Letters, July 2007



Cleare facts


I write with regard to the photograph of the Kremer CK5 to be sold by Coys at Brands Hatch on May 21.

The car shown is CK5-01 – but it is the modified Richard Cleare car of 1985. It first raced Le Mans in 1982, entered by the Kremer Brothers, painted white and numbered five, as seen in the photograph. 

Sold to Richard for 1983, it was raced at Monza, Silverstone and Le Mans before we began to modify it. Val Dare-Bryan started a development programme that lasted two seasons. I was team manger at RC Racing and, under my management, the car kept evolving, while only racing again in three more events, all at Brands Hatch: 1983-85.

The car was so heavily modified that only the cockpit section remains definitive CK5-01. It would be better described as a Cleare-Kremer CK5/85.

Peter Twitchen, via e-mail

Chiron’s full monte


I greatly enjoyed Simon Taylor’s fascinating interview with Vic Elford, one of the most underappreciated talents among British drivers.

But Vic is mistaken in one thing: he’s not the only Monte Carlo Rally winner to have finished the Monaco GP. Louis Chiron, aged 54, won the 1954 Monte in a Lancia Aurelia GT, and came second in the 1948 Monaco GP and third in 1950.

I don’t know how many others he finished, but as he was a Monegasque and already an established GP driver by 1929, when the first Monaco GP was held, I imagine it may have been more than a few.

John Brown, Leigh, Worcester

[Chiron enjoyed an excellent pre-war record in the Monaco GP. He won in 1931 aboard a Bugatti T51, having finished second to René Dreyfus the year before. He also finished second in 1934, a late mistake handing the win to Guy Moll, his Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Tipo B team-mate. Chiron finished fourth in 1933 and fifth in 1935. He also finished sixth as late as 1955 in a Lancia D50. Ed.]

Spottiswoode’s bugs


I was intrigued to read WB’s article on Alexander Spottiswoode, whose Bugatti T35 came into my father CG Neill’s ownership in 1936.

Some years ago, with the assistance of David Sewell and Yves Kaltenbach, the car, and also Spottiswoode’s T37, were traced to the USA. As a result of that, the T35 was offered to me for purchase. While I was tempted, family life would not justify that luxury!

I would love to see the car, but I do have two trophies that it won in Ireland, along with several photos and rare film footage of it racing at Bray.

Malcolm Neill, via e-mail

I can’s say it any louder


The photo of Niki Lauda in the canopy of his F1 Ferrari, on page 40 of the June issue, is, beyond question, the best F1-related photo I have ever seen. Thank the gods of motor racing that he lived to regain the title. No driver since has shown his guts.

Paul Madden, Manukau City, NZ

Speed heroes


Your excellent piece on Bluebird CN7 in the BP advertisement feature says its “403mph… was the last wheel-driven Land Speed Record holder”. 

Well, that’s right. But two (or three) wheel-driven cars have exceeded that mark since the LSR became the preserve of jet- and rocket-propelled cars. Bob Summers’ Goldenrod went 409.277 in 1965, using four unsupercharged Chrysler Hemis. And the amazing Al Teague went 409.986 in 1991 – on a single blown Hemi.

Bob Immler, via e-mail

[The wheel-driven speed record is held by the late Don Vesco, whose gas turbine-powered Turbinator recorded a two-way average of 458.44mph at Bonneville in October 2001. Ed.]

Memory tricks


It’s odd how your memory can play tricks on you. Reader Alistair Hibbert can remember all those details of the 1966 Indy 500, yet the date must have been May 30, not May 1. 

Carlos Reutemann had been a star performer in the 1967 Gran Premio International, a 2000-mile road race in Argentina, before he retired on the last day (Autosport November 17, 1967). He must have had a co-driver/  navigator/riding mechanic on that occasion, yet still he could say, in reference to his Busman’s Holiday on the 1980 Codasur Rally that, “to have someone talking to you when you are driving fast is not in my experience”.

But the one who surprised me in last month’s issue was Derek Bell. From everything I have read on the subject, I am sure that it was for the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours that John Wyer made Derek an offer. The Gulf-sponsored team ran a third GT40 in the race, as it had been postponed to September and was also the title-decider. In 1969 it ran just two cars for its regular drivers.

Mr Ferrari had pulled out of endurance racing for 1968 in protest against the rule changes pushed through by the FIA the previous June. His magnificent 4-litre P4 had been rendered obsolete and he was faced with two expensive alternatives: rush through an F1-engined Group 6 car, or try to find the money to build a series of 50 of a more competitive 5-litre Gp4 car. He chose to do neither.

For 1968 he planned to concentrate on F1, F2 and a much-vaunted – but soon cancelled – Indianapolis programme. But he did not eschew sportscars entirely. A new 2-litre car was intended for the European Hillclimb Championship, only to be held over for the next season, while a Can-Am car was built just in time for the last round in Las Vegas. Alas it was knocked out at the first corner.

The FIA mucked about with the Gp6 regs again for 1969, dispensing with minimum windscreen heights, ground clearance restrictions and cockpit width requirements. It also eased weight limitations. This encouraged Ferrari, among others, to build what were virtually streamlined two-seater GP cars – while the FIA’s halving of the homologation number required for Gp4 cars to 25 tempted Porsche into coming up with the 917.

Il Commendatore’s new car made its debut in the Sebring 12 Hours, where Chris Amon and Mario Andretti drove it to second place. A limited programme was carried out that year with experienced sportscar drivers Pedro Rodriguez, Peter Schetty and David Piper. 

But none of Ferrari’s F2 team – Derek, Clay Regazzoni and Tino Brambilla – got to race a 312P that year. A couple of date clashes didn’t help, but perhaps the deciding factor was when Brambilla was sent to the Le Mans Test Weekend in March and proved surprisingly off the pace.

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Off the trait and narrow


May’s issue of Motor Sport offered an excellent reminiscence by Martin Brundle. However, I think Martin was, understandably, slightly confused with the events of that hectic 1983 F3 season, in particular the Oulton Park round where, if my memory serves me correctly, an enthralling cat and mouse battle was ruined by Ayrton Senna making an ill-judged lunge on Martin at Fosters, taking them both off. A trait that stayed with Senna throughout his career, and one subsequently assumed by a further champion. Pity.

David Rimmer, Bolton, Lancs