Letters from readers

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Picture perfect

Sir,

Your October edition struck a personal chord with me through those wonderful pictures of Oulton Park, and in particular of the saloon car event at the 1969 Gold Cup.

This was the first time I saw Roy Pierpoint’s magnificent red Camaro, and to see the banana-shaped carcass of the car in the paddock after a huge off at Clay Hill was positively heart-breaking at my tender age. I seem to recall seeing Pierpoint himself with a heavy dressing applied across his nose!

Obituaries are always poignant, but it would be quite wrong for any true enthusiast to not have paused for a moment at the news of Tony Rudd’s passing. To my mind, along with people such as Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell and the Coopers, he was one of the reasons why motorsport here in Great Britain is blessed, and precisely why the Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed meetings will remain on my agenda.

My final observation is on Joseph Ehrlich, who passed away recently. In the time-honoured tradition of underfunded motor racing projects, it was Dr Ehrlich’s Formula Three projects of the early 1970s that gave drivers such as Jody Scheckter and Ian Flux early outings. Ehrlich may have been an ‘interesting’ individual to get along with, but he was amongst those ‘one off’ constructors who made motor racing so fascinating — and led to so many of us being captivated for ever.

Mike Gardener, Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham

Unsighted at Clearways

Sir,

Your editorial in December about the sight and sound of the Silver Arrows at Donington rang a bell with me. I still get a buzz from seeing and hearing a modem F1 car, so I visit Silverstone for qualifying — but nothing I’ve seen or heard recently compares with my experiences during the days of grands prix at Brands Hatch in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

We would station ourselves at Clearways, and after the deafening race start (all the exhaust pipes were pointing straight back at us), we got a glimpse of the cars at Bottom Bend before they disappeared from view. The commentator at Hawthorn’s would see them briefly and then he, too, would lose them. Even now I get goose bumps recalling the distant sound of engines growing louder through the woods before the explosion of noise just before they took the bend. ‘Our’ commentator would be as excited as us as he saw the race order for the first time. This sense of anticipation remained throughout the race, as there were frequent battles for position — and, of course, overtaking was actually possible then.

I recall an incident during the 1970 British Grand Prix. Henri Pescarolo was driving a Matra hastily rebuilt after his French Grand Prix shunt We took bets on how long it would be before this pristine car would be ‘reworked’ by its driver. Sure enough, shortly after half-distance, he lost it on the entrance to Clearways, thumped the bank under our noses and then spun back out into the middle of the grass run-off area, minus a couple of wheels.

Marshals got there immediately (Pescarolo was okay), but then Dan Gurney appeared on the grass, his McLaren having also spun on the approach to Clearways. The grass was slightly damp, and steeply cambered towards the banking. I will never forget our moment of terror as the McLaren disappeared from view between the wrecked Matra and the bank; marshals were running for cover and the crowd gasped. But then Gurney reappeared, having managed to avoid the bank, the wreck and the marshals, and eased the car back onto the track with gentle twitches of the wheel. My father turned to me and said, “Now, that is true car control…” and the crowd clapped in relief I’m not sure that many others would have got away with it.

There is no doubt that it’s much easier to follow F1 these days, and I’m not complaining: getting to Brands took us five hours (no car!), and in 1970 we actually had to wait until we got home to find out whether Rindt had been confirmed as the winner.

I confess, though, that during qualifying for this year’s British GP I dozed off in the grandstand, such was the ‘spectacle’ of engines screaming so high that they made the cars look slow along Hangar Straight There is something to be said for the element of surprise and, both aurally and visually, Clearways used to do it for me every time.

Nick Planas, Brackley, Northants

Coming of age

Sir,

Bill Boddy’s irascible comments in the December edition about certain vehicles in the Brighton Run are hardly fair.

I’m the first to acknowledge Mr Boddy’s encyclopaedic knowledge of old cars, but his criticisms, I feel, fall a little short of his normal high standards. The owners of the 1904/05 cars are not knaves or scoundrels; lam sure they recognise that their vehicles are ‘on the cusp’ and need to be investigated further. The dating committee of the VCC may be erudite and distinguished but that does not make them infallible. I am personally aware of one such car and to me the evidence that it is pre-1905 is strong — but I admit there is a scintilla of doubt

There must be very few of these ‘cross-over’ vehicles and it would seem eminently sensible, indeed just, to allow them to participate in the Run while their history is being investigated, particularly where the VCC dating committee cannot prove incontestably that these cars are not pre-1905.

There is much in life which is short of certainty, and these owners should be allowed the benefit of the doubt, if only because the VCC dating committee’s position on these cars is not proven. Perhaps they could run with a letter P after their entry number — construed as ‘Possible’ to the VCC and ‘Probable’ to the more enthusiastic owners.

