The well-written article on Peter Arundell in the December issue is a welcome tribute to a driver whose skills have never previously been appropriately acknowledged.
I met Peter for the first time in 1988 when I had invited him to drive his old European Formula Junior Championship-winning Lotus 22 at a special FJ celebration race at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The best North American Formula Juniors cars and drivers were there, along with a couple of top British drivers. Peter had not driven a racing car since ’66 when, according to Peter, Colin Chapman had sacked him, coldly saying, “Peter, you haven’t got it anymore.”
After the first timed practice, Peter came in complaining that the car was underpowered and that the gearing was all wrong. He told my mechanic what gearing he wanted, and the mechanic took me off to one side and said, “This guy is nuts. I have run cars on this circuit for over 20 years, and the gearing he wants is all wrong.”
Peter then said, “This is just like it was at Lotus. Chapman made me run with whatever set-up Clark wanted. If I could have run with the set-ups I wanted, I would have been faster than Clark.”
I told the mechanic to give Peter the gearing that he wanted.
Peter was fastest in the first of two practices, and then declined to go out in the second session. As a consequence of this, he wound up third on the grid. But by the end of the first lap, he was leading the race. He won easily. I will never forget that, as he sat in the car at the end of the traditional American victory lap, he looked into the sky, shook his fist and said, “I’ve still got it, Colin!”
One wonders how Peter would have done in F1 if Chapman had given him the set-ups he wanted.
I am, yours etc, E Dean Butler, Droitwich