Letters, August 2015

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Strong-arm tactics

Following Mark Hughes’ piece on the effect of aero on F1 cars and the cost and complexity of changing regulations, I have a simple solution. Outlaw power steering. Downforce at the front wheels would be limited to what the driver could physically handle and the rear would have to be reduced to balance it. Cockpits might even have to be made big enough to accommodate drivers of average size.

John Sisson, Queensland, Australia

Wingless into battle

Based on the announcements by the F1 Strategy Group, it’s pretty clear that they are not going to right the ship. There are too many competing (self-)interests and at least two important stakeholders are unrepresented: track owners and fans.

As usual, Mark Hughes makes the complex easier to understand in your July issue when discussing the proposals put forward by the F1 Strategy Group. There’s no doubt that more downforce is counter-productive. Let’s see F1 cars without all their aero appendages. It is plain that of all the technical advances that have been derived from F1, aero downforce does nothing for road cars. Get rid of it.

Strip the cars of their wings, give them wider, stickier tyres, and turn them loose. They might not be faster than the old V10s, but they will surely be fun to watch.

Paul Malkoski, Aurora, Colorado, USA

Dire straights

I have been an avid follower of Grand Prix racing for 48 years. While friends spoke of falling asleep halfway through, I doggedly watched every one. I still love the idea of it, but for the first time I’m wondering if I can go on. I don’t think there was that much overtaking back then, but cars retired so there was much more doubt about the result and thus more variety and anguish wondering if your hero would last the distance. I know drivers have always had to look after their car and tyres, but somehow it’s becoming too clinical.

The other problem is the rise of the strategist. Left to their own devices, drivers tend to overdo it in the thrill of battle and might not make the finish. Isn’t that more exciting? I think it is, and again it throws up some variety. Leave the driver to manage his own race, no radio or dash messages.

In a frustrating Canadian GP none of the anticipated action came to much, although we kept being told that they were all saving it up for a charge at the end, thus heightening the ultimate disappointment. Even Vettel’s recovery from the back, a great drive, left me unmoved. If the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve can’t give us a good race then things are really dire.

Later I watched some IoM TT. How do those guys do it? Even on TV it’s stunning. The onboard is frightening, with the suspension going all over the place and the whole bike shimmying.

F1 looks like a cruise by comparison.

At least I enjoy Le Mans. They’ve managed to keep that interesting, with just as much technology.

Jeremy Wheatley, St Albans, Herts

Badge engineering

I have just read Simon Arron’s article on Gold Leaf Team Lotus (July) and thought you might be interested in a bonnet badge I have. I worked at Lotus from 1966 until 1969. When the sponsorship was announced in 1968, it was decided to commission eight special badges for the F1 team cars and also the personal transport of Colin Chapman and the then chairman of John Player. I guess the F1 team car badges were lost or broken in accidents etc. What happened to the others I’ve no idea, although at least one still exists and belongs to a former Team Lotus mechanic.

I also have the name plaque from Jim Clark’s winning Lotus 49 at Silverstone in 1967, the last UK race in which he took part. I worked for Team Lotus that weekend and we had to tow Jim’s 49 to the circuit behind the team van from a garage in Brackley, because the transporter was bringing Graham’s car from Hethel following an accident on Friday. A far cry from today!

John Parramint, St Césaire, France

Formula Juniors

I have loved and watched motor racing for 56 years, including Grands Prix at Aintree, Silverstone and, most enjoyably, Brands Hatch.

Maybe it’s my age, but I managed to sleep through most of a recent Grand Prix, with its predicable racing, shortage of overtaking and very poor driving standards. When F1 drivers on eight-figure contracts are miserable after finishing third in a Grand Prix, I lose all interest. They should live in the real world and ask themselves what they are giving to the fans.

Now more than ever I appreciate the Le Mans 24 Hours – never a boring period, everyone respecting each other, a great race.

But I have also become a fan of proper racing again. Have other readers witnessed the Ginetta Junior series on the British Touring Car Championship support programme? It features superb racing, slipstreaming and impeccable driving standards, even though competitors are all under 18. I think it’s the best racing since slick tyres ruined the Formula Ford Festival.

Guy Raines, Malton, North Yorkshire

Tacklin’ Macklin

I am working on a biography of British racing driver Lance Macklin.

Driving primarily for HWM, Aston Martin and Austin-Healey, he was a staple of the British and European motor racing scene from the late 1940s until the mid 1950s. An affable character, he was widely recognised as an exceptionally quick driver with a charming personality, although he is arguably most widely remembered for his part in the 1955 Le Mans tragedy.

After retiring from racing in 1956 he went to work for Facel Vega, then led an adventurous and well-travelled existence until his death in 2002. I’m looking to speak with anyone who knew him or came into contact with him before, during or after his racing career.

