Letters from readers, August 1998

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Join the club

Sir,

The British Racing Mechanics Club, founded in 1936 at Brooklands, by that late, great Wally Hassan had withered and nearly died but it has now been resuscitated in association with the VSCC. Would any mechanic, engine, chassis, transmission or accessory specialist, designer or draughtsman which has been involved, for a minimum of two years, in the building or preparation of cars, old and new, for International or National road or circuit racing, hillclimbing, rallying of record attempts and is interested in joining this prestigious club (Stirling Moss and Stuart Turner arc two of our patrons) please contact the Secretary, Chris Stratton, at 36, Lodge Crescent, Warwick, CV34 6BB.

I am, yours, etc.

C S A Douglas, Hon Treasurer, British Racing Mechanics Club

Don’t bank on it

Sir,

I opened my May 1998 copy of Motor Sport to be disappointed by the tone of your note regarding the demise of the Monza banking. The caption below the photo was unreasonable in tone and content.

If you perceive what it is to feel for the heritage of something, anything, in your case quite understandably motorsport, then you must understand those who value something else, in this case, trees. I might go on and on about what kind of a world we would have without trees, I might see your eyes glaze over… I hope not.

I have been a very keen enthusiast since my first visit to a wet and miserable club meeting at Silverstone aged probably 12 or 13, followed up by years of cycling there from my home in Aylesbury, through to the heady heights of being with, and assisting, Adrian Reynard when he first put a car to bear his name through its paces. I know what it is to love everything about this subject. The noise, the smells, the places, the heroes of the day and the races they drove, the corners, each corner with its own individual character. God how Silverstone has been butchered, never mind. These things don’t remain as they were, of course they move on, they must, and we must move on too.

The days of laying waste to the natural world are gone.

I am, yours, etc.

D S Reid, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

Who owns who?

Sir,

I was very interested to read the latest issue of Business Age, June 1998, and in particular the article about Mr Ecclestone and the alleged “illegal secret contract”. This article prompted me to consider the 50th anniversary of Silverstone and the forthcoming events.

The governing body of motor racing within England is surely the Royal Automobile Club. The RAC licenses certain circuits for national events. Presumably the circuit owners pay a licence fee, but after the deduction of that fee all the revenue belongs to the circuit owners, who may employ consultants or others to help promote the events and maximise their income.

The National Motoring Organisations, i.e. RAC or ADAC and others, sought co-ordination for international events from the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA). The HA then became the licensing body for those international series. However, the FIA presumably is accountable to the National Motoring Organisations, whom I imagine are the beneficial owners of any licensing rights for the events taking place within their national jurisdictions. At what stage did the FIA deem itself to be the legal and beneficial owner of all licensing rights to international events and therefore able to assign those rights to Mr Ecclestone or his companies?

I note that, according to the article in Business Age, the total revenue attributed to the British Grand Prix may be in excess of £30m and yet the circuit owners will only receive approximately £5m. Having recently been to Silverstone, I note that Silverstone is undertaking tremendous building works to provide extra paddock facilities for the Grand Prix and the financial return may be marginal.

I have no doubt that Mr Ecclestone may wish to challenge the accuracy of the article in Business Age, but I believe it is in the public interest that the history of the legal and beneficial ownership of the rights to Grand Prix and other international series, as well as the rights of the circuit owners should be investigated.

I am, yours, etc.

Andrew Q S Green, Jersey

In favour of Formula One

Sir,

As an avid follower of Formula One and motorsport in general, I was rather dismayed by the comments of Simon Taylor in the June issue regarding the greatest competition in the sport. Just in case you didn’t know I’m referring to F1. Perhaps his column should be tided Thoroughly Disinterested in Modern Times.

As a subscriber to your magazine I would hope that any publication connected with motorsport would have decent objective commentary on the events which justify their existence. Do we have to wait 30 years before we can read about the Canadian Grand Prix in your publication, rather than half a page of personal drivel. I thought that the Canadian race was one of the most exciting and rivetting of recent times. Thank God the other teams are at last beginning to close the gap on the rather ‘undynamic duo’ in their once vastly superior cars. Marvellous for Ferrari, marvellous for F1.

I also think Michael Schumacher deserves victory. Maybe it is jealousy or envy or some other personal failing, but people and journalists seem to find it very difficult to admit that he is without any doubt the best Grand Prix driver of the decade and will surely be remembered as one of the all time greats. What happened to the old saying “May the best man win”?

I am, yours, etc

Mr M Millwood, London

Rolls-Royce rest in peace

Sir,

I refer to Bill Boddy’s article Deep Regret in the July issue. Unlike our William, I have not been lost for words and have been bloody furious about selling Rolls-Royce especially to the Germans. I have stated this to anyone that will listen.

I find it astonishing. Can you imagine the Germans selling Mercedes, or the French selling Renault to foreigners, of course you can’t.

To rub it in, VW was Hitler’s ‘people’s car’ and R-R had a big hand in stopping that ambitious little man or have we all forgot what his ambitions were.

R-R was, to me, the epitome of England and what it stood for. I have always been proud of being English, not British you understand, as I understood the fallacy of that years ago when I went to live in Scotland and have since listened to the Welsh and the Irish. At least that’s on its way out as the government presides over the demise of the UK. The problem is will there be anything recognisable as English left by the time it happens?

I recognise the requirement to have a viable economic unit but am I to understand that there was nobody in this now godforsaken country who was prepared to save a little piece of our illustrious history.

