Letters: April 2018

Wolf at the door

Your admirable pair of articles ‘From Russia with cash’ and ‘Winds of change at Williams’ (Motor Sport website) make the point about the long-term ownership of the team.

Virginia Williams’s book reminds us all that FW sold out to a Canadian billionaire before. Didn’t end well!
Nicholas Binns, Wirksworth, Derbyshire


Sharp practice

Regarding the story on the Porsche 956/962, Nigel Rees fails to mention that the only reason Porsche won the 1982 Group C championship is because they added points from a totally unrelated Porsche 930 wrongly stuck in the P class in one of the races, to beat the French Rondeau-Cosworth team. For many of us, Porsche acted improperly there by ‘fishing’ these points, and it is a sore subject, as I was the Rondeau agent in the USA. (Not for long: Jean Rondeau was not the nicest person to deal with and had a very bad temper.)

Not to demean the 956 – a great car, superior in all respects to the one built by a team of amateurs in Le Mans. But fair is fair, and Porsche acted improperly.

Regarding Gordon Cruickshank’s always entertaining pages, it was not in a Ferrari 275 GTB that the short Lelouch film, C’etait un rendezvous was shot, but from the cockpit of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9. This has been well documented. Only the soundtrack was manipulated to sound like there were four more pots.
Philippe de Lespinay, Newport Beach, California, USA


Decadent decade

I can but agree with Colin Goodwin on his choice of 1985 as the greatest year in motor sport. Having been to my first motor race at Mallory Park aged 11 in 1965, bought my first Motor Sport in 1966 (and every one since), seen my first rally in 1969 and competed from the mid-80s until 2014, 1985 remains the standout year.

I was lucky enough to be at Club Corner for Keke Rosberg’s 160mph qualifying lap and sneaked onto the pre-chicane Mulsanne to see the Lancias and 962s.

But the over-riding memory of that incredible year was the sheer culture shock of standing within inches of the S1 Quattro Sports. Group B cars had to be banned, but what a memory for those of us lucky enough to have been there.
Martin Shaw, by e-mail


Cub reporter

I memorably encountered Stirling Moss in 1953 when as a motor sport-mad 14-year-old I wrote to him asking for an interview. Not having mentioned my age the great man and his manager Ken Gregory must have been startled when the reporter turned up in his school uniform. But Stirling answered all my naive questions with every sign of taking me seriously and he has remained a hero of mine ever since. When I sent my hopeless report to the Kent & Sussex Courier they ran only a brief piece headlined ‘Sevenoaks Schoolboy Meets Famous Racing Driver’. It was years later that I came to experience the special thrill of encountering him, even briefly, on the track and he will remain for me the best of the best.
Frank Barnard, Shapwick, Somerset


In, out, don’t shake it about

Our country is polarised by Brexit and this is no doubt reflected across the Motor Sport readership. Mr Nye is entitled to his views, but Motor Sport is not the platform for them.

The happenings in Monte Carlo over 50 years ago are nothing to do with Brexit and should not be tenuously linked to it now. Whilst the Minis were entered by an English team, their drivers were not English. The exclusion from the results may not necessarily be down to simple Anglo/French (and I mean English, not our other British nations) xenophobia. The French wanted a French car and driver to win. Had the Minis been German, Italian, or from any other country would we have had the same scenario? Possibly, but we will never know.

By all means mention politics if it is relevant to our sport, cars, or motoring and how they affect us. Otherwise please keep political comment out of Motor Sport.
Anthony Schofield, Newton, Mumbles


Behind every great man…

I too was sad to learn of the passing of Bette Hill. I was involved in motor racing circuit support whilst working for an oil additive company in the mid-60s to mid-70s and I have several memories of the Hill family during that time. At the final race meeting at the Crystal Palace circuit. Graham squeaked onto the F2 grid at the last minute only to be involved in a shunt which left a large tyre mark on the side of his helmet. My abiding memory is of Bette storming through the pits swinging the helmet trying to locate the culprit, presumably to quietly remonstrate with him!

