Paddock whispers

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Sir,

As historic race organisers, I suspect we at Masters are not alone in being much struck by the mysterious advertisement in the last issue of Motor Sport, apparently aimed at warning off prospective buyers from a particular AC Cobra, whose very existence, let alone its history, was being questioned, or praised, or doubted – depending what view one took.

What the rights and wrongs may be of this particular case is not of importance here. What was most worrying was that there was no advertiser’s name and address. Odd; here was a very public statement, implying some wrong-doing, yet without any attribution or right of reply at all.

I’m sure your staff thought carefully before letting that unattributed advertisement through, but may I (gently) take issue with that decision?

In historic racing it is just a fact that there will always be disputes over a car’s history – period records were often poorly kept; and above all the ‘new brush, new handle, same broom’ argument will be ever-present. Sadly, there is plenty of rumour and ill will in every race paddock; regrettably, someone is always whispering about someone else’s motor car. Each race weekend there are always the whispered “off the record, old chap, but in fact…” type of statements which eventually reach the race organisers, as they are meant to.

It is very rare that we ever hear anyone say straight out: “That car is wrong and mine is right, check it out”, or even less likely: “Yes, that car is straight; it’s just quicker than mine”. Another ‘scene you rarely see’, is: “Please will your technical commissioner check out that car, for the good of the championship? And of course we will all chip in for the costs of his strip-down…”.

Why not? Probably for much the same reason that someone thought it appropriate to take out that Cobra advertisement, but was not brave enough to set out their real opinion, or to have cited an independent expert witness, or to have printed their own full name and address. Whatever the rights and wrongs of one particular case – and let us remember that duplicate chassis plates were a standard part of most race car manufacturers’ tool boxes ‘in period’ – historic racing and the entire classic car movement is all the poorer if this sort of anonymous behaviour goes on to become the accepted norm.

Christopher Tate, Series Director, Masters Historic Racing