Bernie Eccelstone, the former head of Formula 1. He is the man we all love to hate. For good reason, he is one of the most divisive figures in modern sport. He was the physical embodiment of what everyone perceived was wrong with F1. A rich white dude who doesn’t give a fuck about anyone else because they’re beneath him. This will not be an article listing all the reasons Eccelstone is a hateful human being. We all know them, they have been covered to the point of over documentation. Today we’re here to discuss one of the lesser known reasons to hate Mr. Eccelstone.
To do so properly we need to take a trip back in time, to that wonderful decade known as the 80’s. The glorious decade that gave us big hair, Alf, Mr. Potato Head, synthesized music, cellular phones the size of suitcases and most importantly, Me. Yes, Good ol 1983 saw the birth of yours truly. 1 year earlier saw the birth of something decidedly more important, Group C. Porsche, Toyota, Aston Martin, Mazda, Lancia, Nissan and Jaguar were all racing in the 1000 horsepower playground that was Group C. The rules allowed them to take drastically different approaches to engines. This lead to incredible diversity. Big displacement naturally aspirated engines did battle with massively boosted turbocharged 4, 6 and 8 cylinder units. This diversity was a massive selling point with fans and the WSC’s popularity grew immensely.
Thanks to Group C the WSC was so popular it rivaled the daddy, Formula 1. As the 80’s drew to a close The WSC saw no sign of slowing down and was becoming a real threat to topple F1 as the top motorsport dog. With the threat of losing the mantra “Pinnacle of Motorsport” The big wigs in F1 conspired with the FIA to do something about the WSC. The man leading the charge, Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone had worked with Max Mosley to take control of F1’s TV rights in 1978. Mosley used that to fast track his career that now saw him as next in line to sit on the FIA Throne.
Together Ecclestone and Mosley decided to drastically change the one thing that made Group C machines so great, their engines. Instead of a relatively open rule book they decided that Group C cars should run the same specification of engine as the current Formula 1 cars. Secondly they did away with the Group C2 class, the class that supported the big dogs in Group C1. In typical Ecclestone fashion this decision was made under false pretenses. Claiming the smaller C2 cars were unreliable. If you compare the C2 cars to today’s machines, yes they were far less reliable. In their day, they were every bit as reliable as all the other machines on the track.
The big teams would have the resources to build their own engines. The smaller teams were left with the prospect of having to shell out big money for a competitive engine. This was all part of Ecclestone’s devious plan. The cost would drive the smaller, privateer teams out of Group C. The drop in entries in conjunction with the insane travel required would cause Group C to fold.
At this point you might be asking yourself why would the folding of such a popular series be good for motorsport? Short answer, it wouldn’t, but it would be good for Formula 1. Remember Group C was now running Formula 1 spec engines. If the WEC folded that would leave the bigger teams with an engine but nowhere to race it, nowhere except Formula 1. Having Mosley’s ear meant the new rules were approved and the plan was to implement them for the 1990 season. Manufactures were able to push that back to 1991. But at that point the damage had been done and in 1993 the Group C WSC Championship was canceled.
Ecclestone had gotten his wish and had effectively killed Prototype racing in Europe. Prototypes didn’t have a major home for racing in Europe until 2001 with the creation of the European Le Mans Series. However Prototypes didn’t return to the forefront until 2004 with the creation of the ACO backed, Le Mans Series. This would eventually become the World Endurance Championship.
Eccelstone had gotten what he wanted. His plan had so thoroughly killed Prototype racing that even with its return to a global championship it has never recovered. The WEC still struggles with car counts and currently has 2 manufacturers (Toyota and Porsche) in its top LMP1 class.
LMP1 hasn’t come close to recreating the glory days of Group C, nor is it even close rivaling Formula 1 as the “Pinnacle of Motorsport”. It was all thanks to our main man Bernie Eccelstone and his selfish greedy no good scheming. He literally killed a very popular racing series because of ego and greed. The WSC and F1 could have coexisted and you know who would have benefited? Everyone! The teams would have places to race, everyone could have made money and the fans… The fans could have continued having 2 Pinnacles of Motorsport to enjoy. If you needed another reason to thank the Gods of Motorsport Bernie Eccelstone is gone, this is it.
Source: Car Throttle