English remains the common international language of motor racing, even though half the drivers in Formula 1 are Italian and only three men who competed regularly last season actually speak English as their mother tongue. Having wrested the seniority in Grand Prix racing from the Italians at the end of the 1960s, we do seem to have slackened our grip on the driver’s championship, even if the majority of successful chassis are still made within a 100-mile radius of London.
It was good to hear that Mark Blundell joins Martin Brundle in the Brabham-Yamaha team this year, even though their names are going to be inextricably entwined on Murray Walker’s tongue and unfathomable to the Japanese. It was just as nice to learn that Dave Price will manage the team, because in the space of two years the ever-cheerful cockney has done wonders for the Mercedes and Nissan sports car teams.
Price and Brundle go back to Formula 3 days in the early Eighties, while Blundell was able to impress himself on Price throughout the 1990 sports car season, most of all probably when he established a searing pole position at Le Mans.
It has been pretty evident for the past five years that Brundle, the 1988 World Champion in Group C, is the world’s best Sports car driver, a man who amply deserves to be in the top echelon of Formula 1. His misfortune was to move from Tyrrell to Zakspeed when Erich Zakowski’s team hit rock-bottom, and then to go with Brabham for a single season, in 1989, when the Chessington team almost foundered.
Few drivers get a second chance in Formula 1, but Brundle is now effectively having his third, and that’s a measure of his true worth. Bernie Ecclestone may not run the Brabham team these days but everyone supposes that he has the last word, and with Ecclestone and Tom Walkinshaw vying for his signature Brundle is in a singularly fortunate position.
So too is Mark Blundell, a remarkably talented youngster who is mature beyond his 24 years. He and Bailey were signed together for the NME Nissan team at the start of the 1989 season, and while Bailey flirted with the odd disaster in ’89, Blundell impressed everyone by remaining calm and collected, but no less quick.
In the past season Bailey settled down, and he and Blundell became one of the best partnerships in the entire championship, rewarded with second place results in Montreal and Mexico. I’d have found it difficult to choose between them for a Formula 1 opportunity, but on the basis that Bailey had his chance with Tyrrell in 1988, and didn’t receive any F1 offers for the following year, the nod went to Blundell this time.
British fans of Formula 1 racing haven’t had much to cheer about recently. Nigel Mansell shared his frustrations with all his supporters, Derek Warwick sadly reached his single-seater twilight with Team Lotus, and Martin Donnelly is still recuperating from his massive accident.
The rejuvenated Brabham team will become a great favourite in the paddock, and perhaps around the world. Messrs Brundle, Blundell and Price are three of the most level-headed, realistic people you’ll ever meet in World Championship racing, and their talents are immense. Much depends on the worth of Yamaha’s V12 which needs to be light years better than the Japanese company’s recent V8 to make its mark.
In 1987 Yamaha went into the frame with a five-valve cylinder head design which was considered by Cosworth for the DFR. When Ford eventually vetoed the 40-valve engine Yamaha went ahead and designed a compact V8 of their own, and supplied it to Zakspeed for the ’89 season. It was, unfortunately, catastrophically unreliable and rarely pre-qualified, but in recent months V12 testing has been far more reassuring.
With the Japanese angle, Oriental interest in Brundle and Blundell will be great. The Japanese do not have an ‘r’ or a ‘v’, so usually ‘r’ becomes ‘I’ and ‘v’ becomes ‘f’. However a suitable vowel always accompanies a consonant, so Brundle becomes “Bulandolu” and Blundell becomes “Bulandelu”. Somehow I don’t think the Japanese commentators are going to have any better success than Murray Walker!
Every writer has his own code, or style, which becomes a trademark in some cases. ‘Unanimously’ is the favourite word used by FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre, and liberal use of the word, often in capital letters, is a sure sign that he has drafted the text of a release personally.
“The World Motor Sport Council unanimously decided not to grant or renew homologation for any circuit with a straight longer than “2 km” was a shattering text issued on December 8, 1989. “All the other decisions of the World Motor Sport Council were approved unanimously,” (Bulletin, October 10, 1990). “The President of the FISA, M. Jean-Marie Balestre, has received a Safety Trophy, awarded to him unanimously by the editorial staff of the monthly publication l’Automobile,” (Bulletin, December 7, 1990.
Sometimes, though, the use of the word is ill-advised. “Sanctions: The World Council unanimously (less one abstention, France) confirmed the sanctions imposed on the Dijon circuit,” (Bulletin, December 7, 1990). “A special motion previously approved by the World Motor Sport Council, concerning National Championships and in particular the CART Championship, was also heard by the Plenary Conference and adopted unanimously, less one vote against (USA), (Bulletin, October 10, 1990).
We can smile at these quirks, but a deception is contained in the words: “In order to comply with the international standards, and in particular those of the EEC, and with the unanimous agreement of the oil companies, only fuels with the following characteristics are authorised….” (Bulletin, December 7, 1990).
Within days the Shell Oil company, obviously a major, reacted angrily to the FISA statement. “It is our understanding that the regulation now proposed by FISA will allow the continuing use of leaded fuels in 1991.
“It has been claimed that the oil companies involved have agreed unanimously with the proposal. Shell International Petroleum Company Limited does not support this proposal.”
So there. FISA should make a new year resolution to avoid the use of the word ‘unanimously’, and we should make a resolution not to believe the word if it emanates from the Place de la Revolution. MLC