Letters from readers, August 2002

Were you there?


I am writing in the hope that you may help me in my quest to make contact with drivers, officials, marshals, mechanics and others who may remember a remarkable touring car race at the Silverstone British Empire Trophy in July 1961.

While it rained on and off most of the day, the heavens opened at Stowe and Club during the touring car race. Minor rivers, inches deep, appeared in a matter of minutes on the entry to these corners, sending cars spinning in all directions.

On lap four, the Jaguars of Roy Salvadori and Bruce McLaren spun in unison and buried themselves backwards into the bank at Club Corner.

On lap five, Harper’s Sunbeam, my Borgward and Hutcheson’s Riley all crashed at Stowe. Other drivers to spin at Club included PiLsworth (Riley), Aley (Mini), Powell (Jaguar), Salmon (Jaguar), Lewis (Riley) and Whitmore (Mini).

After all the mayhem, two Equipe Endeavour Jaguars of Mike Parkes and Graham Hill splashed by in the lead at the start of lap six. They were followed by Herbert Linge’s twin-cylinder BMW 700 Coupe, Whitmore, Aston (Mini). And that is how they finished after 12 laps.

As you can see from the photo, my poor Isabella was comprehensively crumpled after hitting the wall at Stowe more or less head on. All that remains of this car today is a mangled steering wheel.

If anyone remembers that day, or has any other photos taken before, during or after these incidents, I would like to hear from them.

Oh, by the way, Stirling Moss lapped all but Surtees (Cooper-Climax) and Graham Hill (BRM) in his Rob Walker Cooper-Climax in the 52-lap British Empire Trophy race — and also won the Grand Touring event in a Ferrari. Glory days indeed!

I am, Yours etc, Bill Blydenstein, Herts

Bonnier’s testing time


I very much enjoyed the Jo Bonnier article by Adam Cooper in the June edition, but was somewhat puzzled when reference was made to Bonnier’s participation in the 1956 Italian GP.

At the start of the race, he was informed that Luigi Villoresi was sick and would have to be relieved. Bonnier was quoted as saying, “I’d never been in a Grand Prix single-seater, let alone driven one in the Italian GP at Monza with its banking…”

Yet, in Motor Sport (October 1956), DSJ’s report states that, `Maserati borrowed Godia’s car to let the Swedish driver Bonnier have a few laps, as he was nominated as reserve driver for the team’.

I am, Yours etc, Glyn James, via e-mail

Give us some credit


As a member of the family — albeit of the next generation — that owned Yeoman Credit, which merged with Bowmaker and effectively introduced the concepts of sponsorship and company proprietory ownership into Formula One via the Yeoman Credit and Bowmaker Racing Teams, please allow me to correct your recent 1962 Lola Fl story.

Yeoman Credit Racing Team became Bowmaker Racing Team with the merger of the two finance houses, and was the same team that had come fourth in the world championship in 1960. It is thus inaccurate to say that, in the summer of 1961, there had been some new alliance between Surtees, Parnell and Bowmaker. Surtees had driven for the same team in ’61, but was instrumental in bringing in Lola — our team simply needed a more competitive car.

Your comment that Surtees had ‘a season going nowhere in an off-the-peg second-string Cooper’ is interesting. We, in hindsight unwisely, turned down an offer to run a second-string Ferrari team in Fl in 1962; we were put off by SEFACs indifferent performance in 1960, and the uncertainty about their ability to produce a competitive rear-engined car. One could argue that apart from Moss/RRC Walker and Ferrari, every other team was ‘second string’. Roy Salvadori came within a whisker of winning the 1961 US GP in our second car.

It is simply untrue to say that Bowmaker withdrew backing as a result of ‘a welter of retirements’. The Samengo-Turner family, as the architects and inspiration behind the Yeoman Credit and Bowmaker race teams, decided to go their own way in 1962 and left Bowmaker to start a new finance business. As a result, the team went to Reg Parnell’s son, Tim.

As the sole member of our family currently involved in F1 (investment banker and adviser to a number of current teams and/or their shareholders), I believe that the foresight of my grandfather, my father and uncles created the commercial climate that took Fl from a cottage industry to a worldwide media business — for better or worse.

I am, Yours etc, Nicky Samengo-Turner, via e-mail

On the record


Keith Howard penned an excellent article on Donald Campbell’s attempts in Bluebird CN7 to raise the World Land Speed Record (July issue).

In producing this article, Keith omitted to mention a similar struggle to be the fastest man on four wheels in a wheel-driven vehicle. Al (Elwin) Teague, in his single-supercharged two-wheel-drive Speed-O-Motive streamliner, became the world’s fastest in August 1991, at 409.986mph, taking over the record held by the late Bob Summers.

Al started constructing the car in 1975, and it made its debut at Bonneville in ’76 as an open-wheeled `lakester’. By1986, the body configuration was fully streamlined, and in 1990 Al had a time-slip with a one-way mile speed of 400mph on it. In 1991, the record became Al’s, with one run of the necessary pair used to calculate the average timed at 425.230mph.

After 15 years of effort, Al Teague, a true ‘hot rodder’, had achieved his ambition of joining the all-time speed greats: Campbell (M), Segrave, Eyston, Cobb and Campbell (D).

Thanks for this chance to set the record straight.

I am, Yours etc, Malcolm Pittwood, Ex-Chairman, Speed Record Club, Derby

Rekord breaker


In the mid-1970s, I worked in the service reception of a large Vauxhall dealership in Basingstoke. We were subsequently awarded the Opel franchise, and with it came several new customers.

One particular time I booked an Opel Rekord 1700 Estate in for service for a retired gent called ‘Mr Eastern from Winchester’. He said he would be waiting in reception for the car to be serviced as we were a considerable distance from his home.

The dark brown Rekord duly turned up and this rather elderly gentleman came in to the reception. “Got a bit of a list, I’m afraid,” he said. Not only was he going to wait, but he wanted more than just a service — and insisted on Castro’ GTX.

As I went though his list, he sat down and started to flick through a pile of magazines and picked up Motor Sport. On paying the bill, he asked if he could borrow the one he was reading as it held some interest. My immediate reaction changed as I happened to look down at the name on the cheque he was about to sign. It read: Capt G E T Eyston (plus numerous titles).

“I’d be honoured,” was my instant reply.

He came in a few more times and we often had a chat. I have followed his stories in your magazine with great interest ever since.

I am, Yours etc, Jerry Clayton, Hampshire