Letters: December 2017
Outing Formula 1
Editor Nick Trott’s Matters of Moment piece in the November edition was absolutely spot-on with regard to fans getting more chances to see F1 cars on track, whether at race meetings, separate test sessions, or street demonstrations. Cars on track create publicity, publicity creates marketing opportunities, marketing opportunities create more money and everyone wins. If I can see that surely F1 can see it. The powers that be should make it their primary target to have the cars out at every conceivable opportunity, as this is what engages people with the sport. It could easily be done, but it’s normally the unwillingness of various parties involved in the sport that prevents it happening.
By getting properly serious with cost control, by simplifying the cars and engine packages, F1 could save millions of pounds, some of which could be used to run the cars more. Liberty Media has its work cut out to enable this, but boy would it be popular if it happened. F1 teams must cast self-interest out of the window and put the fans first. After all, no fans means no F1.
Michael Skeet, Lordswood, Southampton
The future was orange
I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful reminiscences about one of history’s most significant race cars, the McLaren M6A, a sports racer so good that many believed it would also have won the championship the next year without modification. Nevertheless, the trajectory of Team McLaren’s progress from year to year was at a very steep angle and not easily deflected.
The photograph in October’s issue captioned “Emerging champ lends his crew a helping hand” – of Bruce McLaren and crew pushing his M6A to the front of the grid, I believe at Bridgehampton – overlooks that the anonymous crew member with one hand on the steering wheel is Tyler Alexander, who was, along with Teddy Mayer and Robin Herd, secondary only to the inspired leadership of Bruce McLaren in the team’s early successes.
Tempus fugit – but not as quickly as a Can-Am McLaren with either Bruce or Denny at the wheel.
Carl Slate, Santa Maria, California, USA
You say disaster…
Both Francis E McNamara – then and now called ‘Mac’ and living a happy retirement life in the USA – and I had to chuckle when we read the line about the McNamara ‘disaster’ in your Lunch with Niki Lauda. Nevertheless, a few comments.
The first part of the McNamara ‘disaster’ took place when, in August 1969, Lauda finished second to McNamara works driver Helmut Marko in a Formula Vee race at the Nürburgring and there was a little after-race dispute between the two of them.
In the second part of the ‘disaster’ Lauda had seven races with a Bosch Racing Team McNamara MK3B-Ford in 1970, resulting in a 16th and two fifth places, with other McNamaras on pole twice.
One could comment that there are more disastrous results for a young driver in one of his first F3 seasons, and that the McNamaras were not as bad as Niki suggested. The former mechanics, living in the area and still proud of having worked for Mac, would strongly contradict him, even today.
Late in the season McNamara Racing put on hold its European programme in favour of the Granatelli/Andretti IndyCar programme of 1970-71. McNamara Racing came to a very sad end in June 1971.
Let me finish by quoting Mac: ‘Thanks for sending me the Niki article. The only comment I have is that I smiled greatly when I was commented on in the same fashion as was Ferrari. Good, bad or anything in between is to be taken as a compliment if one is referred to as being on the same plane as Ferrari.’
Peter Schroeder, Valley, Germany
Firstly, I have to say I enjoyed the new look to the magazine. Some old favourites and some new editorials made it an engaging read.
Secondly, two points regarding your contributor Dickie Meaden in the last edition.
I have zero interest in Formula E, nor in the electrification of motor sport. The aural thrill of an iron-fist Ford or Chevrolet V8 or the screaming wail of a Ferrari V12 et al cannot be matched by the dull and sensory-deficit FE. Therefore Mr Meaden’s suggestion of restarting the old Can-Am series with hybrid/electric power is a great one – keep the rules as simple as possible and see what the manufacturers can really conjure up given carte blanche.
Perhaps the idea came from Dickie’s drive in the Can-Am McLaren M6A. I read the report on driving this magnificent and legendary car – then went straight back to the beginning and read it again from start to finish. Exemplary writing, with a real passion and insight into the subject. You could feel the thrill and emotion of driving the car through the whole piece. Fantastic journalism, and totally enthralling to read.
