Readers' letters, January 2015, January 2015

German tanks

Every month I peruse Motor Sport from cover to cover – and every month I’m tempted to comment!

Following Doug Nye’s recent article on the Porsche 908/03, I thought I might add a little to the history. In December 1969, we were invited to Stuttgart to celebrate Porsche winning its first world championship for manufacturers. While there we went to Weissach, where I was asked if I’d like to see the new 908/03. In a dark corner, the dust sheet was removed and I sat in the car without its front bodywork. When I stepped out, a somewhat nervous engineer said: “Herr Redman, vat do you sink of ze new 908/03?” I truthfully replied: “I think it’s a very good car – for Douglas Bader.” I have told the results of the January 1970 test at Weissach previously, so will not repeat the tale here.

All the 908/03s were prepared at Weissach, so at the Nürburgring 1000Kms and at the Targa Florio the JW Automotive crew simply serviced the cars during the race. At the Nürburgring, we had a slow first pitstop when I took over from Seppi. I passed the winning 908/03 driven by Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens and then caught team-mate Leo Kinnunen. At the 14km top gear ‘jump’, I was just a few feet behind Leo when he made a mistake and clipped the banking on the left. He flew in the air while having a substantial accident. I think Leo had probably suffered a sleepless night, following the horrible death by fire of his friend Hans Laine the previous day, when his 908/02 turned over on the main straight. At the next stop, our engine was again slow to fire and soon we were out of the race with engine failure caused by lack of oil.

In March 1998 I went to Sebring, to test the five factory museum cars that were going to Laguna Seca for the historic meeting in August. Among these was a 908/03. Having driven it, I was chatting with Klaus Bischof, at that time head of the Stuttgart Porsche Museum, a factory mechanic in 1969 and then in 1970 a technician with Porsche Salzburg. When I commented that we were leading at the Nürburgring and ran short of oil, he replied: “Ja, Brian. In Salzburg ve knew about zis problem – ve had larger tanks.”

Brian Redman, Florida, USA

Cruise control

Mark Hughes made a good suggestion about safety cars in a recent column.

I have proposed to the FIA that it should abandon the current safety car procedure and replace it with what we call the Code 60 system, which has been in use with Dutch race organisers for several years.

Initially devised by veteran driver Huub Vermeulen and his team, this system has also been in use during the Dubai 24 Hours and other endurance events. Instead of sending out a safety car from one spot on the circuit, all marshal posts throw out a purple flag and a big ‘60’ sign all at the same time. From that moment the maximum speed is 60kph at all times (easily monitored with the current electronic systems). On F1 cars a dash light could signal it.

It has a number of advantages: nobody can use this safety period to gain an advantage by racing to get to the end of the line of cars behind the safety car (possibly creating a dangerous situation), simply because the distances between all cars remain frozen and they are at a safe speed from the moment the signal is given. There are also no advantages with using the safety car period to make a pitstop.

At the end of the safety period, the flags and signs are withdrawn at the same time, possibly preceded by a sign that they will shortly be withdrawn.

Hans Hugenholtz, Naarden, Holland [F1 has trialled a ‘virtual safety car’ system along similar lines – DS]

Trading places

Mark Hughes’s excellent article about the engineering behind the technology of modern F1 cars and engines leads me to just one conclusion. We should scrap the F1 championship for drivers and just have that for constructors. Or better still, have a championship for teams just in case we ever get privateers returning.

All drivers (rightly) compliment the team in post-race interviews as they know better than anyone it is the teams, designers and engineers that win races.

Football trophies are not awarded to the highest goal scorer, but the winning team. Cricket has a man of the match, but the team wins the Test. Horse racing has a champion jockey, although it is mainly the horses that are remembered for big victories. And here is a thought: for riding many different horses in the course of a season, jockeys receive a small riding fee plus generous percentages of any winnings.

Can we transfer these ideas to F1? There are approximately 20 Grands Prix a year and approximately 20 cars entered. Let each driver have a go in each car. Pay them a driving fee plus prize money. Let them race in other formulae on spare weekends and during the off-season. The result? The best team will win the championship and the best driver would emerge as a worthy champion. I bet the viewing audience would return to witness the competition.

We will always remember the likes of Moss and Brooks as great champions (without crowns). I think many recent title winners might be remembered simply for being in the best team in their championship year.

Guy Raines, Malton, North Yorkshire.

A cut above

Here’s a possible solution to the apparently intractable problem of F1 cost-cutting.

The FIA should introduce a rule whereby at season’s end the five leading teams are compelled to offer for sale their current cars, engines and spares at a fixed price to be stipulated by the governing body. Would the return of privateers reduce the spectacle for the fan in the grandstands?

Anthony Honess, Hove, Sussex

Rule of thirds

Recent talk of the FIA asking leading F1 teams to run third cars, and their general reluctance due to cost implications, casts my mind back to an era when F1 racing was less prone to criticism of sterility and artifice. There might be little prospect of reversing this trend, but I think the idea of relaxing the regulations that demand two-car teams of identical livery would create greater diversity and interest, not to mention a welcome increase in grid size.

