do so because we do not have a racing circuit.
If and when a racing circuit is developed it will become the greenest patch of land in Malta, in the absence of which, we might very well see 35-storey buildings.