Skip navigation
Race 42

Fifty things I love about motor sport

I enjoy all sports bar horse racing; I will never forgive it for regularly interrupting what little televised motor sport there was during my formative 1970s; the parade ring, the latest odds, the interminable loading of the stalls, the new latest odds, the race itself – yawn – the results, the interviews with posh or Irish people and/or both, and the re-run of the race in even slower motion.

In contrast, the histories of baseball, boxing and cricket have me rapt. But nothing matches motor sport’s multi-faceted appeal: cars, circuits, clothing, designers, drivers, engine noises, liveries, mechanics, politics (my least favourite aspect), races, rallies, rivalries, strategy, tactics, teams and technology – all wrapped up in a photogenic form. There are so many ‘entry’ points – and that’s before you zoom in on the details, quirky or otherwise.

So, on the flimsy pretext that this blog is the nudge just behind square that brings up my half-century for this website, I have compiled a list of 50 things that I love about motor sport.

In no particular order, they are:

1. Dario Franchitti’s passion for its history.

2. Chris Amon’s crash helmet – particularly when it looked sandblasted, i.e. most of the time.

3. That Adrian Newey still uses an Oxford A4 pad, a full-sized drawing board, French curves and (probably) set squares, a protractor and a propelling pencil.

4. Matra’s V12 ‘Vélizy wail’.

5. Markku Alén’s machine gun intonation: “Fo sho! Now we go maximum rally attack!” I’m not sure he ever said that, but you get my drift.

race  Fifty things I love about motor sport

6. Steve Soper versus Andy Rouse in RS500s – brutal yet so, so, so delicate.

7. Those trees at the exit of Tertre Rouge.

8. The disorientating suddenness with which a modern F1 engine switches off.

9. That McLaren’s original workshop had a trod-dirt floor.

10. All Indy roadsters of the 1950s and early ’60s.

11. The circuit outline of Barcelona’s Montjuich Park. I think I have doodled it on most beaches that I have set foot on.

12. Brian Culcheth finishing 16th overall and winning his class on the 1973 1000 Lakes Rally – in a Morris Marina.

13. Achille Varzi’s centre parting.

14. John Cooper’s forward-roll victory celebration.

15. That designer Mauro Forghieri is adamant that works Ferrari 512Ms would have beaten Porsche’s 917 in 1971 given the opportunity.

16. The ‘piano wire’ wheels of a Bugatti T59.

17. Ronnie Peterson opposite-locking his JPS Lotus 72 through Copse, which is where I stood to watch the 1973 British Grand Prix. Woodcote? Never heard of it.

18. A Can-Am ‘big block’ Chevy at its jackhammer tick-over.

19. The old Kyalami’s Jukskei Sweep – my favourite corner name.

20. The ‘horseshoe’ radiator of a Bugatti T35.

race  Fifty things I love about motor sport

21. An ERA on axle stands warming its pre-selector gearbox.

22. The first time I saw Colin McRae live on a stage. Seeded in the hundreds, I think, and aboard a works Peugeot 205 GTI, he caught me on the hop during the 1988 RAC Rally and blew my mind.

23. The little house at the exit of Cadwell Park’s Hairpin. It’s where I wanted to live when I was a kid.

24. The cobbles at Rouen’s Nouveau Monde hairpin.

25. The name Arzani-Volpini.

26. Halibrand wheel spinners.

27. That a Maserati 250F was made so beautiful by tapping it with a small hammer.

28. Derek Warwick’s ‘ironman’ handshake.

29. A monumental ‘save’ by James Thompson in a BTCC Honda Accord at Oulton Park’s Druids Bend. The thought of it still gives me a roller coaster tummy.

30. Any onboard footage with Alain Prost. Effortless. That is how I drive in my dreams.

31. Anecdotes of Patrick Depailler’s scattiness.

race  Fifty things I love about motor sport

32. A Ligier JS11 without its nose wings.

33. That Lancia Stratos and Saab 96 V4 went head to head.

34. The photograph of pre-WWI ace Leon Théry preventing his riding mechanic toppling from their Richard-Brasier by grabbing the spare wheel with one hand. Was it staged?

35. Walks on the crumbling bankings of Brooklands. Shivers.

36. Dragster legend Shirley Muldowney’s ‘Winning!’ response to the hackneyed ‘What’s a nice girl…?’

37. Sketchy Shelsley Specials that go like stink.

38. The Doppler effect of an approaching Cosworth BDA’s bark. Anticipatory glimpses of a strengthening spot-lit beam. In Clocaenog. Or Penmachno. Hot baked beans waiting in a flask.

