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A life on the ocean wave?

An interesting article by Damien Smith last month – I’d forgotten David Richards was a maritime anorak. I watched the 2013 America’s Cup and you raised an intriguing thought: could we see a David Richards-managed, Adrian Newey-designed yacht crewed by Ben Ainslie in a few years? I’m sure British industry and backers would get behind that.
Mike George, Edinburgh
We asked Adrian Newey the question. Here is his response:
“I have spoken to Ben Ainslie and, although the America’s Cup is interesting to me, it remains a very distant project and one for which I am not ready at present. I have too many challenges remaining in F1, especially with the regulation changes next year, so will not be pursuing it for now.”

Eye of the Needell

With precious few great motor sport achievements to my name, I feel obliged to correct a minor glitch in Mike Doodson’s otherwise excellent article on my good friend Nelson Piquet.

Quoting Cadwell Park as the scene of one of Nelson’s greatest F3 victories, Mike recalls that the Brazilian started on slicks on a drying track and, having dropped back early on, surged past the likes of me, Stefan Johansson and Derek Warwick to take victory.

In fact I had been just as wise as Nelson and, in a far from competitive March-Dolomite, chased him past the early leaders and then set fastest lap as I closed in. Frustratingly I couldn’t find a way past, but came as close as anyone to breaking his remarkable run of wins.

It was probably my best F3 drive and, at the end-of-season party, series sponsor BP honoured my effort with the ‘Big Balls’ trophy! Let the history books stand corrected.
Tiff Needell, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Stage management

And so the Wales Rally GB returns to North Wales. This is a good thing, as confirmed by the huge spectator numbers and general good feeling among, well, just about everybody.

For the first time in 15 years I was tempted back to my homeland to camp out in a forest, wear a woolly hat and do what I used to do every November: watch our greatest motor sport event.

And what a fantastic spectacle it was. The cars might all look a bit ‘samey’, the sounds are nothing like as exciting as Group B cars on full beans and the entrance fee was extortionate for the privilege of a two-mile walk to the stage, but all that was soon forgotten.

One thing though: can the Forestry Commission be expected to allow this great event to continue given the amount of litter, beer cans and furniture – yes, furniture – left behind? Somebody even left a gazebo abandoned in the woods. Irresponsible louts might ruin the event for us all, as well as significantly harming the environment.
Owain Linford, Milton Keynes

Bitter-sweet memories

I began to read your recent article on François Cevert with some apprehension and finished it with a great deal of sad nostalgia. I saw François win his only GP at Watkins Glen in 1971 (my first F1 race) – a masterful drive. I also witnessed his coming together with Jody Scheckter at Mosport Park in September 1973, which looked worse than it was.

I was also at Watkins two weeks later when he perished at the end of Saturday morning practice. At the time of the accident, I was at the loop at the end of the long straight after the Esses. The immediate aftermath of the crash was one of the most mysterious and ominous experiences I have ever known at a track. The whole place went completely quiet with five minutes of the session remaining and we all wondered what might have happened. No cars came by for the longest time – then a few trundled through at a crawl. One driver wasn’t wearing his helmet and looked distressed, so we suspected something awful had occurred.

It’s a sad but indelible memory.
Denny Gioia, Pennsylvania, USA

A diminishing breed

I enjoyed Nigel Roebuck’s story (November 2013) on François Cevert, who was surely a rising star until fate intervened. Cevert was one of a then-diminishing breed of drivers who could jump into any open-wheel or sports car and have a go. I have a photo (above) of Cevert and Jackie Oliver from the 1972 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix (Can-Am) at Riverside and have long found it poignant and haunting, because of subsequent events.

Thanks for producing such an interesting and informative magazine. Your passion bleeds through the pages.
Jeff Allison, Ken-Caryl Valley, Colorado

Cevert on pole position

Your Cevert issue now has pride of place on my bookshelf… wonder why? Thanks a lot for such an issue.
Angel Joaniquet, Barcelona, Spain

This charming man

They say the person you are is reflected by the company you keep, and what they say about you.
François Cevert was surrounded by solid people and I’ve never read a cross or bad word about him. He touched people with his sincerity and charm.

I very much appreciated Nigel Roebuck’s story on François. Merci.
Paul Chenard, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Feud for thought

I enjoyed reading Simon Taylor’s Lunch with… Ian Phillips. What an exciting and interesting life Ian has led. When is he writing his autobiography?

Among some fascinating stories, the gem that caught my eye was the tug-of-war between Jordan and Benetton over Michael Schumacher: Eddie Jordan and Phillips against Tom Walkinshaw and Flavio Briatore, with Bernie Ecclestone as referee – box-office stuff to rival Ali versus Frazier!
M Barker, Retford, Nottinghamshire

Tied up in Notts

I’ve just finished reading Andrew Frankel’s highly enjoyable article on the Blitzen Benz.

