Matters of the moment

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• The Future of the sport

“God is generally for the big battalions against the little ones” — Sassy Rabutin, 1677.

It seems prudent, at the beginning of the New Year, to pontificate, as Willie Green thinks we motoring writers do, about the state of the Sport. D.S.J. had made it clear to anyone in any doubt that F1 racing is in a highly interesting stage, and his arguments are as convincing as his enthusiasm is infectious. So the 1980 Grand Prix season that starts in nine days’ time should be a magnificent one, with the excitement of seeing whether the Saudis will see their support of the Williams team fulfilled, the computerised-might of Ferrari again prevail, Lotus, linked to Ford and now to Rolls-Royce, retrieve lost status, Renault achieve a Turbo-charged Championship, or whatever.

National racing, reviewed in Motor Sport last month, more or less thrives, in many different categories, and there is absolutely no denying the popular appeal of, and interest in, International Rallying. On a rather more amateur footing, the racing of vintage and historic cars is on the increase. Nevertheless, we must guard against anything that might be detrimental to these and any other facets of the Sport. For the time being there seems absolutely no foundation for rumours turbo effect that the Sport may have to be curtailed on account of the need to conserve fuel. Petrol, at a price, is now freely available again (at least when Shell’s tanker-drivers do not go on strike) and while package-tourists fly about the World in Jumbo Jets and horse-race and kick-ball crowds travel in a multitude of cars and motor-coaches, there can be no call to reduce motoring sport under a fuel-saving heading. So, at top level, all seems set-fair for another magnificent motor-racing season, with flourishing events in the other sections of the Sport. However, greed and other factors have intruded into non-motorised sports, so let us be watchful and jealously guard ours.

The smaller Clubs will be hit, for instance, by new financial and organisational penalties imposed on them by the RAC Motor Sports Council, unless enough resistance is brought to bear for Belgrave Square to retract. In fact, this month’s VSCC Measham Rally is the first casualty. A friend of ours who lives in the motoring past, but who claims to be closely in touch with the younger members of many of the smaller motoring Clubs, considers that the time has come for the RAC to operate two-tier control of the Sport. He thinks that at present Clubs running amateur events, amateur drivers, and newcomers to the Sport, are all carrying a disproportionate load, not only financially, but in respect of rules and regulations. With this view we agree, and while realising that in Inflationary times the RAC is no more immune than other organisations to increased running-costs, it is surely to the big battalions that it should look for a bigger income. Greed has affected other sports, if only by demanding too much of a good thing, which is why they now play cricket with black pads and a white ball under floodlights, tennis is no longer confined to summer afternoons on grass courts, and kick-ball happens almost every evening to amuse crowds, some of whose other interests are violence, hooliganism, and the smashing up of trains . . . So let’s be watchful of our own Sport, with the thought that there may even now be too much racing going on, little of it, away from F1, of the status of great contests from the past, such as Le Mans in its heyday, the TT when it was a great sports-car, road-race, and those Silverstone saloon-car races when Jaguar, Daimler (yes!) Mini-Minor and the rest competed and the spectators, watched cars battling it out which were not too dissimilar to those they had arrived in, and which many of them could afford to purchase . . .

On the sordid subject of greed, did you know that, according to a Rally Promotional Executive, the Forestry Commission received a minimum of £42,600 from the RAC in respect of last year’s RAC Rally? Yet when we drove into to the Radnor Forest Castrol Enthusiast Rally Stage in the Editorial Rover, with a huge Official Press sticker on its windscreen, we were told to pay £1 admission fee for the privilege of reporting the event (“You can claim it back from your paper”) or else go back, which was clearly impossible with a great queue of spectators’ cars behind us. We did not grudge the quid, but we were disappointed to find that there was no car-park, no indications of where to watch, and nothing to stop visitors from driving on along what should have been a one-way traffic system, only to come to a dead-end. The spectators’ cars were packed bumber-to-bumper on both sides of the forest roads and they stretched literally for miles. How they all got out again is a modern miracle.

Such enthusiasm for rallying is highly satisfactory. But, remembering that the Forestry Commission took £1 for each spectator’s car at the many Stages, as well as receiving the aforementioned fee for the use of the course, it might have laid on a better service for those who came to watch and who may have thought Castrol to blame. Accidents under such conditions, with adults and children not used to the speed of rally cars let loose in the dark forests, could easily happen and could be very detrimental to this now healthy branch of the Sport. Yet with marshals having to rely only on ropes and whistles to keep the course clear, it can only be the good discipline of British crowds that has prevented a disaster from occurring. God may be on the side of the Big Battalions, be these wealthy F1 contenders or happy crowds wanting to see International rally drivers at work. But let us not push our luck too far…

Oh, Auntie!

There will be many who are absolutely delighted that The Times newspaper has been able, at the cost of £30-million, to weather an industrial storm and recommence publication. For “Auntie” is essentially a very British institution. And has been for nearly 200 years. But we hope that the long break in its daily doses will not be responsible for reduced standards of accuracy, in a paper whose once-proud boast was that you could trust its every word.

