Letters, February 2009

If you can’t say something nice…


Here we go again… We get a sporting hero, something akin to hen’s teeth in these islands, and what do we do? Denigrate them.

The haughty tone of John Fyfe’s letter last month (‘Lewis still has much to prove’, January issue) presupposes that any of us who merely observe Grands Prix every other weekend have a right to make such comments. I was unaware that the name Fyfe (and others who scoff at Lewis) was in the frame for a Formula 1 seat. Still, he obviously thinks he knows what he’s talking about.

I am sure that such a perfectionist as Lewis Hamilton, and come to that Vettel, Kubica et al, would love to have his sage advice on how to improve their performance in the cockpit.

So come on Mr Fyfe, and those others who have so much to say on the subject, get into the driving seat of a McLaren, start the engine and show them how it’s done. Until then, do the only other thing required of someone before driving off – just belt up.

Richard Hodder, Four Elms, Kent

A view from the other side


I hope that John Fyfe’s letter in the January issue suffered from being edited, because it grated like a warped disc. Aren’t such observations best left for the internet, which has the luxury of countless pages for differing views at considerably less cost? Mr Fyfe cited a few races to substantiate his assertion that lucky breaks have given Hamilton an undeserved reputation for his wet-weather prowess, but those examples are easily refuted by looking at the mentioned races from a different angle.

For example, Japan 2007: Fernando Alonso, a double World Champion with considerably more F1 experience and driving the same car as Hamilton ended the race in the Armco. Or Monaco 2008: Mr Fyfe says Hamilton made a mistake brushing the Armco, and gained from pitting early. But Alonso also touched the barriers in that race.

His conclusion that we don’t know how good Hamilton really is because Ferrari dropped the ball several times during 2008 seems mean-spirited and blinkered when Lewis himself turned in less than wholly convincing drives last season, such as in Montréal and Monza.

Mr Fyfe says we’ll never know how good Hamilton really is if we never see how he compares to Senna or Schumacher when given an uncompetitive car. Didn’t Hamilton shine in GP2, a series where all the cars are the same? Perhaps comparing Hamilton with Senna and Schumacher is invalid, but he certainly compares well against Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, both former World Champions and McLaren employees.

Hamilton’s driving has brought an excitement and closeness that serial regulation meddling by the FIA failed to achieve. If the forthcoming 2009 F1 season gives us as much excitement and racing as the previous two, will we really have that much to grumble about?

Alastair Warren, Plymouth, Devon

It all points to sheer madness


Regarding Bernie Ecclestone’s proposal to implement a medals system to decide the F1 World Championship, I have a better idea.

There should be 32 points available to the winner of each race: 10 for actually crossing the line first (like a motor race), up to 6.0 for artistic merit awarded by a panel of judges (like a skating competition), and the remaining 50 per cent decided by public phone-in (like a celebrity dance contest).

Then we could call it ‘F1 Strictly Go Figure’.

Peter Dallimore, Towcester, Northants

Lewis seems all right to me


I have just finished reading ‘Hawthorn to Hamilton’ in the January issue, and I am at a loss as to why you think your readership lacks enthusiasm for Lewis Hamilton and considers him arrogant.

I confess that I do not follow Grand Prix racing so closely these days, as I find the lack of overtaking and contrived pitstops to be against everything the sport stands for. I regret also the lack of opportunity for a privateer doing well on a wing and a prayer as we used to see in the 1960s and ’70s. When I do tune in, however, and Lewis is being interviewed, I am always struck by what a nice guy he seems to be – confident not arrogant, well grounded, but aware of his superb ability, which is just the way it should be. To see him signing autographs for young fans prior to the start of the final GP at Interlagos says it all for me.

When I read in the same article your description of my hero James Hunt as being “modest” then I know you really have lost the plot, along with the folk that run F1.

Simon Haughton, Siddington, Cheshire

I’ll pass on F1’s latest look


Having seen photographs of the 2009-spec Formula 1 cars testing in Spain, I feel it would probably be preferable to continue with the current level of overtaking in Grand Prix racing rather than having to watch 20 (or 18…) horrible-looking single-seaters race every other week. By the way, in spite of the recurrent complaints regarding overtaking in F1, I believe we had the right amount this last season, even if some races were a little boring.

More important than ‘improving’ overtaking is to avoid making it banal, as is the case in the NASCAR and IRL series.

Luis Abbott-Galveo, Key Biscayne, USA

My Elan pal was Eric Oliver


I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed the story on Denis Jenkinson and Eric Oliver (December issue). In the ’60s I raced an Elan, which I drove to work in the week and raced at weekends. Around 1966 at Brands Hatch I was in the pits getting ready for practice when a Lotus 26R Elan parked in the next bay. I chatted to the driver about his wonderful car, saying I hadn’t seen him at meetings before. No, he said, he hadn’t raced a car before, but he used to race motorbikes. I asked if he’d had any success. “Yes,’ he said. “I was World Champion in 1949, ’51 and ’53.” I was talking to Eric Oliver.

I felt a right berk, but he laughed and said I wasn’t to know if I didn’t follow bike racing.

I saw him a few times after that and he asked me and my brother to his house for coffee and to take a look at his trophy room. What a great chap he was.