39. Any book by Joe Scalzo.

40. John Watson’s three knifing passes in a single lap at Detroit.

41. Ayrton Senna and Tom Wheatcroft beaming from the podium after the 1993 European GP at Donington Park.

42. The smell of Castrol R. Ahh.

43. Mark Blundell’s pole lap in that overboosting Nissan at Le Mans. Oocha!

44. That Stirling Moss was not christened Hamish. Phew.

45. Frank Lockhart’s 148mph lap of the Atlantic City board track. In 1927. In a 1.5-litre car.

46. The bare ‘cage’ of a Maserati ‘Birdcage’.

47. An Alfa Romeo Tipo B in 1932 narrow-cockpit form.

race  Fifty things I love about motor sport

48. The yellow exhaust pipes of Jim Clark’s 1965 Indy 500-winning Lotus 38.

49. That they ran an F3 race on the old Mugello road circuit as late as 1966. Two 41-mile laps in flimsy 1-litre ‘screamers’. Crazy.

50. That this list was sifted from the first 70-odd things I thought of, and that another 30 minutes’ endeavour would have dredged up hundreds more, all equally worthy in my eyes.

Curses, now the editor knows how long I spent compiling this article. Still, I am sure he will agree that we are very lucky to love this sport.

race  Fifty things I love about motor sport

Add your comments

42 comments on Fifty things I love about motor sport

  1. toby holland, 10 January 2013 09:48

    50 greats brought to us by the greatest publication ….

  2. Michael Kavanagh, 10 January 2013 10:08

    Just brilliant. Can we have another 50 (when the editor isn’t looking)?

  3. Paul Gibson, 10 January 2013 10:09

    Mr Fearnley speaks my language…

  4. Daryl McGrath, 10 January 2013 11:09

    Re #8, I thought that was just me!!

  5. Andrew LIVESEY, 10 January 2013 11:39

    What a brilliant idea and nicely executed Mr. Fearnley.

    I thank you Sir.

  6. dave cubbedge, 10 January 2013 12:53

    All of these are great! And yes, there are hundreds more waiting to be mentioned……

  7. Rich Ambroson, 10 January 2013 17:18

    Now THAT’S a List!

  8. dave cubbedge, 10 January 2013 17:24

    …had a good chuckle when I read #15…..

  9. Paul Fearnley, 10 January 2013 17:56

    Penske and Donohue’s reworked Sunoco 512M took it to ‘em.

    What a car!

  10. Bill, 10 January 2013 19:25

    Funnily enough, Senna thought Estoril 85 was a much bigger acomplishment than Donington 93. Great drive, though (and my, how painful it was to see Prost/Williams scew up).

    I love Rouen too, but if one spot will always give me goosebumps: Masta. You must have some serious stones to do that flat out in 60′s cars.

    Some footage of old Spa.

  11. John B, 10 January 2013 20:41

    Thanks for that Bill – amazing footage.
    Paul – a wonderful list and a great read. I’m inspired to do my own now but I’m afraid of plagiarising yours!

  12. chris b, 10 January 2013 21:12

    well now there’s a thought – 50 reasons for my adoration for motor racing – girlfriends out so why not?

    Paul it might be interesting to get reader’s top ten reasons [as well as yours, Nigel's etc] to see how they compare?

    amongst mine would be seeing Senna’s signature in the Jim Clark’s trophy room visitor’s book, now that’s respect –

    incidentally Bill showed a Spa link from 62 – the two i would love to see more of would be 65 and 67 Grand Prix’s – Jimmy winning by such an incredible margin in 65 in that Belgium rain and Dan winning in 67

  13. Peter Coffman, 10 January 2013 22:51

    Speaking of Penske and Donohue, how about:

    51. Pinstripes on the Penske/Donohue McLaren M6B.

  14. Tony Geran, 11 January 2013 02:11

    How about on board footage of Senna’s qualifying at Monaco in the pre paddle shift era, the Eagle Weslake, that Williams Grand Prix Engineering won the World Championship in their 3rd season, so how about that Caterham and Marussia? The presentation of any Penske entered car, watching Stoner at Phillip Is.

  15. JOE PIZZARELLO, 11 January 2013 05:06



  16. Alex Harmer, 11 January 2013 09:46

    Chris B,

    There’s a topic on the forum (that’s so far not got any replies), you can find it here:

    You don’t have to register again to post so it’s worth checking out.


  17. Bill, 11 January 2013 10:41 Short but amazing footage of Clark in 1965, including the Indy spec Lotus.

    Not a lot to be found on 1967 Spa, though.

  18. dave cubbedge, 11 January 2013 11:31

    Speed TV did a documentary on the Eagle this year, a half hour show, but it featured footage from Spa ’67.

  19. Paul Fearnley, 11 January 2013 11:48

    Yes, yes, Penske pinstripes. All their blue cars were sensationally turned out.

