Letters, July 2010

Oh so wrong, Mr Wright


I read Peter Wright’s thoughts on the future of Grand Prix racing with a mounting sense of disbelief and irritation (Shaping the future of F1, June issue). His proposal to introduce a lame little 1400 turbo four, if accepted,will succeed in hammering the final nail into my sport’s coffin. I have watched GP cars in action for 40 years and fell in love with the sport the second I saw JYS power-slide his Tyrrell out of Lodge corner at Oulton Park.
A huge part of the charisma of F1 ‘live’ is the shriek of a racing engine, and sorry Peter, but a turbo four doesn’t cut it. They weren’t even that dramatic-sounding when bolted into the back of Piquet’s Brabham, even if the 1300bhp did keep the driver fairly busy…
A question for readers – you are at Brands Hatch and are given the opportunity of watching a few laps by either a 1975 Ferrari 312T or a 2010 Formula Renault. Both will lap at a similar pace, the newer car able to do so with half the 312’s 500bhp thanks to its immense grip and supreme braking ability. Any takers? Thought not, because like me you want to hear a squalling flat 12, watch a power-slide out of every corner and listen to the driver heel and toe into Druids.
F1 is running scared of its perceived opponents and Mr Wright’s suggestion is just another doomed attempt at placating them. I’d love to meet the environmentalist who says, “Peter, the turbo four is just fine, it’s the V10s and 12s we worry about”. If this sport wants to do something intelligent about its footprint then reduce the number of flyaway races to Tilkedromes – you know, those races at identikit circuits attended by a couple of hundred ex-pats, a posse of sheikhs and the usual celebrities sharing their airhead thoughts with Martin Brundle on the grid.
My blueprint for the 2013 GP car? Four litres (six, eight, 10 or 12 cylinders), revs restricted to 14,000, thumping big slicks, a gated shift and, yes, a clutch pedal! Half the aero grip of the 2010 car and brakes which are reliable but inefficient enough to double or even treble current braking distances. And if I want to listen to a bloody turbo 1.4 I will go and test drive a Golf…
John Aston, Over Silton, North Yorkshire

Silverstone shapes up
I was looking forward to the GT1 World Championship round at Silverstone as it was to be the debut of the new revised circuit layout. Having seen so many great circuits emasculated over the years I expected to be underwhelmed by the changes. To my great surprise, I was impressed by what I saw, and I believe Silverstone is a better circuit as a result.
Let’s face it, the section we have lost was hardly classic; granted Bridge was a pretty good corner, but I won’t miss the Abbey chicane and the Luffield/Brooklands sequence was always far too tight and twisty. The Wellington straight is a terrific addition and the new Brooklands is a far more exciting corner than before and was the scene of much overtaking. We watched the GT1 race from Becketts and were also able to see the cars negotiate the Loop and Aintree, which greatly enhanced our viewing experience.
In terms of the layout, the only disappointment was the new Village corner – I’d have liked to see a faster corner leading into the low-speed Loop. I realise the ‘building site’ look can’t be helped as the new pits complex is under construction, but I hope they give the asphalt run-offs a lick of paint, otherwise Silverstone will always have that ‘not quite finished’ look. Something must also be done to the exit of Club, where the run-off is used as an extension of the track.
Put these small things right and Silverstone will again be the great circuit it was before 1991.
Nicholas Bird, Knowle, Fareham, Hants

Todt gets my vote
Like Nigel Roebuck, I had some doubts as to whether Jean Todt was going to be any better than his predecessor as FIA president. However, I agree that his performance to date has been a pleasant surprise and I hope this continues.
He made a good impression on myself and some colleagues in Bahrain when he visited the weighing bay before the end of the GP, where I was working as part of the scrutineering team. He made a point of introducing himself and shaking hands with all the team members. I have been involved with the Bahrain marshalling and scrutineering teams since 2004 and never saw his predecessor, let alone shook hands with him!
Les Winder, Awali, Bahrain

Manners from heaven
After Jonathan Palmer took over Snetterton some years ago, I wrote to him asking that he do something to spruce up the memorial to Archie Scott Brown, which at that time was looking very neglected in the paddock. (I was born and grew up in Norfolk, and ASB was my boyhood hero.)
Then, in 2006, and directly as a result of that plea, my wife and I were invited to the opening of the new Archie Scott Brown scrutineering building at the circuit. Among the other guests was Jack Sears. I decided that his autograph would be a fitting addition to my copy of Robert Edwards’ excellent book Archie and the Listers. I proffered book and pen towards him with the request. He looked slightly surprised that, so many years on from his ‘heyday’, someone was asking for an autograph.
He signed, handed book and pen back to me and, making direct eye contact, asked if that was OK, adding: “I always felt that a legible signature was so important; none of today’s hurried squiggles…”
It was said without any degree of pomposity but was an example of what Simon Taylor (Lunch With…, June issue) described as his “courteous good manners”.
A real gentleman.
Mike Dodman, Bromsgrove, Worcs

