Readers' letters, July 1984, July 1984

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Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents, and are not necessarily those of MOTOR SPORT.

Whither Fl ?

Sir,

Having watched the Monaco Grand Prix I feel inspired to write questioning where motor racing has got to. First of all they have to wet the road in the tunnel because the tyres — or is it the drivers? — can’t cope with the transition from wet to dry road and back again.

Secondly it seems most of the cars are unsuitable for the circuit. The lag with the turbos is not suited for the conditions but none of the teams with a turbocharged engine thought fit to remove the turbo for this event. In years gone by, when racing was far less technical than today, a manufacturer would produce a special chassis or engine or both for a particular race. One would have thought a present-day manufacturer would have the wit and knowhow to do likewise.

It seems that tyres are the governing factor throughout the sport. The tyres are so wide and so adhesive that drivers in Fl no longer know how to control a slide. The cars are so overpowered as to be uncontrollable in the wet. The limiting factors imposed by the governing body for motorsport are pathetically aimed at petrol-tank capacity. If they directed their limits to the width of tyres, the overall width of cars and a maximum bhp or torque or bmcp or whatever, perhaps it would become more interesting.

I cannot see Caracciola or Ascari or Fangio whingeing about conditions; one feels that today’s drivers are so overpaid that they forget that it is a sport and if they can’t take the heat they shouldn’t have come into the kitchen. Only the dilettante races only when the weather’s fine; sadly there is a tradition of death associated with motor racing but drivers are going to die whatever the conditions: this is a risk racing drivers have accepted since the days of Count Eliot Zborowski. It is a risk run by other sportsmen, rugby players, fencers, perhaps not to such a degree but it is a known and accepted risk. It seems to me that racing drivers have an inflated (in the monetary sense) idea of their own importance. I fancy Jackie Stewart started it. If drivers, who are only one part of the team, are to dictate terms to the whole sport, let them heed Fangio’s judgement, “the cars are too wide and the tracks too narrow”; let them consider the skills of the rally drivers whose cars go sideways more often than not. Finally when is someone going to do something about the French? As long as I can remember they have played the rule-book to suit French advantage. To stop the Monaco GP just before Senna was due to win was quite typical. Even Aunty Beeb didn’t edit out James Hunt’s comments; but when is someone actually going to do something? Because Levassor won the Paris-Bordeaux in 1895, do we still have to accept the French making the rules suit themselves? Why don’t the almighty over-paid drivers do something?

Wouldn’t racing be more fun both to watch and to do if overtaking were easier, ie if the cars were a bit narrower and the tracks a bit wider — except at Monte Carlo of course where a track widening scheme would not be viable?

Harborne, G. A. V. Coward

False Pretences?

Sir,

It is very sad for me to read about the current Austins wearing the famous MG badge. To stick a badge, or a rally 4WD or turbocharger, on an Austin and sell it on the reflected glory generated by that dedicated team of sports car enthusiasts at Abingdon who built MG’s with love and dedication, is “rape and plunder”. Believe me, when BL sold the factory and its contents, and kicked into retirement and oblivion those families who built the cars to a formula set down by Cecil Kimber and continued by John Thornley, MG died. MG, the sports car, wasn’t just a badge, you know. Each new model was a continuation and evolution of a dream. Poor John Thornley has to sit in retirement at Abingdon and read the rubbish put out by the public relations department at Austin Rover.

I recall once, a very proud worker at Abingdon saying, “you know, wherever you go in the world — to the US, Australia, Europe, Africa, or New Guinea, if you see an MG you can say that it was created and built by the team at Abingdon.” He was a very proud car worker indeed and his attitude helps us to understand why quality and reliability was so good at MG, and strikes non-existent. But Leyland threw that away and now clutch onto the badge. But MG was not a mere badge and Leyland have chucked out the baby, and are left with some very pale bathwater. I note they haven’t put a TR badge on one of their creations. By the way, putting a Riley badge on an Austin doesn’t make it a Riley either (a previous attempt at this ploy only buried Riley for good). Changing your name by deed pole to John Lennon doesn’t make you a gifted song writer, you know; most people can at least see through that one! MG is really paying the price of being the most famous sports car marque in the world, and now the very people who signed the death warrant for the very successful MG formula, are today running around riveting MG badges to their own creations.

