Letters, July 1992



Virage advantage


It may seem churlish to criticise JW’s most positive and complimentary test on the Aston Martin Virage (Motor Sport, April), but needs must.

Aston Martin has never claimed 168 mph for the standard Virage, all our PR and promotional literature quoting 155 mph (one leading motoring weekly has timed it at 157). I can only assume that young JW was getting confused with the maximum of the old V8 Vantage.

Secondly, the Virage has a single fuel tank, not two, there being filler caps on either side to enable easy refilling whatever side of the pump the driver draws up. So, far from refuelling being a “cumbersome ritual”, it is made easy by Aston Martin’s typical attention to detail.

Geoff Courtney,
Press and PR consultant,
Aston Martin Lagonda,
Newport Pagnell.

Nostalgia boon


If enough entries from current sports car formulae could not be scraped together for this year’s Vingt Quatre Heures du Mons, why couldn’t FISA have cut its losses and allowed Jaguar, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Porsche and Maserati to exhume from museums their contenders from the ’50s, thereby turning the event into an out-and-out wallow in nostalgia?

At least us poor punters, who faithfully trek to the Sarthe every June, would have loved it.

Noel Yates,
London SE3.

Editor’s note. The Le Mons 24 Hours took place while July’s Motor Sport was at the printers. An in-depth report of the event will thus appear in August’s issue.

Stepney’s alive


In WB’s piece on tyres, he asked whether anybody remembered the Stepney. I can assure him that it is alive and well in Pakistan.

During a recent business visit, one of the company’s young men arrived very late one morning with the explanation: ‘A had a puncture and I had no Stepney.” All around understood at once.

On a separate note, DSJ’s Moments to Remember might well include the first three seconds of any race which contained Reg Parnell …

JA Ayling,
Bourne End,

Thunderbolt is go


I am currently engaged in researching the land speed record car Thunderbolt, with which Capt George Eyston broke the world land speed record three times in 1937/1938, eventually raising it to 357.5 mph.

Thunderbolt was constructed by Beans Industries at Tipton, in the Black Country, but was eventually destroyed in a warehouse fire in New Zealand in 1946. I am keen to contact anyone who was an employee, or whose relatives were employees, perhaps as an apprentice, of Beans Industries during Thunderbolt’s construction or of one of the many leading motor industry suppliers who were involved in making special components for the vehicle.

In particular, I would like to trace any engineering drawings or photographs which may still exist, as I am attempting to find out more about the engineering details of the car than is available from contemporary press reports.

I would be most grateful if any reader of Motor Sport who has any information, personal reminiscences, artefacts, photographs or drawings relating to Thunderbolt’s construction, or its record attempts, could contact me at the address below.

This information, I stress, is sought purely for historical research and all correspondence will be acknowledged. Any co-operation will be much appreciated.

Ian Robinson,
17 Scales Close,
LA15 8PE.

Stale bread


One would have thought, with all the money that is heaped upon it, that some of Formula l’s funding could be spent making it more entertaining.

Admirable as Williams-Renault’s technology undoubtedly is, the opening few Grands Prix of the season proved to be a crushing bore, though the satellite dish I bought in order to watch them has more than paid for itself thanks to regular coverage of lndycar racing, NASCAR and the German Touring Car series, to name but a few.

The bulbous, aerodynamic naiveties of the 1960s and 1970s may have been relatively crude devices by current standards, but at least they allowed you to appreciate the driver’s art. They were times of finesse, rather than stamina.

Furthermore, the era of Clark and Lotus apart, you also had an open mind about the likely winner at the start of any given race. T

echnology may improve the breed (and one day maybe Sierras and Cavaliers will also have active suspension and carbon fibre brakes, though I have my doubts), but in recent years it has done little for the spectacle.

Jeremy Hardie-Allen,

Space odyssey


With reference to Mr Harris’s letter in May’s Motor SportT, the rules of the road seem to be a disaster of poll-tax proportions (or worse, as lives are at stake) that have gradually crept upon us.

Not only should drivers be able to drive at 90 mph or any other speed that is safe, taking all relevant factors into account, but a driver should be able to adjust speed to drive in as much space as possible.

It is a lot safer to overtake quickly and to accelerate when necessary to drive in the maximum amount of space and to avoid getting in the way of others than it is to sit like a zombie in a 70 mph train. Try keeping to the rules; it can be frightening, compared with driving properly, and you will find out why some people do not like motorways.

If a driver gets caught up in an accident as a result of driving at 70 mph, when it would be more sensible to be on an empty part of the motorway but the speed limit has to be exceeded to get there, surely the authorities are liable?

Cameras would be fine if only we had a decent set of rules. Would aircraft and trains be safe if they had speed limits instead of spacing rules? Why is it not possible to have something like a two-second spacing rule in the dry and a four-second rule in the wet, instead of arbitrary motorway speed limits that were only introduced as a panic measure in the 1960s after accidents in the fog?

Alan Bealing,

Lights still out


Further to my letter expressing incredulity at WB’s faith in British traffic lights (Motor Sport, May), I am pleased to say that one particular set of rogue signals to which I referred was finally fixed after over four months’ inactivity a couple of weeks after I wrote.

