Letters from readers

It’s official

Sir,

Recently I have been very fortunate to be able to read some of your excellent magazines, and was very interested in your poll on great racing cars of bygone years.

As a Gulf racing mechanic from 1967-75, I was one of five mechanics entrusted to look after the Porsche 917 cars we had in our care. My driver for two years (1970-71) was Pedro Rodriguez, along with co-drivers Leo Kinnunen and Jackie Oliver. After 27 years, the great drives in these cars, by Pedro, Jo Siffert, Derek Bell, etc, are still firm in the memory. We, the mechanics, were just amazed at what they could do with these machines.

For us, one of the perks of all the long hours was being entrusted to drive the race cars between Le Mans circuit and our work HQ at Le Chartre Sur Le Loire 30 odd kilometres away. I can remember driving the 1971 Langheck No18 all with 600-odd bhp in the back on that route, and enjoying every minute. Not bad I suppose for some one whose normal transport to work, in Slough, was a Morris Minor Traveller!

So yes, I agree with the experts. The 917 was a truly great sportscar, even better than the Ford GT40, which was also special.

I am, yours, etc

Alan Hearn, High Wycombe, Bucks

Points of order

Sir,

I would like to comment on Nigel Roebuck's article entitled F1 – The Same Old Story in your December 1997 issue, with particular regard to the statement that "it has always been slightly farcical that Mike Hawthorn with one GP victory, took the world championship title in 1958 from Stirling Moss who had four victories."

In 1958 Mike was rewarded on a points scoring system in use at the time and he scored in eight out of a total of 10 GPs, proving both his, and the car's reliability, and outstanding consistent performances. Stirling, on the other hand, scored in only six out of the 10 GPs, proving his own ‘sh** or bust' policy at the time.

The World Championship was then awarded on only the best six out of the 10 GPs, and this is how Stirling lost by one point. Had all the GPs counted, as today, then Mike would have won the championship by a total of 8 points, surely not as farcical as you suggest.

Incidentally, your own magazine stated in November 1958 that so confident were you of Mike becoming World Champion that you put the colour blocks in hand for the front cover tribute in the September prior to the Monaco GP.

It's good to see Motor Sport back in its present form and I for one will be buying it in the future, after an absence of some years.

I am, yours, etc

GW Richardson, Broom, Beds

Sauber query

Sir,

I have just purchased the Sauber/Porsche Group C car from 1983, chassis number 3. At present it is still in Walter Wolf racing colours. I know the car failed to qualify for Le Mans in 1983 with Hans Stuck.

I would like to know if any reader has any photos, information or perhaps even a model of the car. At the moment the engine (935) is being rebuilt, and the car will be seen in 1998.

I am, yours, etc

Neil Higgins, Chertsey, Surrey

Watch this space…

Sir,

What a joy to read Niki Lauda's reflections on his rivalry – and friendship – with James Hunt in your last issue.

My first recollections of Grand Prix racing are of a McLaren with tyres the size of semi-detached houses battling it out with the scarlet Ferrari, and Niki's words – and your wonderful archive of pictures – allowed me to wallow in some genuine 1970s nostalgia. Hunt will always remain my absolute Grand Prix hero; he may not have been the very best we have seen, but he was certainly the most charismatic.

Following on from your excellent Jackie Stewart on Jim Clark article, you have done another sterling job. More of the same, please...

I am, yours, etc

David Lang, Santa Monica, California

(‘More of the same' is in the pipeline – ed)

Degrees of proof

Sir,

I have read several reports of ThrustSSC's success in breaking the world land-speed record, culminating in Richard Noble's own account in the December issue of Motor Sport. Considering the high degree of accuracy attending the measurement of the standard mile and of the time taken for ThrustSSC to cover it, there should be little doubt that the official record now stands at 763mph, or thereabouts, but I cannot accept that the average of the two quoted runs (759.333mph and 766.609mph) is 763.035mph; it is in fact 762.971mph.

However, my main concern is with Mach number, since the claim has been made that ThrustSSC has exceeded the speed of sound. Since the Mach numbers quoted are so close to a value of one, the accuracy of this calculation is of some importance. The speed of sound in air increases as the square root of the ambient temperature, and is 761.24mph at 15 deg C, but there seems to have been a reluctance to release the single piece of data (ie the temperature) which would enable anyone outside Noble's team, and who wished to calculate the Mach number independently, to do so. The appearance and sound of shock waves cannot alone be taken as confirmation of supersonic travel, since shock waves first form on a body before it reaches the speed of sound, due to local accelerations in the airflow around the body.

Therefore, would someone please answer the question: what was the ambient temperature at the time the record-breaking runs were made?

I am, yours, etc

John Grimson, Kirk Michael, Isle of Man

You cant be serious

Sir,

Motor Sport is all about motorsport and I welcome the return of Formula One to its pages.

What I will not sanction is the descent into xenophobia and cant that were so close to the surface in your December issue. Inflammatory prose of the type seen in scrubby tabloids, and your sister publications (which I no longer read) is to be decried.

Nigel Roebuck is being disingenuous. Fangio, Moss, Clark and Reutemann are held up as being unwilling to hit "well south of the belt". And so they were. Conversely they were also never addled enough to claim priority in any corner after having arrived at it behind their principal competitor, to then attempt to bulldoze their way through and when it ends in tears, blame the guy in front.

