Readers' letters, February 2015, February 2015

Investing in the future

Bernie Ecclestone says he is not interested in chasing the youth market as young people cannot afford Rolex watches or “the products on sale here”.

I became interested in motor racing as a child because of the exploits of Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, Ken Tyrrell and Colin Chapman, and not because I wanted a ridiculously expensive watch or to smoke myself into an early grave.

If young people do not watch F1, then TV audiences will fall, companies will bid less for the broadcasting rights and sponsors will look to invest in other sports. Without their income the major manufacturers will quit, and who will then be left?

There is no doubt that F1 has benefited from Mr Ecclestone’s stewardship. It is also clear he has made a large amount of money from it. Is it not now time for him to hand the reins to someone who is interested in the future of the sport?

Michael Cartwright, Waterloo, Liverpool

PS: Although in my mid-50s I still can’t afford a Rolex. Perhaps Bernie could send me one as a 70th birthday present?

Winners take it all

With Lewis Hamilton being declared motor racing champion for 2014, we are fortunate that the prize went to a driver who not only scored more points than any other but also won more races – 11 to Nico Rosberg’s five. Had Rosberg gained enough points at Abu Dhabi to be declared world champion, we would have had yet another year (one of 15) when a driver became champion after winning fewer races than a rival.

It seems logical that the F1 world champion should be the driver who wins most races, with places used to decide the title if there is an equal number of wins. This approach rewards those who race to win and not those who race for points. That would have been the only way Gilles Villeneuve would have been champion. Could anyone imagine Gilles racing for points?

MJ Crawford, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos

Out of the shadows

I was pleased to see John Horsman get his due in the December issue, for his many contributions to JW Automotive and motor racing in general. John went about his business with no fanfare, expecting little recognition but always delivering the goods.

I met John at the Ford GT40 Reunion at Watkins Glen in September 1989 and our friendship continues today. He was managing Bib Stilwell’s team Ford GT40 P1061 in the GT40 exhibition race. As you can see in the photo (left), John hadn’t lost a step and was still on top of every item and detail. Naturally, Stilwell won the race, beating some guy named Stirling Moss in a Mark IV!

John has long lived in the shadow of John Wyer, but belongs front and centre in any discussion of JW Automotive.

Jeff Allison, Ken-Caryl Valley, Colorado, USA

Gooda on the Gooda

I really enjoyed Richard Heseltine’s entertaining article on the Gooda Special, especially as I am the son of its creator Robert Gooda. It was never intended primarily as a racer, but had the dual intention of both competition and a quality appearance. Yes, well…

Dad was a complete nutter over everything automotive. This centred eventually on the Bentley Drivers Club, but an engineering background and an unceasing wish to tinker with technology all led to the car in question – though his immense sense of fun had a lot to do with it.

He loved to tour in 1950s European Rallies in his series of Rolls-Bentleys, sometimes winning the concours d’élégance, later entering for similar honours in the BDC and competing trackside regularly through the 1960s. He then contributed a piece of land to Chislehurst MC for autocross and the car regularly appeared there. It didn’t handle too badly, for those days.

In 1965 he decided to put together a competitive, high-finish, multi-purpose Bentley for both track and concours. He wanted an improved power-to-weight ratio, a few handling mods and a design that would be controversial.

I can’t now recall all details across 47 years, other than the seatbelt’s primary function being to help avoid sliding off the seat, but I do remember Dad and friend Brian Dumps behaving excitedly like a pair of kids when picking up the unpainted car.

It came back to Sevenoaks where my siblings and I were made to assist with fitting it out, which included using much Evo-Stik. Seeing the car now with red seats and carpets means some poor person must have had somehow to strip out the buff carpets and headlining and the grey seating.

In mid-1966 the finished car was re-registered as in the photos – which was a bit irritating as that number had been my birthday present. The car was entered for the BDC Concours at Kensington Gardens in 1967, when the love-hate rumblings began in earnest. The following weekend it was sideways at our autocross.

After Dad and Brian let the car go I lost track of it until I found it at a BDC gathering, surrounded. Its owner then was a charming French lawyer who was having much fun touring with it before it was sold to the States.

The family is delighted to find this oddball car is still going – a tribute to a man of humour and independent vision. I don’t think he would entirely approve of the mock-racing livery, a bit too tongue-in-cheek for an intended concours competitor. He would be both amazed and amused, and perhaps a little proud, to know it still exists, still divides opinion and is still properly used.

Robert Gooda, Ochtrup, Germany

Multi-tasking Sarrazin

So many times in the pages of Motor Sport we read of the “good old days” when drivers could race in F1 one week, F2 the next and then jump in a touring car for good measure.

Well, just recently Stéphane Sarrazin won the Corsica Rally, a round of the European Rally Championship, and six days later shared victory in the Bahrain round of the WEC with Toyota. A shame that it went largely unnoticed.

