This week saw the final-ever race meeting at Rockingham, the purpose-built oval track in the centre of England. Opened in 2001, the plan was to bring top level American oval racing to the UK, but the plan never quite succeeded and the great hopes for the circuit never materialised.
As a circuit it polarised opinion with many viewing it as a square peg trying to fit into the round hole of UK motorsport. As a spectator, it was a different experience and a nightmare for amateur photographers. It was unique in that the whole circuit could be clearly viewed from the grandstand, but for many motorsport fans part of the joy is to walk to different vantage points and experience different elements of a race.
With the amount of high-end camera equipment visible in the spectator areas of any race track it would be foolish to overlook the amateur photographers who flock to our sport and Rockingham wasn’t kind to them. With only one location to get above the fence it was never a favourite and as ticket prices increased, it would always lose out to the more photographer friendly circuits.
What was truly odd and a little sad was how the circuit has gone with barely a whimper, an air of inevitability seeming to surround its closure. When Donington Park nearly went out of business following an ill-conceived attempt to attract Formula 1, there was a real sense of potential loss: the issue was debated online, petitions were started and even a small event was staged at the circuit where concerned fans could make their concerns know to owner Kevin Wheatcroft.
The loss of Donington Park would have been a genuine tragedy for UK motorsport, yet the loss of Rockingham is met with a shrug of the shoulders. The reality is that losing Rockingham leaves all of UK motorsport poorer as much as if it was the loss of Donington, Snetterton or Oulton Park.
We live in age where the cost of a purpose built facility is too prohibitive for private finance to risk. The Circuit of Wales was a grand but now distant memory whilst Lake Torrent in Northern Ireland appears to have been dealt a fatal blow as its developers face financial problems.
With this in mind we should perhaps take more care of our existing racetracks and not be so blasé about their loss.
Personally, I loved Rockingham, as an accredited photographer it offered unique photographic opportunities with the banking and high grandstands offering angles not available anywhere else in the UK. The infield was compact and easy to get around, literally every corner was easily accessible with minimal effort. I’ll certainly miss the place and can only hope its demise displaces its racing customers to other circuits who can benefit and secure their own futures.