Letters, January 2017

Group B reality check

Thank you for your evocative article on Group B rallying, published in the December 2016 issue.

It may be implicit, but your article seems to suggest that banning these cars was a bit of an over-reaction. It should be remembered, however, that in the space of little more than 12 months three competitors (Bettega, Toivonen and Marc Surer’s co-driver Michael Wyder) had died and two more (Ari Vatanen and Surer himself) had suffered serious injuries. None of this had anything to do with lack of spectator control. I was working for the marketing department of Martini at the time and vividly remember a sense of doom and urgency pervading the rallying community. It was not unlike Imola 1994: something had to be done.

Jurriaan Tas, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Swede dreams

Aside from Mr Roebuck’s own consistent good sense, I think his reporting of the views of Stefan Johansson in the December 2016 issue represented the most obviously level-headed assessment of and prescription for Formula 1 that I have read in many a year. We are tantalised by the prospect of Ross Brawn
re-entering the ‘sport’ in some role that would involve serious, sensible, informed, calm but autocratic control and if that were to occur surely he could do worse than pick up Mr Johansson’s manifesto and implement it completely.

I would be pretty surprised if
Ross were not a reader of Motor Sport, so how about it, Mr Brawn and
Liberty Media? Go on, surprise us all and lift what is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport from its slough of despond!

To round off my shopping list, could we have Stefan Johansson’s impersonation of Nigel Mansell on a podcast?

John Harrison, London SW3 

Rim with a view

I was interested to read the comments by Stefan Johansson regarding steering wheels. I have attached a couple of pictures of the actual steering wheel he used to take third place in the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix with Onyx.

Note the absence of any buttons at all! The plaque was placed on the wheel by the team, who donated it to a charity event I attended some years ago.

At one stage in the race Martini led in a Minardi – it never happened again!

Mike Seary, Kenley, Surrey

Sorry, wrong number

In the November edition of Motor Sport there is a note that says that Stirling Moss was driving a Lotus 24 when he crashed at Goodwood in ’62. It was actually a Lotus 18/21 modified to accept the Climax V8. I saw his penultimate race in that car at Snetterton, mechanical problems meant he did not feature in the results. In typical Stirling style, however, he set fastest lap of the race in his outdated car against the likes of Jimmy Clark in the Lotus 24 and Graham Hill in a BRM.

John Hindle, Penshurst, Kent

Lincoln continental

I am a long-time reader and supporter of MS; always will be, so please keep it up.

I wanted to express my appreciation for the Guy Martin article about the Triumph Land Speed Record programme in the States. I really enjoy a writing style that just drips with concise authenticity, while also allowing his Lincolnshire DNA to show through. I find he picks out and lets us in on the significant aspects very well.

A good call that complements the rest of the magazine really well.

Gary Drew, Brighton, E Sussex

Roamin’ holiday

Every October we visit Italy as a group on our motorbikes and over the years have retraced nearly all the Mille Miglia sections of note, but one spot had eluded me every time – the site of the 1957 de Portago crash and the memorial to the victims killed alongside the Spaniard and his co-driver Ed Nelson.

We had ridden past it every year, but this time I managed to find it; it is easily missed as it is hidden in a small copse of trees on a lethal stretch of single carriageway crowded with heavy goods trucks and no pull-in available.

The easy reference point is the Stanguellini (the same company that produced the race cars, I believe) factory and showroom on the left as you leave Guidizzolo on the 236, towards Mantova. Keep an eye out on your right for the small well-trimmed copse and there it will be, hidden away. On a motorbike I could ride onto the site, but in a car you are going to need to park up and walk from a distance, or definitely risk losing the a door.

On this trip we always visit Castel d’Ario to see the Nuvolari bronze celebrating his birthplace.

And the next village along is Bonferraro, the birthplace of Antonio Ascari. Is there something in the water around there?

Neil Leigh, Spa Belgium

Get back to tradition

As a 28-year veteran of the Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival, I (and many others of like mind) have become very frustrated with the management of the safety car. Its deployment was seemingly triggered by someone in West Kingsdown merely sneezing, such was its frequency. How will aspiring racers learn etiquette, racecraft and respect for others when they are not even required to be responsible for their own safety? I’m not suggesting safety should be anything other than the prime focus, but racers used to have to avoid hazards such as stricken cars and adjust their driving accordingly. 

Owain Linford, Milton Keynes, Bucks 

Cut to the chase

I believe most enthusiasts would agree that the abuse of run-off areas in modern F1 is a complete nonsense. This subject has been discussed and well reasoned by others more qualified than I, but the bottom line is surely that any lack of judgment, whether intentional or not, must in any credible sport be penalised. Imagine tennis without boundary limitations.

I have a suggestion that might solve this problem and provide an immediate and visible penalty. Each car would be fitted with a GPS-driven device or, failing that, a signal wire buried in the ground that, having detected a predetermined deviation from the margins of the track, would automatically cut that car’s engine power by 50 per cent for a period of five seconds or whatever time was deemed appropriate. Full power would subsequently be restored. This would have the effect of a virtual gravel trap without any danger of the car rolling, getting stuck in a vulnerable position or, heaven forbid, reducing the field for any reason other than pure racing incidents or mechanical woes. 

Chris Snell, Fulking, West Sussex

Snakes and ladders

I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Chris Amon and Jack Sears. My memory of these two dates back to the Guards Trophy meeting at Brands Hatch in 1964 when Jack, the established sports and touring car ace, was locked in battle with the up-and-coming Grand Prix driver, both in those brutish AC Cobras. A truly magnificent sight and a wonderful memory of these two great drivers.

Peter Haynes, Needingworth cum Holywell. 

’Ring of confidence

One of Nigel Roebuck’s recent articles prompted me to send you pictures of the original programmes of some of the events I attended during my time in the RAF, the most poignant of which was the 1957 German GP (left). It was very special indeed, watching the maestro Juan Manuel Fangio looking so relaxed.

I’ve also had the good fortune to have raced there with my wife and son in our Cooper-MG sports prototype, Cooper Bobtail and Clubmans Mallock.

They call it the best circuit in the world – and it’s most certainly the most difficult to learn. 

George Cooper, Kilsyth, Glasgow

Strictly Combe dancing

I was a little surprised to see no mention of the Castle Combe Autumn Classic in December’s edition of Motor Sport. A lovely day of wonderful motoring, not spoiled by the pretty inclement weather.

However, the large number of Motor Sport umbrellas and baseball caps that were on display showed that the day was well attended by some of your readers. I would certainly recommend a visit in 2017.

Ian Wilson, via email

It isn’t possible to cover every historic race meeting in the magazine – much as we’d like to – but a report and pictures from Castle Combe appeared on our website, www.motorsportmagazine.com

The flipside of halos

I am surprised it hasn’t been argued that the halo head protection will make Formula 1 more dangerous. We are told that a driver will have something like 20 per cent less risk of head injury in an accident with a halo fitted. Let’s accept that. Virtually all the accidents that may cause head injury are the result of drivers being too brave and aggressive. Aren’t they going to be 20 per cent more aggressive with the halo? I think so.

Then add on all the other hazards of halos, from slowing egress in a fire to caving in on drivers in rollover accidents. We might never know because this type of accident is so rare, and the sport will evolve, but it is pretty obvious the halo won’t make it safer.

Patrick Irwin, Port Melbourne, Australia