editorial, July 1997

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When Lord March announced at the press launch of this year’s Festival of Speed that it would contain a two minute ‘noise’ to celebrate the life of Denis Jenkinson, a spontaneous cheer went up in Goodwood House. Everyone knew that there could be no better way of saying farewell, no more greater send off for Jenks, a man who lived for his sport. And as it was to occupy just 120 seconds within a three day festival of unsilenced exhausts, it never occured to me that anyone might be so mean-minded as to try to stop the great man’s last hurrah. Now I am kicking myself for being so shockingly naive. Not only have they tried, they have succeeded.

These are indeed sensitive times for Charles March as he executes his dream to return racing to the circuit and I have no doubt that his decision to cancel the noise was made with a heavy heart and for the greater good of the sport. I am sure too that Stirling’s drive-by in the SLR will prove as moving a sight as any we’ll see over the weekend; but it makes see over my blood boil to think of all those thousands, who had been given a uniquely appropriate way to honour the life of their hero, having their dream dashed by so few. I used to be able to hold my breath for two minutes. Now I can’t even say goodbye.

As you will know by now, the Reims Historic meeting has been canned. I know a fair few thousand of you intended to make the journey as it has been near-impossible to book a room in the city for months. You now have no choice but to spend the weekend camped out in Basildon instead. If this doesn’t sound like such an appetising alternative, you have not yet turned to page 84.

I hope you will be both pleased and surprised to see how much of this edition has been written by people known for rather more heroic exploits than bashing away at a typewriter. I find offensive the use of celebrity for its own sake but when those concerned know far more about the subject than any hack ever could, you cannot read their words without gaining a unique perspective. Read Stirling Moss on the Maserati 250F, Henri Pescarolo on 25 years of Le Mans or Derek Warwick on the 1973 Superstox final and you’ll see what I mean.

I bumped into Bob Dover today. Bob is now chairman of Aston Martin and comes fresh from signing off the XK8 chassis at Jaguar. I once spent time with him as he put the finishing touches to Jaguar’s new coupe so, when Ford provided the big chair at Astons, a part of me wondered whether he would miss the thrill of testing. Then I went to MIRA to drive the beautiful XJ13 and learned that, but for a delinquent ECU, the ’88 Le Mans winning XJR-9LM would have been there too. I asked who would have driven the beast and was told with a quizzical look, “Bob Dover, of course.” We need more company chiefs like him.