    And the thought of that Senna signature caused the back of my neck to prickle.

    I’m not a collector but I do covet an Eagle nose cone. Art met engineering with Len Terry.

  20. dave cubbedge, 11 January 2013 16:58

    Those yellow pipes on Jimmy’s Indy Lotus are cool, but the white ‘bundle of snakes’ crawling out of the vee in the 1967-69 F1 Ferrari is what caught my interest….

  21. dave cubbedge, 11 January 2013 16:59

    …and the black pipes doing the same on the Honda of the same period were just an imitation. They didn’t look nearly as cool….

  22. Harb67, 11 January 2013 18:00

    This post has made me painfully nostaligic for things I didn’t even know existed. I’ve only been a racing fan for a few short years but the rich history of any racing involving wheels and a motor is something that I am already deeply passionate about. Thanks for this excellent article! The only way it could be better is links to some of the images mentioned to enlighten us youngins’

  23. Bill, 11 January 2013 20:35

    Anyway, I love everything about 60′s, 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s F1. Especially the old tracks made a huge impression. And since I dont know much more before that period, I enjoy reading about older days too. I get the feeling back in all those times, a driver was much more of an influence than todays heroes. Todays F1 leaves me sometimes a bit bewildered. Drivers hardly do any setup work, and cars have so much downforce even the most dangerous corners are a piece of cake. Also, driving tracks like Korea, Abu Dahbi, Singapore, Valencia…it just isnt anything like the tracks of old times.

  24. Bill, 12 January 2013 16:28

    Sad news, Guido Forti has died. He was one of us. RIP

  25. Stephen Campbell, 13 January 2013 15:57

    Oh yes! but I would substitute Ronnie exiting Druids on full (rally style) opposite lock in the March 721X. If a car didn’t handle, Ronnie drove around the problem. That also reminds me, when, as a 14 year old, I asked him for his autograph, he scribbled on the back of his hand to get the pen to work! No primadonnas then.

  26. John Read, 14 January 2013 00:21

    The smell of oil and rubber at Sydney Showground Speedway. Nick Petrelli sideways every lap out of Homestead corner at Warwick Farm.
    Brocky over the flip-flop in the XU1 at Oran Park inch perfect each time.
    Smokin’ Joe Winklehock dancing a 2 litre BMW over the top of Mt Panorama miles quicker than anyone else.
    Senna in the McLaren through the esses at Adelaide 1993.

  27. Chris Kaczmarek, 14 January 2013 00:50

    Good stuff! ! I would also add :

    LeMans running starts

    Any in car footage of Monaco 70-80′s

    The Lotus 72. – I had no idea The John Player Special was a fag wrapper. I just loved that livery, made me a life long lotus fan!

  28. Steve, 14 January 2013 13:56

    must add…

    Ronnie in a Lotus 72 racing in the snow, sliding at Becketts in the May non-championship meeting.

    Graham winning in the lobsterclaw Brabham

    Wispering Weisel in the turbine Lotus rushing round Woodcote

    Yes, I love Silverstone!

  29. Rob Marsh, 15 January 2013 06:22

    The opening lap at the old kyalami sitting at Crowthorne-made the whole grandstand shake as they came down the hill towards you.

  30. Ray Licence, 16 January 2013 13:11

    How about any meeting at Shelsley Walsh,even the public car park is worth a visit

  31. Ian Parsons, 16 January 2013 13:18

    Hi Paul,
    Surely you must have had some memorable moments in your Father’s Nash? All rather a long time ago those evenings at Hathersage.

  32. Patrick Murray, 16 January 2013 16:26

    Billy Coleman and Ronan Morgan in a 911 on the Circuit of Ireland 1986 – o sorry he was Irish!

  33. Mike Byron, 16 January 2013 19:31

    Paul, in the ’60′s Motor magazine ran a Russell Brockbank cartoon feature titled Major Upset, one week the Major clearly shared your horse racing ‘frustration’ the cartoon captured such to perfection, I wonder if anyone has a copy to hand, it cannot be described.

  34. Alan Gent, 16 January 2013 21:21

    Brilliant! Thanks for unearthing some long forgotten memories – and giving me some new ones!!


  35. Paul Fearnley, 18 January 2013 09:33

    Dear Ian,

    Memories of Dad’s Nash? Hmm.

    Landing in a field having vaulted a dry stone wall outside Oxenhope. Doing donuts in the snow in the quad at school – yes, it was posh-ish but near Moss Side. Dicing with a purple Dolly Sprint – the first modern buzzbox to give us a run for our money – on the way to (or from) a VSCC Silverstone. Scything through a roundabout that “hadn’t been there the year before”. Explaining to a red-faced policeman that his new V8 Rover SD1 had been struggling to catch a (then) 40-year-old 1.5-litre car. He let us off. Explaining to another policeman that, yes, we had just driven over a snowbound Woodhead. Pushing moderns out of the way (by hand!) so that we could roar up a snowy hill – the cheering! The Canadian cyclist holidaying in the Dales who was ill after Dad took him for a quick spin. And Dad’s last-corner passing of a couple of Rileys – aka the enemy – to win a five-lap scratch at Silverstone in our everyday car.