At least Sébastien Loeb and Kimi Räikkönen can appreciate this.

Pierre Genon, Harbury, Warwickshire

Austin powers

Paul Watson’s letter about Jonathan Williams was a real memory jerk for me. I still run the family garage business in Harrow that looked after the road cars and transporters for those reprobates who lived in Pinner Road, Harrow, part-time home for so many young racers in those days. Apart from those mentioned, Jochen Rindt, Innes Ireland and many others also frequented the place.

I competed in the Molyslip saloon car series in 1962 with Frank Williams and Jonathan, all in our Austin A40s, all about 20 years old. At Cadwell Jonathan’s clutch failed in qualifying so, being the only one with sufficient mechanical knowledge, I offered to lead the effort to replace it, with Frank assisting. I think Frank was on pole, Jonathan second. I was on the second row, if I remember. In the race Frank led off into the lead but spun into the mountain on lap one. Jonathan went on to win and I was second. What fun and camaraderie existed in those days. I’m not sure Ron Dennis would be putting spanners on a Williams today…

Roger Bunting, Harrow


I am sure I’m not the first to mention this, but the image on page 104 of the December issue is wrongly captioned. As a former McLaren employee I can confirm that the person on the right is not Mike Hailwood but our chief mechanic of the time, Phil Sharp.

Bob McMurray, Auckland, New Zealand

A very British Mercedes

Not only should we celebrate Lewis Hamilton’s great season, and his well-deserved F1 title, but we should also acknowledge the British team that helped him to victory and won the championship for constructors.

Yes, the car may have a German badge, but it is designed, built and maintained by a British team of engineers. Furthermore, its engine is designed and built by a British company, albeit one now owned by Mercedes.

Jeremy du Plessis, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

He was there

In the 1950s I was at Beaumont College, a now-defunct public school. One of my best friends, Tony Parish, a fanatical Ferrari fan, was desperate to go to the 1958 British GP and made up a story that he had to go to a memorial service.

He came a bit unstuck when next day a photograph appeared in the Daily Mail, showing Tony between Ferrari drivers Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. That’s how close you could get to the drivers then. Tony got off lightly as the school authorities saw the funny side. Tony is still a Ferrari fanatic and lives in Milan. Thanks for a great magazine, which I have read for 60 years.

Guy Bailey, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Degree of support

Why is it that in the United Kingdom, the home and capital of motor sport, Formula Student teams are so vastly under-funded compared to their continental counterparts?

I came to the UK last year from San Francisco to pursue a degree in motor sports engineering at Oxford Brookes. The university has a proud tradition of competing in Formula Student and this past year reclaimed the top spot for a UK team, but still we are often thwarted by our German, Austrian and Swiss counterparts and their vast resources.

Shouldn’t the industry here see this as a fertile breeding ground for budding engineers? If it were a lack of drive, talent, or hard work that prevented us from winning overall, it would be one thing. But we lack none of those things. Some continental teams have budgets 10 times ours, and nearly unlimited resources from their industry partners.

Their resources do not come from universities but from sponsors, who see Formula Student as an opportunity to spark interest in engineering and provide the best possible competitive learning platform for students.

Industry in Europe understands that contributing sponsorship to these teams is not about marketing, but ensuring the future of their trade.

Trevor Green-Smith, St Clements, Oxford

Race of future champions

At the end of the season, before F1 testing gets fully into swing, I think there should be a one-off race for the test/reserve drivers.

I know the season is now a long and busy one, but this would be a good way of letting these undoubtedly talented drivers show their skills. It doesn’t have to be of full Grand Prix length, but needs to give youngsters a chance to prove their racecraft, tyre management and so on.

Mike Spivey, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich

Making plans for Nigel

Having read both Nigel Roebuck’s and Mark Hughes’s excellent reviews of the 2014 F1 season, I am left wondering what the F1 authorities are planning to do to reverse the declining fanbase.

I’ve followed F1 for more than 40 years and believe the past decade or two have been increasingly boring. Yes, this year’s intra-team Lewis versus Nico fight was interesting, while the emergence of Ricciardo/Bottas and Massa’s return to form added interest. But after seeing the Mercedes team’s technical superiority, was Hamilton’s dominance unexpected? Did we really enjoy a two-car championship chase while backmarkers were three or four seconds off the pace?

I never thought the day would come when I’d say I’d rather see the top drivers in equal equipment, but now I’ve said it. A strictly controlled spec series? I hope not, but if we continue to push the technical envelope and don’t ‘dumb down’ and stabilise the technical regs, then only the rich will survive and spectators will evaporate. If that’s the direction we are taking, then let’s get down to a small number of four-, five- or even six-car teams. It would be great to see Hamilton, Rosberg, Button and Ricciardo in one team, with Alonso, Vettel, Massa and Bottas in another.

That would be a team principal’s nightmare and an enthusiast’s paradise.

Colin McArthur, Franklin, Tennessee, USA