Letters from readers, April 1998

Heated debate


With reference to John Grimson’s letter in the February issue I was not aware of any reluctance on the part of the SSC team to release any real data with regard to the recent supersonic land speed record. That Richard Noble did not mention temperature in his own article was, I am sure, simply due to him writing a wide-ranging article which could not deal with all of the specific details.

The team were very conscious of the importance of temperature to the calculation of the Mach number achieved, as were the USAC timekeepers. The chosen means was an aspirated thermometer with a calibrated platinum resistance probe, shielded from radiation, sited 24in above ground level and halfway through the measured mile. The temperature quoted was the average for the minute during which a run took place.

For the first northbound run the average temperature was 5.23deg C, and Andy’s quoted average speed of 759.333mph equates to Mach 1.015. The second southbound run took place at an average temperature of 7.5deg C, and his speed of 766.609 equated to Mach 1.020, meeting the team’s own target of being at least 1% above the prevailing speed of sound.

The average speed for the two runs quoted by Mr Grimson is in fact in error, probably because he may not realise that in quoting an average speed under FIA rules, it is calculated from the average of the times, not speeds, for the two passes through the measured distance. The average of the two times for the mile was given as 4.718 seconds, equal to 763.035mph.

I am, yours, etc.

GT Bowsher, Chief mechanical designer, ThrustSSC

Specifics issue


I thoroughly enjoyed the article in the January issue about the comparison between the old and new versions of the Lotus/Caterham Seven. However, there are a couple of points in the piece with which I would like to take issue.

You refer to the Seven as ‘Britain’s most enduring sports car’: if you were to make your way to Pickersleigh Road, Malvern Link, Worcestershire, I think you might find few chaps there who would disagree with that statement. In fact, by their standard, the Seven is a mere whippersnapper, still wet behind the ears!

When it comes to the comparison between the generations of Seven, I think you are being a little unfair to the good old BMC ‘A’ series engine. Yes, S5bhp is not a great amount, but, on the other hand, it is being produced by only 948cc, a specific output of 58bhp/litre. The K-series engine, even with the benefits of fuel injection and 16 valves, only produces 17% more at 68bhp/litre. So I would suggest that is another case of there being ‘no substitute for cubic inches’, rather than the older engine “coughing out a modest 55bhp”.

I really like the revitalised Motor Sport and I have been a loyal reader since 1955. I keep up-to-date with modern racing via Autocar, so do not miss the regular F1 coverage, but agree with many that there is a proper role for your magazine in standing back from the week-by-week drama and viewing events with a cooler perspective.

I am, yours, etc.

Michael Noon, Bradley, Keighley

Standard Option


I found the brief history of ‘non-standard’ gearboxes appended to the test of the BMW M3 SMG in the March issue most interesting. Back in the late 1950s an even more mundane car than those quoted was offered with the option of a clutch actuated by a switch on the gear lever, namely a Standard 10. My memory is defective as the exact nature of the mechanism triggered by this switch, as to its success or otherwise, and as to whether this option applied to the car’s smaller brother the Standard 8. No doubt those gaps can be plugged by another reader.

I am, yours, etc.

David Hillheard, Benson, Oxon

Running in


In your March issue you show a Ligier JS3 at Le Mans and state that it won the Paris 1000kms in 1971. It did not, and was not even in the race. I know because I was in the race and have the practice times to prove it.

Regarding competition cars being driven on the public road, I recall well driving the Dorset Racing Lola T210 on the road in Belgium in 1972. We were entered in the 1000kms of Spa when the BMW engine broke in practice. We removed it and got the whole bottom end rebuilt at Verviers. We then tested it and ran it in along the Francorchamps-Verviers road, part of the original Circuit des Ardennes of 95 years ago. One had the legs of anything else on the road and sat so close to the tarmac that one could see under most lorries.

My first visit to Spa was for the European Grand Prix in 1958 and before the road was closed the works Ferraris were driven by their mechanics from their garage in Stavelot to the pits area, a sight I have recorded on 16mm cine film.

What wonderful days.

I am, yours, etc.

Brian Josceleyne, Braintree, Essex

Long ear of the law


I remember being told that for the Oulton Park Gold Cup of 1955, a variety of works and private Maseratis and Ferraris were based at various garage premises in Chester. It appears that some, if not all, of these cars were driven to Oulton by the mechanics on the first practice day, causing amusement to the enthusiasts lucky enough to witness it and apoplexy to those whose job was concerned with law and order. The wail of two V8 Lancia-Ferraris and sundry 250Fs must have been audible some distance away.

A delightful footnote came from the genial Rex Foster, then circuit manager at Oulton, who told of a visit from a senior Cheshire police official with the following comment: “I know when it happened and why it happened – I will hold you personally responsible if it ever happens again.”

I am, yours, etc.

Martin Pratt, Hoole, Chester

How to become a Legend


I must respond to Bob Burrell (Letters, March). Since the rebirth of the magazine I have been most impressed with Nigel Roebuck’s Legends column. His clear sense of Grand Prix racing in an historical context has context many excellent articles on figures such as Phil Hill, Jean Behra, Innes Ireland and more modern faces such as Reutemann and Prost.

In respect of Mansell, it is apparent that Nigel Roebuck has suffered the same exasperation as many of the driver’s most ardent admirers. Much as we cheered his heroic drives against Piquet, Prost and Senna, it became ever more difficult to endure Mansell’s endless problems and complaints. The farce of his time at McLaren and his pointless excursion with Eddie Jordan seem to show that Mansell was and still is confused as to his place in the world of motorsport. A return to the sport in the BTCC or Historic racing could re-establish his place in the hearts of former fans and admirers. However, I suspect that the package would never be right, the deal never quite good enough, to supplement his already considerable fortune.