Another memory was at Brands Hatch during one of the first races after Graham returned to racing from the crash which broke his legs. My son Nick went into the toilet block only to see Graham sitting in a cubicle with his pants up and the door open. He told my son that he was having a rest as he had been jostled walking through the Paddock. Everyone wanted to talk to him or get his autograph.

Bette was a beautiful, clever and infinitely likeable person who will be sadly missed.
James Meacham. West Sussex

High octane Motor Sport

Getting together some photographs I took during my drive in a Mini Countryman from England to Pakistan and then on to Australia in 1963, I found this photo, taken in Iran. I thought you might like to see that Motor Sport magazine was put to good use on this trip. Please look carefully at the ‘funnel’ for the petrol top-up.
Bruce Rix, by e-mail


Risk – and reward

I thoroughly enjoyed the article on the ’80s, and I’m sure like many people, we all have our favourite years and decades…

My decade is the 1970s, chosen because you could still go to Montjuich Park in Barcelona for the GP, Zandvoort pre-chicanes and James winning for Hesketh, Monza at the Lesmos pre-chicane, Nürburgring with not a sign of debris fencing, just wooden waist-high barriers with unimpeded views, standing in fields at the Masta Kink, with just a barbed wire fence in front and Alfas, Porsches and BMWs coming through nearly flat, Mulsanne straight behind straw bales and double-layer Armco at 200mph, and the cafe conveniently directly behind, not to mention Rouen and Brno, ultimate unspoiled road tracks. We thought these things would never come to an end, and it makes me thankful that I was just lucky enough to go when I did. It was the end of an era.

Things like pre-season F1 Internationals at Brands and Silverstone we took for granted, and again I was fortunate enough to see the 917s at Le Mans in 1971 for the last time – not forgetting the uninterrupted scream of the Matra all the way down the Mulsanne in the dead of night. Wonderful memories, all.

Some things just don’t always change for the better…
Julian Nowell, Walton-on-Thames


Mini mistake

Paddy Hopkirk may indeed be “England’s best-loved rally driver” (Race Retro Preview, March), but his native Northern Ireland is no doubt proud of him, too.
John Clegg, Chadderton, Oldham


Group C look-see

I was fascinated to read Nigel Rees’s technical perspective of the Porsche 956/962 and Jaguar XJR-6–9 Group C cars in the February issue, having seen these cars on debut, and many times at Le Mans during period.

Certainly, the first impressions of the new Group C Formula were somewhat dispiriting when spectating at the Silverstone 6 Hours race in April 1982, where the new works Porsche 956 blitzed the field to secure Pole position, and then conspired to chug round the circuit behind the tiny Lancia LC1 ‘Barchetta’, the Italian manufacturer having stuck up a rather impolite two fingers to the new Manufacturers Championship by running a Group 6 car that did not have to apply the new fuel restrictions, but could still compete for race wins and the Driver’s Championship.

It became quite noticeable, after a period of time, that the private 956 entrants, Richard Lloyd Racing in particular, knew more about aerodynamics than Porsche themselves, being able to develop the bodywork and beat the works cars on occasion, although the works cars always had the advantage of engine management upgrades; I think full credit must be given to Porsche for allowing their private teams to be able to compete with them on this basis, although I very much doubt it would be allowed today.

One flaw in the Porsche 956/962 was its fondness for throwing a wheel; it happened so often that it almost became a standing-joke about how fast the Porsche was on three wheels, let alone four, although somewhat dangerous in retrospect, especially at Le Mans given the speed of cars.

I would be interested to know if Nigel Rees could give an explanation for this phenomenon,
Neil Kirby, Brentwood , Essex


He was there too

The photos in the March You Were There must have been taken by Paul Meiss during practice – the race itself took place in varying weather conditions with scattered showers, which laid the foundation for Moss’ splendid victory in Rob Walker’s underdog Lotus. Ferrari was granted a strange extra practice at 7am on Sunday morning when it was still dry.

Mr Meis was possibly standing beside me when I took this picture (above) with my Zeiss Ikon Contax, which unfortunately was stolen during the Spanish GP in Barcelona in 1973.
Hartmut Lehbrink, Schalkenbach, Germany


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