Letters from readers, January 1998



Come join the club…


I read with great interest your editorial in the last issue of Motor Sport in which you make an appeal on behalf of Richard Noble’s ThrustSSC team. As a member of the Mach One Club, I have been following the team’s efforts in raising budget to build, test and transport the car to its ultimate success at Black Rock. I presume that I have been contributing a small part to the budget in updating my membership to Gold status, buying various editions of T-shirts, scale models, videos, posters, certificates, etc, signing some bits of body work, and attending a few meeting at Farnborough as well as lunches and so on.

Right from the start, Richard has been trying to involve the public at large and now that his team has to settle the bills, it is only right that we do as much as we can to help him: he has done us so proud in Arizona. I am enclosing a cheque for £100 payable to SSC Programme Ltd, but I hope that I will not win a free subscription to Motor Sport as it would mean that very few people have answered your call. Please forward my contribution to Richard Noble and his team.

On a different subject, I have been following the debate in your columns about your change of format. You have done a great job and I don’t miss in your pages contemporary racing (which I can read elsewhere anyway) and I much prefer the new style of historic motor racing articles. In the latest issue, I liked Nigel Roebuck’s article about Phil Hill (my boyhood hero) who I saw race at Le Mans with Chaparral in the ’60s and this year at Goodwood Festival of Speed: a real gentleman.

Being a keen follower of record breaking, I always look for articles on the subject and this month the feature on the Golden Arrow by Bill Boddy was much appreciated. Which brings me to a special request.

I belong to the Speed Record Club, founded a few years back by a group of enthusiasts to be a forum of discussion and to pool and exchange information about records on land, water and in the air. As opposed to the Mach One Club created to support Richard Noble financially, the Speed Record Club is not involved in the promotion of a particular record attempt. Some people belong to both as the two clubs are not in competition with each other. The Speed Record Club has about 320 members world-wide, including most of the contenders, past and present (Richard Noble, Andy Green, Craig Breedlove, Art Arfons, Rosco MacGlashan), some involved with records (Ken Norris, John Ackroyd, Gina Campbell) plus a majority of educated enthusiasts, from Malaysia to the States, and from Australia to Germany.

We organise reunions twice a year to places related to record breaking and we publish a quarterly newsletter to which members contribute, sending news or writing articles. In the wake of ThrustSSC’s success, I was wondering if you would mention the existence of the Speed Record Club in your columns, explaining its aims.

For details and membership, please contact Mr Gwyn Jenkins, 16 The Spinney, The Bryn, Pontllanfraith, Blackwood, Caerphilly, NP2 2PJ.

I am, yours, etc.
Patrick Tison, Features Editor,
The Speed Record Club

Maths Lesson


You were a little out when you wrote that 22,500lbs of the thrust of Rolls Royce Spey engines in ThrustSSC was the equivalent of 50,000bhp.

In a static condition 2.6lbs of thrust is taken as the equivalent of 1.0bhp. This gives the static bhp of each engine as 8961 say 9000bhp. At 750mph equivalent bhp is:

Speed (mph) x thrust (lb)/375.

This give the bhp as 45,000 for each engine. Both these figures are short of 50,000bhp which would need a speed of approximately 833mph to achieve. However this does nothing to belittle the tremendous achievement of engineering skill, determination and dedication together with the nerve and bravery of the driver.

I am, yours, etc
R C Gosling, Exmouth, Devon

Spot the Ferrari


Whilst at a rain-soaked Goodwood Festival of Speed this year I fell in love with this Ferrari in the paddock.

I was unable to identify it and I am writing to you in the hope that you or one of your readers can. Is it one of the ‘250s’ and is that a Pininfarina badge I can make out on the flank? I would be grateful for any information.

I am, yours, etc
Mark Posthill, North Baddesley, Southampton
(It is a 250; a one-off prototype for the GTO – Ed.)

A matter of opinion


Your September issue on the greatest race cars, by people who should know, made fascinating reading. Many will argue that such an exercise will always be inconclusive, John Surtees for one, but I feel it gave well justified results and great insights into what is great and why. Sure it’s subjective, but who cares? Maybe it raised more questions than it answered, but I loved it.

The variability of such a poll can easily be demonstrated. Had the same poll been run in an American magazine with more US drivers and readers, I think the McLaren M8A would be a more likely winner in the sportscar class. After all it was a hugely successful car in the most innovative class ever run. Its lack of European pedigree can be the only mason for it’s low ranking, although not surprisingly Dan Gurney rated it number one.

I am, yours, etc.
Aaron Lewis, Aaron Lewis Racing
NSW, Australia

Grand Prix racing’s lowest ebb


The search for inspiration has led humanity down many paths, most of which are fruitless; the process will continue.

Grand Prix racing is at a low ebb, and mostly has always been that way; if it were not it would stop, to evolve into something else more challenging, to once again push the contestants to greater achievement. The curtailment of the sport is all that is in the minds of the participants, to package the circus to a low common denominator for televised viewing, advertising copy, an illusionist’s dream, like snake oil sold from a prairie schooner.

In the VSCC we see all this at first hand, thinking it peculiar to the sporting eccentricity of our own behaviour, but having heard from those in Grand Prix racing that it is the same in the professional world of speed culture.

I am, yours, etc
Richard Hulford, Nr Westerham, Kent

Sports in question


Your October issue was worth the cover price alone just for Jackie Stewart’s article on Jim Clark.

For any one who saw, as I did, the leading drivers of that period in action, then the picture on page 32 said it all.

However a publication with the stature and reputation such as Motor Sport has, cannot continue at its present level on nostalgia alone.

I can appreciate your publishers’ marketing strategy with the new format, if readers want an up to the minute, lap-by-lap account of Formula One, endurance racing etc then there are Autosport and Motoring News.

