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The Scheckter effect

Sir,

I enjoyed the recent issue with Jody Scheckter as guest editor.

In 1988, at a David Bowie concert in Atlanta, I happened to notice Jody standing outside the venue. I had always been a fan of his and he appeared surprised when I approached him to introduce myself. Apparently he was able to live relatively unrecognised here in the South.

At the time I was writing for a local club racing magazine, and arranged to interview him later. He could not have been more gracious, answering with candour and humour. I was truthfully taken aback by his ability to just walk away. There were also many great Ken Tyrrell and six-wheel P34 stories — a race car that he seemed to have detested, and one that I had adored. So many good stories and so little time.

Before leaving, he took me into the ‘big room’ at his Firearms Training plant and let me play the ultimate video game. A wall to ceiling theatre-sized screen with the ‘enemy’ rushing towards me. All I had to protect myself was a military issue M60 machine gun using CO2 with the kick of the real weapon.

Finally I offered him the opportunity to run my Triumph at Road Atlanta. He had no interest whatsoever. Silly me!

Thank you for a great feature and thank you, Jody, for the positive influence and impact that you have had in your sport!
N Tony Fasola, Marietta, Georgia, USA

Seattle down, Jody

Sir,

I enjoyed your look at the past with Jody Scheckter in the February issue. It brought back memories of a Formula 5000 race I saw as a young man at Seattle International Raceway in Kent, Washington. A highlight was watching Mr Scheckter throwing his car around the downhill esses in massive oversteer slides. David Hobbs and Clay Regazzoni were also entered. I can still hear Regazzoni’s front spoiler scraping on the esses on the back part of the track. Good stuff.
Roy Hayashi; Tualatin, Oregon, USA

Look and Learn

Sir,

Your front cover of the February issue made me think. It shows the start of the 1979 South African Grand Prix and Jody Scheckter taking the lead, but he is obviously keeping an eye on his closer and faster rival Jean-Pierre Jabouille.

Some of our current hot shots would do well to take a leaf out of Mr Scheckter’s book.
Denzil Monis, Thombury, South Glos

Points mean – nothing

Sir,

On the discussion of earning championships, it’s the person who wins the most races, not points, who deserves to be world champion. Which is why in 2012 Sebastien Vettel was the worthy title winner. And why Stirling Moss should have been crowned champion.

The father of Jacky Ickx long ago proposed the most logical solution: 100 points for the winner; 10 for second; 1 for third. If you’re not on the podium, hard cheese. I’m not a fan of Bernie’s, but his suggestion of awarding gold, silver and bronze medals as in other sports had some merit. Nothing is more infuriating than drivers talking about their points, which have absolutely no intrinsic value at all. And if the World Championship was decided early, so what? It might focus people’s attention on who was going to win the remaining races, instead of making calculations about where they might finish. Rewards for reliability should be confined to endurance events like Le Mans.

F1 is Grand Prix racing, not ballroom dancing!
Andrew Stronach, Sevenoaks, Kent

Business express

Sir,

Knowledgeable motor racing enthusiasts are fully aware that Formula 1 is no longer a sport but a business. Perhaps F1 GP should now mean Formula 1 Grand Parade.

The spectacle of very high-tech four-wheeled advertising hoardings circulating processionally with occasional and infrequent place-swapping is about as exciting as queueing for a bus.

Let us all hope that the forthcoming technical changes will improve our enjoyment.

Surely it is now imperative to return to a back-to-basics approach?
Malcolm Clube, Kensington, London

Calendar dreams

Sir,

I humbly submit my alternative calendar for the year — please note it is called Grand Prix calendar, and not F1. In all cases it would use the original tracks and not any truncated versions!

Eighteen rounds that should get everyone misty eyed and excited. I hope NSR approves!
Julian Nowell, Walton on Thames, Surrey

Parliamo Targa

Sir,

I very much enjoyed Andrew Frankel’s entertaining account of his lap of the Targa Florio course ( ‘And That Reminds Me…’ February). I too ventured into the Sicilian mountains last October in my rented Lancia Ypsilon (the worst car that I have ever driven; absolutely appalling) in a vain attempt to recreate some of the excitement of this truly staggering road race.

The combination of the Lancia’s comprehensive inadequacies and frequent and unexpected road subsidence prevented any heroics, but the journey left me with an overwhelming sense of respect for men like Brian Redman and Vic Elford who could drive at seemingly suicidal speeds along these twisty, narrow mountain roads.

