Readers' letters, February 1993, February 1993
We were delighted to read December’s Delirium Tremens and congratulate you upon an excellent article and for drawing your readers’ attention to the campaign against the proposed by-law limiting speed on Windermere to 10 mph.
The present position is that everyone now awaits the decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Office, who must decide whether to confirm the proposed by-laws, reject them or, the most probable outcome, to order a public enquiry.
There is no doubt whatsoever that firm opposition to the proposal is vital to the success of the opposition lobby at public enquiry, and we urge readers to write to the Secretary of State expressing opposition, and to lobby MPs.
We would also welcome donations to the Fighting Fund. Cheques should be made payable to the Keep Windermere Alive Association, c/o Hayton,Winkley, Stramongate House, 53 Stramongate, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4BH.
Michael Winkley, Kendal.
The article on the proposed speed limits for Lake Windermere brought back many memories of my youth and prompted me to make one or two points about the controversy. It is not only the Records Week which is in danger but, presumably, the whole programme of the Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club, whose activities I enjoyed as a youthful spectator in the 1940s and ’50s.
There is no doubt that the amount of activity, particularly powered activity, has increased enormously since those, for me, halcyon days. Although I now live in Oxfordshire, my not infrequent visits to the area would indicate that there may well be a problem, though perhaps a sense of proportion should be kept by those who have the power to spoil the pleasure of many by not taking action against a stupid and unthinking minority.
In the days to which I have referred there was no licensing system and we simply launched and used our boats, hopefully not to the detriment of others. Now that a licence is necessary it should be possible to fix a fee which would pay for the cost of policing. With a number on each boat the villains must be easy to see and prosecute if there is dangerous activity.
I have many happy memories of watching the racing, which was mainly between enthusiastic owners of the ubiquitous Chris-Crafts together with a few of those ‘new-fangled’ hydroplanes, and also record-breaking, chiefly by Norman Buckley and his succession of Jaguar-engined Miss Windermeres.
I wonder if I am the only person to remember the ill-fated jet-engined White Hawk which was built to set a new world water speed record on Windermere before John Cobb and his Crusader made his attempt on Loch Ness? I seem to recall that it got onto the plane by allowing water in at the stern. This drained out as the jet engine pushed the nose up. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have thought about what would happen if the engine stopped while under way!
Ah, happy days…
Keith Taylor, Bicester
Ah. White Hawk. That was a jet-powered hydrofoil on which Ken Norris played a small design role, and was the creation of husband and wife team Frank and Stella Hanning-Lee. They ran at Windermere, beached eventually at Cockshott Point in ’52 and were last heard of shipping the craft to Florida in ’53 for an attempt in Miami. Interestingly. it was Stella who was going to drive.
Norris reckoned the fundamental problem was that the foils lost lift around 70 mph, which was not conducive to serious speed. I’ve tried for many years to find out more about this craft for a Water Speed Record book. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can shed further light, especially on the whereabouts of the Hanning-Lees or their son Vaughn — DJT.
By chance, I was at the Goodwood motor circuit in June to take some publicity photos for a range of trailers. It was the day that Denny Hulme was driving an M8D to commemorate the unveiling of the Bruce McLaren Memorial.
I never did take any pictures of the trailer, as the pits were full, but I did manage to get a few photos of the M8D and its driver.
I had a feeling while I was there that I was witnessing something special, but never thought that just a couple of months later it would be impossible to replicate following the tragic, and premature, loss of Denny Hulme.
Anyway, if anybody is researching a book or article about Denny and/or the Can-Am McLarens, I am willing to donate the few pictures I have as a way of saying ‘thanks’ for the chance to be present both last June and back in the early ’70s, when I used to go and watch McLaren test its lndycars and CanAm racers at Goodwood.
DM Shean, Southsea, Hants.
Sadly, a projected biography of Denny, to have been written by Alan Henry, was scrapped shortly before The Bear’s death. Letters from interested parties will be forwarded to Mr Shean — DJT
From recce to wreck
“You must have thought that I was born yesterday, letting that car out of my sight for a moment,” said Bob Green when his Ford Sierra Cosworth was stolen, only hours before the start of the 1992 Lombard RAC Rally. The unlikely theft of this bristling, pulsating machine — not exactly inconspicuous on the road — brought back to me vivid memories of a certain day in the summer of 1969.
Our recce team had just returned that very morning from surveying and filming certain sections of the 4,500 mile European route of the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally. Their Austin 1800 had been parked outside my flat in Central London and we were all upstairs having coffee and listening to the exploits of the recce crew when British Leyland mechanics arrived to take the car away for an overhaul prior to its being air-freighted to Rio a few days later for the recce of the South American sector. But there was no car for them to collect. Unbelievably, it had been stolen. Half an hour later the police ‘phoned to say that the car had been found, smashed through the wall of the German Embassy car park just around the corner, off Belgrave Square. What a sad end for the World Cup Rally recce car that had returned from the continental trip without a scratch and that, in 1968, had nobly served the RAF Red Arrows crew in the London-Sydney Marathon.
