Letters from readers, August 1989

Satellite delight


Having had my appetite whetted by my local ITV station’s screening of Indycar racing (albeit the 1988 series at 3.30am on Sunday), I decided to strike my blow for freedom and buy a satellite system.

In a month I have seen more motorsport than I have seen on BBC and ITV together in the last year. This included Indy, Le Mans and GTP (the first outing for the XJR-10), two international rallies, rallycross and much more. It is the best £400 I have ever spent. 

What it has also done is open my eyes further to the fact that la crème de la crème, Formula One, has become perhaps the most boring of all, not simply because of the current one-horse race syndrome, but also because of the self-indulgent nature of the participants and media coverage. Anyone who has seen American coverage of CART and NASCAR will know what I mean. The slick editing and replay facilities, remote-controlled in-car cameras with radio links to the driver and three or more reporters and camera crews in the pits actually explaining what is happening and shy, gives a fascinating insight behind the scenes. 

Add to this the close nature of the racing, multiple pit-stops and the liberal use of pace-cars (often considered jokey by European “aficionados”), and it is not difficult to find yourself on the edge of your seat after more than three hours as three cars battle for the win just inches apart. Contrast this with the Phoenix Grand Prix, when I actually fell asleep during the race!

Regarding the participants, drivers and team managers, two recent NASCAR incidents come to mind.

In the first, one of the leading drivers dropped out after 10 laps of a 74-lap race with gearbox failure and the car was pushed to the garage area, one assumed for retirement. However, a few minutes later there was one of the pit reporters with the unfortunate driver, not chagrined and whining a la Mansell, but still strapped in the car wielding a spanner helping his crew change the ‘box. Was their day over? The hell it was, they were getting the car back out as soon as they could regardless of how far down they were, which sure enough they did. 

Furthermore, far from telling the reporter to “f*** off, we’re busy”, as one might expect, the driver and crew actually conducted a proper, albeit brief, interview with smiles on their faces and the customary mention of the sponsor’s name. 

Call it blatant commercialism if you like, but it looks a lot more like true professionalism to me. 

The second incident happened after about 400 laps of a 500-lap race. Suddenly up pops a pit reporter with the crew chief of the second-placed car who, apparently, was about to lodge a protest against the leader. Why was this? “Because he’s making me work too hard on m’Birthday.”

MP Toogood, Melksham, Wiltshire 


What about Bluebird?


I read (Motor Sport, July 1989) that finance is being sought with a view to restoring the Irving-Napier “Golden Arrow” LSR car to running order. It would appear that the originators of this initiative are more than happy with the response to their initial efforts in raising £500,000. 

While one can only applaud the effort being made to resuscitate this beautiful and eminently successful machine, it draws attention to a far more deserving case. 

I refer to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s “Bluebird” of 1935. 

We are fortunate indeed in this country to be able to view so many surviving vehicles from our illustrious LSR history. How sad then that the greatest of them all should be currently displayed in a deplorably tatty state at the Alabama Motor Speedway. Surely the people who view it in its present surroundings (unless they are current or expatriate Brits) can have little idea of the prestige gained for Britain by the exploits of this machine and its intrepid driver in their heyday. I would suggest that its name is every bit as synonymous in its field of endeavour as the “Flying Scotsman” locomotive and the Spitfire aircraft are in theirs. 

Although efforts have been made in recent years, by Castrol in 1974 and more recently by connections of the Patrick Collection, the true spiritual home of the car is the National Motor Museum alongside its contemporaries. Surely the cost of obtaining the car and restoring it to static condition would not compare too unfavourably with the restoration to airworthiness of even one Spitfire (and there are several of those, privately maintained nowadays)?

If the NMM could find £100,000 a few years back for an example of the fiasco that was the early BRM, surely now it could raise a good deal more to bring back to these shores a car which came as near as any to being a national institution. 

MW Hicklin, Chesterfield, Derbyshire


Audible warnings


Where has the “Audible Warning of Approach” gone?

 I live in the beautiful county of Devon, a wonderful place to live, but he lanes are very dangerous. Why, oh why, don’t people use their horns correctly any more, rather than for saying “hello” to friends in the High Street, or for getting people out of the house early in the morning, usage which is illegal anyway?

Surely, the idea of a motor horn is to warn people of one’s approach when one can’t be seen –perfect for Devon lanes, I’d have thought?

Maybe it’s the advent of the “in-car sound system” that has killed the horn. There is no way that a horn could compete with the “1812 Overture” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” played at full volume, but isn’t it illegal to make oneself unaware of other road-users?

Robert J Mummery, Follaton, Devon


Secret of youth


In the report off the Bugatti Owners Club hill-climb at Prescott (MOTOR SPORT July 1989) you said that Ossie Neal was passengered by his granddaughter in the Scott side-car outfit. Now I pride myself on keeping fit and active for hill-climbing, but I never realised it was taking years off my life!.

Ossie Neal is my father, and my daughter Carol is our honorary “pusher”. 

May I take this opportunity of thanking all the officials and marshalls for a marvellous day? We wouldn’t miss Prescott for the world. 

Sheelagh Neal, Foxton, Cambridgeshire


R-R in the USA


That Rolls-Royce truck (Motor Sport, June 1989 page 568) went to America. 

The late boss of Newland Garage (which still trades in Alexandra Road, Hull) sold it in about 1970 for £50. He had bought it from Reckitt and Colman, and his daughter says it was smashing to drive but a bit draughty! It has now been rebuilt as a car. 

Your photograph was taken in Pearson Park, Hull, in the 1950s.

N Hotham, Hull, Humberside

As we have said before, ask a Motor Sport reader and you usually get the answer. WB