Letters, February 2017

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Hamilton not thinking

Lewis Hamilton may be an instinctive racer but he isn’t a smart one. If he had used his Abu Dhabi race tactics in Mexico and Brazil he could have gone into the last race with a points advantage and been master of his own destiny. He didn’t and he wasn’t.

Many congratulations to the smart Nico.

Andrew Andersz, Aston Clinton, Bucks

A question of sport

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a fitting end to a pretty interesting season. The on-track game of chess orchestrated by Lewis Hamilton was masterful and almost paid dividends. Sadly, the final outcome was once again tainted by Lewis’s inability to accept that, just sometimes, things don’t go your way. He could have done nothing more.

Lewis is up there with the very best in terms of ability, but he will never be able to sit at the top table until he can act like a gentleman when things don’t pan out. His behaviour reminded me of the way the England football team acts after losing a game – players sit on the pitch head in hands, ‘gutted’ by the result. Compare it to the way rugby players seek out their opponents to offer a handshake. Different attitudes – one self-centred and selfish, the other magnanimous.

Lewis needs to decide whether he’s a footballer or a rugby player. And remember the next time that you tweet you are ‘in a bad place’ – no, you are not. Aleppo is a bad place.

Geoff Hanson, Leighterton, Glos

Rosberg’s finest moment

Formula 1 teams, drivers (particularly Nico Rosberg) and fans had many reasons to thank Lewis Hamilton during that last act of the 2016 championship. Lewis gambled on Nico coming apart under pressure, but he didn’t. It might well have been the drive of Nico’s career. 

To end his reign as champion properly, Hamilton simply has to accept that a fellow racer beat him fair and square over a spectacular, combative and intense season of racing. It doesn’t matter how many mechanical failures, poor starts or racing incidents there were – Nico won! Accept it with grace and give credit when credit is due.

Jack Marland, Oldham, Lancs

Nobody’s fault but his own

Following the Abu Dhabi GP, when Lewis Hamilton was blaming his loss of the world championship on his car’s unreliability, and even implying a team conspiracy against him, why did none of the interviewers point out to him directly that numerous bad starts and first-lap mistakes probably cost him this championship? That might have spared us all having to listen to his self-obsessed whining and poor sportsmanship.

If Hamilton had concentrated on his job in the way that Nico Rosberg did all season, one might have more sympathy. 

By contrast, what sheer class we saw in the manners and behaviour of both Jenson Button and Felipe Massa as they (perhaps) bid their farewells. These two have shown that it is still possible to be widely respected and admired in the cut-throat business that F1 has become.

Barry Pearson, Thurston, Suffolk

Under pressure

Congratulations to Nico Rosberg for withstanding the pressure of the Abu Dhabi GP – and also of a career so entwined with that of Lewis Hamilton.

The relief on his face in the press conference was obvious and heart-warming and I felt a sense of deep respect. Champions always find another gear when the chips are down – that’s the human story playing out.

Matthew Glover, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex

Duck to water

Like Nigel Roebuck I spent many weekends at Oulton Park or Aintree with my father, who took me there as a child during the Sixties. Then during the Seventies we became regular marshals. 

My regular visits to Oulton were much reduced when I started competing myself. Perhaps surprisingly I chose rallying not racing and have enjoyed 30-plus years in the sport. My greatest achievement was to emulate my childhood heroes Hannu Mikkola and Torsten Palm by winning the last World Cup Rally in 2012.

With regard to October’s letter about Jack Brabham’s air miles, I remember that he and a few of the other ‘greats’ would fly into Oulton and land their aircraft on the field behind Old Hall corner. We once went to watch them take off, but Brabham had locked his keys in the aircraft so a call was sent to the paddock for a screwdriver to break into the plane. I can’t imagine Lewis Hamilton doing that.

Finally, in a slightly macabre footnote, for my father’s funeral we were asked about his favourite clothes. We had no hesitation in suggesting his orange flame-resistant marshalling overalls. I had to assure the undertaker that they weren’t actually very fireproof. My father is now permanently part of Oulton Park.

Bob Duck, Mickleover, Derby

Abrasive character

Nigel Roebuck reflected on the matter of asphalt run-off areas. These clearly add to the safety of the circuit, but do not penalise mistakes. Gravel traps do, but can overturn errant cars and halt racing while trapped drivers are freed. 

In 2007 I attended an FIA Institute seminar on safety at Circuit Paul Ricard, then a high-tech test track. At the seminar, Alex Wurz described his tyre failure there at 320kph, with no resulting damage to himself. A major factor was that the circuit is surrounded by highly abrasive surfaces in two stages. The blue surface will slow the car and probably damage the tyres. The red stripes denote a surface that is so abrasive it cut my hand when I rubbed it. The tungsten compound drastically slows a sliding car, destroys its tyres and decreases the risk of impact injury, but will inevitably require a tyre change if the car can continue. 

This increases safety, punishes drivers who venture off the black stuff and is far less likely to bring out the safety car and delay the racing. This is a trifecta that deserves wider consideration. 

Dr Michael Henderson, Sydney, Australia. 

Wanted: Cooper info

I’m trying to trace information and pictures relating to the BMC Formula 2 engine project, XSP222442. The engine was designed and built to the 1964 1000cc F2 regulations, with the aim of it being used in Coopers run by Ken Tyrrell in 1965. The story of the prototype car and engine was featured in Motor Sport in June 1988.

