Letters, August 2017

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Sent to Coventry

Having seen your Sierra RS500 feature (May 2017), it brought back memories of working for Tickford during this time. It was great fun and I’m still proud of how quickly we transformed the batch of 500 cars.  

The best bit was testing them on the road – although at that stage I was considered too young to do any driving. Even by today’s standards it was very quick – it must have been a sight seeing all the winged Sierras travelling around Bedworth and Coventry. 

There was a lot of rivalry between
the guys that built the RS500s and the team that built the even rarer Tickford Capris. The canteen talk was about which one was quicker. The Capri had a V6 turbo and about 250bhp against the Sierra’s 220 or so – and there was not a lot in it whenever the two cars ran side by side.

The Sierra handled better, for sure, and the Capri had less turbo lag. I can’t reveal the full details, for obvious reasons, but in the days before speed cameras testing on the Coventry ring road could be quite lively.

I’m not sure if I’m looking back through rose-tinted glasses, but they don’t make cars like this anymore. There are quick cars around, but most of them cost a fortune. An RS500was not completely out of reach and could certainly could see off most other cars with ease.

Alan McGee, Bilton, Rugby, Warks

Bangers and in cash

Your recent story about the closure of Wimbledon Stadium reminded me of my first motor race, in 1970 or thereabouts.

I was an apprentice at Jack Barclay in Battersea and a colleague, Nick Edwards, was given a Hillman Minx that had failed its MoT, so we decided to enter it for a banger race at Wimbledon. Rather than driving it there and smashing in the windows, as most did at that time, we decided to take it back to my lock-up and prepare it properly for its competition debut.

The car was totally stripped out, with all wiring, glass and interior trim removed along with the vulnerable fuel tank. We fitted a small motorcycle tank to the rear parcel shelf and had basic minimum wiring for the ignition and fuel pump circuits. The car was painted in finest quality (Woolworth’s) red gloss with a white roof and was ready to go.

The big problem was that we had no trailer, so we just hitched a tow rope to the back of Nick’s Ford Anglia 100E and towed it around the South Circular to Wimbledon. It seems beyond belief now but at the time it made perfect sense. The tow rope broke on a one-way system near Dulwich, but fellow road users seemed to find the chaos slightly amusing.

We had decided to do one race each and, to be honest, it passed in a blur. The only thing I really remember was that there was so much noise I couldn’t tell if my engine was running or not, but I did know I was being pushed around by more powerful cars and my use of the throttle and brake pedals had no effect whatsoever on progress.

We had both taken part in our races and the car was still in a functioning condition, after some bodywork realignment with a sledge hammer, so Nick decided to finish it off in the destruction derby at the evening’s end. Much to our surprise the Minx was the last car moving and that earned us a £20 prize. As it would have been unkind to leave it there as scrap, we fixed a couple of bicycle lamps to the rear and towed it home to Crofton Park, back around the South Circular in the dark with no brake lights or indicators.

We then went to White City Stadium with it, where I won a further £15 for most spectacular roll of the evening – the end of the road for the Minx.

I would love to hear from Nick, or our friend Pete Sullivan.

Derek Harris, Ruckinge, Kent.

Strutting his stuff

With all due respect to Karl Kimball, his recent letter about winged Chaparrals was incorrect. He stated that he saw the winged Chaparrals at the Mid-Ohio USRRC race in August 1964 with the wings being of the tall, strutted variety. The cars at that meeting were Chaparral 2s with fixed aerofoils that formed part of the engine cover.

Doug Nye’s statement that the Chaparral 2E “introduced the tall strutted wing to major league motor racing” is entirely correct.

Tom Schultz, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA

May the force be with you

I thoroughly enjoy your magazine. In the April issue, however, Mat Oxley mentioned Top Gun and Tom Cruise’s character Maverick. Mat characterised the movie as a “USAF advert masquerading as a Hollywood movie”.

I agree that the movie was tripe, but it is actually about naval aviation – rotary wing, turboprop and jet aircraft aboard aircraft carriers. Don’t feel badly, Mat – most Americans are clueless about these things.

Capt Kraig Walker (ret) Granbury, Texas, USA

Racing’s best-kept secret

Sshhh! Don’t tell anyone. This year’s World Endurance Championship round in the UK produced another brilliant day’s racing at Silverstone – does it get any better? Seriously fast cars with different engine sounds, top-class drivers, pit-stops, incidents and the two leading cars separated by fewer than seven seconds after six hours. Wow! And all for £45 on the day, plus a fiver for the programme and good facilities thrown in.

