Letters, December 2011

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A real road hog

Sir,

Very good story from Rob Widdows on the Porsche Pink Pig (November issue). I was impressed to learn too that Herr Bischof is so articulate in English — an improvement from just thumb up or down in 1969!

This particular 917 wasn’t just a pig off the track, it was also a pig on the road. At Le Mans in 1971 only the quickest of the 917s could outpace a 512M [which Alain was driving] on the Hunaudières straight. The Pig was comfortably quicker by some 10 to 15mph but carried behind it a terrible vortex that in my case caused chronic instability as it went by. It was as if the bloody thing was trying to suck you off the road. Willi [Kauhsen] knew this and thought it was rather funny cutting in front immediately to cause extra grief. I told him after the race that I hadn’t found that very amusing and in any case I thought only the Brits had that sort of humour!

He still laughs about it today. Not many people know this!

By the way, you did a very good job on the Bill Boddy Tribute Day at Brooklands. Glorious turnout for the great man, as he deserved.
Alain de Cadenet, Chelsea, London

The pros at Porsche

Sir,

Your piece featuring the Porsche 961 (November) brought back fond memories of the times that myself and Autoglass shared with the Group C team during our sponsorship of Derek Bell.

When Kees Nierop returned to the pits to face the ‘headmaster’ after the unfortunate change down, everybody made themselves scarce! We had just been watching the in-car footage, which was scary to say the least.

The atmosphere within the team was always one of total enthusiasm, and their attitude to us outsiders’ was both friendly and accommodating. We were loaned a 956 body/floorpan unit for shows and charities etc, and Derek was always ready to appear for us if his schedule allowed.

In 1986, ourselves and Shell Oils provided the necessary for Derek and Hans-Joachim Stuck to complete enough races to win the World Championship, and the photograph of Derek, Hans, Shell Oils MD Dennis Keeping and myself taken on top of the Shell-Mex house to celebrate the moment is one I treasure, along with a large-scale model of the 956/962 they used that year.

Finally, a note on one of my favourite sports car drivers, Bob Wollek, an accomplished member of Porsche’s Group C programme. I drove through Italy with him in a Mercedes Coupé 500 ahead of the 1000km at Monza — very exciting. A charming man much missed and a driver whose talent was not always recognised.
Mike Cornwell, Woburn, Beds

Oi! Hippies! No!

Sir,
Another wonderful Goodwood Revival, but am I the only grumpy old man to be irritated by the increasing number of spectators turning up as hippies? Goodwood closed in 1966. The ‘summer of love’ was in 1967. There would never have been hippies at Goodwood in period.
Stephen Campbell, Gravesend, Kent

Alonso leads by example

Sir,

While Lewis Hamilton bites the McLaren hand that feeds him by criticising the equipment at his disposal, I see a great poetic justice being served.

In 2007, by a variety of means, Hamilton succeeded in marginalising his rival Alonso, effectively forcing him out of McLaren and into two ‘wilderness years’ at Renault. Fair enough, you might say, such moves are part of the game.

But now, remembering that the McLaren has generally been a quicker car than the Ferrari, let us compare the behaviours of both men — Alonso’s dignified fixity of purpose, never criticising his team, against Hamilton’s petulance off-track and increasing misjudgements on it. Clearly Formula 1 is a test of speed and character.
David Goddard, Hove, W Sussex

FOTA follies

Sir,

I see Bernie Ecclestone is saying, once again, that FOTA is unnecessary because he can exploit the financial opportunities available within F1.

Could it be that this has more to do with the fact that if the teams do not sign the new Concorde Agreement, then CVC and Ecclestone will have nothing to exploit?

Perhaps I am being cynical, or is there so much money sloshing around in F1 that the teams are unwilling to risk a split, however justified?
Del Bennett, Cheshunt, Hefts

Nordschleife notes

Sir,

Thank you for the story on the Nürburgring (October), which brought back memories of the time I was fortunate to drive around the Nordschleife in 1966, when Chaparral won the 1000Km. Your photo array tells quite a story. In addition, a few details should be mentioned.

When Juan Manuel Fangio set his record time, there were no red and white stripes at the approach, the apex and the exit of the turns as is the case now. The white line around the track was absent, with only grass and bushes lining the edges. The most important point is that Fangio’s time was set on the whole track including the length of road from where the Nordschleife leaves the front straight, past the start/finish, down to the left kink, around the large radius right turn, and finally back up the hill behind the pits to the left turn onto the Nordschleife — about half to three-quarters of a mile added. Those narrow tyres should also be noted.

Jackie Stewart’s sensational win in 1968 was aided by either Jackie or Ken Tyrrell remembering that rally teams had cut grooves in the centre of their tyres for a chain during snow and often ran grooved tyres in the rain. As can be seen in your photo, there are grooves on the Matra’s tyres. The win was followed by tyre manufacturers making tyres with centre grooves, plus grooves flaring out to expel water from under the tread.
Richard Yagami, Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA

A pregnant pause at Spa

Sir,

I loved Nigel Roebuck’s reflections on Spa and Monza (November). In 1972, while on holiday in the Ardennes, I wanted to do a lap of Spa to pay homage to my schoolboy hero, Archie Scott Brown. My wife was eight months pregnant and the idea did not appeal, but having extracted a promise that I would not exceed 30mph permission was granted! I therefore hold the record for the slowest-ever lap of the old track. From the perspective of 30mph the mind boggles at an average lap speed of 160mph.