This could be achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, by existing teams running a third car for a whole season for a driver who might bring their own sponsors. Secondly, a new team could purchase and run a single car from an existing team – possibly a previous year’s model. And thirdly, an existing team could run an additional car on a one-off basis for a new driver, or as a reward for test and reserve drivers.

In the championship for constructors, points could be restricted to the top two finishers from any one make of car.

Any of the above would bring the prospect of more cars, new drivers, a greater variety of liveries and possibly greater accessibility for new entrants.

I believe that Claire Williams recently stated that Williams would not be interested in running a third car and that the team was opposed to customer cars. However, did that very team not make its debut running a single March chassis for Patrick Nève at the 1977 Spanish GP? And I remember bristling with excitement at the 1983 European GP at Brands Hatch, where Williams had entered a third car for Jonathan Palmer as he made his F1 debut.

Clive Turner, Maldon, Essex

Remembering Jonathan

Before he died, Jonathan Williams expressed a desire that all his old racing friends would gather together and remember him in the age-old way. In October, his wish was respected when a group of drivers involved in the last years of Formula Junior and the early years of F3 met near Newbury. Jonathan was a key figure in those classic years and central to that tight group of friends that lived in that notorious Harrow house. Sadly, Piers Courage and Charles Crichton-Stewart are no longer with us, but other close associates including Charles Lucas, Roy Pike and Frank Williams arrived at Newbury looking (and behaving) very much as they did all those years ago! Others attending included Chris Craft, David Piper, Richard Attwood, John Cardwell, Mike Knight and Tony Goodwin, along with Robs Lamplough, Sarah Aspinall (formerly Sarah Courage) and Jonathan’s partner Linda Skelley.

Frank Williams was in splendid form, reflecting the current resurgence of the Williams F1 team. But at this lunch it was those more humble days of struggle that were fondly remembered.

Paul Watson, Halstock, Dorset

Bourne to run

I enjoyed Anthony Horan’s recent letter on the sound of the V16 BRM. It was what got those reporters excited when the first one was demonstrated at Folkingham aerodrome back in 1949.

It did not bode well, though…

I never heard the cars racing, only at demonstrations between 1967 and 2012. In the real world I have enjoyed the sounds of the later H16 BRMs in 1967 as well as numerous V12s from Bourne, Ferrari and Matra – especially Chris Amon’s going up the hill at Monaco after missing the start in 1971. It was like a Stuka with a gearbox – you could hear the anger and frustration.

Did I miss the historic sounds when I heard the new F1 cars at Silverstone last summer? I have to say no, though Nigel Roebuck has already put it better than I could in Reflections. My own reaction is to dig out the following quote from Vanwall by DSJ and Cyril Posthumus:

“At one point Tony Vandervell stamped down to the Ferrari pit, winced at one of the Lancia-based V8 engines blaring from its eight megaphone exhaust pipes, and said to Vittorio Jano, the designer, ‘They’re making too much noise; all the power is coming out of the pipes instead of going to the wheels’. The passing of a Vanwall at that moment, making little more noise than a road-going sports car, added point to his remark, for indeed the Vanwall was remarkably quiet.”

And no one can say the Vanwalls did not add to the excitement of F1 back in the day, can they?

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

A taste of Martini

Thank you so much for publishing my recollections of a glorious era in sports car racing for the John Wyer Automotive Engineering team in the December edition.

I would like to make clear that when the JWAE contract was signed with Porsche, we did not contemplate that the Martini Salzburg team would be a rival works-supported entry. It was most unfortunate that this led to the drivers from each team racing each other, which unquestionably cost us victories.

The transfer negotiated by John Wyer from FAV to JWAE Ltd during the Ford GT40 era was agreed in late 1966, after the 7-litre cars had won at Le Mans, and this included the 50 updated engine sets that were the basis of the development of reliable engines.

I trust these two points are of benefit to your readers.

Maitland Cook, Chelsea, London

Due credit

In December’s story on the John Wyer Automotive Engineering team, although much is made of Ermanno Cuoghi and rightly so, we have ignored his successor Alan Hearne who, though not being the comedian Ermanno was, led his team of mechanics by working harder and faster than any of them as they sought to emulate his skills. He started at JWAE in 1967 and went all the way through to the end in 1975, building the 917s for Pedro during that period.

He was most valuable to me as chief mechanic in the years 1972 to 1975 inclusive, and also helped with the preparation of the two GR8s for Cluxton and myself in 1976 and ’77 (second at Le Mans both years, to Jacky Ickx in a Porsche!). A note of his contribution would be greatly appreciated by me.

John Horsman, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Merci, François

Those of us associated with the Winfield Racing School were greatly saddened to learn of François Guiter’s passing. Elf and Renault provided unique support of our programme, which launched so many motor sport careers, and Monsieur Guiter was its rock.

Ours was a partnership that lasted 25 years, from 1973 to 1998, probably a record for any young driver sponsorship scheme. He was a brilliant man, and equally charming. A lot of us owe him and his company a very great deal.

Mike Knight, Ascot, Berkshire