Other race promoters, take note.

Jeff Ashford, Chandlers Ford, Hampshire

Clark spur

When reading Joe Dunn’s article ‘Mind gains’, one of the first things that popped into my mind was the quote from Jim Clark: “One of the great things in motor racing is concentration. When I want to go faster, I just concentrate harder…” 

Jimmy Lisle, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

Advance Australia fair

Congratulations, Andrew Frankel. You experienced a great motor sport event at Bathurst and shared it so well with readers. 

Yes, it’s a rubbish drive from Sydney to Mount Panorama, but how wonderful when you get there. I attended most of the long-distance touring car races in the 1980s and ’90s and have many fond memories of walking through the pits with my two sons of an evening, chatting to drivers and mechanics, before returning to our caravan in the camping area and waking up the next day to do it all again.

My son and I recently rode our motorbikes to the Mountain to relive some old times. We rode some slow laps, due to the posted 60kph speed limit, and the Dipper is breathtaking even at that speed. The steepness of the gradient at the Cutting is deceptive and many blind bends leave little margin for error. 

Thanks again for producing such a passionate article.

Steve Miller, Sutherland, Sydney

Tanks for the memories

Many thanks for the excellent article on the rebirth of Donington Park, especially for the photo of the parked army vehicles. My father was one of the drivers who delivered everything up to a 32-wheeled tank carrier to and from Donington. He maintained until the day he died that he held the lap record around the old circuit in a three-ton Chevy truck – at night with no lights!

My father’s last visit to Donington was to spectate at the RAC rally won by Roger Clark. I regret not being able to take him to the re-opened circuit but I believe he would have been disappointed at the removal of so much scenery. I am sure he would have approved of the way the circuit has been brought back into use though after the Formula 1 fiasco.

Peter Dring, Codnor, Derbyshire

Ten years after

I recently received my copy of Le Mans in Focus and, as a lifelong fan of this great event, am enjoying the publication greatly. As the press officer for Corvette Racing from 2005 to 2012, I feel compelled to point out a minor error in the caption accompanying the photo of the twin Corvette C6.Rs in GT1.

The date of this race was 2008, not 1998. The driver line-ups are listed incorrectly: car 63 was driven by Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen and 64 by Gavin/Beretta/Papis. I point this out only because I value and appreciate Motor Sport’s commitment to accuracy.

Rick Voegelin, Aptos, California

Depth charge

Is it possible for Formula 1 to sink any lower in the boredom ratings after Monaco? What on earth did that have to do with motor racing?

Dave Dugdale via email

Reg’s record

In your Tim Parnell obituary you refer to his father Reg as a “pre-war racer”, which of course he was, but Reg should also be remembered for his distinguished career between 1946-57 when he drove a large variety of cars in many events in the UK, Europe and Australia. 

James Watts, Great Bookham, Surrey

That’s entertainment

Thank you to Dickie Meaden (Racing Lines) for drawing attention to the video clip of Jochen Mass at Spa. Despite its obvious age, the clip’s combination of camera position and focal length give a genuine feeling of being in the car – I can almost feel my stomach heave through Eau Rouge. By comparison, modern in-car video appears cluttered with images of driver, cockpit, suspension, track and sponsorship all merged into one. Add to that images abruptly cutting from one car to another and the result is a confusing melange when surely the aim of sports coverage is to provide enlightenment and entertainment.

The Mass video showed that simplicity is more than effective at portraying the technicalities of racing car control and providing brilliant entertainment.
Graeme Tomlinson, Tungkillo, South Australia

Keeping things real

Thank you Dickie Meaden for writing and expressing an opinion on what is a touchy subject with old car lovers.

I’ve been writing books on historic racing cars and brokering the odd one for more than 25 years. These days I find myself looking at a car from the 1950s or ’60s and thinking: “What exactly am I looking at?” After all, some of these cars have had new bodywork, engines, gearboxes, axles and even chassis too.

Imagine an early ’60s car, say a Ferrari that has just won Le Mans. There she sits, the odd dent in her aluminium bodywork, covered in dirt after more than 2000 racing miles. Right then she’s a work of art and highly desirable; after that, she’s just an old racing car… Yet she will be restored to perfection as her value rises. Her bodywork and mechanicals will be renewed until there isn’t much left of the car that started Le Mans. Then she’ll be advertised for sale as ‘completely original’. 

John Starkey, by e-mail

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