By the way my daughter, born four weeks later, has inherited a speed gene…
John Hindle, Penshurst, Kent

WB Honoured

Sir,

Having attended the WB Tribute Day on October 1, I would like to thank the editor Damien Smith and deputy editor Gordon Cruickshank on behalf of the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register for helping to organise a most enjoyable and memorable day. It was good to see a large number of STD and other vintage cars in front of the Club House, and the perfect weather was an added bonus. Our members were delighted to attend and help honour the memory of Bill Boddy in this way.

As you know, Bill and his wife Winifred founded the Sunbeam Register in 1950, which two years later became the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register. We shall miss him as our president and I am sure he will be greatly missed by the motoring world in general.
Gill Brett, Secretary, Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register

The right crowd…

Sir,

Just a quick note to all at Motor Sport to say thank you for a wonderful day’s entertainment at Brooklands for the WB Tribute Day.

The atmosphere, beautiful weather and historic setting made it a day to remember, and one of which WB would have been very proud. It was a fitting memorial to the great man.

I’m sure he would have heard the soundtrack of the Napier-Railton, ERA and assorted Bentleys, and even the Brooklands slogan of ‘the right crowd and no crowding’ seemed to be appropriate on the day.
Julian Nowell, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Audi’s stars shine

Sir,

What a terrific evening you hosted at the Audi quattro rooms on October 8 — it exceeded all my expectations. Upon arrival my son and I were guided to a reception area which included five original Le Mans cars, two of which were the winning cars from 2008 and 2011, which meant a lot to us as longtime Audi fans.

While drooling over these beautiful works of art my son asked me to look around, and stood behind me was Allan McNish, a moment later Tom Kristensen, and then the star of the evening — engineer Howden Haynes and his colleague Leena Gade. Allan approached us, and what a smashing guy — he was genuinely interested in us and spent at least 15 minutes talking to my son about karting. We also spoke to Leena, about how she came to be in motor sport, and she gave my son some great career advice.

The film Truth in 24 is terrific for Le Mans fans — a brilliant story of the 2008 battle between Peugeot and Audi which is as good as the Steve McQueen film, Le Mans.

Regrettably we could only stay for part of the Q&A session afterwards, although I hear that a Motor Sport podcast of this is available. Damien Smith was a great host and interviewer, and the whole evening was very professionally conducted. I would like to thank everybody involved in organising the event; it was for us the chance of a lifetime which we will remember for years to come.
Bob and Mark Wyllie-Mackay, Milton Keynes, Bucks

Following your lead

Sir,
After reading Gordon Cruickshank’s wonderful article about Jaguar designer Ian Callum meeting up with two super ’60s cars in the Scottish Highlands (September), we decided to take our Mitsubishi Evo lx for one last outing before putting it away for the winter.

It was your photos that got us going, and I enclose one of our car resting in the same place as the picture on p56/57 of that issue (above).

We booked in at the Kylesku Hotel just below the bridge which has been used by three car manufacturers for photo shoots this year. Did you drive the section from Kylesku up to Rhiconich on the A894 and A838? Wow — 16 miles of absolute bliss!
Porter, Shildon, Co Durham

Boycott Bahrain

Sir,

With the recent imprisonment of 20 doctors and nurses in the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, the time has surely come for Formula 1 to do the right thing and refuse to stage a race there. The fact that highly educated people can be imprisoned for up to 15 years for coming to the aid of fellow human beings is a disgrace and a human rights violation of the most saddening kind. The continuing association of F1 with the current corrupt and abhorrent regimen is a disgrace.

Of course there are financial motives for the powers that be to continue to race there, but surely there comes a time when we must stand up and say as one that this is no longer acceptable. Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA have the power to refocus the world’s attention on these deplorable events — wouldn’t it be wonderful if just once they acted for the greater good. Failing this I implore people to boycott any televised part of next year’s Bahrain GP. It’s normally a crap race anyway…
Dr Oliver Hambidge, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney

151 back where it belongs

Sir,

I was pleased to see that the surviving Maserati 151 from the Briggs Cunningham 1962 two-car team is finally back on track rather than being stuck in a museum. At last it has an owner who is putting the car back to its original specification and, as seen at Goodwood, showing its potential, which I hope will only get better.

That’s one heck of an engine in that car, and if only Maserati had been able to spend more time and money on the design I’m sure they would have had a winner at La Sarthe in ’62. I’ve found a lot of information regarding the three cars that were built, and although the sister car 004 was destroyed in an accident in the States, the original 002 chassis built for Maserati France appeared in a much altered state at the 1965 Le Mans test day, but was sadly destroyed resulting in Lucky Casner’s death and the end of the 151 coupes. It will please me even more if the remains of 002, as being worked on by Steve Hart in Norfolk, finally appear in all their glory.
Duncan Harland, Dereham, Norfolk

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