Towards the lifting of the ban on circuit racing in Switzerland

PublishedMay 31, 2022, 2:00 p.m.

After the National Council, the Council of States accepted on Tuesday morning a modification of the famous article 52 of the Federal Law on road traffic. A Swiss GP, soon?

par

Jean Claude Schertenleib

Will Swiss speed motorcyclists soon be able to ride in their country (illustration photo).

AFP

This is the most well-known article among motor sports enthusiasts: No. 52 of the Federal Law on Road Traffic, which dates from 1956 and which was introduced out of the shock of the emotion triggered by the terrible accident which occurred during the 24 Hours of Le Mans automobiles in 1955 (a car exploded in the crowd, killing more than 80 people). What does this article say? “It is prohibited to carry out circuit races with motor vehicles of a public nature. The Federal Council may authorize certain exceptions or prohibit automobile competitions of another kind; in making his decision, he will mainly take into account safety requirements and road education.”

In the past, the Federal Council has made a few exceptions, such as races in the Swiss motorcycling championship on the circuit of Lignières (NE) which, in 1973, brought together more than 12,000 people; in recent years, two other events had obtained the agreement of the Federal Council, the Swiss Formula E GP in Zurich, first, then in Bern.

Back to National Council

After the National Council, the Council of States accepted Tuesday morning (27 for, 15 against) the deletion of this article. So, green light? Patience, the current revision of the Law on road traffic including other points, the file will return to the National Council on Thursday, since there are still differences on other articles of the said law. Even if the case that interests us here should not change, the removal of the ban will only be recorded in the final vote, within two weeks.

What can we therefore imagine in the medium-term future? Make no mistake, there is no permanent circuit in Switzerland capable of hosting a large-scale event, despite numerous projects (in the Pays de Vaud, first, then in Valais and in the Jura) which have remained, to date, in draft form. Only possibility (theoretical): a circuit in town, as we had imagined in particular in Ouchy.

The question that arises, when we talk about climate protection, the environment, noise and sustainability, is whether this is the right time to authorize circuit competitions with combustion engine vehicles

Simonetta Sommaruga, Federal Councilor

This was possible for Formula E for obvious reasons, as Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga reminded us on Tuesday morning: “The question that arises, when we talk about climate protection, environment, noise and sustainability , is to know if it is the right moment to authorize circuit competitions with thermal engine vehicles. Is this the signal you want to give? The opinion of the Federal Council is clear: no, certainly not. We have made it possible to organize electric car races because they represent a form of new technology and allow the public to see the development of these technologies.

The abolition of article 52 will certainly be recorded at the end of this summer session of the Federal Chambers. This does not mean that we will find, one day, a Swiss F1 GP… in Switzerland.

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