Privateer Pleasure

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Sir,

It gave me great pleasure to read the articles about Connaught in the October and November issues, reviving happy memories of days gone by as a Connaught private owner.

My most vivid memory is of one day in 1953, sitting in the car in a ploughed field at Snetterton during a torrential downpour, having spun off at a corner. I was slowly making my way back to the track, wheels spinning in the mud, when I saw Kenneth McAlpine spin off at the same place. His front wheels dug into the soft earth and the car turned a forward somersault and rose into the air like a rocket, passing over me upside down. Kenneth fell out on his head and his car landed a few yards further on. I switched off and went over to him. “Are you alright?” I asked. “I think I’ve hurt my nose,” he replied. The first time I ever drove A5 in a race I managed to knock down a tree, and brought the car back to the works with a large dent in one of the saddle tanks. Rodney, of course, was the first to see it. I began to stutter apologies, but he cut me short and said: “Don’t worry, we find they always go better when they have been knocked about a bit.”

As you rightly said, Connaughts suffered from two things, not enough money, and never a good enough engine, altogether Mike Oliver worked miracles with the old Lea Francis. When he had finished with it he used to say that all that remained of the original Leaf were the timing gears. I think he did a great job in getting it to work with nitromethane and adding a lot of power to the works cars.

This was one reason of course why the works cars usually went faster than the privateers, and a reason apparently ignored by one writer on motor racing history of the 1950s, who was somewhat dismissive about some of us. But reputations are of little consequence today; what fun we had! And what a privilege to have been able to take part in Grand Prix racing, and go to New Zealand for the winter season. It was a very rich part of my life, and I am grateful to be reminded of it. Today it just could not happen.

LESLIE MARR Isle of Arran