Letters from readers, December 2016

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He was jokin’, Jochen

I’m responding to comments Jochen Mass made in your recent podcast. I was employed by Cosworth from 1968-2005, directly involved with engine development, and feel I have to point out a regrettable inaccuracy.

Ed Foster, the interviewer, asked Mr Mass why he felt James Hunt held such an advantage over him at McLaren. The response was that many years later, Keith Duckworth told Jochen that in 1976 Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and James Hunt all benefited from, “special DFVs” producing some “70bhp” more than the standard engine. In 1976 a ‘good’ DFV produced about 450bhp. Should Jochen’s claim be correct, which it is not, those three drivers would have benefited from DFV engines developing some 520bhp – a figure not achieved until circa 1983/4.

I can confirm that engines for Lotus, Tyrrell, Wolf and McLaren were built in the Development Department during that period, but the advantage they conferred was closer to 15–20bhp.

If the facts are not made clear, it will forever be claimed that Cosworth favoured certain drivers, which isn’t true. Few outside Cosworth would be aware of Keith’s wicked sense of humour; to that end I would suggest that Mr Mass was on the receiving end of a Duckworth wind-up, nothing more, nothing less.

Malcolm Tyrrell, Towcester, Northants

Auf Wiedersehen, petulance

Having watched Lewis Hamilton once again throw his toys out of the pram following his engine failure in the Malaysian Grand Prix, I find it impossible not to make comparisons between him and Guy Martin. 

Martin, with his regular day job and feet firmly on the ground, seems to delight in anything and everything that comes his way and gets stuck. Hamilton, in contrast, leads an incredibly privileged life with a vast team of people dedicated to giving him what he wants when he wants it, yet he cannot cope with anything that’s not in his script. The minute something goes wrong the sulks begin. Let’s face it, it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t win a fourth world championship and he should appreciate what he has already got. Just think of the late Chris Amon with all his talent and little in the record books to show for it.

Dave Pegler, Bath

The Villeneuve legacy 

It was pleasing to find Lunch with… still in business, especially given my liking for November’s subject: Jacques Villeneuve. I remember his arrival on the Formula 1 scene for his flair, personality and dogged application. The latter characteristic almost enabled Jacques to take the world title first time out and his success the following season was all the more satisfying. I previously considered it a great pity that Jacques had so little subsequent success in F1, feeling that he’d never quite found the right next team/car at the right time. I believe he had at least another couple of championships in him.

But the value of the Lunch with… format and Adam Cooper’s work on this specific occasion came to the fore with Jacques’ comments about the building of a team around him. I can understand his viewpoint – that I had not realised before – that this enterprise was highly rewarding in its own right, even though it came at the expense of personal results. So the interview is important in drawing attention to the establishment of BAR, which became Mercedes, something Jacques (below) can count as a truly historic legacy.

David Buckden, Walmer, Kent

Memories of ’97

Thank you for your interview with Jacques Villeneuve and his views on the events at Jerez 1997, which led to Schumacher’s subsequent disgrace.

What is often forgotten is that on the same day as Schumacher’s FIA hearing, the Williams and McLaren teams were also up before the FIA on a charge of collusion. The allegation (still denied) was that it had been agreed between the teams that both McLarens would be allowed to pass to avoid fighting Villeneuve in his damaged Williams. Third was enough to secure the championship for Villeneuve.

We thus had the paradox of Schumacher being charged with deliberately interfering with Villeneuve and McLaren charged with deliberately not interfering with Villeneuve.

Schumacher’s disqualification from then 1997 championship was felt to be meaningless; I felt the punishment was correct, but they got the year wrong. Had previous history been considered, he should retrospectively have been disqualified from the 1994 title race.

Peter O’Donnell, Epsom, Surrey

Bunch of Charlies

Charlie Whiting and his fellow F1 operatives could resolve the nonsense that is the grid penalty system with a tape measure, pot of white paint, paint brush and the will actually to do something about it.

The 45-place grid penalty imposed on Alonso in Malaysia was a fiction, as have been previous grid penalties. By my reckoning, if the tape measure, white paint and brush had been used to mark out a 45-place penalty, Alonso would have started from the apex of the last corner. That would be meaningful.

Andrew Andersz, Aston Clinton, Bucks

Taking Roebuck to task

F1 has been heading in the wrong direction for some time and the fee promoters have to pay is excessive, but for Nigel Roebuck to be outraged at the 65/35 split of profits between CVC and the teams shows a lack of business understanding. Teams compete for their own benefit and for the prize money on offer, which forms part of CVC’s costs. CVC was the owner and entitled to 100 per cent of the profits after costs, so to give the teams 65 per cent of the profits could be said to be very generous indeed – and way beyond what John Lewis distributes as profit share to partners.

Roger Gullen, Walkern, Herts

Making plans for Nigel

Much has been written of CVC and its negligence in the control of F1, but in November Nigel Roebuck gave a very pertinent analysis and commentary of the period since Bernie sold out. Nigel also wrote of the lack of marketing undertaken by F1/CVC/Bernie.