Jack Barlow, [email protected]

Glasses guide

The caption to the photograph of Sir Stirling Moss at Laguna Seca (p91, July 2015) should be corrected for historical accuracy. The caption writer identified it as Moss wearing “bolt-on Groucho Marx accessories.” They are not at all like Groucho’s painted on ’tache. Moss is wearing a Raymond Glendenning spectacles, nose and handlebar moustache set, a popular Christmas novelty in the Fifties. I had a set myself.

Glendenning was a famous radio and television commentator and first president of the Handlebar Club, who met monthly to drink beer and discuss moustaches. He could hardly have been known in the USA; who on earth took them to Laguna Seca?

Stuart Tallack, Felpham, West Sussex

Knight to remember

I see from the newspapers that Lenny Henry is to receive a knighthood. It may be deserved – I am not in a position to pass judgment. However, I am in a position to say that John Surtees should certainly be made a Knight of the Realm – the only world champion on both two and four wheels, and a tireless worker for the Henry Surtees Foundation.

Through your superb magazine can you encourage every reader to write to his or her MP, demanding that Surtees is included in the next Honours List, before it is too late?

John Fellows, Hatherley, Cheltenham, Glos

Route and branch

In Ed Foster’s July article, it says that Moss and Jenks’s 1956 Mille Miglia run finished when the brake pedal broke off. That was in 1957 in their Maserati 450S, 12 miles from the start. They didn’t hit anything, Moss broadsiding the car and stopping it on the gearbox.

In 1956, torrential rain led to total loss of adhesion going into an S-bend near Rieti in their 350S Maserati. The subsequent crash is as described in Ed’s article, except for one vital fact that Jenks always mentioned in his accounts. When the car finally came to a stop, it had gone through the barrier and was heading down into the valley below when it hit a tree, nose first. As Jenks recalled it was the only tree for yards around, and had they not hit it, their next stop would have been in a rocky river bed 300 feet below. Jenks never forgot that the tree saved his and Stirling’s lives.

Roger Howard, Rigaud, Québec, Canada

Voici Ascari

I very much enjoyed reading Nigel Roebuck’s tribute to Alberto Ascari in June’s edition of your excellent magazine. I wholeheartedly agree that it is astonishing that there has never been a definitive biography – in our language – of one of the motor racing gods. Just in case he hasn’t come across it, I thought it useful to mention a superb biography of the great man in French. It is entitled Alberto Ascari – Premier Double Champion du Monde, written by Pierre Ménard and Jacques Vassal.

It is 160 pages of pure magic, beautifully illustrated, and for those who don’t speak French the excellent pictures tell their own story.

Published in 2004 by Chronosports SA, the ISBN reference is 2-84707-027-3.

Chris Bromley, Coventry, Warks

Frank about Matich

I am writing as a great fan of the late Frank Matich, following your obituary. Although he was an enormously gifted driver and engineer, I feel a myth is beginning to be woven. He was a modest man, and I am sure he would not want mistruths to cloud his actual achievements. In particular I make reference to his results in the Tasman Series of both 1964 and 1965, when racing the Brabham BT7A. He did not, as is being suggested more and more, “beat the Internationals” on a number of occasions in this car. His tally of Tasman results in the Brabham? A third place at Longford in 1964 and another at Warwick Farm in 1965. No other finishes were achieved. His epic duel with Jim Clark at Lakeside in 1965 was spoiled by a broken rotor button, but this race did not count for that year’s Tasman Championship.

Neil Nicoll, Wollstonecraft, Australia

Top marks

Without doubt the July edition was your finest ever, if not the finest ever example of any motor sport magazine – Jimmy Clark, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren all in one issue. I’m not normally taken to emotion as a result of the written word, but the 1955 Mille Miglia/Moss and Jenks article left me with one hell of a lump in my throat.

Malcolm Clarke, Amersham, Bucks

Gathering Moss

Congrats on your recent 1955 Mille Miglia coverage. Since a car’s number showed its start time, Sir Stirling’s 722 couldn’t have been more appropriate since it combined his favourite race number (7) with the 22nd Mille Miglia. I had the privilege of lunch with him virtually on his victory’s 25th anniversary. He agreed it was his greatest race and autographed my 1955 copy of Motor Sport, containing DSJ’s excellent first-hand report. A treasured possession!

Alec Forty, St Andrew’s, Guernsey

Fine Tayloring

What an excellent article by Simon Taylor about his experiences alongside Stirling Moss in the 1995 Mille Miglia. His description of those 16 wet miles in 14 minutes is an astounding piece of writing. I have always appreciated Simon’s prose style, but this really sums up what it must have been like.

Trevor Mann, Crowborough, East Sussex

Long-distance approval

Just have to congratulate you on a fab edition of the magazine. After reading all the Le Mans articles – and especially the Norbert Singer interview – I felt transported to a different time and place, yet remained excited about the present. Quite an achievement.

Paul Brewer, London SW6

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