Readers' Letters, July 2008, July 2008

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Don’t print this letter

Sir,
At last, somebody says it as it is. I agreed with every word of your piece on Max Mosley (June issue) and I’m sure that you will have very many letters and e-mails of support for your point of view from many of your readers.

However, please do not allow any of this correspondence to take up space in the Letters section. History will decide on the relative merits or otherwise of this FIA president and the subject has had plenty of attention throughout the press already.

Many thanks for the increasingly brilliant magazine.
Richard Watkinson, by e-mail

Minimum on Max, please

Sir,
Max Mosley has many enemies in F1 and they are milking the current situation and creating as much adverse publicity as possible. In Damien Smith’s editorial he states that the publicity is bad for F1 and Max should stand down. However, you then print over eight pages on the subject, thereby increasing the media coverage.

If you really cared about motor sport you’d give it minimum coverage, as the dailies are currently, and it would all soon be forgotten.
Peter Briggs, Oxted, Surrey

Hmm. We took a stand about the future of the most influential man in motor sport because we couldn’t care less? If you say so – Ed

No-one tells it like Frank

Sir,
I enjoyed immensely Simon Taylor’s Lunch With… Frank Gardner in the March issue. I have long been impressed with his engineering and driving skills, and his turn of phrase.

I remember at a race meeting somewhere in New Zealand there was a stream running near the pits and the organisers set up primitive toilets over the stream! Frank and one of his mechanics had completed some repairs to a car and tipped the used cleaning solvent into the stream, upstream of the loos. A toilet occupant decided to have a quiet smoke and dropped his match into the stream just as the solvent arrived borne along on the waters. The ignition of the aforesaid hydrocarbons caused a scream and a most irate giant of a Maori burst out of the door. Frank distracted the victim with quick diversionary talk and he and the mechanic made their escape.

In Australia, he was running, I think, the BMW saloon car team and one of his drivers was well in the lead. Frank described it thus: “He’s just strokin’ it along and all the needles on the gauges are hangin’ in the right places.”

Another gem occurred when Frank was doing some guest commentating at a race meeting at Amaroo Park, a now-defunct circuit west of Sydney. The rain had ceased but the circuit was still wet and the next event was a one-make race for 1950s Holden sedans. Frank described their wet-weather roadholding as “being as surefooted as a leper in a swamp”!

Long life to you, Frank Gardner.
Peter Ward, Green Point, NSW, Australia

Irwin’s underground past

Sir,
I was a contemporary of Chris Irwin (The Motor Sport Month, June issue) at Stagenhoe Park prep school in the ’50s. He will remember he had a slower lifestyle in those days – as official school mole catcher!
Colin Marsh, Isleworth, Middx

Size wasn’t everything

Sir,
I was most interested in Bill Boddy’s article on Prescott, which states that the reason the VSCC did not purchase the estate was a lack of funds (May issue).

In 1938 the VSCC was run by a committee mostly based in the City of London: Cecil Clutton, estate agent; Anthony Heal, whose family own the famous store; Forrest Lycett, tea importer, and Lawrence Pomeroy, technical editor of The Motor. All these gentlemen owned large cars: GP Itala, TT Sunbeam, 8-litre Bentley and Prince Henry respectively, and were hardly short of funds.

It’s not that I wish to dispute anything Bill, the greatest authority on the history of motor sport, has to say, but when Forrest Lycett, my godfather, first took me to Prescott as a schoolboy in September 1946 he told me his version of the story, later confirmed by Peter Hull. It was that the reason was not money but that the hill as it was then was not suitable for the large cars the committee all owned.

He did quietly eat his words once the hill was improved, but I think he preferred Shelsley.
M L Brewer, Stoke Poges, Bucks

I stand by what I wrote. Tom Rolt found the place but the VSCC could not afford it, so told the Bugatti OC of it. Sonia Rolt, whom I know well, wrote in the VSCC Golden Jubilee book, “A deputation and me and Forrest Lycett went to look at the drive and concluded that it was too hot a potato for the VSCC club to handle, so we introduced it to the Bugatti OC”. – WB

Laguna, not Riverside

Sir,
I was a bit taken aback when I saw the photo in the Roger Penske article (April issue) which purports to be the start of the sports car race at “Riverside in ’64”. What startled me was that car No19 was said to be the King Cobra Cooper of Parnelli Jones, when it is clearly a Lotus 19 – the Ford-powered Dan Gurney ‘Pacesetter’ version in fact.

The relevant issue of Competition Press includes an almost identical photo (taken a lap later I guess) on the cover. However, this photo included the start/finish banner which says “Monterey Grand Prix” – that is, it is the Laguna Seca race which was won by Roger Penske in the No66 Chaparral.
George Webster, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Use technology wisely

Sir,
Tiff Needell’s letter (May issue) was excellent because it emphasised a common-sense approach to using technology. Advanced technology has always been important in racing. In addition technological development for competition has benefited road cars. And it is crucial that racing leads the way in using alternative sources of energy.

Nevertheless, the use of technology in racing should be wisely employed. Smaller teams will seldom have the advantages of their well-funded rivals, but they should at least have some chance.
David Krall, Marina, California, USA

Sensory deprivation

Sir,
At a stroke you have ruined the only excuse I had for keeping my 58-year collection of Motor Sport magazines on display. My wife has seen your Digital Motor Sport offer and now expects me to remove the magazines and replace them with a couple of discs!