A sport being huge doesn’t equate to wider coverage beyond the narrow confines of its immediate audience. Football, for all its size and reach, has massive marketing activity across all forms of media platforms and reaps the rewards. Why should F1 be different? It surely can’t be right that wider coverage only arises at times of scandal or crisis. It does appear that Liberty Media will be addressing these matters in its guise as a media company and investor in F1. 

To improve the ‘show’ F1 needs to get rid of those horrendously expensive engines, forget about offering a sop to the Greens, reduce downforce levels to go with the wider tyres and allow drivers to control their cars at the limit rather than managing tyres and IT systems. Why, after much talk of reducing costs, did the FIA introduce such expensive concepts? Let’s hope that Liberty offers better and more equitable financial solutions so we can have greater competition.

Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon

Oh yes he did…

David Cox does not believe the late Chris Lawrence painted his Cooper-Ferrari red for filming Grand Prix at Brands Hatch (Letters, October). Well, Chris himself told me it was true a few years ago. Moreover, he said it was done with water-based paint so it could be washed off easily.

It is still the best motor racing film ever, taken both as a work of cinema and as a record of the period.

Paul Mackness, Clanfield, Hampshire

Good times at Goodwood

I was delighted to see the double-page photo at the beginning of your History Repeats Itself feature on Goodwood, as I believe it shows the start of the Glover Trophy at the Easter Monday meeting in 1954. This was the first race meeting I went to, aged 9, and I remember it well. On checking my programme the race was won by Ron Flockhart (BRM), from Ken McAlpine (Connaught) and Leslie Marr (Connaught). Flockhart shared fastest lap with Roy Salvadori (Gilby Maserati 250F). Among the non-starters was Alberto Ascari in Tony Vandervell’s Thin Wall Special.

David Edelsten, Cheltenham, Glos

Mistaken identity

Many years ago I was assured by a former Team Lotus mechanic that Colin Chapman had been seen holding court in the Brands Hatch bar in the late Eighties – years after his reported death. And now Kurt Ahrens has reportedly been talking to Trevor Taylor at Brands – p108 of your October edition. Sadly Trevor died in 2010. Do we have a motor sport equivalent of The X-Files?
I think we should be told…

John Aston, Thirsk, North Yorkshire 

Tauranac still going strong

Your recent interview with David Brabham contained some inaccuracies.

In the last paragraph it stated, “The ‘T’ from the ’BT’ type numbers will be a notable absentee at the Goodwood celebrations, because of ill health.” This is not true – I was not invited. I am in good health and reasonably fit for my age: I exercise each morning in the gym and attend exercise classes twice weekly.

I didn’t mind not going as it’s a long trip at 91, but I don’t want my UK friends to wrongly think I’m in bad health. 

Ron Tauranac AO, Bondi Junction, Australia

Thompson’s twin

In Guy Martin’s feature on his record attempt, the name of Danny Thompson came up with his car Challenger 2. Some may know this, but he is the son of legend Mickey Thompson (featured in Motor Sport, September 2001). Mickey set a one-way run of 406.6mph back in 1960 in his four-engined Challenger. In 1968 he was to try again with the Autolite Special, this with two Ford SOHC 427 NASCAR engines. This managed a 400mph-plus run, but never quite made it any further. A few years back his son Danny resurrected the car, fitted it with two Top Fuel engines and various updates and has made several good runs, culminating in a 406.7mph pass a few weeks after Guy’s visit. While not breaking the outright piston-engined wheel-driven mark, this was apparently some sort of class record.

My interest in drag-racing and record breaking was fired by seeing Mickey Thompson and Dante Duce at Debden back in 1963, being one of the thousands who blagged their way in to the invitation-only meeting, a seminal event in the history of UK drag racing.

John Dickson, Sevenoaks, Kent

Don’t cry for me, Argentina

In 1971 I was team manager at Team Surtees and my first GP was the two-part non-championship race in Argentina. Your recent article about Chris Amon reminded me of the pride
I felt at being on pole with Rolf Stommelen, bless him.

During the second part, while we were leading, Chris punted the gearbox off the TS7 and caused its retirement. Later that evening he came over to apologise, leaving me with the impression of a real gentleman.

I must also mention Monza ’71 and my pal Mike Hailwood – what a race, what a result [second]. It’s worth mentioning that after an accident he had taken over Rolf’s car – the latter was not too pleased and German TV threatened to go home!

Gavin Frew, via email

A cuppa with Chris Amon

Sporting heroes capture one’s imagination for many reasons. With articles on Amon, Brabham, Sears and Stewart, for those of a certain age, your October edition was hugely evocative.

Chris Amon caught my imagination at Silverstone in May 1963. A bus trip from Derby seemed like an adventure that day, but here was a lad of my own age who had travelled halfway around the world to race cars.

Nearly 50 years later, while in New Zealand with my wife, it was with some temerity that I phoned Chris to ask if he would autograph my programme from that 1963 race. He had never heard of me until that day, but drove to our motel and sat with us for more than an hour, chatting amiably over a cuppa.

The sense of loss at his passing is palpable, but we are hugely thankful to him and others for enriching our lives.

John Spencer, Upton Scudamore, Wiltshire

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