However, when I saw the bit about Victor Hémery claiming “the only Land Speed Record set on English soil” my mind went back more than 30 years, to when my late grandfather used to take me for driving lessons in his old Morris Minor traveller. One day, when passing through Clipstone, Notts, my grandfather told me Charles Rolls (of Rolls-Royce fame) had set a Land Speed Record there. I assumed he must be mistaken, but a few years later saw a list of LSR record holders and Charles S Rolls was listed as having set a record at Clipstone, in a Mors Z Paris-Vienna.

I am now a grandfather myself and look forward to teaching my own grandson to drive. Before we pass through Clipstone, would it be possible for Mr Frankel to confirm his statement that the LSR has been set only once on English soil? I wish to be as accurate as possible when retelling such stories to my grandson!

Dale Wilkinson, Mansfield, Notts

I still believe the Blitzen was the only car to set a Land Speed Record on English soil. Although C?S?Rolls’ valiant efforts almost certainly made him the fastest man on earth, the favourable gradient and a significant tailwind meant the record was never recognised. Even Rolls’ biographer David Baines, in his excellent Why Not? The Story of the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, states: “Although the fastest man in the world, Rolls would never officially hold the World Land Speed Record…” AF

Back to school

I was reading your recent Richard Noble piece when I came across this quote: “Drag goes up with the cube of speed, so if you want to go twice as fast you need eight times the power for a given weight.”

This is both right and wrong.

Firstly, vehicle weight has nothing to do with it. Secondly, for a given vehicle travelling at subsonic speeds, aerodynamic drag (a force) is proportional to velocity (speed) squared, not cubed. But the amount of power required to push through the air is, indeed, proportional to the cube of speed. This mix of squares and cubes seems to confuse many people, but the reason for it is actually quite simple. If you remember the schoolboy physics mantras ‘work done is force times distance’ and ‘power is work done in unit time’, then you have all the tools you need to understand it.

To calculate the work done in unit time and hence the power, we need to know both force and distance travelled. As aerodynamic drag is proportional to speed squared, and the distance travelled is proportional to speed, it follows that the power required must be proportional to speed cubed. If it takes 50hp to overcome the aerodynamic drag at 100mph then it will require 400hp to reach 200mph, and so on.
Keith Howard, Lydd, Kent

Grass guzzlers

Can Motor Sport get better? I didn’t think so, but it seems I was wrong. Gordon Cruickshank’s piece on Jim Gavin was a recent highlight.

Driving through Sevenoaks one Sunday 35 or so years ago, I saw a cardboard sign: “Lawnmower racing today”. I followed the signs, paid, watched, went home to phone a couple of old motorcycle racing friends and told them, “There’s something we need to be doing.” And then I met Jim.

At the time I was working for Brands Hatch’s advertising contractors. When the European GP was announced for 1983, it left the circuit short of time to organise its famous displays. I suggested a lawnmower race on the Clearways infield – and Angela Webb called Jim to say he had a Grand Prix support fixture.

My favourite Jim Gavin story, of many, was the briefing before the annual 12-hour lawnmower race. “Safety is important,” he said, “and this year we have given the marshals some yellow flags. If there is an incident they will wave them and you must slow down, but we haven’t enough flags for all the corners. Even if you don’t see a flag being waved, don’t assume there hasn’t been an incident.” Wonderful!

Rodney Gooch, Castle Combe Circuit

Mountain debts

I raced at Bathurst most years from 1990 to 2001, as a self-funded backmarker. We always stayed at the James Cook Hotel, poshest joint in town (compared to sleeping under the truck in the pits).

I was a nobody, but in the early Nineties two things happened each year. My young children always got a photo with Wayne Gardner at the motel and my wife and I always had dinner with your recent interviewee Win Percy.

Both are great racers and utterly decent blokes.

Mike Conway, Sydney, Australia

The life of Riley

I am keen to trace any past member who took part in or remembers the formation of the Riley Register in 1954. In order to help us celebrate our Diamond Jubilee, we would like to hear from anyone who was a member in 1954, even if they are no longer the owner of a Riley. Anybody with period notes, photographs or cine film would be equally useful to us.

If you are able to help or put us in direct contact with someone who can, may be able to help, please contact [email protected]

Conway Hall, Worcester

Enjoying one’s lunch

I’m writing to say how much I enjoyed Simon Taylor’s Lunch with… Ian Phillips in your November edition.

This is just the sort of thing I love to see in the magazine – insight from someone who was really there in the thick of it, with huge and varied experience, a sense of humour and perspective… and an inclination to tell it how it was.

Gwyn Pollard, Wapping, London

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