Manners at Bourne
Your feature on Mike Spence (June 2005 issue) brought back happy memories of a works outing to the BRM factory at Bourne, Lincs, at the end of April 1968.
The death of Jim Clark, three weeks earlier, still hung heavily in the air, and Raymond Mays mentioned this in his welcoming talk.
In the main building there were BRM grand prix cars and other artefacts on display, including a 2.5-litre front-engined GP car. Outside, the Rover-BRM gas turbine racer was parked in the yard.
Mike Spence was there and was willingly answering questions. We had noticed a small double-ended spanner taped to the centre of the steering wheel of a current F1 car and asked Mike what it was for.
He told us that this was fitted as a result of the accidents in the Belgian Grand Prix two years earlier (1966) when, following the deluge on the far side of the track, many cars came off and Jackie Stewart was trapped in his BRM. The purpose of the spanner was to remove the steering wheel (how things have changed!).
Mike was very pleasant and very unassuming, and we were very saddened to hear of his death at Indianapolis a few weeks later.
The sale advertisement for the ‘Breadvan’ Ferrari in the back of Motor Sport prompts me to write.
I seem to recall having seen this car in action at Mallory Park in the early 1960s, but a gentleman who is a Ferrari historian isn’t so sure.
Can any readers confirm or deny this? A photograph of the car would be welcome proof as to whether my memory is correct!
Jenks: Mr Sartorial!
The reference (on page 98 of the June issue of Motor Sport ) to “DSJ going past on a racing bicycle, in shorts and shirt, presumably to be interviewed for a job, although not suited as anyone else would have been” reminded me of something I read in the Autumn 1974 issue of The Lagonda Magazine.
In a tongue-in-cheek report Herb Schofield wrote that DS Jenkinson was awarded third prize in a members’ sartorial Concours d’Elegance, judged during the combined Lagonda Club and Bentley Drivers’ Club meeting at Finmere on July 14 1974. The judges’ comment on his placing was, “Jenks on the other hand is totally original and exactly as turned out by the factory — apart from the beard which we thought was a replica, probably purchased from the Complete Automobilist. He lost points, however, by having one or two leaks, and the exhaust was loose.”
A picture of a bespectacled face peering out of a crumpled, all-enveloping, ankle-length anorak shows DSJ, hands snugly tucked in pockets, photographed against a bleak background on what obviously must have been a miserably cold day.
During the 1960s and ’70s I was one of the thousands who would first read the Motor Sport reports bearing the initials DSJ before pursuing other articles in the eagerly awaited magazine.
Rubbin’s not racin’
To quote Damien Smith (‘Off the Line’, July issue): “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of panel rubbing.”
Yes there is — because what starts as a bit of panel rubbing becomes, when the red mist descends at the next corner, the “blatant punt” he then refers to. The fact that “the perpetrator was excluded” is scant consolation to the Clio driver for the damage inflicted on his car and the bruises to himself!
Physical contact should have no place in circuit racing — full stop. For that, go and watch stock-car racing. Sadly, however, this is something which became acceptable in Formula One. As a result of the authorities failing to clamp down on this it has now spread to other classes of racing — and in the case of the British Touring Car Championship some of the drivers even seem proud to boast about it and engage in it to the point of crass stupidity when two team-mates take each other off.
You also talk about the “small turnouts at British circuits” — this unruly behaviour and the preponderance of one-make races are the two reasons why I have stopped watching circuit racing.
Gilles — good factor
As ever, Nigel Roebuck continues to deliver a superb mixture of insight, knowledge, and acerbic wit.
That Gilles Villeneuve article ( ‘Legends’, July 2005 issue) seems familiar, but I was intrigued to read that a film is being made about him. Let’s just hope that Sylvester Stallone isn’t involved…
In 1979, as a Villeneuve-mad 12-year-old, I eagerly traipsed up to Brands Hatch with a friend to watch my hero in action at the Race of Champions. The race had been re-scheduled and in glorious sunshine I delighted in seeing the great man deliver, but was even happier to have met him and got his signature the day before.
In those days, before the high-security compound that is the F1 paddock, I managed to sneak down the back of the F1 garages and squeeze between the trucks to get closer to the Ferrari pit. Not only did I get to where the team members were organising their Michelin tyres, but right in front of me, lounging on a chair with his feet up on a rear tyre, was Gilles, munching a bowl of pasta. I managed to pluck the courage up to ask for his signature. He smiled, handed me the pasta, signed the book, asked his mechanic something in Italian, then he asked my name and commented that he liked my Gilles Villeneuve T-Shirt. The mechanic came back and handed me a couple of Ferrari stickers and on parting I said, “Hope you win tomorrow, Gilles” to which he replied, “So do I, Simon!”
The same day I managed to get Lauda, Piquet, de Angelis, Watson and a charming Gordon Smiley to sign my book. Ten years later my cherished book was in my wallet which was stolen from my car…
Gilles Villeneuve: the ultimate racer and the ultimate gentleman. Let’s hope that the film makers do the great man justice.
Simon Hill, via e-mail
Now that I’ve had some time to cool down and digest all the finger pointing, I have some thoughts on the recent United States Grand Prix.
All the constituents of Formula One have failed in their obligation to motor racing. They are all guilty: the manufacturers of incompetent preparation for a grand prix; the FIA of a failure to govern responsibly, and FOM of failure to properly administer in a crisis. Rules are broken all the time, sometimes by design, sometimes by accident. When faced with a catastrophic event that threatened the GP, civilised minds would have deliberated, collaborated and arrived at a compromise to save the race for the dignity of F1 and out of obligation to millions of fans.
But the clowns involved in F1 retreated into their foolish self-aggrandisement. The three recommendations by the FIA were stupid at best and unsafe in practice. The World Council of motor racing fans condemns them all. We sentence Mosley and Ecclestone to banishment in the Bahrain desert, chained to a television to forever watch some exciting F1 racing presented by the GPWC. We sentence the manufacturers to 10 years’ hard labour trying to rebuild the F1 they brought to its knees. January 1, 2008 awaits.