Two days later, they packed up again. QED.

Merrick Corfield,

Making waves


The article by WB about tyres reminded me of steel-studded tyres and a good laugh thereon. Date, 1919. Mount, a 1914 two-seater Metallurgique driven by an uncle. Place, south side of Berkeley Square after a summer cloudburst, deep water at the kerb, spreading far out. Steel studs on greasy wet wood blocks, negligible adhesion; we spin slowly into the flood, raising a great wave of water. Passing cabbie leans from his Unic to shout at us “Man the lifeboats”.

GAD Smith,

Bourne free


Now that the BRM P351 has taken to the track, how long will it be before the BRM supporters’ club makes a welcome return?

The Owen Racing Motor Association was always a great source of support and inspiration to the team; the annual open day at Bourne and the various races around the world gave members a real feeling of belonging. The Yorkshire members were avid fundraisers, with Barry Boyd masterminding the White Rose branch. Where is he now?

The spirit of Sir Alfred Owen burns bright, so over to you John Mangoletsi and the Owen family. My cheque is made out to ORMA. Where do I send it?

Frank Doughty,
W Yorks.

Police farce?


John Lyon’s letter (June 1992) was most interesting. Bearing in mind the Diablo’s claimed performance, I should have thought it would have been delivered with the right ride height, wheel cambers and the tyres and steering correct and ready to use, and I would assume steering accuracy and stability in a car of that calibre. The faith John Lyon puts in police training is not shared by quite a few very fine and experienced drivers.

John Langley wrote an article in the Weekend Telegraph of May 25 which reported that a shake-up to the way police drivers are trained and tested is on the way.

The police system is 60 years old and was devised by Malcolm Campbell and Lord Cottenham to cope with cars with heavy steering and, by today’s standards, poor brakes and limited tyre adhesion. Most usually criticised is the “Insistence on push/pull steering with complete prohibition on the drivers hands on the wheel passing the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock position”. This may have worked at lower speeds, but at higher speeds the ability is not there.

Sir John Whitmore, author of Super Driver and former saloon car champion. is one of those concerned with the training, as it seems are John Watson, Paddy Hopkirk and John Taylor of the Ford Rally School. The opinions of these men and some police records cannot be ignored.

In view of his fast driving, perhaps John Lyon should consider the John Watson driving school.

Guy Griffiths,

Still newsworthy


I feel very strongly that the question over the Jim Clark room at Duns, Berwickshire should not be allowed to cease being newsworthy.

As a former resident of Greenlow, Berwickshire, I’m one of many drivers inspired by the driving of Jimmy, from his early days in a historic Jaguar and Ian Scott-Watson’s Elite up to his untimely death at Hockenheim in the F2 Lotus. He was a legend in his own lifetime.

If necessary, I believe a fund-raising event should be held, perhaps with the big names of today, to ensure this Memorial Room continues to exist.

John Selby-Greene,



I was intrigued by the advertisement for Atlantic Art on page 585, Motor Sport, June. I hope the paintings are more accurate than the spelling (such as J Siffered for Jo Siffert and Nurdugring for Nurburgring). Then there is M Mansell and J Clark in a Lotus 48 when it is, obviously, a Type 49.

I’m presuming that the Spitfire print signed by Johnnia Johnson is in fact signed by Johnnie Johnson!

Incidentally, I bought my first MOTOR SPORT in June 1967 – 25 years of good reading.

David Clayson,

Indy blues


Having recently watched the Indianapolis 500 live, courtesy of satellite TV, I have reached the conclusion that the time has surely come to enforce lndycar designers to produce slower projectiles.

Impressive as it is to see average lap speeds well in excess of 220 mph, the spectacle of car after car being demolished against the nearby concrete wall is not my idea of what motor racing is all about. The succession of heavy impacts during the race was horrific, and that doesn’t take into account several similar incidents during qualifying which left one driver dead and two others badly injured.

Enough is enough. Let’s retain the traditional razzamatazz and atmosphere, but do away with the abattoir. Indy would still be a spectacle if the cars averaged 180 mph.

Dan Taylor,

Blunder bus


Can anyone enlighten me about the purpose of the blue signs erected in bus lanes to advise motorists at which times they may, or may not, use them.

Typical scenario 1: During the rush-hour, when the lanes are supposed to be the exclusive preserve of London Transport, taxi cabs and pushbikes, a succession of drivers gamble that there are no policemen hiding behind lamp posts and take to the bus lanes in order to barge to the front of the queue.

Typical situation 2: In the middle of the afternoon, when the bus lanes are for anyone’s use, one of what should be two traffic lanes is perpetually ignored and unnecessary congestion is created by those who either don’t understand the rules of the road or who else simply can’t read, and who dawdle along in the outside lane, blisfully ignorant of their error and hooting furiously if anyone should take to the inoperative bus lane as a means to bypass – still illegally, as it involves overtaking on the inside – the obstruction.

The money saved by not putting up the blue signs which everyone ignores could be put to a more useful purpose, like reprinting the Highway Code in nice big letters that everyone can understand…

Geoff King,
London SW.