    God bless AMD 663!

  36. Jim Smith, 18 January 2013 10:47

    Paul, only 48 for 38/1′s yellow pipes!! At least you could have made it 38!! The only thing better than the look of them was the sounds out of them as the engine was being warmed up, especially when it had 30% Nitro in the tank. Now a Jimmy/Colin story, a few days before qualifying Colin & the Ford engine people were standing beside the car, in the pits, Colin asked “how much nitro can I run in this engine”? “30% Mr. Chapman, how much do you intend to use”? “30% of course!! If you could have seen the look on the Ford guys faces!! With that Colin turned to me & told me to put 30% Nitro into it & adtust the timing & fuel mixture. Jimmy went out a short time later & came in & stopped beside me with a grin from ear to ear!! What’s wrong with you? Oh this is a whole new deal! What do you mean? Coming off turn 1 I planted my foot where I always do & the back end went sideways!! As he was saying this he was laughing & gestriculating how he had to correct the slide!!

  37. Paul Fearnley, 18 January 2013 12:26

    Dear Jim,

    My 50 choices are in no particular order. They are all joint first!

    Please keep the anecdotes coming. Superb stuff.

  38. Paul Fearnley, 18 January 2013 12:59

    Dear Jim,

    Just reminded myself of your CV…

    My wife’s family is packed with Merchant Navy chief engineers and my father did his apprenticeship on marine diesels at National Gas & Oil. (A young Keith Duckworth spent some time in NGA’s drawing office, I think.)

  39. Jim Smith, 19 January 2013 01:21

    Paul, You have checked me out in Andrew’s book!! It was not until I read it myself, a few years ago, that I realised that I had never resigned from P&O!! I paid off one of their general cargo vessels, in KG V eEast London, on a Friday & the the following Monday I started at Team Lotus, on the Wednesday I left for a F1 race in Germany & 2 weeks later I was in Indy!! After my diversion through F1, Indy & offshore power boat racing I returned to Marine Engineering. In 1984 I was promoted to Chief Engineer of a 73,000 T, coal fired, yes coal fired!! bulk ore carrier.

  40. Steve Asprey, 19 January 2013 22:31

    Its no wonder that historics are getting more popular than modern day F1 etc. When you regulate out anything that might give you an engineering edge and virtually make passing impossible, then spectators will find something better to watch. Just look at Goodwood.
    There is a Motorsport photo, in “parting shot” some time ago with a 1920s racing car attempting to round a corner on one wheel, with the mechanic nearly falling out. The caption was “brakes are for sissies”. This says it all.

  41. Paul Walsh, 29 January 2013 21:59

    Beyond juvenile and too idiotic for words

  42. Terry Jacob, 26 March 2013 14:26

    I must be having a mellow moment , there is little in your list of things you love about motor sports with which I can disagree .Let me throw in a few additions : –

    Any racing car built by the legendary Henry ‘Smokey’ Yunick , particularly his Indy ‘sidecar’ racer and his 1967 15/16 th. ‘scale model’ Chevrolet Chevelle Nascar entry .

    Blood and Smoke byCharles Leerhsen , a superb account of the background to the first running of the Indianapolis 500 .

    F5000 cars . You love big-block Can-Am lumps , I’m never happier than when I’m close up and personal with a barking small-block .

    Michael ‘the Red Baron’ Schumacher on an in lap or an out lap after fuel stop – pure , pure , magic

    F3 ‘screamers’ heading four and five abreast towards the old Woodcote when it was a corner for real men .

    Rallycross from Lydden Hill on Saturday afternoon ‘World of Sports’ straight after the wrestling from Bethnel Green Town Hall- it always seemed a such natural mix .

    Wild and wacky VSCC racers : things with open valve-gear and some form of chain drive , particularly those my wife describes as looking as though they were built from an Edwardian hip-bath !*!!**!

Similar content

Marc Marquez 4

Marc Márquez: “He’s playing”


Mat Oxley explains just what sets Marc Márquez’s riding style apart from his rivals’


Conway wins messy Long Beach GP


Gordon Kirby reports on Mike Conway’s unlikely Indycar win on the streets of Long Beach


How I got started on the road to the WRC


Mads Østberg on his start in Swedish rallying and an update on how his first season with Citroën is progressing



Paul Fearnley

Read Paul's profile and more …