The Austins may be good or bad, they may be the rally kings of the 80s, etc, but it takes more than a badge to make an MG. I personally think they are getting reviews in the press under false pretences, and I, for one, won’t be trading my MG on one, and when shopping for a new car, I won’t be taken in by the sheer plagiarism of those at Austin Rover. In fact, it’s all getting up my nose to the point that I’m off for a test drive of a Porsche 924.

Queensland Peter Kerr

Australia

Radio Commentary

Sir,

Is there any reason why the race commentary at Silverstone and / or Brands racing Hatch could not be via a very local and low power VHF transmitter as I believe is done at Le Mans?

The commentary at the GPI 1,000 kms was very good, well informed and clear but only when it could be heard above the noise of the cars.

Even when spectating in the vicinity of the pits it is very easy to lose track of the various stops and driver changes. This makes it very difficult even for the regular and well informed spectator.

If there are any legal or technical reasons for not implementing this system could someone please tell the paying spectator, because this was the only drawback to a very well organised and enjoyable race meeting.

One final point, it was a pleasure to be able to go into the pits and paddock and find that the drivers and their teams were not too busy to chat or sign autographs. Take note F1.

Cambridge E. H. DIXON

Gilby

Sir,

Your interesting article on the Gilby cars does not reveal that there were in fact two F1 chassis. An entirely new chassis frame was built to accommodate the BRM V8, and Ian Raby acquired both chassis when he took over the F1 project. The original Climax chassis was sold to Mr Fisher of Fisher’s Garage, Edinburgh, to make a hill-climb special, whilst the BRM car eventually found its way to Jersey and was fitted with a 4.2 Ford Tiger V8 for Dick Chadney to use in local hill-climbs. And now Ian Bax is putting a Climax engine into the BRM chassis. . . .

Of the sports car, 1962 saw it in the hands of one T. Bone of “Ecurie Freeze” and in1964/5 it appears, again in northern events, driven by D. Driver of “Team Redwell”

Wimbledon DUNCAN RABAGLIATI

[The existence of two Gilby Formula One cars is a myth. The BRM engined car was merely the Climax powered car modified. No second chassis was ever built. After Ian Raby had the car it passed briefly into the hands of Alan Rollinson who had toyed with the idea of putting an American V8 into it, but a change of plan led him to sell the car to Barry Winyard who had it from 1964-1967/8 mainly running in Hillclimbs. The car had reverted to a Coventry Climax FPF engine and a Jack Knight gearbox. Barry Winyard eventually sold it to a Mr Chandey in Jersey and the last two owners of the car, before Ian Bax acquired it, were two Jersey men, Jean Pirout and Bob Delahaye. Later, Barry Winyard also bought the Gilby sports car from David Driver at the end of 1965 and kept it until 1968 when it passed briefly through the hands of Martin Ottey and the Manchester dealer Brian Classic from whom the present owner, Lionel Aglavey, bought it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. M.L.]

Automatic choice

Sir,

I was more than interested in Mr. Boyle’s letter in June MOTOR SPORT, as I too am a septuagenarian contemplating a change of car but put classic looks, comfort and ease of driving and maintenance as priorities.

My present car is a Rover SDI 2.6 automatic and is mechanically most satisfactory but disappoints in falling short of previous models of the marque I have owned in comfort and accommodation.

The car that appeals most is an XJ6 but thirst, insurance and cost of upkeep reduce its attraction. Also I have reservations on the ability of the autobox to cope with the power delivered by the excellent engine unit.

I look for a modestly powered automatic car of British make — the Japanese cars offer a lot but in my opinion are more reliable than durable.

Hoping this correspondence may bring forth some worthwhile suggestions.

Worcester K. G. Langley