Letters, December 2015

Right team, wrong venue

Martin Brundle’s memories of racing with Stefan Bellof in their normally aspirated Tyrrells at Zandvoort in 1984 are incorrect – he must be thinking about a different circuit. 

Martin was recuperating from serious leg injuries sustained in a crash at Dallas seven weeks previously and Stefan Johansson took his place until the Dutch GP, after which Tyrrell was excluded from the 1984 world championship.

Ken Tyrrell retained Bellof and Brundle for the following season, the first half of which they ran one car with a normally aspirated Cosworth DFY and one turbo car, but come Zandvoort (Bellof’s last GP) both were driving Renault Turbo-powered cars.

It was a tragedy that Stefan Bellof died so early in his career as I’m sure that he would have been the first German F1 world champion.

Steve Burden, Soutergate, Cumbria

Hill’s climb

Your excellent items on Graham Hill reminded us just how important he was to British motor sport. 

I recall a British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, in the days when teams and drivers walked from the outer paddock to the pits before the start. Up on the grass was a fully prone patient laying on a stretcher bed, positioned to get a good view of the circuit. On seeing this, one driver instantly climbed up to have a few cheery words, not looking for cameras or film crews while doing so.

Guess who that was?

Keith Martin,
Open University, Milton Keynes

New and old 

I’d like to offer a special word of thanks for all those Graham Hill features in your November issue.

Paul Fearnley’s comment about Hill “making up for lost time for more than 20 years” brought back a vague recollection of a newspaper story from early 1961, about how Stirling Moss had chosen Graham to be his co-driver in long-distance sports car racing that season. The implication? This was a great opportunity for a talented newcomer. Graham, Stirling and Mike Hawthorn were all born in the same year, 1929, with Graham the oldest by months, yet somehow he seemed to represent the next generation.

One extremely rare – probably unique – feature of Graham’s career was missed. I can’t think of any other driver who made his Formula 1 and saloon car debuts on the same day. He drove an ex-F2 Lotus 12-Climax in the 1958 Silverstone International Trophy and an Austin A35 in the supporting tin-top race. These were in addition to winning a sports car race that same afternoon.

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Get back on the island

One of Nigel Roebuck’s recent Reflections columns made me contemplate the sad way F1 has developed over the years, in no small part due to Bernie Ecclestone.

As a schoolboy I remember eagerly watching F1 in black and white on the TV and once seeing Jack Brabham slide off at Monaco, losing the race.

I went to Brands Hatch in ’76, saw the chaos at the first corner and James Hunt subsequently ‘winning’. Then I was at Kyalami as a guest of Uncle Ken, when Nigel Mansell won, and later went to Buenos Aires, where it was like a club meeting of old. And lots more…

An awful lot of effort was involved – but it was worth it. Now I don’t even make the effort to switch on the television and neither do my mates.
It’s boring and predictable.

The IoM TT is the place to go nowadays. Now that’s proper racing – like the old days.

Chris Hickling, Falmouth, Cornwall

Pandora: she’s doomed!

I was most interested to read Gordon Cruickshank’s recent article Bluebird on the Beach. He asked if anyone could enlighten him as to how John Cobb’s Napier-Railton could be ditched into the Mediterranean and then reactivated in the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. I think I can help.

The film was made in 1950 at Shepperton Studios and on location in Spain. The producers called in the VSCC for advice. A two-seater replica was built of wood with a louvred aluminium bonnet and renamed Pandora for the purpose of the film. It was ditched quite early, as part of a marriage vow, but attached to a pulley and later retrieved.

As the cinematic engagement did not last, the car was allowed to be salvaged and ‘rebuilt’ by a character played by John Laurie, who later found fame in Dad’s Army. For the subsequent scenes showing an attempt on the Land Speed Record, the real car was used. I dread to imagine what John Cobb would have thought of the car being driven through salt water…

Regarding the scene in which the car was raced around the hills, my friend Mort Goodall did the driving, accompanied by a stuffed dummy rather than Ava Gardner.

Martin Brewer, Stoke Poges, Bucks

Not exactly period

Gordon Cruickshank’s article in the October issue about an Equipe Endeavour Jaguar MkI set me thinking. Its heading Keeping Things Fair seemed particularly apt. From the beginning of saloon car racing up to mid-1963 Jaguars dominated. Taking Goodwood as an example, they took the first six places in the St Mary’s Trophy from 1961-63. Results were similar elsewhere. The only cars to get among them were either ‘hot-rod’ big-engined Anglias in club events or Dan Gurney’s Chevy at Silverstone in 1960. 