Ferrari’s early gearchange
John Barnard (Lord of the black arts, June issue) tells us that when Vittorio Ghidella first arrived at Ferrari to take over Enzo’s role, he was “super-nervous” about the next Formula 1 car having no conventional gearchange mechanism because “what happens if it doesn’t work?”. In fact, both Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve had tested a ‘push-button gearchange device’ at Fiorano before the 1979 South African Grand Prix.
This version was never raced and seems to have been largely ignored by history, though it was described in some detail by Autocar that year.
The project was then set aside, but a much-revised system was reported as being tested on a turbocharged V6-powered F1 Ferrari in 1987, though no such car would be brought to a race track either. Maybe Signor Ghidella’s doubts were not totally unjustified…
David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Part of Goldie’s gang
I read with great interest the insight column, ‘Experiments in Speed’ (MG K3 test drive, June issue). The picture at the bottom shows Goldie Gardner by the cockpit of his MG, and to the left my father, Walter Hassan, then the Chief Development Engineer of Jaguar Cars, because the MG was fitted with the four-cylinder XK100 engine for this single occasion. He seemed to be listening to the engine note, presumably while setting up the twin SU carburettors.
It is interesting to postulate that this was the only time the XK100 engine ran in anger for that run on the Jabecke Autoroute in Belgium in 1948, when a speed of some 180mph was achieved. Rather different are the dress codes in the photo compared with today!
Peter Hassan, St Mawgan, Cornwall

I go back to Nuvolari…
I was interested to see Geoff Bell’s letter in the June issue – I can tell him of someone who has been reading Motor Sport longer than him!
Remember Tazio Nuvolari, Geoff? When Tazio won the German GP in 1935 I was already an enthusiastic MS reader and Tazio was my hero. I only met Jenks four or five times, but we wrote and phoned each other often. In 1991 when I was 70 my daughter took me to the Italian GP. Jenks gave me lots of advice on how to go about things, and in the March ’92 edition he wrote about my trip, which was fun to read.
In the 1940s we lived near the Cooper garage in Surbiton and knew John and Charlie. Lots of lovely memories, including getting to know Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham. I cannot say I enjoy GP racing these days – too many rules and fortune-hunting. Plus I no longer know anyone involved!
Alan Thomson, Seaton, Oakham, Rutland
Can any reader beat this for loyalty? – Ed

Giacomelli’s heroics at FoS
What a fantastic article on Bruno Giacomelli in the June issue. I have always taken a huge interest in the participants of our sport who slip slightly under the radar of most motor racing and certainly Formula 1 viewers.
The final paragraph could not be more correct about Bruno being so taken with the art of driving. I recall a trip to the startline of the magnificent Festival of Speed a year or two back. In among a batch of 1970s and ’80s F1 machinery sat Bruno in the Alfa 179, V12 gently revving. Even though a few years had passed and a modest getaway would have been highly excusable Bruno displayed smooth and assured skill, immediately obtaining a perfect balance between throttle and clutch, modulating the noisy throttle to feel the traction.
The only person on the day who opened my eyes in the same way was Jackie Stewart in the Cologne Capri. If I thought Bruno had skill in a car he was now unaccustomed to, then Jackie’s departure in the Capri was sublime to say the least. They say you should not meet your heroes, but on this day Giacomelli cemented his place as a hero of mine. It really makes me wish I had not been just a toddler in 1979!
Nick Bradley, Worthing, W Sussex

Round or spherical?
Doug Nye’s piece about Pedro Rodríguez’s BRM at the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix (May issue) was, like the rest of Motor Sport, concerned with historical accuracy. So, following that lead, I would like to suggest that his Churchillian quote regarding “spherical objects” was possibly just that.
I may be wrong but my understanding is that, in the 1960s, Foreign Office paper featured a column for reader’s comment. In this instance someone had observed “Round Objects!” in this column and the top man had returned the paper demanding, “Who is Round, and why does he object?”.
I am sure that, in the interests of historical accuracy, we’d all like to know if this too is spherical objects.
Tim Greenhill, Herts

Don’t forget Jo and Pedro
Thank you for probably my best Motor Sport ever (May issue), but I was surprised to see in Alan Henry’s report on the 1970s the omission of the fatalities of those two great rivals and BRM and Gulf-Porsche team-mates, Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodríguez. Both sadly missed.
Peter Haynes, Needingworth,Cambridgeshire

In defence of Alfa Romeo
Regarding Andrew Frankel’s view on past Alfa Romeos being dull or bad (June issue), yes, there have been a few dodgy ones, mostly in the ’80s and early ’90s. I didn’t particularly like the 145 I drove for a while. However, I’ve owned five Alfas ranging from a Ti Sud which I loved to the current 1.4 TB Mito Veloce. I’ve been around cars for 33 years, and if Alfa were bad I simply wouldn’t go there with a bargepole. But I can honestly say they always excite in their own Italian charismatic way.
Yes, the early stuff like the Alfetta 158/9s, Tipo Bs and 8Cs were incredible. But to imply Alfa have only just turned a corner is ridiculous. I got excited about them again around the turn of the new century when they brought out the 156. Then came the 147 GTA screamer, the 159 with that gorgeous front end, not to mention the Brera, which with the 3.2 V6 is a cracker.
I’m mostly proud of Alfa Romeo and their motor sport history, and I think they are doing a pretty good job right now.
Geoff Osborne, Cumbria

F5000 highlights
I enjoyed the Formula 5000 article (April issue) but the picture on p114 shows Frank Gardner in a Lola T300 not a T400, this being his idea to put the Chevrolet engine into the F2/FB chassis.
I first saw the T300 race at Oulton Park in 1971 when Frank beat Mike Hailwood in the Surtees TS8. I confess I wanted Mike to win, just like I did when I watched him leading Emerson Fittipaldi’s JPS Lotus 72 at the 1972 Silverstone International Trophy meeting when he was driving the similar-liveried (Brooke Bond Oxo Rob Walker) Surtees TS9B.
And I was there when Peter Gethin beat the F1 cars at Brands Hatch in the F5000 Chevron – I never realised the damage that win did!
Alan Toft, North Vancouver BC, Canada