Medicine and duty

I live in Thailand and I love watching motor sport here. Why? Because there’s clean racing and it’s a breath of fresh air seeing respectful driving. Why is this so? It’s because racing budgets are so tight, the last thing any of them want is the added expense of accident damage.

As Nigel points out, the reason for the unruly driver behaviour within F1 and other lower formulas is because there is insufficient punishment to deter dangerous driving – the Schumacher and Barrichello incident was a perfect opportunity for the officials to ban Schumacher for at least one race. Thus the FIA, in its failure to deliver an effective punishment, has yet again failed to deter dangerous driving.

One day someone (be it a driver or spectator) is going to be seriously injured or killed and my hope is that the injured party goes straight to the European Court of Justice and sues the FIA for failing in its duty to encourage safe and fair race driving standards. There is currently ample video evidence and much proof of zero or insufficient punishment to demonstrate that the FIA has and is currently failing in its ‘duty of care’ to deter such deliberate and dangerous driving antics. Perhaps then the FIA might take race driving standards more seriously.
David Inglis, Klongkum, Bongkum, Bangkok

Inputting variables

I read the October issue about driving habits, particularly in F1, with some sadness.

Having been an F1 fan since the mid-Fifties, I have witnessed most of the major changes in the mechanics and aerodynamics of the cars, and believe that what we are seeing is the ‘law of diminishing returns’ forcing drivers into nasty behaviour because nothing else works anymore. The engines are within fractions of each other, the aerodynamics still mitigate against overtaking, there is only one tyre supplier, etc. What was fabulous to watch in the 1960s-80s was the sheer number of variables, which along with reliability issues favoured one combination over another on different circuits, and of course aerodynamics was nascent. Throw in the varied driving skills and what we had was pretty variable and very exciting, unlike today’s processions.

Let’s throw out the rule book and let the makers compete with all the ingenuity they can. Make a simple rule such as the amount of energy (from any source) that can be used, and let them get on with it. This would allow the manufacturers (even McLaren is one now) to develop ideas that would transfer directly to road cars.

And let’s remember, this is a sport; we are entertained by it because we can see the effects of driver skills in combination with the mechanics of the vehicle. We need this visceral ability to empathise with the drivers in order to relate their skills to our lack thereof; that is the stuff that imagination is fuelled by. F1 has simply become an expensive version of Formula Vee, and the only person who seems to benefit from it would be Mr Ecclestone, and he seems very intent to keep it that way!
John Arnott, Toronto, Canada

Partners in time

The article on the British Racing Partnership (October) is an excellent explication of a key era in Formula 1; well done!

Its mention of the Samengo-Turner brothers raises a potentially interesting story that you could do well to pursue. Whilst we accept corporate sponsorship of almost all racing cars, it should be remembered that this was not always the case. So what the Samengo-Turners did through their company Yeoman Credit really changed the game. After all, it must have been a successful advertising strategy based on how things have developed since. Also, there is an interesting back story in that the brothers’ father had been interned in the UK as an enemy alien during WWII. So, whilst his family was being bombed in the Blitz in London, he was helpless to do anything to help them.

Motor Sport does such an excellent job in providing thoughtful background on various personalities from earlier days such as drivers and team managers. I would think a review of the Samengo-Turner brothers’ contribution to the sport would be a solid contribution to the public understanding.
Philip Kozloff, Marylebone, London

Plain-clothes Aston

Fascinated to see in You Were There (November) the picture of a ‘lash up’ Aston Martin in a suburban driveway. This is the prototype running DB4. I have a couple of pictures taken by the late Des O’Dell of this car under test, which carried sufficient lighting to allow it to have a legitimate set of trade plates affixed and to be driven on the road. I was fortunate enough to be asked to handle an auction of his motor sporting effects a number of years ago, and could not help buying a few lots.

Des’s must be quite a notable story. He worked for Aston Martin as development engineer, particularly with the DB4 and Zagato, having ‘spannered’ for the race team as well as noted privateers. He then moved to FAV and JWA to help bring the GT40 programme to life, and thence to Rootes to help Marcus Chambers, becoming the team manager for the 1968 Hillman Hunter’s London-Sydney success. Des then masterminded the Sunbeam Talbot Lotus, and indeed gave one Jean Todt his first-ever motor-sport contract!
Guy Loveridge, by e-mail

Lotus blossoms in US

I was pleased to read about the return of Lotus to sports car racing and the reference to the race cars of the ’90s (The Motor Sport Month, October issue). You may not be aware that in 1990-91 Lotus built five Esprit race cars to run in the US in the SCCA World Challenge and the IMSA Supercar series. These cars were driven by Doc Bundy, Dave Murry, Andy Pilgrim, Paul Newman and others. In 1992 Doc Bundy won the IMSA Supercar Drivers Championship. This is the last professional championship won by a factory-built Lotus race car.

