I also lived through the entire 1980s Group C era of sports car racing, an age now spoken of in hushed reverence, but my over-riding memory is that it was rather dull, a question not of if Porsche would win any given race, but which one, at least until the Jags and Mercedes shook it up towards the end of the decade. So the trick, so far as I can see, is to recognise when things are good, at the time that they are good so better to appreciate and enjoy.
Because things get bad too. We scarcely need reminding of how rubbish F1 has been at times and sportscar racing has had its ups and downs too. But it’s all true in the road car area too. Yesterday I had cause to look up something in an old issue of Autocar (or Autocar & Motor as it was in 1992) and of course I couldn’t just find the fact and return the magazine to the shelf. I had to have a little leaf. What a boring time it was to be interested in fun new cars. Looking through the price listings at the back, there are just a smattering of what we would now regard as world class enthusiast cars. Alfa had none, nor did Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini and so on and on and on. Indeed a quick flick through the price listing revealed only the BMW M5, Honda NSX, Ferrari 512TR, Mazda MX-5, Lancia Integrale, Peugeot 205GTI, Alpine A610 and most Porsches as cars worth getting really excited about.
Now look where we are. At the affordable end of the price ranges, the hot hatch market has rarely been more buoyed by brilliant little cars, from the Suzuki Swift Sport at one end, past the Ford Fiesta ST and Honda Civic Type R to the Focus RS and Golf R at the other. Want to go and blitz a track day? Once a Caterham or Westfield were the only purpose-built choices, now you can have an Ariel, a Zenos, KTM, BAC, Elemental, Vuhl or Radical. Want to spend a million or more and there are hypercars from Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Bugatti and, soon, Aston Martin, that do things which, until the very instant they came into being, road cars had not done before. Ferrari as a whole has never had a stronger range of cars than it has right now yet, staggeringly, Maranello is being challenged for all round excellence by McLaren, a company that at the start of this decade effectively did not exist as a manufacturer of road cars.