Motor Sport Letters, April 2021

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Brian Joscelyne’s race photos [Racing back in time January] were magic. The shots of the Nürburgring, Montjuïch and the Swiss hillclimb show the glories (and dangers) of the past. With my anorak on it may be of interest to your readers to know that the 917 at Montjuïch is chassis 013. It came second, due to a misfire as a result of the Spanish petrol it had to use. The next event was Montlhéry where it won. Except for Montjuïch it won every race it entered in 1971.

Chassis 013 has been a member of the Finburgh family since it was rescued from the back yard of Porsche Stuttgart in 1973. Some readers may have seen the car at various Goodwood Festivals of Speed and even a Members’ Meeting, and it might well have gone to Le Mans this year among other European venues. Now it will not: as from this year the car cannot be taken out of the country to the EU except at very substantial expense based on the value of the car. This is as it was in pre-common market days, only the value of classic race cars has increased somewhat since then.

The car is now available for all to see at the National Motor Museum Beaulieu.

Mark Finburgh, London

Aki with James Bond Toyota 2000GT

Bond girl Aki with Toyota 2000GT – but the on-screen sound is courtesy of Austin-Healey

Alamy

In February’s edition of Speedshop you wrote about the Toyota 2000GT sports car and the part it played in the Bond movie You Only Live Twice. I have an interesting tale about that car and the movie that your readers might like to hear. Not long before the movie was released one of the producers realised that the Toyota’s engine didn’t sound particularly good on film; it was just too quiet. Graham Warner, owner of the famous Chequered Flag sports car dealership in Chiswick, London, was approached by the producer to see if he had a car that sounded a bit more sexy for the film.

I was working for Chequered Flag at the time and suggested that our Austin- Healey 3000 Mk3 would be perfect. It was agreed, and at the dead of night the Healey was raced around the streets of Chiswick by our sales manager John Raeburn, an Aussie ex-racing driver, accompanied by a sound engineer recording the noise of the engine and gear changes.

So next time you watch You Only Live Twice listen to the noise of the engine – it’s not a Toyota but a Healey 3000 straight-six! I sold the Healey a few days later for £795; wish I had the car today.

Andrew Jeffrey, Stewarton, East Ayrshire

Your report in March [Matters of Moment] that a 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza had been destroyed in the museum fire in Austria is thankfully incorrect. The car left the museum in November 2019 and has recently had some restoration work done in the UK. As far as I know, only one or two cars were there at the time of the fire although many classic motorcycles were indeed destroyed.

Simon Moore, London SW6

Great article on one of the might-have-been race cars, the Chaparral 2F [Hall’s winged wonder, December 2020]. Doomed to fail under the weight of just too many advancements at the same time in the same car, it still showed brilliance. Gaining three pole starting positions and two second-place slots in a short season was unique for a car with no continual at-track corporate backing. Sadly, as related to me by Phil Hill at the First Riverside Reunion, Jim Hall’s insistence on using those cadmium aircraft batteries which would not reliably start a hot racing engine and that automatic transmission squandered the effort. Mr Hill related to me that he felt if the car had a regular manual transmission (and batteries) they could’ve run the table on the season.

As for the ‘Summer of Love’, we hippies didn’t recognise it; that was the establishment press term. Oh, and we American hippies thought The Beatles were the squarest pop group of them all.

Norman Gaines, Hartsdale, NY, USA

Just a little item that may amuse your readers re. Steve McQueen’s appearance in 1961 at Brands in Sir John Whitmore’s green racing Mini. Then relatively unknown, Steve turned up accompanied by Jackie Oliver to a sprint meeting preceding his participation in the Brands race in the car the following weekend when I’m pretty sure he had a minor coming together with Christabel Carlisle’s Mini. I can’t remember the result.

However I do remember the result of the sprint meeting class, where I was driving a friend’s Speedwell-prepared Mini. My one claim to fame is winning the class ahead of Mr McQueen. It may even have been the fastest Mini lap on the club circuit at that moment in time.

Roger Bunting, Harrow

I was fascinated to read Paul Fearnley’s account [Pure Alfa, March] of the Alfa restoration by Bruno Giacomelli of one of his F1 Alfas, back in the 1980s, “which pitched him into the Brands Hatch catch-fencing when his rear wing failed on the 175mph approach to Hawthorn”.