Motor Sport magazine remains the only publication to get sensational stuff like this – keep it up!
Michael Turley, Altrincham, Cheshire
I thoroughly enjoyed your recent pieces on the 1967 BOAC 500 and the winning Chaparral 2F.
Three of us travelled by train and bus from West Yorkshire to see this, arriving mid-afternoon the day before. The first memory is feeling the sound of the practising cars through our feet! We’d never heard seven litres at full chat before – amazing. We walked through the paddock just taking it all in, then pitched our tent. Pretty soon the field started to fill up. One particular car was a very battered Anglia out of which spilled three Americans, all of whom had a distinct likeness to Donald Sutherland in full beard and leather bomber jacket… They were as friendly as most of their countrymen and soon invited all around to share their beer and cigarettes.
We awoke next morning to the sight of a racing transporter inching its way into the paddock carrying all the Ferraris.
What a sight, what a day.
Jonathan Butterworth, Emley, W Yorks
I thought the following experience might be of interest – it certainly left an impression on me.
I relish my early morning Sunday drives, when the roads are clear and you can push on in the knowledge that you’re unlikely to meet much traffic. So you can imagine my frustration when, upon rounding a corner on one of my favourite roads in West Sussex in my aeroscreened Caterham R400, I was confronted by a small car with narrow tyres, clearly from a bygone era, pulling out in front of me in a cloud of oily smoke. Not wanting to be stuck behind the car for too long for fear of spoiling my entertainment, at the earliest opportunity I overtook said car and roared off into the distance.
At least, that’s what I thought. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I was a little shocked to realise the car was right behind me, being driven by a man who was clearly enjoying the thrill of the chase. I pushed on a bit more but still this car stayed with me. Now I’m thinking “I’m in a Caterham for heaven’s sake and a quick Caterham at that – how on earth is this car keeping up?”
I went faster still, safely strapped into my modern car with racing harness, FIA roll bar, racing disc brakes etc, but now at a lick that was beginning to make me feel slightly uncomfortable. Astoundingly, my mirror was still full of this little car. After a couple of miles we came to a junction and he pulled up beside me. I was intrigued and peered across to find myself looking at a very old chain-driven motor driven by a smiling man wearing no helmet or goggles, in a car with no seat belts or roll bar.
I pulled out my ear plugs and shouted across “What on earth are you driving?”
The smiling reply was “A Frazer Nash. It used to lap Brooklands at 130mph, you know.” And with that he was off in another cloud of smoke… It’s an experience I won’t forget for a very long time.
Tim Shaxson, Elsted, West Sussex
The reasons for the first-lap debacle at Singapore are two-fold. Firstly, when Michael Schumacher started these dramatic opening swerves/blocking movements from the front row of the grid and other over-aggressive tactics (against Hill and Villeneuve in particular) the FIA only thought short-term and chose not to punish him.
Secondly; the current specification of F1 cars precludes slip-streaming and overtaking, so the first lap is about the only chance for a driver to improve his grid position and the remainder of the race is nearly always a procession. I hope Liberty will take note of the happenings at Singapore for their future planning for the sport and their investment. By coincidence there were two TV programs over the weekend about Jackie Stewart on Channel 4 and the Yesterday channel and from the footage there was an absence of first-straight blocking in those days and some wonderfully close finishes too. The drivers were hard but had respect for each other.
James Thacker, Tanworth in Arden, Warks
The incident at the start of the Singapore GP dramatically illustrates what is wrong with Formula I today. The cause of the crash was quite obviously the swerve across the track by Vettel in attempting to prevent Verstappen from overtaking. The crux of the problem is that this kind of move is tolerated and considered legitimate.
As was suggested by Stefan Johansson in Motor Sport recently, blocking is not racing. It was a product of banger racing and that is where it should have stayed. In my opinion so-called defensive driving is the overriding cause of Formula 1’s troubles today.
