Letters, February 2016

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Passing fad

I have been watching motor sport for many years and recent comments regarding F1 drivers calling pit engineers for strategy advice brought to mind a different technique used in the past.

The following driver used to lap more quickly than the one in front, in order to catch and pass him; it was called racing. It was used quite successfully, but I assume it has gone out of fashion with the increasing technical, strategic and management aspects of modern F1.

HA Newlyn, Leicester

All over down under

I have followed Formula 1 since 1955, when I studied the progress of Moss and Fangio. I had watched almost every race since Australian TV coverage began
in, I believe, the 1980s. You could describe me as a fan.

But I didn’t tune in to the final two races of 2015 and I might even stop reading the excellent race analyses of the races in your magazine, which I usually devour from cover to cover.

The commentators talk about DRS, KERS, option and prime tyres, pitstop strategy and undercutting. It’s boring for even dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts; who knows what the average viewer would make of it? I have not recently heard the word ‘racing’, however, and is that not what stirs our soul? I don’t want to watch a driver pass another because his pit crew has managed to change tyres in 2.6sec. I want to watch a bare-knuckle street fight, in the manner of Villeneuve vs Arnoux at Dijon in 1979.

Historic racing is growing because competitors actually race – a factor that also explains MotoGP’s popularity. Unless F1 urgently reforms, there
must be serious concerns about its long-term viability.

Alan Smart, St Lucia, Australia

Youthful encounter

Simon Arron’s tale of the ex-Ferranti Mercedes 300SL Gullwing (January 2016) brought back memories. My father was a Derbyshire-based vet and one of his clients was a certain Mr Ferranti. I went with my dad one evening to the Ferranti farm in Gawsworth (I think) and he’d just taken delivery of the very car featured in Simon’s John Young profile. Already car-barmy at the age of seven, I suppose I must have pleaded with my father to persuade Ferranti to let me sit inside.
He did more than that, taking me for a short drive around the country lanes in his newly acquired plaything.

The fastest car I’d been in previously must have been my father’s Standard Vanguard, so the 300SL was like something from outer space. I’ve
driven much faster cars since, but have always remembered that night. Amazing to see that actual car again!

John Williams, Mallorca, Spain

What’s up, Doc?

John Young was not wide of the mark with his assertion that “You had to be somebody of Stirling Moss’s calibre to race a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing properly.” Older readers will remember ‘Doc’ Shepherd for giant-killing
saloon car drives in an Austin A40.
Doc also owned a 300SL, which he drove occasionally in road-going
sports car events.

Unfortunately he was not confident about his Merc’s handling, so asked Archie Scott Brown to do a few laps of Snetterton to show how the car should be driven. With his lightning reflexes and great car control Archie was not remotely bothered by swing-axle oversteer and put in a number of impressive laps.

Doc did benefit from the masterclass and improved his times, but could not get anywhere near those set by Archie. As a consequence his race appearances in the vehicle were few and far between.

John Hindle, Penshurst, Kent

Blades’ runners

Damien Smith’s recent Dario Franchitti article brought back memories of karting at Felton – I think local racer Johnny Blades owned the land.

I was competition secretary for a couple of meetings and the Franchitti and di Resta families were frequent competitors. I also recall seeing David Coulthard aged eight, Allan McNish at perhaps the same age, David Leslie in the 210 Villiers class (a nice lad), Mike Wilson (who went on to be karting world champion) and Nigel Mansell turning up and blowing everyone else in the 210 Villiers class into the weeds.

It was a good little club – nice on a sunny day, wild at any other time – and my wife served in the canteen.

Harry Rylance, Cleadon, Sunderland

Curse of Frankenheimer

On page 100 of your January issue, I am sure the car pictured is not “Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari” nor even a Ferrari at all. It is a modified Formula Junior car disguised as a Ferrari for John Frankenheimer’s film Grand Prix, which was shot during the 1966 Formula 1 season. There are several giveaways, but the most obvious are the twin banks of six air intakes on the engine – thus pretending to be a V12.

Bandini drove the Tasman Ferrari Dino 2.4-litre V6 at Spa that year (to third place). The nose section of his car had a quite different look to the car in your photo, though it did bear the racing number 7.