A memorable experience, and undoubtedly well worth the time if you are travelling on this wonderful island.
Michael Taylor Cobham, Surrey

A platform for expression

Sir,

I just saw the pictures of Ronald Goethe’s Gulf collection in the March issue. There is one Gulf that Mr Goethe doesn’t have…

I guess each of us has a favourite racing team and the Gulf cars of John Wyer have always been one of mine. After collecting some 1/43-scale Gulf Ford GT40s, I found these Lionel orange flat cars, perfect for hauling GT cars around on my future train layout. I then found an appropriate engine and caboose to complete the John Wyer Automotive train. I designed the paint scheme and painted, striped and decaled the engine and cab myself and I am very pleased at the way it turned out. I also have Porsche 917s and Mirage cars, and last year I found a Wyer Gulf transporter which will also ride on a flat car.

When John Horsman came out with his book Racing In The Rain I sent him a picture of the train. He was very kind to write back saying that he enjoyed the pictures.
Jimmy Lisle, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

Gabriel Konig: one fast lady

Sir,

I was sad to see in March’s Motor Sport that we’ve said goodbye to Gabriel Konig. In the 1960s she was one fast lady. John Britten and Gabriel in their MG Midgets were a force to be reckoned with. I raced against them in my Midget but they were in a class of their own. In the pits at Brands Hatch Gabriel looked around my car and said, “You won’t do any good in that, it’s too effing heavy. Put a lighter body on it.” I took her advice and fitted a Lenham body, but still couldn’t keep up with them.

In the 1960s club racing was great and it was drivers like Gabriel Konig and John Britten who made it so exciting. Great times.
Phil Stewart, Burgh field Common, Reading, Berks

Irish-American alliance

Sir,

I read with interest the February article on the new ownership and revamping of Crossle Cars.

In the 1970s I worked with Ken Deeter, West Coast USA importer of Crossle FFs. I’m sure a good percentage of those built came to the US.

Ken Deeter’s efforts were responsible for selling more custom Crossles than any other distributor. Our works driver Dennis Firestone’s numerous wins also assisted greatly in Crossle being the dominant FF chassis of choice for most American FF club racers of that period.

The Deeter/Firestone partnership went on to record 23 US FF National wins in 1976 alone. Dennis also won the FF Championship at Road Atlanta in a Crossle 30F.

Your article brought back some very fond memories of those Crossle winning years.
Ruck Nicholls, Manhattan Beach, California

Chapman’s light touch

Sir,

One of your articles mentioning Colin Chapman’s aeroplane feats reminded me of a 1970s incident. I worked then for Lucas Lighting and we used to carry out customer lighting tests at Girling’s Honiley Proving Grounds in Warwickshire.

These grounds consisted of an unused WWII airstrip and buildings housing Girling’s test laboratories and offices, (later Aston Martin’s HQ before Gaydon), and we used the entrance road as a known scenario with mannequins and range markers, allowing the comparison of vehicle lighting systems.

We were due to give such a demonstration to Lotus Cars on one occasion and set up our equipment and awaited their arrival in the dark. We heard a low-flying aircraft then silence, thinking nothing of it. After five minutes there was an enormous racket as police and fire engines arrived and we found them ready to knock down the gates to gain entry, having been told that an aeroplane had crashed in the grounds.

At this point up walked Colin to see what the fuss was about. He’d found that Honiley was once identified as an emergency landing strip for Birmingham Airport and decided to use it. We were amazed as he calmly and quietly recounted this, and was asked by the authorities to let them know when he was leaving.

I’m sure it was all kinds of illegal, but sang froid shone through.
David Alan, Cannock, Staffs

Short-circuiting progress?

Sir,

I read with interest the article by Ed Foster in March on the Drayson Lola electric LMP1 car. The progress being made in this field is very impressive and I fully appreciate the value of demonstrating the car’s capabilities at circuits around the world.

Ed mentions the one-make race series with all cars powered by the same drivetrain. Would it not be better to introduce a Formula Libretype series for electric cars? This would provide the opportunity for different ideas and technologies to be tested, eliminating the less efficient and determining the more promising approaches. This would surely provide valuable information for future road car development.

I’m not a great fan of the idea of silent cars, road or race, but I do appreciate that, with fossil fuel finite, these avenues have to be explored. I just think that a free-for-all race series with a suitable carrot for those prepared to invest their resources would provide a relatively quick and inexpensive way of discovering the best direction to take.

In the meantime, I hope you are right and the 2014 V6 turbo Formula 1 engines do sound as good as promised!
Brian Verey, Five Oak Green, Kent

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