Tony Brookes, via e-mail

I accept Mr Brookes’ opinions, but perhaps he should direct his doubts to the MSA. One hopes there will not be a flood of 1904/05 vehicles to swell the already splendid number of veterans which grace this wonderful occasion; but if there are, why ‘grandfathers’? They are Edwardians under VCC rules, surely? The new category was not dated in the Run programme, but presumably all would be accepted by Mr Brookes as 1905 cars until redated? Which is what their original regulations implied. –WB

Family fortune

Sir

It was something of a shock to see the Cromard Special in November’s magazine, but a pleasant one.

The car was raced in F2 from 1950-52, mainly by my father Basil de Mattos, though he is not the person in the car in your ‘mystery’ photo. I don’t pretend to have great knowledge of the car, but my father did me some stories about it — mainly about its unreliability, although, when running, it had reasonable performance for a British car of the time.

My father was the sales director of Laystall Engineering for many years and originally worked with Bob Spikins, who built the car.

The car itself now with an earlier, less streamlined front end, is residing at Auto Salon in Singen, Germany. The asking price is a bit much to restore it to the family!

Brian de Mattos, Berkhamsted. Hertfordshire

Medium-rare picture

Sir,

In the reprint of Continental Notes in October, Jenks mentioned the party held during the Italian GP weekend in 1967. I also attended this function, which was held outside Milan and, if my memory is correct, organised by the Jolly Club. Your readers may be interested in the photograph of Fangio serving Jo Siffert and Jo Bonnier. He also served me! It was a wonderful evening.

In the November issue you mentioned Dan Gurney wearing a face mask ‘borrowed’ from his hotel. I took a photo at Eau Rouge during the 1965 Belgium GP which clearly shows the word ‘laundry’ printed across Dan’s face-covering. As usual, I was standing maybe a little too close to the track at probably one of the greatest and most difficult corners in the world.

Michael Cooper, The Michael Cooper Archive

Buckling down

Sir,

A few additional details regarding Bill Boddy’s article recalling his exploits with Derek Buckler.

In 1949, to make a car built around a spaceframe available direct to the public was unique, and Derek is credited with being the first manufacturer to do so, as well as with starting the kit-car industry to benefit from tax exemptions. The name Airflow was only given to the first car, then dropped in favour of the name Mk5. (Mere was no Mkl to Mk4, a ploy to make people think he had been in production for years.)

Derek’s own car was known as the Buckler Colonial. Its LM Ballamy-type front axle was Derek’s own design and gave excellent road-holding.

As for Derek’s fears of people copying his designs, the Budder Register often receives photos of frames for identification.

The Exeter trials were those held in 1949 and ’50, both recorded in Motor Sport. Bill’s original account of Derek’s mishap with the wall was a little kinder; he wrote that “a wall stepped out in front of Derek” and referred to the weather. As for cornering quickly, in ’51 Derek held the class records at Bo’ness and Rest and be Thankful hillclimbs.

It’s reputed that Derek won more than 200 awards with his car before it was retired.

Brian Malin, Buckler Register, Derby

Token response

Sir,

I write regarding the photo accompanying the piece on Dieter Quester’s only grand prix in the November issue: the second car pictured is being driven by Ian Ashley, but it’s a Token, not a Trojan.

Ian was asked to try the car after several drivers had attempted to qualify it with no success. He found it a bit of a mess but, after testing, not only did he qualify it, he finished in Germany and Austria.

He also tested for Surtees and could have had the drive, but was committed to racing a Formula 5000 car in the Oulton Park Gold Cup and won.

Ian did continue in F1, for teams including BRM and Hesketh. He has since raced everything from ‘bikes to Indycars and is still competing today in sidecars! And he tells me he’s not had so much fun since his F5000 days.

Gordon Taylor, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Downtrodden Dundrod

Sir,

After a year of Irish anniversaries, such as Ards and Athy, it appears that one has been overlooked. In autumn 1953 the inaugural British round of the World Sportscar Championship was held at Dundrod, north of Belfast.

The circuit featured in Paul Fearnley’s excellent article in October 2000, but would it be possible to reprint your contemporary race reports?

The entry lists read like a Who’s Who of 1950s motor racing: Moss, Collins, Hawthorn, Brooks, Salvadori and Rolt; Ascari, Fangio, Trintignant, Musso, Behra, von Trips and Shelby. Even Colin Chapman and a young Jack Brabham were there.

Sadly, Dundrod today sees only two-wheel sport (the recent Ulster GP saw the lap record rise to over 128mph!). Only rarely is a ‘Festival’ organised here, and any nostalgia always seems to focus on Ards.

If I may make a further request: is there any possibility of expanding your research to the likes of Gregory, Castellotti or Maglioli, who were all Dundrod visitors? From a later decade, perhaps Ken Miles or Scarfiotti could be featured?

Peter Curry, Belfast

We touched on Castellotti in February ’98, and I am sure we’ll get around to the others you mention –Ed

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