Look Mazda, no hands
It was excellent to see your article about Mazda’s 1991 Le Mans win. It brought a number of memories back for me, primarily because it was the first time I had marshalled at the event.
I was there with a group of British marshals manning Post 35bis, which is situated just south of the Hunaudieres Restaurant on the outside of the circuit. This must have been one of the fastest points on the track, as it was here that the Mercedes team set up their speed trap. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find out what speeds the cars were coming through at, as the technicians in charge wouldn’t let us look at the readouts.
People talk about the 1991 Belgian GP being the race that brought Michael Schumacher to prominence, but for those of us who were at Le Mans that year, it was his performance in the Mercedes that first truly showed the world his potential. He was awesome, completely outpacing the rest of the field for the first 22 hours.
The final abiding memory of the race is the Mazda on its final lap as it came past our post. Knowing that Johnny Herbert was still at the wheel, we produced a number of Union flags to wave at him as he came past.
I was on the final point of our post, which is just about on the braking point for the first Mulsanne chicane. As Johnny approached us, we waved our flag. At this point he appeared to take his hands from the wheel and give a ‘clenched fist’ salute. He then appeared to realise he was on the braking/turn-in point and just took hold of the steering wheel in time to negotiate the corner.
So, the first triumph by a Japanese car in the ‘great race’ was almost lost on the final lap.
Lord knows, we try
As one who has not missed a Motor Sport since the war, I was delighted that Bill Boddy recalled our interview of June 1980. I still have my 3/41/2 Bentley, fly aero planes and did an enjoyable seven years as the president of the Auto Cycle Union which gave me the opportunity of lapping the Isle of Man both on a Honda bike and in the Course Car. Along with Lord Montague, we try and keep the motorsport flag flying in the Hous of Lords. The problems change little over the years, but somehow the solutions become more difficult!
Good luck to you in the future.
Why Kremer 917 was creamed
With reference to the excellent article concerning the return of the Porsche 917, I might be able to shed some light on the car’s retirement at Brands Hatch.
I was marshalling at a post on the outside of Dingle Dell. As Gary Watkins relates, the car had just taken the lead and it looked and sounded fabulous; then, as Wollek turned into the corner, the car veered sharply to the left and gave the barrier a glancing blow. I ran the few yards to the car, the driver hopped out and, after a quick look at the front of the car, strode off.
At the end of the race I waited with the car until the tow truck arrived. When it was pulled onto the Tarmac, the left-hand front wheel was at right angles to the car. The Kremer mechanics turned up and could move the wheel by hand. I think it’s fair to say that Bob Wollek could not be blamed for that one!
Mauri Rose school of motoring
While I was growing up in England, your magazine was a constant source of interest and information. After moving to California, I became a lapsed reader for a while and then decided that it was about time I took out a subscription, and I am so glad that I did. Your articles continue to amaze and delight me, more so now because of your feature on Mauri Rose.
You see, he taught my wife to drive.
My wife’s family owned a tool and die business in South Bend, Indiana, and had contracts with Bendix, Studebaker and numerous other companies. It was through their dealings with these firms that my wife met Mauri. When I compared what she had learnt with what I had learnt through the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I realised there many similarities. In 1984, while driving over to South Bend, we stopped at the Bridcyard and visited the museum. I, perhaps rather naïvely, asked one of the senior ushers whether Mauri was still alive. Sadly, I got a blank response, and we left disappointed.
It therefore came as some surprise to read that he had only died three years earlier, yet so soon forgotten!
Passing and bucking the trend
I very much enjoyed your ‘Shock Winners’ article, particularly the inclusion of Olivier Panis’s victory at Monaco. That was because, while all his colleagues persistently moaned of Monaco (you can’t overtake here), Olivier overtook four drivers on the way to his win — and at least three of those manoeuvres were at different corners.
I spoke to him recently, and he confirmed that he overtook Martin Brundle for llth place on the exit of Rascasse. “It was damp and he was getting sideways, so I came up the inside of him.” He overtook Mika Hakkinen for ninth at Mirabeau. He couldn’t remember where he got by Johnny Herbert, but his pass of Eddie Irvine at Loews had stuck in his mind: “I crash im!” Said without the slightest tinge of regret.
Olivier is still one of the sport’s overtakers, to the extent that, in my capacity as on-circuit grand prix commentator, I frequently suggest he’s on a different fuel strategy, and therefore lighter, than the rest. On occasions, I’m “very much mistaken.”
Outback goes walkabout
G’day cobber. I have to take you to task when you allege that Larry Perkins is from the Outback, as was claimed in the BRM P207 feature. Now, nobody is really sure where the Outback begins and ends, but a town somewhere between Adelaide and Melbourne is hardly it. For heaven’s sake, Cowangie even has its own postcode! I think you’d need to go several hundred kilometres north-west to find the Outback. I wish Europeans would stop describing every bit of Australia untouched by the Olympics as Outback. While the Outback is very big, it is equally sparsely populated, so the chances of anyone coming from there are pretty remote.
As an aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the magazine.