Letters, January 2016

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Stouthearted fellow

Thank you for the wonderful articles on my boyhood hero Graham Hill.

I attended the 1969 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen; I was thrilled to see Jochen’s first GP win, not to mention a stirring drive to second place by Piers Courage. Communications being what they were in the day, it was not until hours later that we learned that Graham had been seriously injured.

Three weeks later I was drafted. Fast-forward to April 1971 and Private Greco is enjoying a cushy assignment stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany, that included cadging start/finish line seats at the Jim Clark Memorial at Hockenheim. Amazingly, here was Graham, more or less in one piece, and not only did he race, he won. I’ll never forget seeing him have to put his hand behind his leg and lift it up in order to get into the car. One doesn’t hear the term ‘stouthearted’ used much anymore, but that is my memory of Graham Hill.

Donald Greco, Portland, Connecticut, USA

Hill vs Moss

Recent Motor Sport magazine articles about Stirling Moss and Graham Hill have made me ponder about how accepted narratives about them seem to have taken root. Conventional wisdom would appear to be that Stirling was a great driver in any car, while Graham was more a hard-trying, very good driver. Subjective as always, but I think a side-by-side analysis is interesting.

Both won in lots of different cars, but only Graham won at Le Mans and Indianapolis. Both won multiple Grands Prix, including Monaco, but only Graham was an F1 World Champion.

Both competed well with the best drivers of their day, but was beating Clark and Stewart in period any easier than beating Fangio in his?

Both had fun-loving reputations off the track, combined with plain speaking and sharp professional focus when required.

So, we have been very lucky to have both. It just occurs to me that Graham has often been underrated. Incidentally, the interview with Damon Hill about his father was searingly honest and should be required reading for famous parents and their offspring alike. 

On the subject of Damon, let’s see now: F1 Champions Mansell, Prost, Senna and Villeneuve as team-mates, head-to-head with Schumacher and the genius of Ross Brawn and still he becomes F1 World Champion. Perhaps more people should tell him he was pretty good too…

Steve Singleton, Ilkley, Yorks

Syrupy story  

The reference to a book by A Tom Topper in Gordon Cruickshank’s column in December brought back (long-distant) memories. He was my driving instructor back in 1970!

A Tom Topper was a pseudonym as
he wore a hairpiece, which he freely admitted. I can’t say I noticed – I was busy watching the road! I cannot for the life of me remember his real name. 

David Foster, Ascot, Berks

Trick of the tail

I was aware of Peter Brock’s plan to fit the Shelby Daytona Coupé with an adjustable rear wing but Doug Nye’s story does serve to remind us how long it took for the benefits of the simple spoiler to be recognised. This was no doubt due in part to a policy of misinformation by the Ferrari team.
“It is to prevent exhaust fumes form being sucked back into the cockpit,” seemed to be the official line, but an alternative was that “it is to prevent fuel spilling onto the hot exhaust pipes during refuelling”.

I was an innocent young lad at the time and could just about accept that for the front-engined 250TRs with their rear tanks, especially as Ferrari had succeeded in setting fire to one of their own cars during a pitstop at the previous year’s Nürburgring 1000Kms. But on the rear-engined 246SP with side tanks?

The similar body styling of both the front-engined and new rear-engined sports cars for the 1961 season owed much to scale model tests in a new wind tunnel set up by engineer Carlo Chiti. It has always been generally accepted that the spoilers across the cars’ tails were devised by Richie Ginther during a test session when he recalled the aerodynamic effects of trim tabs on aircraft. Pino Allievi claims elsewhere that “Chiti was an aeronautical engineer by trade and was the first to add a flap to the Ferrari 330SP (sic) to create more grip, a fore-runner of what would be become standard in motor sport”, without any mention of Ginther’s name. 

Success can have many fathers, and if the Anglo-Saxon version is true, Chiti still deserves credit for not taking a ‘not invented here’ attitude.

Phil Remington’s own attitude in early 1964 is also easy to understand. After all, the 1962 Ferrari 250GTO was originally announced without a spoiler, though these were added before the cars were raced. But I would have thought that Phil Hill knew about spoilers before he got to that race at Spa, even though it does not come across like that the way Peter Brock has told the story to Doug…

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Björn to run

I was reminded recently by Motor Sport’s excellent electronic archive of the death, almost exactly a year ago, of the wonderful Björn Waldegård.

One autumn in the early 1990s we held a Classic Rally Evening at the Porsche Centre in St Albans and Hatfield for our customers. It started with a film show, followed by a question and answer session for our guests, namely Jimmy McRae, Beatty Crawford, Francis Tuthill and Björn Waldegård.

The evening was going very well, Francis having shown his film and given an entertaining running commentary, and the audience then asked some interesting questions, mainly of Jimmy and Björn. Then someone asked Björn: “What possible satisfaction can you get from driving a 20-year-old 911 in these events, when a decent modern hot hatch can show it a clean pair of heels?”

Being our guest, Björn’s response was careful and complimentary to the product. However, as the great man was in full flow, Beatty Crawford, his co-driver, interrupted: “A few weeks ago Björn and I competed in the snowbound 1000 Lakes rally. Several weeks earlier the WRC cars had competed in the same event using mostly the same special stages as our Classic cars.

“After the event I overlaid this 60-odd-year-old man’s times in his 20-year-old 911 against the current WRC cars, and he made it into the top 10 overall fastest times in every special stage! Does that answer your question?”

No four-wheel drive, no turbo engine, just a brilliant driver and a modest man.

Perry Robb, Hertfordshire