And while we're on the subject of over-robust driving tactics, why is the propensity of Hill and Villeneuve to deliberately go for the groin at the start of a GP never castigated as it should be, particularly when the driver subjected to this roughhousing is Schumacher? Roebuck should bear in mind that the reason that start line pile-ups did not result was the self-same superlative skill and, more importantly anticipation, of Schumacher. Bear in mind start-line prangs are far more dangerous, particularly for the tail-enders and un-involved fellow competitors, and are also more expensive than any track incident thereafter.

In my view 'the Greats' would have picked their moments to overtake with much greater skill and far less arrogance. Villeneuve, and particularly Hill, should be paying much more attention to this facet of their driver mental conditioning and less to hamming it up for the delectation of a plethora of sensationalist media gurus, when their own lack of foresight and humility was the key factor.

I am, yours, etc

GL Cooper, Frimley, Guildford

Zolder and wiser

Sir,

On page 36 of your December issue you published a picture of Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari. You mentioned that he was driving at Zolder, but that is not correct. The picture was indeed taken in 1978, four years before his death, not at Zolder, but while Gilles is climbing the Hunzenig at Zandvoort. He finished sixth in that race.

I am, yours, etc

Ernst Heldring, Hilversum, The Netherlands

British racing screen

Sir,

Those of us who remember Formula One motor racing in the 1950s and 1960s loved seeing the cars in their national racing colours British Racing Green, red for Italy, blue for France, yellow for Belgium, etc.

Well, it could all happen again. Computer technology is now available to make racing circuit billboards blank, then the television companies will superimpose, by computer, appropriate adverts to appropriate transmissions, according to country.

Consequently it will be soon possible to have blank F1 racing cars or national colours and the TV companies superimpose appropriate advertising (probably not cigarettes!)

We look forward with interest.

I am, yours, etc

Paul T Hezzel-Moody, Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos.

Stud-U-don’t-like

Sir,

I write with reference to the article carried in the January issue of Motor Sport where your Mr Davenport related some anecdotes pertaining to the various types of tyre made available to rally drivers and their crews during the 1960s and 1970s.

I have no particular quarrel with the contents of the said article, only its headline which, for those lucky enough to have missed it, was ‘Stud-U-Like'.

A friend, rather younger and, I dare say, more ‘up' with the latest fashions than I, informs me that this is a rather weak pun based upon the name of a shop specialising in the sale of jacketted potatoes. Sadly, neither he nor I was able to deduce what.tjlis had to do with tyres.

Perhaps you could enlighten us, or failing that, stop trying to be more clever than you actually are.

I am, yours, etc

Mark Connaught, Rowington, Warwickshire

McCarthy – which shunt?

Sir,

It never ceases to amaze me just how willing racing drivers are to risk their well-being to further their careers. I refer to Perry McCarthy's description of the Andrea Moda Grand Prix car as the worst machine he has ever driven.

It must have been abundantly clear from the start that the team had no chance of success in modem Formula One, yet McCarthy and his teammate readily jumped into something that was at best malfunctioning and at worst lethal.

I have always admired Mr McCarthy's jovial nature and attitude to motorsport, but think that he was one stair short of the attic to tackle Eau Rouge in that thing. I'm glad he is still around to tell such an amusing tale!

I am, yours, etc

John Hickie, Angmering-on-Sea, West Sussex

Credibility barrier

Sir,

I would not, for a moment, seek to underestimate the achievement of Stan Barrett who claimed last month to have driven a car through the Sound Barrier some 18 years before Richard Noble's ThrustSSC car. Anyone who can strap themselves into a rocket with a sidewinder missile attached and light the fuse has done all and more than I reckon it takes to qualify as a truly remarkable man.

However, even if what Barrett claims is true, and I have heard that some authorities doubt the accuracy of his claim, I cannot see how it stands comparison with the efforts of Messrs Green and Noble. To design a device that will, however fleetingly, pierce the Sound Barrier is one thing; to design one that will maintain a supersonic speed for a mile and then be able to turn around and repeat the feat within the hour is something else altogether.

It can be argued that to break the Sound Barrier requires little more than a great deal of horsepower and a driver unsaddled from the burden of imagination. To do what the Thrust team achieved requires planning and engineering excellence of art entirely different order.

I am, yours, etc

Giles Newton, Llanshen, Monmouthshire

Picture plaudits

Sir,

Congratulations on your collection of photographs from the famed Klemantaski Collection. I think the shot of Abecassis sliding his way up Prescott is one of the most remarkable I have ever seen.

I was lucky enough to see Klemantaski in Brescia at the start of the 1996 Mille Miglia retrospective, sitting in the same passenger seat of the same Ferrari 335S that he occupied while codriving with Peter Collins on that last fateful Mille Miglia back in 1957. The images he collected that day are some of the most emotive ever captured.

I wonder whether you could tell me how and where Louis Klemantaski is today.

I am, yours, etc

Martin Hunt, Clapham, London

(Louis remains on fine form and lives in Bath – ed)

Walker’s crip

Sir,

I was fascinated to read your interview with Murray Walker. I wouldn't have him any other way as a TV voice his infectious enthusiasm makes a race – but it was interesting to see that there is a hard edge to some of his opinion. Perhaps we could hear some more of this in 1998?

I am, yours, etc

Jeremy Fisher, Brighton, East Sussex