The late Ayrton Senna in his early years was a pioneer in the ‘art’ of blocking which resulted in the hugely boring spectacle of a procession of cars in a long queue behind his uncompetitive Lotus. I find it astonishing that, far from being penalised or ostracised for this, it was now seen as a skill to be copied and developed (notably by such as Michael Schumacher) and I believe actively encouraged by team managers who undoubtedly did not like seeing their man overtaken. Not only does this fudge the issue of which is really the fastest car (and best driver) but is also the major cause of so many crashes, often eliminating leading drivers. One does not need to dwell on the driver safety aspect or on the considerable unnecessary expense involved in these incidents
One expects the winner of a race to be the best driver/car combination, not the nastiest.
The main problem in F1 has been the lack of overtaking. Why spend so much money on artificial devices such as DRS and KERS when surely the problem could be solved by simply changing driver culture?
At present drivers are allowed one blocking move. Where is the logic in this? What are the objections to banning blocking completely?. When collisions occur on overtaking moves, always penalise the overtaken driver, (and not just a grid penalty – maybe even a one race ban). Also, improve rearward visibility, by giving drivers really decent mirrors. Would we not then enjoy the spectacle of wheel-to-wheel racing with passing and re-passing on every corner, instead of the boring processions that many GPs have become?
With no longer a requirement for artificial aids such as DRS or KERS there would be opportunities for gigantic cost-saving. Also why not ban of all these ugly and cumbersome aerodynamic appendices? They just add to the overtaking problem and result so often in punctures and safety cars because of their fragility and vulnerability, while contributing nothing whatsoever to the quality of racing. (yet another huge cost saving.)
What is not needed in Formula 1 is more technology for the sake of it. How about removing all this artificial down-force and make the drivers really demonstrate car control.
I would love to hear the views of such as Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks and Sir Jackie Stewart not to mention the smaller F1 teams.
Brian Alexander, Bude, Cornwall
Road race recollections
Many thanks for the magic feature story in the September issue on the last ever FIA World Championship Grand Prix on a genuine road circuit, the XXV GP Pescara.
Re the Jack Brabham story on getting a quick fill at a roadside filling station after he had run dry on his last lap, Doug Nye covered this in his book on The Jack Brabham Story published in 2004.
Doug quotes Jack on p66: “I started my last lap fifth or sixth, and was going pretty well when I ran out of fuel. Unbelievable. I was coasting along, hearing only the clatter of grit and gravel being thrown up by the tyres, when there came into sight, on the right hand side of the road, a filling station! There were a few spectators standing there, and I coasted into the forecourt, and pulled up at the pumps.
The pump attendant just about burst with excitement. He was brilliant, he grabbed the pump hose, fired in just a few litres, enough to get me home, and I restarted
and rejoined the race. I finished seventh (again), three times lapped.” And yes, I don’t think he had to pay for the petrol. It was a genuine drive-off!
That Grand Prix at Pescara 60 years ago might have been the last FIA Grand Prix for World Championship points on a road circuit, but the 30th Australian Grand Prix at Longford Tasmania in February 1965, featuring four world champions in Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, Graeme Hill and Phil Hill, was the last ever Grand Prix on a genuine road circuit, complete with a bridge and railway viaducts. The highest speed was nearly as fast as Pescara, with Bruce McLaren clocking 169mph over the flying mile. This long-forgotton Aussie circuit was featured in Motor Sport some years ago.
Keep up the good work.
Motor Sport is still our monthly Bible of world motorsport and its rich history.
Bill Atherton, Melbourne Australia
I had the good luck to be laid up with a bout of ‘flu when your excellent November issue arrived so was able to enjoy the unaccustomed luxury of reading it through from cover to cover without distractions. I plan to fake illness when the December issue arrives, to repeat the process.
Frank Barnard, Shapwick, Somerset