Patriotism, I am told, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. If this is true, we are, in this country, in no danger of being branded as scoundrels. It is okay to shout loud if you are a Scot, Irish or Welsh, but it is apparently ‘politically incorrect’ to love England.

I am, yours, etc.

B Wylie, Oxfordshire

Rolls-Royce PLC

Sir,

I must take up Bill Boddy on his article entitled Deep Regret in your July issue.

He is quite wrong to say that the magic name behind achievements such as the Schneider Trophy R engine and the Merlins during the Battle of Britain, has been sold to Volkswagen.

The company which succeeded Rolls-Royce Limited, Rolls-Royce plc, is a British owned, international, high technology engineering company and has not been sold to anyone.

Rolls-Royce plc is more than 15 times larger than Rolls-Royce Motors and supplies aero engines to almost every airline in the world and more than 100 Armed Forces, including incidentally, the Luftwaffe. In addition, it is a major manufacturer of industrial and marine gas turbines and powers 25 of the world’s navies, along with supplying nuclear propulsion systems for the Royal Navy’s submarines.

Its engines have also been used for most world speed record attempts, including the recent successful supersonic record achieved by Thrust SSC.

Rolls-Royce plc owns the marque and licenses it to Rolls-Royce Motors and has rights to remove the marque, should the company be sold to an overseas owner.

I am, yours, etc.

Sir Ralph Robins, Chairman, Rolls-Royce PLC

(I am glad to be corrected. I was immersed in nostalgia and have always associated the pre-war Rolls-Royce aero engines with the cars made at Derby. —WB)

Monaco Magic

Sir,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Nigel Roebuck’s article on the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix (May, 1998) as it vividly brought back memories of my first visit to a continental motor race.

To the amazement of my friends I had decided to spend £25 on a one-day Page & Moy trip to that GP and on arrival was totally awe-struck by the glamour and atmosphere of Monaco and the event. For the start I stood at the descent from Loews hotel but then I naively thought I would be able to move around to some other points on the circuit, only to find myself forced to walk way up into the town away from the circuit. With difficulty I was able to arrive back by the Gasworks hairpin some 10 laps from the end and I managed to find a spot with a good view just above the straw bales. From there as described in graphic detail in Nigel Roebuck’s piece I watched the final drama unfold fight in front of my eyes.

However, I did manage to record the successive laps on camera and I thought you might like to see the sequence I took by way of a fitting sequel to his description of what must surely be one of the most dramatic finishes to a Grand Prix ever. Although I went back to many more, nothing ever matched it for excitement.

I am, yours, etc.

David Bouch OBE, London

The Cornhill Hotel

Sir,

With regard to your article on Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried (July 1998), I last stayed in the Cornhill Hotel fora Bentley Drivers Club meeting in the early 1970s. It was on the east side of the AS about a mile north of Towcester. I well remember having a great dice with a Ferrari Dino in my Morgan Plus 4 on the way back from the race meeting and enjoying myself so much that I overshot the hotel by a couple of miles. Oh happy days!

The last I heard of the Comhill it had been sold to some religious sect of the Maharishi Yogi Bear variety. I intend to be at Coys; perhaps we should organise a expedition to find it. I too had some memorable parties there.

I am, yours, etc.

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank BT, London

The other big Swiss cheese

Sir,

I much enjoyed Simon Taylor’s article on Emmanuel de Graffenried. Surely though, he was one of four, not three, Swiss drivers to have won a post-war Grand Prix, or does the erstwhile Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union works driver Christian Kautz count as an honourary German, in the same way that, in football World Cup tournaments, Irish players, if they are doing well, seem to be accorded honourary English status?

Kautz, like de Graffenried, was closely associated with Enrico Plate. It was driving one of Plate’s Maserati 4CLs that Kautz won the 1947 Grand Prix de la Marne from a strong field on July 6th, 1947. And it was driving another just over a year later that he was tragically killed at Bremgarten in a crash which also involved his team-mate de Graffenried.

On another point, the glorious Mercedes-Benz W154 did not, as Andrew Frankel maintains, enjoy its maiden victory at Rheims. The W154’s maiden victory came at Tripoli in May 1938, with a clean sweep in the order Lang, von Brauchitsch and Caracciola. The French Grand Prix at Rheims marked the car’s third appearance.

I am, yours, etc.

Gorson Maitland, Bristol

Picture imperfect?

Sir,

I am appalled to note that of the 138 pages in the above only about one third have any textual content which is not advertising or promotional.

While some of the photographs are interesting, if one also ignores those pages where the text represents less than 25% of the surface area the figure descends to a truly horrific one quarter level.

Your much-trumpeted new format has therefore, not unsurprisingly, already reverted to the ‘close examination before purchase’ category.

I am, yours, etc.

David Bridges, London

In our defence

Sir,

I cannot let pass without comment the letter from Mr Michael Mendoza (July 1998) concerning the substance of Motor Sport. The 70 years of motorsport history he refers to is itself a hotch potch, and any magazine not reflecting the variety of the past would not do justice to itself or its readers. Please do not change the style, just improve where possible.

Now a complaint! I was surprised at a glaring omission from the list of greatest F1 cars from which you expect us to nominate the best. I refer of course to the Lotus 72, whose record surpasses most of the 10 cars listed. I therefore enclose my entry form, suitably amended.

I am, yours, etc.

Stuart Bell, Cumbria

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