Letters, February 2011



DSJ was a team player
I do not wish to add fuel to the great team order debate, but I was reading through some back issues of Motor Sport — as I often do — when I came across the following passage by Jenks from the German Grand Prix of 1978 held at, of all places, the Hockenheimring:
“Peterson led the race for four laps, until he and Andretti were well clear of the rest of the runners, and then moved over and let Andretti by into the lead in accordance with team orders. How nice to see a team working as a team, instead of the usual selfish individual outlook.” So I think we know where DSJ would stand on this issue. Incidentally, DSJ ends his report with the words:
“So that was the ‘Kleiner Preis von Deutschland’, and if that was the ‘Max and Bernie Show’ I think Twill stick to motor racing.”
I wonder what that was like!
Bryan Calder Vancouver BC, Canada.

This charming man

Reading about Stirling Moss and the Ferguson 4WD car (November issue) reminded me of a minor anecdote which he has no doubt long forgotten. Back in the day, my local track was at Upper Marlboro, Maryland — alas long gone. It was used mainly for Sports Car Club of America amateur racing. Usually there was a meeting the week before the US Grand Prix, which in those days was held at Watkins Glen.
In 1965 (or it may have been ’66) Stirling had come over early to attend the US GP. Perhaps he was bored and asked around for something to do, and someone pointed out there was SCCA racing in Maryland, within reach. When it was announced that Moss was visiting, everyone cheered. The track announcer seized the opportunity to interview Moss over the PA system. I don’t recall everything they said, but the last question was: what did Moss think of the Marlboro circuit?
There was a moment’s awkward silence. Here was one of the greatest racers of all time, who had driven the epic courses (Silverstone and Spa, Monaco and Monza), trying to think of something nice to say about this little localtalent facility. His wit was up to the occasion. “It’s the sort of course,” Moss said brightly, “that one would like to have in one’s backyard.” Everyone cheered again.
David M Shea, Ellicot City, Maryland, USA

Lost in translation

Congratulations to Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel on securing both Formula 1 World Championships. Earlier in the year the FIA fined Ferrari a hefty sum for using the team radio to effectively order one of their drivers to move over for his team-mate. Had pitboards still been in use they could have used this to convey the same message by a previously agreed secret signal that only the team manager and driver understood. Rather as Prince Chula used to give instructions to his driver Prince Bira in Siamese!
Brian Joscelyne, Braintree, Essex

Maidenhead: racing mecca too!

I read Iain Gordon’s letter about motor sport connections in Slough with interest (December issue). I was obviously aware of these happenings having been interested in motor sport since my early teens, and during the 1960s and ’70s being involved in marshalling and helping friends race. Having lived in Maidenhead for the last 45 years I know that this area can also boast at one time or another connections to Keke Rosberg, John Watson (I believe), Alan Rees, Mike Spence, Pentti Airikkala, Howden Ganley, Tim Schenken, Dave Brodie and David Good. In addition locally there were Ron HarrisiTeam Lotus and MRE, there was a Lotus garage under the name of Mike Spence, and we still have Hewland. I’m sure there are others but this is just from memory.
Thanks for a fantastic magazine. I still see my old friend Richard Piper mentioned occasionally.
Adrian Penny, Maidenhead, Berks

Part of the action

My first race was the 1968 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and I made it an annual pilgrimage for quite a few years. Not only could I buy a ticket on a teenager’s pay, but access to the heart of the action was startling by today’s standards.
The Kendall Tech Center was a large building used by the teams and anyone could go in and see them at work, separated only by a chain-link fence. I stood inches from Denny Hulme as he chatted with a mechanic and watched Jacky Ickx set the mirrors on his Iso-Marlboro. I was in the paddock when a car pulled up, Graham Hill stepped out, got his golf clubs from the back seat and walked through the crowd.
My most vivid memory is from 1973. It was during Saturday morning qualifying when I went back to my tent a few hundred yards from the Esses to get more film. As I emerged a sound like a cannon blast echoed across the infield. I could hear cars on the track, but the noise dwindled and stopped. I ran to the rail. Pieces of Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell were scattered down the track. I can still see the white ‘ELF’ on the cockpit cowling lying on the grass in front of me. Next day in the paddock a large American sedan drove through the crowd. I recognised Ken Tyrrell at the wheel, Jackie Stewart in the passenger seat, and I believe his wife Helen behind. I could see the weight on their faces.
It’s not nostalgia on my part, I enjoy watching on TV now. The commentators and technology give a much larger picture of what’s happening. But it was different back then, and perhaps more compelling without the insulation. I was lucky to fall in love with the sport at a time when I could share the air with extraordinarily courageous sportsmen, and I’m most appreciative that you include stories from that era in Motor Sport. Robert Beck, New Hope, Pennsylvania, USA

Spoiler alert!