Once the chassis was ready the development engine was fitted at Abingdon, by Tyrrell and BMC mechanics, before John Surtees and Warwick Banks tested the car at Silverstone in 1965. Sadly BMC abandoned the project in mid-1965, before the engine had competed in any events, due to a combination of reliability problems and a reputed lack of power compared to the Cosworth alternative.

The prototype Cooper T75 (chassis F2-6-65) still exists, as do three of the six engines built, one of which is in the car. Brian Horwood has spent 30 years collecting parts and rebuilding car and engines, and it will make appearances with the HGPCA during 2017.

I am looking for any information related to this engine, particularly any pictures of the car when it was tested at Silverstone or when it was apparently in the paddock at the Senior Service 200 at Silverstone in March 1965. Any information will be most welcome: [email protected]

Chris Helliwell, Wimbledon

Airfield of dreams

Both my mother and father watched racing at Boreham, with my father attending most of the races during 1951 and ’52. My father still has all the programmes, and reading through them I was surprised by the quality and array of talent that raced at the airfield circuit during its short life as a competitive venue before becoming a test track for Ford. The International Festival of Motor Sport in August 1952 includes Stirling Moss, Reg Parnell, Froilán González, Luigi Villoresi and Pierre Levegh, competing for trophies for a 100-mile Sports Car, Formula 1 and 2 races. 

The programmes also capture entries for the early careers of Mike Hawthorn and John Surtees, competing both as a solo rider and with his father in sidecar races. I also noticed that in the 1951 Formula 3 races a B Ecclestone is
placed a couple of times. 

On a darker side, on a 500cc F3 programme from August 1951 my father has written against the entry for D Brake: “Dead, Crashed”. The remaining eight races went ahead as scheduled. 

Motor sport needs innovation if it is to continue as one of our leading showcase sectors. Why not have a core of 10 to 12 Grands Prix supplemented by F1 national meetings at places such as Brand Hatch, Donington, Imola, etc? These could also be used for testing new ideas and bringing new drivers through, using year-old cars if need be to make larger grids. Make attending affordable, have a mixed full support programme for each and make motor racing engaging again for future generations.

Paul Thompson, Wootton, Bedfordshire

Shorter but sweeter

In the June 1970 edition of Motor Sport, the letters page finds a Mr Fox complaining about the lack of TV coverage of motor sport. He had written to ITV and received this reply: “The reason why we have stopped covering motor racing is because so many of the races develop into processions.” It is interesting that this is no longer an impediment to broadcasting.

Ironically, the magazine also contains DSJ’s report on the Monaco GP that year -– surely the least processional Monaco GP of all time.

I can remember the coverage in the Sixties and early Seventies. You would get the start of the British GP (no tedious interviews) and after 20 minutes the channel would switch to cricket or showjumping for 30-45 minutes before returning to the GP for the finish.

In the late Seventies and early Eighties the BBC would broadcast half-hour highlights of Grands Prix late at night which was excellent – even a dull race can look interesting if edited to 30min. Monaco and Britain got extra time.

But then, like motor racing, nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Peter O’Donnell, Epsom, Surrey

Ferrari find

It was a sheer pleasure to read ‘Power beside the throne’. May I confess I had never heard about Brenda Vernor? What an exciting discovery! Among many other things, I now know more about Mike Parkes, whom I saw at Reims walking so quietly towards the grid. Standing alongside him must have been rather difficult for John Surtees, even if he had been quickest. One can imagine the risks he probably took, driving his heavy and unstable Cooper-Maserati at the absolute limit, through the ultra-fast bends that followed the pits.

Brenda Vernor draws a concise but very fine portrait of René Arnoux, of whom I was a supporter throughout his career. I was there when he won the Volant Shell at Magny-Cours in 1972!

A brilliant career was beginning, which could have been even more so without some bad luck – and the arrival of Alain Prost. But in Brenda Vernor’s memories, Arnoux appears as an unquestionable winner. And he is still living…

Michel Mathieu, Reims, France

Digging a hole

I read with interest Nigel Roebuck’s comments about bringing back gravel traps. But they have their problems. How often have we seen races interrupted with safety cars, while recovery vehicles struggle to remove an otherwise undamaged car? Do we really want to see perfectly good cars retired because they have gone a bit wide on a corner? I have also witnessed cars flip upside-down in gravel traps. Not good.

I like the suggestion of a transponder that measures if a car has gone off circuit and applies a power loss for a certain period of time.

Run-off areas have become so large now you need binoculars to see the action. This is one reason I have given up going to Silverstone.

Richard Bradbury, Sutton, Surrey.

Beyond the Iron Curtain

I was interested to read Simon Arron’s Škoda feature. I spent many years working in Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic) before and after the communist era. In the old days I visited the Škoda plant to assist with management training. Being shown around the factory was depressing. I saw inner wing panels badly creased from poor manufacture, and suggested the dies should be replaced. They explained they would put on thicker bitumen so no one would see… 

Customers had to buy direct from the factory, after many years of waiting, and there was no guarantee: if the engine fell out it was your problem. Many of the workers were people who had offended the state in some way and were made to work at the factory as a punishment. 

I also went to the Tatra plant, where they had to buy Russian robots that kept breaking down. The Russian producer’s main product was washing machines! One worker explained to me (when my minder was not there) “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

How things have changed.

Graham Bayley, Vidal, Trentels, France

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