Aidan Haile, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Yes, we’ve had a few letters on this. It wasn’t captioned in the book as a Frankenheimer car, but we should have spotted it. Apologies – ed

Costas’ loss

One of the few joys of returning from Spain’s warmth to the cold of Guernsey is catching up with copies of Motor Sport that have accumulated in my absence. I was particularly happy to see the various photographs in October’s You Were There from Le Mans in 1989, my first visit.

I was hoping for a Bell/Stuck victory and remember so well listening to the trials and tribulations of their car overheating during the late evening.

My friend Costas Los was due to drive the Alpha Porsche in 1990, but a certain Tiff Needell nabbed the seat so Costas’ best result remained third in C2 rather than third in C1. 

For 1989 Costas was with Messrs Roe and Redman in Aston Martin number 18, bearing a black armband
in memory of Victor Gauntlett. When returning to the track on Sunday morning I didn’t so much see the Aston as hear it – what a noise.

Great memories. Thank you for rekindling them.

John Pickles, St Peters, Guernsey

Follow the bear

With regard to Perry Robb’s letter in the January 2016 edition, I wholeheartedly agree with his comments regarding Björn Waldegård. I knew Björn well having navigated for him on a number of historic rallies. He explained to me that Björn meant bear in Swedish. Never was there a truer name for such an amazing man, but he was more like a big lovable teddy than a grizzly – except when on a special stage, when his claws would sometimes show. He was a gentle giant of a man in all respects, one who is sorely missed. 

Perry was a bit inaccurate regarding my comments about the 1000 Lakes Rally, but hit the nail on the head in his overall conclusion regarding Björn’s incredible driving ability and character. This was best illustrated when we competed on the Rally of the Lakes in Killarney, Ireland in my standard 1965 Porsche 911 with road tyres. Björn had never driven my car before and had never been to Ireland. Despite this, at the end of the first day we were 25th overall against more than 120 modern cars with four-wheel drive and sticky rubber. In their wisdom the organisers arbitrarily added 30min to all the historic cars’ times, because they felt that many of the ‘modern’ drivers might be embarrassed.

Great rally drivers are a different breed to us mere mortals. They do things with cars that most people can’t even begin to understand.

Dr Beatty Crawford, Hillsborough, N Ireland

Green parity

If the current hybrid power units used in F1 were introduced to keep it relevant to modern motoring, then I’d really like a frame of reference with which to compare this technology. I can’t help being a little sceptical about whether it is really as ‘green’ as it’s made out to be.

If hybrids were raced against non-hybrids, that would help to sell the concept to me and many others, which would surely be good for the manufacturers – if they won.

People often complain about the complexity of the hybrid power units, but my biggest gripe is the complexity of the rules.

My solution to the cost problem would be to stipulate that the same engine configuration be used for the whole season, but it can be anything you want in terms of cylinder layout, capacity, induction and regenerative systems. The only rule with regard to the regenerative side is that they start each session discharged of stored energy. Beyond that teams could use electrical systems, flywheels, springs, compressed air and so on, and there should be no cap on how frequently regenerated energy can be used.

Doing something like this would allow a cheap solution to compete alongside a more expensive solution, but to make it fairer the minimum weight limit should be removed from the regulations – after all, since the cars are crash-tested, there is no need for it from a safety point of view. Now, we could have a really light and simple car competing against a heavier more complicated car, all competing equally since they are governed by the 100kg
of fuel allowed. Imagine all the configurations possible, the latitude available for designers to innovate, the looks, the sounds and differing performance characteristics.

Finally, it would allow people like me to see how fast you can cover 200 miles with 100kg of fuel. If the hybrids ended up fastest, it might just sway me towards buying one.

I’m not saying any of this out of a desire to improve ‘the show’, as I don’t consider motor racing to be such, but I just like to see fast cars raced hard. 

Andrew Hollom, Beachley, Chepstow, Gwent

To the point

Unfortunately I now find that the politics of Formula 1 more interesting than the racing – enough said!

David Jenkins, Cowfold, West Sussex