RAC Rally Notes
With reference to the 1959 Liege-Rome-Liege Rally, your contributor seems to have been economical with the truth in order to make his point.
Four, not three, Austin Healeys were entered in that event. Two cars were eliminated through lateness, one car crashed and one finished and won the over2000cc GT Class. There were thirteen finishers that year and according to John Gott that was the first and only time when Maurice Garot did not have a General Classification listed.
The two cars which were late at a control and therefore eliminated were not excluded by reason of the recce notes. The team, as was customary, was given an appreciation of all road sections by the late John Gott, team Captain, whose job it was to assess any navigational problems that might be encountered and to draw attention to them. One car went out because the driver was having a rest period on a comparatively easy section and the navigator, who was driving, did not pay attention to the risk of taking a wrong turning at the two points which were stressed in John Gott’s notes.
Peter Riley and Rupert Jones, who won the class, had a postcard system displaying the notes in large letters and placed in a holder between the driver and navigator so as to be easily read by both crew members at all times, so that they did not take the wrong turning, although only one of them was aware at the danger point.
The second car that was eliminated went out on account of driver fatigue. The rally was three quarters over in terms of mileage, but they encountered fog on the very testing St Jean circuit in the Vercors and were excluded by a few minutes. It is very debatable if even pace notes would have helped them as the landmarks were not visible for much of the time.
The fourth car crashed; Peter Riley knows much more about the pace note evolution than I do. I was always in favour of innovation if it could be cost effective.
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I enjoyed the article on early pace note experiments in December MOTOR SPORT. There is a firm link between Jenk’s Mille Miglia efforts and our own.
In 1957 I was driving a Zephyr 11 with Bill Meredith-Owens in the Mille Miglia. I met Jenks before the event and, bemoaning our inexperience of the route, he suggested that we cut the largest scale maps we could find into strips covering the course and stick them into a bound scrapbook. He then showed us many difficult bits and dangers, which we wrote into the wide white margins opposite the hazard. We carried the book with us before the event and showed it to every experienced competitor we met. Thus before the start, we had built a useful compendium of hazard notes, without having the time or money to do any form of recce. In the event it was immensely useful, especially when we had totally destroyed the brakes at three-quarter distance. Jenks having established a system which increased safety, Tony Ambrose and I were keen to develop it into something which increased velocity.
When a rally driver is in full cry on a stage, the adrenalin is flowing, causing increased awareness in the senses deployed. One becomes highly concentrated on the messages being relayed to the brain from the eyes, the hands and feet and, to a lesser extent, the ears listening for changing surface noise. The rest of one’s awareness is blunted so that at first I found that this fellow shouting his head off beside me was a distraction. He was upsetting my concentration and the rhythmic flow of reactions to the ‘normal’ messages being received and interpreted in the mind. It took some time for me to find that these new messages could be incorporated into the information flow and to include them in the continuous judgements being made.
Thirty years after, every aspiring rally driver knows that thousands of crews before him have managed this link-up and that if he keeps trying it will happen for him. We had no such knowledge and had to convince both ourselves and our masters that this new technique was genuinely worth the expenditure of our time and their money. In the end we began to get in tune for short periods, with Tony’s instructions coming at exactly the moment I needed them and myself accepting them without breaking concentration. One could then positively feel the car really begin to accelerate as two minds drove the car in complete unison. It was a very exciting discovery.
Incidentally, I would not claim that we were the sole experimenters in this field at this time, as we made no secret of what we were trying to achieve. We were joined by our team-mates and I remember that Rootes were also at work on the subject. However, I am sure that the British were in advance of the European and Scandinavian drivers in perfecting a usable system.
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Silverstone Rally School
I felt it was time to put this war of words into context (MOTOR SPORT, January). Here are the FACTS.
1) I bought my husband, John Starkey, a day at the rally school as a birthday present. I chose The Silverstone Rally School, address at Silverstone, as it was near to home. No mention was made in the advert that the school was in fact held at Bruntingthorpe. I phoned up the office, explained I wanted the day as a present, and was told I would be sent a voucher with a choice of dates. No mention was made during this conversation of the venue. In due course the ‘voucher’ letter arrived, with a separate list of available dates, plus a leaflet giving details of the 3 courses the school offered. As this leaflet also contained the prices of the courses, I did not pass it on to John, and all the information he needed was contained in the voucher letter.
2) John arranged a date. He was told he would be sent confirmation with full details of times, etc.
3) John did not “fail to read the paperwork and arrive at Silverstone by mistake,” as the School had failed to send out the confirmation, a fact mentioned to Mr Hardcastle but conveniently forgotten. John also refutes Mr Hardcastle’s statement he “acknowledged his error” as to his knowledge that the Silverstone Rally School was in fact held at Bruntingthorpe, as he had had no paperwork to tell him otherwise.
4) John did not ask for a refund, what he politely requested was another date, to be arranged at any time convenient to the school, as he would have missed a quarter of the course by the time he had driven from Silverstone to Bruntingthorpe. This was refused.
5) The only “unreasonable behaviour” was in fact that of Mr Hardcastle, whose dealings were, to say the least, abrupt and rude.
I feel it is very misleading for the Silverstone Rally School to be so-named, operate out of Silverstone, and not give a higher profile in its advertising to the fact that the courses are in fact held at another circuit some 40 miles away.
John’s mistake was that of turning up without having received the “literature, and confirmations with sketch maps of how to reach there,” but perhaps Mr Hardcastle could also have admitted the mistakes made by his office, and a compromise sorted out between the two of them. As it is, I wasted some £140, with the only outcome being bitterness and hard words. Some birthday present!
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Formula One Statistics
During the first nine reasons of the Formula One World Championship, Britain produced just one World Champion Driver in Mike Hawthorn (1958) albeit in a Ferrari.
Success, however, came thick and fast during the years 1959/76; Britain produced the World Champion on nine occasions out of 17, and of these, no less than seven were achieved driving British cars.
Nevertheless, since 1976, although British constructors have continued to dominate the formula, providing no less than 12 of the last 14 championship-winning cars, not one British World Champion has emerged.
Now before all the Nigel Mansell fans put indignant pens to paper, I am as big a fan of Nigel’s as anyone and hope that he finally achieves the World Championship this year with Williams. Notwithstanding his cruel luck in ’86, the record states: No British champion since Hunt.
What can be the reason for this? My feeling is that the constructors are mainly to blame with McLaren particularly guilty. In their relentless pursuit of success at all costs, they have too often signed up the considered aces of the day, always at enormous cost, and always at the expense of any British talent, either proven or potential.
During the Eighties we have produced three world class drivers: Nigel Mansell of course; Derek Warwick (always a potential winner but always without competitive machinery); and Martin Brundle, a world class talent who has been all but ignored! In more recent seasons others, such as Johnny Herbert have had their egos eroded by shabby treatment. Surely, given the overall healthy state of British motor racing in all its forms, it is not too much to ask of the Formula One ‘industry’ to foster and encourage potential British World Champions instead of relying on luring highly respected foreigners with multi-million dollar cheques. After all, great as they are, where would Senna and Prost be today without McLaren? Perhaps joining Derek Warwick in the queue to sign a sports car contract!
What do other readers think?
Herne Bay, Kent
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A Lotus Leap
Can we now expect that the Lotus Formula One team will give us fireworks next season, if not wins, after the report in The Times of 8th December of the appointment of Peter Wright, the grand effects specialist?
Ian J Pimblett,