No longer will I be able to turn away from the computer and open up an annual, smell the slightly musty pages and read a random selection from that year.

I am sure it will be easier to find things in a digitised format but there is no substitute for picking up a volume and reading forgotten articles and snippets that you would not normally find, e.g. July 1953 ‘Le Mans Shorts’: “The Jaguars ran on limited trade plates, painted permanently on the cars…”

Keep up the excellent work – the magazine is improving all the time. But God forbid that the magazine becomes a digital download!
R P Wood, Dodleston, Cheshire

Fangio’s first

Sir,
Further to Bill Boddy’s thoughtful article Can Hamilton beat Fangio? (March issue), Fangio did win first time out in Formula 1 – in an Alfetta 158 – in the San Remo GP, a non-championship race run on April 16 1950, a few weeks prior to the start of the inaugural Formula 1 season, his first, not his second season as quoted by WB.
Clarrie Mitchell, Melbourne, Australia

Attractive cars will attract fans

Sir,
I have read with interest the comments in recent issues on the future of Indycar racing and the changes needed in order to improve competition in the series. There is one point I would like to address: aesthetics. As a motor racing fan for over 35 years, I believe appearance is important to attract crowds in this and other sports, and in my opinion the IRL Dallaras are probably the ugliest single-seaters ever made (yes, I do remember the Trojan). Compared to other current racing cars, only the spec Grand-Am model is more unattractive and the A1GP Lola follows the Dallaras closely. The IRL could look into that and probably ask Dallara to find inspiration in the Le Mans Series prototypes. Those cars really look fabulous – the beauty of the new Epsilon Euskadi is astonishing.

Motor Sport has become the perfect racing magazine, with the new blend of history and current issues. Don’t change it!
Luis Galvao, Brasilia, Brazil

Bert, Brands and Chapman

Sir,
I spent many days marshalling at Brands Hatch in the early ’50s, and like David Venables (Letters, May issue) remember well the iron control of Bert Lamkin. I wanted desperately to get near the racing cars and so always volunteered to marshal at the entrance gate to the pits before the old tunnel, which gave me the opportunity to escape into the general paddock and volunteer my services to anyone who looked as though they would accept me. At one time I pumped up the rear tyres for a fellow called Chapman. My first Austin Seven conversion wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, but Colin sketched for me the de-siamesed inlets which did make a difference.

As I remember it the old tunnel went under the embankment and then into a short lay-by to join the track. Bert controlled the movements, allowing the next race entrants to go through the tunnel direct out onto the track when it was clear. No-one was allowed to disobey!

As David says, Bert controlled everything, including me, and I didn’t get to go through the tunnel much, but I do remember it as being very small, and not possible when the cars were going through it.

Happy days; the BRSCC was great at that time and fortunately after my National Service the VSCC allowed me to play with old cars at the races for the next 30 years.
Mike Head, Otford, Kent

Tributes a credit to Clark

Sir,
Thank you for the May issue covering the life and career of Jim Clark. I know that I’m only one of many for whom he was our first motor racing hero. I was also at Brands Hatch that day, and can so clearly recall the silence and the shock that fell over the crowd as the dreadful news came in.

As your writers said, Jim Clark was an impressive role model as a man and it is that aspect of his character which has burnished his reputation over the last 40 years. The contrasting behaviours of one or two of our more recent F1 stars is absolute.

I was fortunate to attend the recent Jim Clark Film Festival at Whitney, Oxfordshire, organised by Michael Oliver and Gary Critcher. To see all the archive film, some never shown before, was a treat, but to have the drivers who were his team-mates and the mechanics who set up his cars there to give their personal recollections was priceless. Sir Jackie Stewart, who could not be there, sent a tribute by letter; after it was read out at the Saturday night dinner, there were lumps in many a throat.

The speaker panel comprised Jim’s 1959 Le Mans co-driver and saloon, sports and GT car star Sir John Whitmore; Jack Sears, who partnered Jim in the works Lotus saloon car team; former Lotus designer Len Terry (who conceived the 1965 Indy-winning Lotus 38 as well as the gorgeous Eagle F1 car); Clark’s mentor and owner of the cars that Jim first raced, Ian Scott Watson; Clark’s former mechanic Bob Dance and Lotus team photographer Peter Darley.

It is a true measure of the regard that motor racing fans have for the man that, 40 years on from his shocking death in the spring of 1968, this event was a total sell-out. I met two Americans (separately) who had flown across the Atlantic to be there, which speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

As to Jim’s abilities in the car, I was fortunate to speak one-on-one to both Jack Sears and Sir John Whitmore at the close of dinner. Jack confirmed that the two saloon cars in the Lotus team were identical in specification and set-up: “I usually tested the set-ups on both our cars, Jimmy didn’t do very much of our testing, so I can confirm that the cars were the same. It was just that Jimmy was a little bit better than the rest of us.”

And from Sir John: “When you followed Jimmy around the circuit, you could see what he did. And then, because you were both driving the same type of car, (Lotus Cortina saloons) you could eventually work out how he did it.”

I hope that both of Jimmy’s former partners will not mind me quoting them. In my view, their honesty does them great credit – and confirms that the reputation of Jim Clark, 40 years on, shines as brightly as ever.
Andy Burrows, Chesham, Bucks