The reason we say this is because in a long obituary about Signor Amedee Gordini that appeared in The Times last year it was stated that this engineer who was responsible for the Gordini-Simca and other racing cars, and who worked for Renault (not mentioned), designed a chassis round an old Hispano Suiza engine in 1921, and that after Tazio Nuvolari had tested this car at Monza he “took it over to Brooklands, where it was timed at nearly 150 m.p.h.”.

It has been our belief that Nuvolari, one of the greatest of racing drivers, only drove once at Brooklands, in Earl Howe’s Bugatti, and that in 1933 in practice for the BARC Mountain Championship, in which he failed to start. If Nuvolari came to the Weybridge Track 12 years earlier and drove so quickly there, this would be of the greatest interest, to a great many people. But we think we can safely say this never happened.

In the first place, although The Times says Gordini met “the great Nuvolari” in 1921, at that time Turin was only just commencing his motorcycle racing, and had scarcely earned such acclaim. Secondly, in 1921 the Track lap-record stood at under 122 m.p.h., the Land Speed Record at 124.1 m.p.h., and there was great excitement when K. Lee Guinness’ big Sunbeam was unofficially timed at 135 m.p.h. over the Brooklands half-mile that year. It was another 14 years before Cobb’s big Napier-Railton was timed at over 150 m.p.h. at Brooklands. When America claimed a record of more than 156 m.p.h. from Milton’s twin-engined Duesenberg in 1920, no-one in Europe would accept it. If a then little-known Italian driver, using a car with an old Hispano Suiza engine, had been timed at nearly 150 m.p.h. on Brooklands, surely the feat would have aroused considerable comment?

Of course. Nuvolari’s 1921 visit might have happened on a non-race-day, when few were present. If The Times can convince us that it definitely happened, the Editor of Motor Sport will have to eat a Times’ Leader, however indigestible. A number of racing cars was built with V8 Hispano Suiza aero-engines around this period, apart from Miller’s well-known Brooklands Wolseley Viper which delighted and alarmed Track visitors for several years. These engines seem often to have been of smaller capacity than the well-known war-time Hispano Suiza aero-engines, and they were used in the D’Aoust, the EG, the Becquet Special, the Borgenschutz. and in an Isotta-Fraschini Special. It seems probable that it was the last-named, which Alfieri Maserati raced successfully, that Nuvolari also drove, but not at Brooklands, surely? It may seem harsh to harp on this presumable mistake, except for the impeccable reputation The Times should have. We remember when someone who was reporting a Goodwood motor race meeting for that great newspaper wrote ERA when he meant HRG, from a lapse of concentration. He told us that the fuss was immediate and at top-level; he was made to understand that errors might creep into mere motor journals but must never appear in The Times! Which is why we would like confirmation of whether Nuvolari did or did not come to Brooklands in 1921. We notice other errors in the Obituary, such as naming Cattaneo as “an Hispano Suiza expert” when he was the lsotta-Fraschini designer and ascribing a fictitious win in the 1934 Bol d’Or to Gordini. Now we all make mistakes — only last month Motor Sport said that ex-W. 0. Bentley employee Walter Hawgood was unknown to the BDC, whereas he appears as “believed deceased” in the Club’s list.

But with standards falling everywhere, it will be a great pity if we can no longer rely on The Times newspaper for almost 100% accuracy. It is possible that their Amedee Gordim obituary was not written by a staff-man and that they used commercial hand-out, which they singularly failed to check? —W.B.

The Things They Say . . .

Stuart Turner, Ford’s Director of Public Relations, in a hilarious, but pertitent speech at the BRDC dinner dance in the London Hilton last month: “I don’t hold with all this British Mafia nonsense in Formula One. The way the F1 constructors trade makes the bloody Mafia look effeminate”

Stars

In the article elsewhere in this issue the design of the 1914 TT Star is attributed to Cecil Cathie who is seen in the centre of the picture on page 37. In fact these cars were designed by Tom Mathie who had previously been with Sunbeam’s. We expect to have a long Star postscript in a future Motor Sport.

A Cheap Lift

Loads of up to a quarter of a ton can be lifted by a very compact, light and cheap (£10.37) Mini-Hoist made by Hi-Way (Automotive) Ltd. We have found it to be a much more convenient device for modest lifting jobs than a conventional block and tackle. It should cope with most small engines and from memory even a Jaguar engine without gearbox should just about be in its scope — at least, we intend to try it for that purpose over the winter, but readers planning a similar exercise should check their engine weight first.

The seven-part hoist has non-rusting alloy pulley wheels and 60 ft. of nylon rope, giving an eight-foot lift. Double hooks are fitted top and bottom for security, and a jamming cleat allows the load to be held firmly at any height.

The Mini-Hoist is available from most accessory shops, or in case of difficulty write to Hi-Way Automotive Ltd., 33, South St. Corsham, Wilts.

Hung-over Rover

For the benefit of those readers who wondered what on earth last month’s Tailpiece photograph of a muddy pit was all about, before the gremlins attacked it the word HANGOVER was obvious in place of RANGE-ROVER on the Solihull workhorse’s tailgate. Humorist or cynic?

 

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