If one should ever wonder whether, with car rallies, there exists some bizarre pattern of exotic theft, consideration might also be given to certain instances of treachery and duplicity. We spent a long, long time and a great deal of money planning a car rally to run from Peking to Paris and were dismayed to discover eventually that the very same French autocrat who was supposed to be assisting us had made an abrupt U-turn without any hand signals, leaving us well and truly stuck in the U-bend. Then he U-turned again to back the French-run event that ran in 1992 from Paris to Peking.
Wylton Dickson, London SW1.
The enclosed photograph of Nuvolari in the French GP at Rheims in 1932 was unearthed while clearing out our roof-space. I remember it adorning my den for a year or five. Now that I see it again I think how perfectly it depicts GP racing at that time; the angle of car to the racing line, of the front wheels to the car, the dusty-looking road, the undefined road-edge on the apex, the empty countryside and the photographer’s courage.
Have you anything better in your archives?
GAD Smith, Burford, Oxon.
Thank you for so many interesting articles in Motor Sport. I am a Brooklands fan, and used to go to going to many pre-war meetings, firstly on my pushbike and later in an A7.
The article on Greenford’s dirt track in December 1992’s issue was great. I went to many meetings there, from 1930 onwards, to watch the motorbikes slide round, and later on saw Spike Rhiando try a hand at car racing.
I still have one programme from a meeting I went to in 1933, and I remember the Conan Doyle brothers charging down the back straight in their Mercedes, its blower screaming from halfway along. I have one picture of them overtaking the Allandale Austin 7 Special coming out of a bend, but they are driving in an anti-clockwise direction, just as the ‘bikes used to.
They were happy times. Nowadays, the eyes may be dim, but such memories are still bright.
VH Taylor, Ealing.
The claim game
To revive sports car racing, I propose an adaptation of the ‘claiming rule’, used by the American Motorcycle Association, for cars that can be purchased and licensed for street use in Europe, North America and Japan.
The claiming rule states that any car which finishes in the top three could be purchased by anyone at the track at the end of the event for the manufacturer’s list price plus a fixed amount for the racing safety equipment. Employing this method, racers would not be tempted to make a ‘special’ that would vanquish all at any cost. Classes could be split into list price ranges. At the top, Bugattis could be pitched against XJ220s, and F40s against seven-litre Aston Martins. Classes could run all the way down to RX-7s and Morgans.
As suggested in a recent Motor Sport, it would be the responsibility of the faster cars not to hit their slower adversaries. The race watchers could relate to the cars, and perhaps participate in the sales at the end of the event. Real racing with real cars might result in ‘Gee dad, when we borrowed your new sports car we didn’t know we’d do well enough to be required to sell it.’
Wilson Walthall, Austin, Texas, USA.
The Jim Clark Room
As readers may know, The Jim Clark Room in Duns, Berwickshire, which opened in 1969 to house the majority of the world champion’s trophy and award collection, is being totally refurbished to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death. It looks set to be the focus of many enthusiasts’ pilgrimage in 1993. Since space is restricted, I should be grateful to hear from any readers who may be considering a group visit.
The Jim Clark Room will be open from April 2 to late October. Normal visiting hours are 10.00-13.00 and 14.00-17.00, Monday-Saturday, and 14.00-17.00 on Sundays. Group visits outside these hours may be available, if necessary. There will be a modest admission charge with concessions.
I would also like to hear from any potential visitor(s) who would be interested in displaying their vintage/classic vehicle(s) outside the room for limited periods.
Berwickshire District Council,
8 Newtown Street,
Tel: 0361 82600 x 53
Fax: 0361 83711
Brain out of gear
I just had to write after seeing and hearing Nigel Mansell in an interview with Top Gear on Thursday December 10.
After he had, in his usual ‘modest’ way, said he had achieved everything in F1 this year, he looked forward to the new challenge of Indycar racing and, at Indianapolis, he hoped, in his words, “to make history as the first driver from this country to win there”.
Perhaps nobody ever told him that, back in 1965, a chap named Jim Clark won the Indy 500 at a record speed of 150.686mph, driving a Lotus 38 with 4.2-litre Ford power. The following year, the same event was won by Graham Hill with Clark second. Jackie Stewart actually led the race to lap 191, and was credited with third place despite his ‘retirement’.
These three were regular F1 drivers along with others who tackled the Indy 500 as though it were just another race. Additionally, Clark, Hill and Stewart all collected World Championship titles.
All the same, it’s nice that we have a British champion again. Perhaps it will be the start of a trend.
Graham D Barnes, Sale, Cheshire.
When, in the foremost discipline of motorsport, one envisages measures such as imposing extra weight on cars which prove too good for the opposition, or slowing them down by introducing pace cars at the right moment, surely something is going wrong? Grand Prix racing is the show window for technical development or at least it should be and if technical progress is penalised, racing at such a level is senseless.