It is interesting that the Lola Design Office is consulted on your Tech Talk about fins in sports cars (October issue), because Lola designed the first spoiler. The article had the right location, St Jovite, but the wrong date. The first spoiler was developed on September 9, 1966, in Friday practice for the Players Quebec, one of the first Can-Am races. Three cars became airborne off the hump, including Paul Hawkins’ Lola T70, which landed upside down on the track and slid for several hundred yards. Hawkins realised the asphalt was wearing a hole in the back of his helmet, so he slowly turned his head to avoid a hole in it too!
That night John Surtees’ mechanics fabricated a chin spoiler out of aluminium sheet for his T70. It was a success — Surtees won the race ahead of Amon and McLaren.
David Paterson, Secretary of the Meet, Players Quebec

Winning smile

In Rob Widdows’ tribute to Bruce McLaren (Dispatches, December issue) he mentions his famous smile. I saw this smile first-hand after practice for the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in (I recall) 1967.
Bruce had made fastest time and I waited by his spot in the paddock. The car appeared at the top off the pitlane and Bruce, crash hat in lap, steered the car down, stopping in front of me.
“Well done, Bruce,” I said. He looked up. “Thanks,” he replied, and looked back down into the cockpit for two or three seconds. He then looked up again with a big smile on his face and said, “Thanks very much.”
I spoke with three other drivers that day — Graham Hill, Mike Spence and Brian Redman. They all smiled, but none like Bruce.
Jim Woo/ford, Leigh on Sea, Essex

A lesson from NASCAR

There’s only one reason why US racing fans are today uninterested in F1 The FIA allowed the US GP to become a vagabond event after Watkins Glen was abandoned, because American fans (read NASCAR) are spoiled by seeing exciting racing at their tracks, including the Glen. They won’t stand for follow-the-leader parades (read F1) and that goes double for IndyCar.
How did they do it? Basic NASCAR rule one: downforce is banned. After a brief trial, they got rid of rear wings on the Car Of Tomorrow and went back to the old-fashioned rear spoiler, mainly for stability. No diffusers underneath and no turbulence behind. This allows close drafting, slip-streaming and multiple lead changes — on most laps! In F1 and IndyCar today the ‘racing’ is over when qualifying — arguably more exciting than the race — is finished.
Eleven years ago the FIA said ‘banning wings and diffusers is neither practical nor aesthetic’. Does anyone doubt that the pre-1968, wing-free F1 cars were the most beautiful in history? The only place wings should be allowed is in vintage racing. The fans would get used to it. Not enough space for advertising? Then charge a higher premium for the space that remains!
To its credit, F1 is heading in the right direction. Like NASCAR it basically enforces spec racing among manufacturers and engine suppliers, has finally gone back to using slick tyres for more mechanical grip, has banned refuelling and reduced the size of the rear wing — although making the front larger and retaining rear diffusers. Result — the most competitive championship in recent memory.
I’m a casual observer of NASCAR, but it’s no wonder it is so successful with all those races every season, a long line of entrants, tracks and sponsors anxious to get in, packed stands at every venue, huge TV ratings and merchandising — it’s in demand. Wouldn’t we all like to see that kind of success for our favourite form of motor sport? F1 shouldn’t wait too long. The NASCAR World Championship — it could happen!
Fred Van Orden, Canandaigua, New York, USA

Lunch With… Nick Mason

I was in my late teens/early twenties in the ’70s and my twin passions — ignoring the obvious — were motor sport and music. Pink Floyd was my band. So your article on Nick Mason in the December issue brought back fond memories.
I had my third trip to Le Mans in 1982. We used to travel down on the Friday, set up the tent and then head to Les Hunaudieres restaurant on the Mulsanne Straight. It was chaotic as they tried to serve more people in one night than they usually saw in a month, but the atmosphere more than made up for this. There were usually several drivers eating there. One year a straw bale came flying through a window. Moments later, the window framed the grinning face of Chris Craft.
In ’82 Nick Mason was dining with his family at a nearby table. I became aware that a young girl in the party was nudging Nick and pointing at me. I then remembered I was wearing my ‘Pink Floyd — The Wall’ T-shirt. I should at least have said hello, told him how much his music meant to me and wished him well for the race, but being British and possibly a little star-struck I just smiled and got on with my meal.
Stephen Campbell, Gravesend, Kent

Against the school rules…

Bill Boddy’s piece on Lord Brabazon of Tara (December issue) brought back clear boyhood memories of seeing the Bristol Brabazon in the skies over Northampton.
It also reminded me of Lord Brabazon’s appearance as guest speaker at the Northampton Grammar School for Boys’ annual Prize Giving and Speech Day in the late 1950s or early ’60s. A long-running feud had developed between the then headmaster, Mr Nettleton, and boys who dared to attend school riding “noisy, dirty, smelly” motorcycles. Early on in his excellent speech, while glancing at Mr Nettleton, Lord Brabazon emphatically stated that “motorcyclists were the salt of the earth”. The assembled students erupted in cheers and applause, much to the annoyance of Mr Nettleton. We liked that!
How His Lordship learnt of Mr Nettleton’s abhorrence of motorcycles and all those who rode them remains a mystery, but to 1000 boys and many members of staff it was a joyous day.
John H Baker Wray, Lancashire

Christopher Hilton

In a very sad piece of timing, your Private View ‘You Were There’ special pages last month coincided with the passing of author Christopher Hilton, so it was nice that this connection with one of his last books, Grand Prix Battlegrounds, appeared in the magazine, since it was in Motor Sport that the whole project started.
I was lucky enough to be involved in this project, which started with his letter to Motor Sport asking for photos of any of the Grand Prix tracks used since 1950, ‘but must show an aspect of the circuit that could not have been taken anywhere else’.
Consequently I kept sending him many examples for possible inclusion, and after a while I thought I had better apologise for bombarding him, but his response was ‘Keep bombarding me or I’ll be worried!”
His constant help, encouragement and courtesy were always much in evidence, and he will be sadly missed. My own personal favourite of his work was his epic book on Clay Regazzoni and his achievements after his Long Beach accident, which was fascinating.
I shall be forever grateful to him for giving the opportunity to an amateur to include some hard-earned photos in a book.
Julian Nowell, Walton on Thames, Surrey