If Nigel Mansell really wants to return to the sport, why not start by turning up unannounced at Goodwood in June. There he could perhaps mix shoulders with real ‘legends’ such as Moss, Brooks and, I believe, Mario Andretti. He could meet the fans, sign the autographs, breathe in the glorious atmosphere and discover that he himself is now part of the history of the sport.

I am, yours, etc.

Anthony Boullemier, Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Geography lesson


Glancing through my March issue, my attention was caught by the feature on Tyrrell 005, in particular the photo on p42. The caption locates the track as Mosport Park, but I recognise it as a seldom pictured section before the ‘new’ extension to the Watkins Glen circuit. Mosport Park, although of a similar nature, was much narrower and poorly surfaced.

I would add that I always look forward to receiving Motor Sport in its reborn form, with a wealth of interesting material and pictures, so I merely wish to put the record straight in this small instance.

I am, yours, etc.

Mr M Turner, Chesham, Bucks

Us and them


I had hoped that I might enjoy Gordon Cruickshank’s article British Sportscars: A Chequered History in the February issue. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed by the third paragraph.

Alas, Mr Cruickshank is afflicted by the same ‘GT40’ mania as many other writers. Perhaps I might enquire on what grounds he believes that Ford’s 1967 Le Mans win could be attributed to Britain? This race was won a Ford race was won by a MkIV (not a GT40). These cars were designed and built entirely in the United States with absolutely zero input from Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough, were run by American teams, and the winning car was driven by Californian Dan Gurney and Texan A J Foyt.

There is only the slightest British interest in the 1966 win by a Ford GT MkII (not a GT40), in that the bare chassis tub was built at Slough, but then shipped the USA to be built up into a completed car. Again, the winning car was entered by Shelby American and driven by two New Zealanders, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon so at least there was an ‘Empire’ connection there.

The only wins which we might claim for Britain were the J W Automotive victories in 1968 and ’69, and the 1968 win represented not only the first win by a car properly described as a GT40, but also the first time that such a car had even finished at Le Mans.

Being old enough to have been around in the sixties and having been captivated by the sensational appearance of the Ford GT40, I can confirm that the cars were rarely, if ever, in 1964 or 1965 referred to as ‘GT40s’, either in the press or in Ford’s own publicity: it was always simply ‘Ford GT’. It is my recollection that the term GT40 only came into common usage around late 1965, early 1966 and referred solely to the ‘standard production’ 4.7 models, never the ‘works’ cars and certainly not the Mklls. To describe the totally different MkIV as a GT40 is simply ludicrous. The only link between the two was that they were conceived by the same company in pursuance of the same goal. One might as well describe all of Ferrari’s mid-sixties sports racers as ‘250LMs’.

I am, yours, etc.

Alan Baker, Harlow, Essex

(I’m not sure if you have read the same article. I began with the most ‘unjingoistic’ stance possible, crediting all four Ford wins to the USA, only later waving the flag for the JW victories, and I only used the phrase GT40 once, correctly, to describe the start of the project. Of course you’re right that the MkII was a separate variant and MkIV a different car but say ‘Ford MkIV’ to most people and we could be talking Cortinas… For clarity ‘GT40’ remains a widely understood ‘umbrella’ title. After all, a 4WD rally Cosworth and a MkIl Popular are still both Escorts. GC)

The price is wrong


I have been reading Motor Sport for 40 years or more through thick and thin. I have stayed loyal as the style has changed over the years because it has always been a good read. Unfortunately, your March issue has annoyed me so much that I am not likely to be a reader for much longer.

I quote from your editorial by Mr Frankel: the price is going up “to bring the title in line with the competition”. The fact that other monthly magazines are charging more than Motor Sport is not sufficient reason for you to match their prices.

I was, yours, etc.

John Norman, via e-mail

No sooner said…


I wrote to you on one or two occasions last year to lament the omission of ‘modern’ racing from the pages of Motor Sport, so I was delighted to read that Simon Taylor will be undertaking such writing for the magazine. If his preview of the 1998 season is anything to go by, his contributions will be very much the kind of article for which I (and numerous other readers) was asking.

I am also pleased to see the re-appearance of GP and WRC events in the calendar in the improved introductory pages of the magazine. My grumbles about the new format of the magazine were not about what was included, but about what had been omitted. The present balance (as indicated by the March 1998 edition) is much closer to the ideal, though I should still like a tabulated summary of 1997 GP/WRC results, so that my run of magazines can continue to provide an accessible source of reference.

So, from one who has criticised some of the early changes under the new format, some thanks for the way in which you have responded to comments of ‘old lags’ like me. (The general quality of writing and of articles by the new or ‘recycled’ team has not been a concern: good stuff!)

I am, yours, etc.

Mr JL Clegg, Buckley, Manchester

Unlapsed reader


Last year I wrote to you lamenting the absence of topical F1 coverage in the new Motor Sport and forecasting that, in spite of being a regular reader since the early fifties, I would not be renewing my subscription. You very kindly sent me an explanatory and understanding reply.

However the arrival of the March issue has made mc change my mind. To see that Simon Taylor has joined up as Grand Prix Editor will, I am sure, give us excellent comment on F1. His Modern Times and Adam Cooper’s F1 in 1998 made this copy so enjoyable that I dashed off the coupon for the next 12 issues.

At least your change has held one reader!

I am, yours, etc.

Mr HF Gillham, Ballaugh, Isle of Man