One of the reasons put forward by Honda president Nohibuko Kawamoto for his company’s retirement from Formula One is that the development targets of the current formula have nothing in common with current major priorities of large scale manufacturers. With this I entirely agree.
In 1988, the last year of the 1500cc turbocharged engines, the fuel allowance was limited to 150 litres for the standard distance, of just over 300 km. With this allowance, over 850 bhp was obtained from the engines in racing configuration. Today, with the 3.5-litre naturally aspirated engines developing 750-800bhp and no fuel limitation, no car takes the start with less than 200 litres in most cases at least 220 on board.
The current cars are a caricature of the technical regulations which allow single seater cars which only jockey sized people can drive.
In spite of restrictions on the width and height of the car and its ancillaries, all designed to reduce cornering speeds, the current F1 machines generate such downforce that, in fast bends, they reach transverse accelerations up to nearly 5g which are hard to bear by the driver and are in no way related to the g-forces practicable on normal roads.
Such downforce as is required to reach the current phenomenal cornering speeds is only obtained at the cost of higher drag, hence an increase in fuel consumption and a reduction of maximum speed. This is a partial result of the fact that long straights are almost unknown at current Grand Prix circuits, and is in complete opposition to the low fuel consumption, and hence low drag, priorities of road car manufacturers.
At around 200 mph, the downforce can be as high as two tonnes, but this is dependent on the car’s ground clearance, which must remain virtually unchanged under any circumstances. This has led to suspension with virtually zero travel, or to very sophisticated, horrendously expensive active suspension systems which only the wealthiest teams can afford to develop.
Recent tests have indicated that the new restrictions implemented for 1993 (overall width reduced to two metres, tyre width reduced to 15 inches, lowered aerofoils etc) have virtually no effect on the cars’ performance. Surely, the time has come for a completely new approach?
FISA has recently decided to kill Formula 3000 by 1994. If there was ever one, this is surely an occasion to replace F3000 with a completely new formula which, at a later date, could become the new F1. In view of the investment made by the various teams, the existing F1 must run for at least two more seasons.
If I may make a suggestion, here are some guide lines to a formula which could be as spectacular as the current F1 and would produce more realistic and less expensive cars. I insist that these are only guidelines which make no mention of safety measures which, basically, should retain the current principles.
Car shape to be entirely free, but with minimum cockpit dimensions. Maximum overall dimensions, including any aerodynamic devices: length 4.40m, width 1.75m, height (except for roll hoop) 0.80m. For the sake of tradition, it could be specified that the wheels remain uncovered, for example by specifying that they must be visible in a plan view.
In order to avoid an enormous increase in maximum speed due to the much lower drag of the narrower and aerodynamically more efficient cars, engines should not develop more than around 400bhp. The most interesting way to achieve this, while leaving the engine specification free, is to limit the fuel consumption (probably to 90-100 litres of 98 octane fuel for the standard Grand Prix distance).
There is little doubt that every manufacturer would choose to use a full width body, not only for aerodynamic reasons, but also to house the necessary ancillaries. This would provide additional safety by avoiding the danger of wheels interlocking, as sometimes happens when overtaking. Narrower cars and much less downforce (resulting in longer braking distances) would also make overtaking less problematic.
The much reduced track would, in itself, limit cornering speeds, but its greatest contribution in that sense would come from the fact that the flow of air under the car would diminish and the wheels would interfere with any channels likely to produce downforce by ground effect. And with the drastic reduction in downforce, suspension would hopefully come into its own again.
With length, width and height their only limitations, designers would be much freer to display their talent and imagination and we might get a larger variety of shapes and more innovation. With an overall breadth of 175cm, even tyre widths would be self-limiting.
I won’t say how long I have been taking Motor Sport, but I enjoy it as much as ever. Keep up the good work.
Paul Frere, Vence, France.
I trust that you are currently scraping MLC off the Armco after his recent article of 40 years of sports car racing.
On the whole, it was a nicely balanced piece, but he must have been smoking something funny when he came to write about Chaparral. When did the 2D ever have a high wing when it won at the Nurburgring in 1966? And in 1967 the 2Ds and the 2Fs used seven-litre Chevrolets, not the 5.4-litre units he mentions. Perhaps MLC should have digested Richard Falconer’s excellent history of the marque.
Ed Gein, Plainfield, Wisconsin, USA.
I have been appointed as The TVR Car Club’s first archivist, so this is a begging letter for help.
If you have any items, such as magazines, car brochures, photographs and race programmes which you think would help to start the archives, all would be gratefully received.
I have a small budget so I can refund the cost of postage. If you have anything that is of particular value to you, sentimental or otherwise, I would be most obliged if I could borrow it to enable a copy to be taken for our records and the original returned to you.
Paul B Shrimpton,
5 Central Avenue,
Dorset BH2I 3JD.