Three of these cars, including the championship-winning car, have been restored and actively race in vintage races in the US where they continue to win races and attract a loyal following of fans. Doc Bundy and Dave Murry still occasionally drive the cars when their schedules permit. At the recent Watkins Glen Vintage GP, two cars finished second and third in class beaten only by a newer Audi S4 with AWD in a rain-soaked race. Doc Bundy started the race in 12th because of a blown turbo in qualifying. He passed eight cars to finish third in an eight-lap sprint.
Kevin McGovern, Ellicott City, Maryland, USA

Hard and fast

As an ex-Brit who has raced in both Europe and America, I take exception to Zak Brown’s contention that American historic racing is a much more “sedate” affair than in Europe. He says “In American vintage racing there are rules like ‘two wheels off and you’re done for the day’, or there’s the 13/13 rule where you can’t come back for 13 months if you crash...”

This is only true of the General Racing-promoted Historics at Laguna Seca, held once a year on the West Coast. I’ve raced in HSR and SVRA on both the east and West coasts and believe me, a lot of British and European drivers have had quite a surprise, (dare I say shock?), at just how hard a lot of the entrants in these historic races go about their racing.

Before settling in America, where I have lived for 14 years, I too thought that American vintage/historic racers didn’t really race; how wrong I was!
John Starkey, St Petersburg, Florida, USA

GTO history

I read with great pleasure Andrew Frankel’s test of 250GTO, 3505 GT (October issue). It was well done and to the point.

Your test brought back dear memories. In 1982 and ’87 I was the organiser of the 20th and 25th GTO anniversaries in France, the first in Burgundy and the second in Bordeaux. I invited Innes Ireland as our special guest in ’82, and the Harrison brothers came with 3505 GT. Innes was enthralled to see and test his old car, and the Harrisons were also pleased with the encounter. Actually, Innes was such an entertainer that he was the darling of the meeting, so I invited him again for the 25th anniversary.

I have owned a 250GTO (3607 GT) for 20 years and driven it 100,000km. It has never let me down and the pleasure of driving it has never faded. I’m happy to see that the restoration hasn’t turned 3505 into a Christmas tree! But can I be naughty and suggest that the air opening on the nose is a bit too big when compared with the 1962 version?

This car was the first-ever right-hand-drive GTO made. Actually it was a converted left-hand-drive car. Its first outing was the Le Mans test in April 1962 (when Mairesse had a best lap of 193.230km/120mph). Ferrari was taking Stirling Moss very seriously, so much so that in order to have a RHD car they hurried to convert a LHD one, and the Le Mans test betrays this with the position of the dry sump oil tank still being on the right side behind the passenger seat (for weight balance). But it was converted to the left side later on, filler and all. A GTO of course has a full undertray but also a large spoiler about 10cm under the gas tank to catch the air flowing underneath and add a bit more downforce to the rear. It must have worked because the two railings supporting that panel had a tendency to break after a while. People think the panel is protection for the gas tank, but this is not so.
Jess G Pourret, Modena Co Ltd, Thailand

Slow motion

Once again a superb driver interview. I really felt for Martin Donnelly. What a man. Thank you.

On another subject, in My Motoring Month Andrew Frankel mentions slow drivers. I remember in my youth, when bus timetables meant something, a bus driver who was ahead of his schedule and driving slowly to the next stop was pulled over by the police. He was charged with ‘operating a mobile obstruction’. I believe in France the police have the power to pull a slow- moving vehicle to the side of the road to allow the build up of traffic behind to make headway.
David Gosnell, Glenelg, South Australia.

Letter of the Month
Slough: motor sport mecca!

When my firm relocated to Slough, it didn’t seem exciting news. However, as an avid Motor Sport reader I was fascinated to see your article on the GT40s built in Slough, and it prompted me to find the location. Further research proves that Slough ought to be considered the UK’s own Maranello!

Ford Advanced Vehicles and Lola were located in Yeovil Road and then Banbury Road. Surtees F1 was also in Banbury Road, which became Fittipaldi F1 and later Spirit Honda F1, until as late as 1984.

Frank Williams apparently started his business from a flat in Bath Road before moving under a bowling alley on the trading estate. Roy Winkelmann Racing was later in Slough at that same bowling alley. They ran Jochen Rindt in F2 in a Brabham, which became Jochen Rindt Racing, managed by a certain B Ecclestone. Lyncar, well-known for their Formula Atlantic, F2 and one-time F1 entries, were in Aberdeen Avenue and later in Bath Road.

Vandervell wasn’t very far away in Maidenhead, Rondel Racing was in an old laundry in Burfield Road, and of course McLaren’s birth-place was in Colnbrook, Slough from 1966-78. Nearby Cookham was the home of my childhood hero, Ronnie Peterson…

It seems the area was key in the story of some great names. If you’d like to take some photos around Slough a la ‘Track Tests’ I’ll be happy to oblige, but sadly am unable to provide a GT40!
Iain Gordon, Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hampshire