I was blue-flagging that particular practice session on the approach to Hawthorn, and I well remember my split-second thoughts as Bruno’s Alfa appeared from beneath what is now referred to as the Johnny Herbert Bridge at full chat: “There’s something different about the next car – s**t, its rear wing isn’t there!” No time to say anything, not that it would’ve made a scrap of difference. The next thing, the Alfa is spinning into the catch fencing. Fortunately no harm came to Bruno, but I seem to recall that one wheel came off the car and disappeared into the woods beyond. To this day, I wonder if that 175mph wheel was ever found!

Now my plug for marshalling: If you, as a reader, want to share in the close-up experience of motor racing, why not take a look at the BMMC website (marshals.co.uk) where you can find out how to become a marshal.

Neil Stretton, BMMC

GRaham Hill Lola T90 replica

Graham Hill’s original Indy-winning Lola T90 no longer exists, but our reader snapped this perfect replica in London

With reference to February’s Lola article [For sale: Lola, two careful owners], readers might be interested to see the pictures I took a year ago, in a building near Borough Market of a replica Lola T90 ‘Red Ball Special’ as driven by Graham Hill to win the 1966 Indy 500. It would appear that the original was destroyed years ago, but it was displayed at the Racing Car Show in Olympia, in January 1967, where I was fortunate enough to see it.

According to Ian Wagstaff in his excellent book The British at Indianapolis this replica was built by Prototype Developments of Indianapolis in 2008, which I would imagine was at the request of Martin Birrane, for his personal collection of Lolas.

My interest in this car and the Indy 500 stems from watching the race live back in 1966, courtesy of the Early Bird satellite, beamed to the Astoria Cinema, Finsbury Park. Courtesy of Rank Theatres Ltd, View-Sport, and sponsored by a well-known tobacco company, who entered F1 with Lotus two years later!

According to the August 1966 edition of Car and Driver magazine, the first lap was over in a little less than 10 seconds. ‘The Golden 500’ was possibly the easiest race Graham Hill had ever won, but for most of the other drivers it was the nastiest, most frustrating event ever.

Having been fortunate enough to attend the Indy 500 on a number of occasions over the years, including the 100th running in 2016, dare I suggest if the original Lola T90 Red Ball Special had survived, its value could be greater than an indicative price of the company, indicated in your article?

Let’s hope that this iconic racing car manufacturer is reborn, to ensure the legacy of Eric Broadley and Martin Birrane lives on. Fingers crossed!

Ian Harris, Mursley, Milton Keynes

Regarding the recent revelations about newly discovered footage from Steve McQueen’s aborted racing movie Day of the Champion and its rivalry with MGM’s Grand Prix [McQueen’s Lost Movie, February] – there’s a book in there. Imagine a photo-rich volume, preferably authored by one of Motor Sport’s authoritative writers, and featuring multiple stills from the found footage, insider interviews, and the entire working script.

And by the way, with all the books and documentaries about McQueen’s eventual racing homage to Le Mans (A French Kiss With Death, Steve McQueen – Le Mans in the Rearview Mirror, Behind Le Mans: The Film in Photographs, Our Le Mans, The Man and Le Mans), why hasn’t anyone produced a comparable book about the movie which actually won the race to the cinemas? Grand Prix is arguably the best racing drama ever filmed, with a better plot, better character development, and better music score. There’s a market for this glaring omission.

John Gustafson, Arlington, Virginia

The 1995 – Champagne Supernova [March] article was superb. I was on a business trip to Catalonia on November 22, 1995, disappointed not to be at home for my favourite motor sport event, the RAC. On arriving at the company I was visiting, I asked my contact if anyone was following the events of that day. The answer was yes.

We stopped later for lunch, the table laid with food and bottles of a well-known Spanish pale lager. As we were starting, my contact rejoined and said, “Mr Mabon, you will be pleased to know that Colin is World Rally champion.” We Brits duly toasted Colin, somewhat ironically with the aforementioned Spanish lager. That memory never fades.

Both Colin and Richard are up there with our other British motor sport world champions – no matter what their associated statistics. Let’s hope that Elfyn Evans will soon be a member of this elite group too.

Chris Mabon, Lechlade, Glos

Like David Coker I appreciated the photo of the starting grid for the 1967 German GP in the Summer of Love story [December 2020], but there is one detail in which he understates the achievements of the drivers in shot: not just three drivers went on to become F1 constructors but five: Ligier and Stewart with wins, Surtees with non-championship wins, Hill and Amon.

Nigel Urwin, London SE5

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