Letters from Readers, August 2001



Mountain excitement


You may be interested to know that the daunting Grossglockner mountain climb can still be accessed and enjoyed today; situated in Austria, near the Italian border, the course is a toll road within a national park.

The original event was held in 1935 and 1938-39. The climb was held in two parts — Ferleiten to Fuscher Tod and Schobereck to Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Hohe — giving a total competitive distance of 12.7 miles. However, in 1938, it was decided to concentrate on the lower section due to bad weather. The prospect of handling a mighty 570bhp Mercedes-Benz GP car on the precipitous twists and turns in a veil of mist and cloud defies belief.

Although not as long as the Klausenpass, the Grossglockner reached a greater height (7965ft), second only to the Stelvio in Italy.

You can drive up the whole of the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse for a toll of £16. That’s more than a blast around the old Nurburgling, but the sensation of height and the panoramic views takes the breath away. Signs pronouncing ‘Kehre 14’ etc, still exist and some of the hairpins retain their original, very slippery, paving stones.

The drivers who exercised their skills on this road were titans, truly.

Wollek was brilliant, OUI?


I am sure I am neither the first nor last to notice the ‘flat-12’ pictured in your interesting article on the Kremer 917K-81 was, in fact, a flat-six. My only other minor criticism is that the late lamented Bob Wollek had not, at that stage in his career, yet been a works driver.

I was lucky enough to be working on a Porsche 935K3 for an American entrant that year, and a fortnight prior to Le Mans we were honoured to have Wollek drive the car in the Nurburgring 1000kms. It may not have been the best or most professionally prepared car in the race, but he was delightful to work with.

His initial inspection of the car comprised a check on spring rates and shock settings and, after poking his toe under the splitter, he asked for the ride height to be raised lOmm. Ours was one of the few 935s not to destroy its splitter that race!

The race was marred by Herbie Miiller’s crash, but Wollek was a star, driving 90 per cent of the shortened race and running as high as second. The only downside was having to clean and dry the seat afterwards. “To stop for a leak is a waste of time!” A great driver, a great loss.

Banking on excitement


During the first week ofJune, I was fortunate enough to attend a Formula One test at the fabled Monza. To stand on the pitwall and see Montoya and Raikkonen come wailing by at 18,000rpm — and to hear the sonic racket bouncing off the ancient grandstands — was inspirational.

I read Nigel Roebuck’s excellent column about Monzanapolis in the June issue; I can’t even begin to imagine what a race between U SAC and GP drivers would have been like in the late ’50s.

Although it’s a far-fetched, utopian concept, wouldn’t it be something to see such an event today? The idea of Brack, Andretti, Castroneves and Vasser lining up against Schumacher, FISkkinen, Montoya and Villeneuve certainly makes for a good daydream.

Nonetheless, the open-wheel fans of Europe will get a taste of what Roebuck — a true hero — speaks of when the CART contingent drops in on the UK and Germany this September. ChampCars whizzing around the high banks at more than 220mph and more is also a sight to behold. Enjoy!

Go easy on Audi


Your reader Jonathan Hill Only issue) is, I think, being unfair to Audi and its role in the VSCC/ HGPCA meeting at Donington Park in May.

I, too, saw John Surtees enjoy himself in the Mercedes a couple of years ago and, yes, it would have been nice to see the pre-war Auto Unions being driven with a little more verve by someone of his calibre.

That apart, I was very impressed with the effort made by Audi, on the track and in the paddock, particularly so soon after the sad loss of Michele Alboreto. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one enjoying myself at Donington.

‘Remus’ remembered


I was delighted to see the article in your June edition on ‘Remus’. Then I was dismayed to discover that the owners/keepers in the early to mid-1950s were dismissed in a ‘one-liner’. My father John Wheatley Broad owned and raced Remus with great success for half of 1954, all of the 1955, and half of 1956. Autosport reported on his titanic struggle with Nobby Spero and Dennis Poore in the 100-kilometre Seaman Trophy in 1955. The battle between the three was so fierce that Poore blew up his big 8C-35 — and it has never been seen racing since! My father, meanwhile, upended Remus on the 22nd lap, leaving Spero to win. It was one of the finest VSCC races ever held.

Incidentally, just like Peter Bell, my father owned Remus and RI1B ‘Humphrey’ at one and the same time. Remus cost him 1,425. Oh, happy days!

Also, the Monza Alfa you mention as being in Patrick Lindsay’s collection was another exJohn Broad car — purchased from Bardetts for £925.

And the toast is Joest


I feel it is worth reminding everyone that this year’s victory in the Le Mans 24 hours is the sixth to be masterminded by Reinhold Joest

To my mind, this puts him on a par with those great racing team managers Alfred Neubauer and John Wyer.

America’s roll-cage role


I have just read the July issue and commend you on another enthralling issue. However, your Technofile article concerning ‘The Roll Cage’ failed to live up to its usual accuracy.

I don’t doubt that in Europe the first cars to use welded-in cages were in the ’80s. However, after a glance at period photos it is clear that America had adopted this practice decades earlier. Fourpoint hoops located at the ‘B’ pillar were standard fitment in NASCAR by the mid-1950s. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, TransAm, and even dragsters, incorporated roll-cages and safety elements far more advanced than their European brethren.

Unfortunately NASCARs interest in safety developments — a science where they unquestionably once led the automotive world— appears to have plateau-ed in the last decade or two.