There is however a real need for a regular, reflective and authoritative review of Formula One and the other major racing classes, a niche that Motor Sport filled admirably in the past.

Could we not have just a few columns or perhaps a page each month from one of the established writers covering the current scene: It would add an essential element and complete the best read of the month.

I am, yours, etc
G C Napier, Falmouth, Cornwall
(Watch this space… – Ed.)

Shaming Schumacher


The truth is finally out. Opening my December copy this morning, I was delighted to see that someone finally had the guts to say in public just what an appalling act Schumacher committed at Jerez. The mind boggles at the thought that a so-called professional could deliberately drive into a fellow competitor’s car.

Just as appalling is the FIA’s refusal to do anything about it. I suppose these days if you had to fill in a job application for a Grand Prix driver, high on the list of requirements would be:
– no ethics;
– no professional pride.

Any display of these qualities would automatically disqualify the applicant.

The fact the so called ‘sport’ has been totally taken over by money interest is a sign of the times, but this for God’s sake.

I stopped after four decades taking deep interest in F1 when I recognised just which way it was going. This latest gem confirms that my decision was totally correct.

I am, yours, etc
Mr B Wylie, Bicester, Oxon

The Lancia legend


Thank you for the great Lancia stories this year. I would like to make a few annotations, because their success is even bigger than you might imagine. Since 1977 the Lancia competition cars were designed, developed and race prepared by Abarth the team responsible for both Fiat and Lancia race activities (as it is today).

When Fiat decided for marketing reasons that the Stratos was no longer first choice, Abarth developed the Fiat 131 and won the World Rally Championships in 1977, 1978 and 1980. As this all came from the same stable you could add these titles to the others. Fiat/Lancia/Abarth won 14 World Championships in 20 years.

Today everything has changed. There is only money for the Ferrari F1 team. Any other car manufacturer wouldn’t stop telling us about such a glorious past. What a pity that the Fiat executives forgot Abarth and Lancia.

I am, yours, etc
Sigurd Bögner, Newuhausen, Germany

Brighton or bust…


I wrote to you last week regarding Motor Sport having me down as coming second to Mark Timms on November’s London-to-Brighton Veteran Car run. I understand that the RAC advised you of this! Can I ask you to enquire why? I was two minutes in front, hardly a big sin after 57 miles.

I would love to know the RAC’s reply to issuing false information.

Many thanks keep Veteran and Vintage interest going in Motor Sport.

I am, yours, etc
Johnny Thomas, Carmarthen, Wales

Talbot tales


The course car bracketed between the two BRP Yeoman Credit Coopers in your December issue is not a Talbot Lago as the caption suggests.

In the early 1950s Chrysler and the Italian coachbuilders Ghia began collaborating on a long and somewhat confusing series of idea cars and this is one of them. The Ghia Catalogue Raisonne (p193) identifies it as the Chrysler GS1 of 1954 and explains that there was a production run of 400 cars for distribution through the French Chrysler dealership network. Apparently just one crossed the Atlantic, destined for Walter Chrysler’s son Jacob.

Your course car has sirens where the original had square auxiliary lamps and also has a simpler pattern of wires in the grille aperture.

I am another happy reader delighted with your new approach and hoping you keep to the present formula, i e no more than passing reference to current Formula One.

I am, yours, etc
Ian Cameron, Stockport, Cheshire

Nürburgring reminder


What a fabulously evocative photograph in the December issue, showing a view during the 1968 Nürburgring 1000Km (p102-103).

The Porsche isn’t a 910 as captioned, but Bill Bradley’s 906 which he shared in that event with the talented Chris Lambert, who was to lose his life some two months later during a Formula Two. race when his Brabham was hit by Clay Regazzoni’s Tecno. For the 1968 season 906-144 had been converted to right-hand drive as was that year’s 907 model, to suit the majority of circuits which ran in a clockwise direction. Its gull-wing doors were now forward hinging (as on the 910) and started to lift at around 120mph as can be seen in the photograph.

Although leading this class by a huge margin, a kinked engine breather pipe led to oil finding its way on to the clutch but they still managed a fourth place, a lap down. With this rectified, the pair won their class the following weekend at the Spa 1000Km event. Bradley had quite a successful season that year with it, culminating in his winning the RAC Sportscar Championship. I now own this car, which has just been overhauled by Josh Sadler and Richard Jones, and hope to give it a new lease of life.

I am, yours, etc
Julian Majzub, Shipton on Stour, Warwicks

Macklin – A boyhood hero


I enjoyed Chris Nixon’s article on Lance Macklin in the November issue. As a schoolboy I was a big fan of Lance and I was thrilled to see him win the 1952 Daily Express International Trophy Race at Silverstone in his HWM, especially as this was the first race meeting I had attended.

I got to meet Lance three years later at the 1955 Trophy meeting when we came across him in the Silverstone paddock. As ever, Lance looked every inch the racing driver: sun tan, pale blue overalls, suede jacket and sunglasses, a pair of tinted goggles slung around his neck.

We approached Lance with some trepidation, but he couldn’t have been friendlier and we had a long chat about motor racing. Earlier that afternoon we had seen Ken Wharton crash heavily at Copse Corner in the Vanwall Special and I asked Lance if there might be a chance of him standing in for Ken at the forthcoming Monaco Grand Prix. He said that it might be possible, but that Mr Vandervell didn’t approve of this drivers being married! This is interesting as Chris Nixon mentions him getting married the following year.

I remember Macklin as the most stylish of drivers, both in and out of the cockpit. An approachable chap whose friendliness helped my pals and I on our 50-mile ride back to London in 1955.

I am, yours, etc
Eric Dunsdon, Dunstable, Bedfordshire