Yet go to the Goodwood Revival, which is supposed to celebrate motor racing the way it was, and we find that Jaguar saloons are regularly beaten. When the St Mary’s Trophy is for pre ’60s cars the MkIs have Austin A40s nipping at their heels, yet a quick bit of research shows that in period they would have been nowhere near. Clearly these A40s have been developed far beyond period regulations. Why? Or, to put it another way, why can’t such development happen across the board? We must conclude that it is about putting on a show, with historical accuracy taking a distant second place.

Rod Hunt, Seaton, Devon

Number crunching

If Bernie Ecclestone tuned into the Sky TV commentary, he might understand why viewers are turning away from F1.

I have just watched a recording of the Belgian GP with a counter in my hand to tot up how often the following words were used in the race commentary from green light to chequered flag: tyre, stint, pitstop, rubber, compound, strategy, undercut. All words that relate to tyres, of course. And the answer is 257. Just think how much of the time is spent on this subject alone. It gets boring, Bernie.

Having only one counter, I wasn’t able to monitor how often the following words were used: DRS, ERS, penalty, stop-go, rules, electrical, hydraulic, sector and harvesting. I’m a farmer and my kind of harvesting is now more exciting than that in F1.

The 2015 Goodwood Revival again showed us how racing can entertain properly, with the cars and drivers the centre of attention.

There was hardly a mention of rubber – but it was nice to see some real harvesting taking place near St Mary’s.

Guy Raines, Malton, North Yorks

On your Marks

In your recent Scarab article it states, “Roald Goethe has built up a period lorry as appropriate transport for his Gulf Porsches.” This implies that our transporter is not the original. In fact it is one of two original Porsche team transporters; this one is S-YZ-32 from 1968, given over to JW Automotive and found by us in Florida in 2011. Its authenticity was confirmed by underpainting found when the panels were removed, even to the point that when WHF Ltd stripped the chassis to a bare frame a German Mark coin from 1971 was found wedged by the pedals!

I just wanted to put the record straight as a huge amount of work went into restoring everything as accurately as possible on this original vehicle.

Ted Higgins, RofGo Collection, Hants

Egon toast

Whilst most of your long-standing readers will be in the habit of turning straight to either Roebuck, Hughes, Lunch With or Nye as soon as they receive your magazine, I am finding that each month I am desperate to hear from Simon Arron – the man who goes everywhere – about what was on the menu for breakfast and lunch in the paddocks of the world.

The thumbnail photos of Simon’s meal can only whet my appetite – even the Croft curry and chips. I think we should be treated to a full-length article from Arron to describe in more detail the dining options available at each circuit, a sort of critical Egon Ronay guide for Motor Sport fans.

Andrew Hodgson, Bury, Lancs

Bristol rover

While being aware of the number of XKSS Jaguars produced, I had not realised that just one was sold in the UK. This must be the pale blue car owned by a Mr Browning of Cheltenham. I remember it very clearly.

My father was driving the family Riley 9 down Southmead Road in Bristol (one of the accepted routes through town in the days before motorways) when he pointed at the mirror and said “what is that?”

By then it was already stuttering past us, off cam and at low speed –but what a sight! I saw it again when it set FTD at the first Dyrham Park hillclimb.

John Page, Thornbury, Bristol

The man from carbuncle

We have to wonder where the future of F1 lies; will we end up with just four teams having to run three or four cars so a grid can be formed?

Beyond the travails with CVC I also wonder about the FIA introducing a new engine formula at a time when the economy wasn’t strong. Why the need for such technological steps in the light of the prevailing financial climate? 

In comparison, you cannot help but notice how great and different cars from previous eras looked, rather than the grid of lookalikes we have now, with aerodynamic carbuncles on every surface. A return to ground effect and the loss of these protuberances might even result in better racing.

Perhaps longer-term sporting benefits will one day overcome the short-term entrenched positions of the richer team owners – and perhaps pigs will fly.

Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon

Pulling his leg

Thank you for the wonderful articles on my boyhood hero Graham Hill.

I attended the 1969 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and was thrilled to see Jochen Rindt’s first GP win, not to mention a stirring drive to second place by Piers Courage. Communications being what they were back then, it was not until hours later that I learned that Graham had been seriously injured.

Three weeks later I was drafted. Fast forward 18 months to April 1971 and Private Greco is enjoying a cushy assignment stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany, that included cadging start/finish line seats at the Jim Clark Memorial at Hockenheim. Amazingly, here was Graham, more or less in one piece, and not only did he race, he won. I’ll never forget seeing him put his hand behind his leg and lift it up in order to get into the car. One doesn’t often hear the term ‘stouthearted’ used any more, but that is my memory of Graham Hill.

Donald Greco, Portland, Connecticut, USA