Phil Stewart, Burghfield Common, Berks

Think bike…


So Formula 1 has got so boring that Michael Schumacher chose to attend the final World Superbike round at Portimau, Portugal rather than travel to Brazil to possibly see a Ferrari World Champion crowned. At least he would have witnessed action-packed racing, with riders passing and re-passing lap after lap rather than the procession that F1 has become.

Top speeds are comparable, but all you see of F1 drivers is their helmet cocooned in their safety cell while you can see the bike riders working hard at their racing with all the danger it entails. Valentino Rossi, MotoGP World Champion and Troy Bayliss, World Superbike Champion are real and approachable, unlike the corporate figures of F1.

I started reading Motor Sport along with Motorcycle Sport in the late 1950s and appreciate the excellent quality of your magazine. I look forward to it coming through the letter box every month.

Michael Hewison, Whitstable, Kent

My home town


Andrew Frankel is puzzled by the name of the new Lotus Evora (October issue). Thousands of tourists are able to link Evora to southern Portugal. An ancient town, Liberalitas Julia of the Roman Empire, Evora (above) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I am a proud professor of its 16th-century university.

I do hope Mr Frankel may find some time to visit us – I will be glad to lend him my pristine Alfa Romeo 1300 GT Junior for sightseeing.

Thank you Lotus.

Dr José Oliveira Peça, Evora, Portugal

My home track


I was thrilled to receive your 1000th issue.

The articles on DSJ were brilliant and brought back many memories. I still carry round with me the famous Mille Miglia race report of DSJ and Moss – probably the best motor racing article ever!

Turning away from DSJ, you mention the Abu Dhabi race circuit. Have you seen the Algarve circuit which featured the final race of the World Superbike championship in November? It is a fantastic circuit for both rider/driver and spectator. Maybe one day it will be used for a Formula 1 race. It is already being used for F1 testing.

Lance Wilson, Vilamoura, Portugal

When Elly met Jimmy


It was a great pleasure to read Nigel Roebuck’s reminiscences of DSJ (December issue). It is sad and also in a way characteristic of Jenks that all his six racing heroes ended their careers in severe crashes.

I’ve just finished reading the autobiography of Rosemeyer’s wife, the well-known woman pilot Elly Beinhorn, who died in November 2007 at the age of 100. The book is titled Alleinflug (Solo Flight) and was edited in Munich in ’07. Funny to read that in April 1966 an indirect meeting of two of Jenks’ heroes took place at Barcelona airport: Beinhorn on her flight to the finca of Willy Messerschmitt at Malaga met Jimmy Clark with his Piper Twin Comanche and they talked about – Bernd Rosemeyer.

Another interesting part in that book describes Beinhorn’s immense amazement when she realised how superior Rosemeyer’s eyesight was compared to her own – and, being a pilot, hers was above average! Rosemeyer drove his wife through the Sauerland mountains in thick fog at a speed which made her nervous, because she just was able to see the next tree. To her great astonishment (and relief!) she found out that Rosemeyer could see the next three trees.

Henning Hobein, Plettenberg, Germany

Salvadori’s petrol ration


I have just finished reading Roy Salvadori’s superb autobiography, and it reminded me that one afternoon around 1970 I drove over to Thomson & Taylors in Cobham, which was at that time an Alfa Romeo agency. Being interested in a 1750 coupé I went out for a test drive with a salesman. About 20 minutes down the A3 the car ran out of petrol and the embarrassed salesman had to ring the garage for assistance, whereupon the proprietor arrived with a can of petrol. It was Roy Salvadori.

We had quite a long chat about Alfa Romeos and cars in general, and I thought he was a very likeable and down-to-earth gentleman. Until I read his book I hadn’t realised what an extraordinarily long and successful career he had, and I think he probably would have been a World Championship contender if he had stayed with the Cooper F1 team in 1959/60 instead of joining Aston Martin.

Reading his book makes you realise how much of the sportsmanship has been lost in modern-day motor sport under the Mosley/Ecclestone money-orientated regime.

Gordon Lang, Sharnbrook, Bedford

My chat with Phil Hill


After reading Nigel Roebuck’s remembrance of Phil Hill in your November issue, I was reminded of the day I was fortunate enough to meet Phil.

We were at the Portland Historics vintage race weekend at the Portland International Raceway on a beautiful sunny afternoon in July a few years back. Phil was there as the special guest that weekend. We were standing in the pits both staring at the very same Ferrari Testa Rossa he drove to victory in the LA Times Grand Prix some years before.

He was cordial and friendly, and we went on for some time about what a beautiful car and day it was.

I will always cherish that brief moment, especially now.

Gary Wheeler, Portland, Oregon, USA

Why was JPM not a cover boy?


I loved the 1000th issue, but I have one comment to make. No, make that a complaint. How does Andrea de Cesaris make the front cover when Juan Pablo Montoya (F3000 Champion, Champ Car Champion, Indy 500 winner, seven-time Grand Prix winner, Daytona 24 Hours winner and NASCAR winner) does not feature?

I’m sure if Jenks had still been with us, JPM would have taken a prominent position among your 140 cover stars.

Andrew Hodgson, Bury, Lancs