Letters, July 2017

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Three of the best

In June’s edition Mark Hughes wrote about Fernando Alonso hoping to complete the Triple Crown of motor racing by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. Recently I have read two other journalists who cited the same three events.

I thought the Triple Crown used to be regarded as the Indianapolis 500, Le Mans 24 Hours and the world championship for drivers. Graham Hill is the only racer to have done it either way, but I was unaware that the Triple Crown’s constituent parts had changed.

Mark Shore, High Wycombe, Bucks

Over time the phrase has been used unofficially to bracket Le Mans, Indy and either Monaco or the F1 world championship. It has also been used in Indycar racing (for the 500-mile races at Indy/Pocono/Ontario, Indy/Pocono/Michigan, Indy/Pocono/Fontana) and elsewhere.

Right man, wrong car

Thanks to Doug Nye for his piece on Al Unser Sr’s 1987 Indianapolis 500 win. I was there for that one and the story of the winning Indycar borrowed from a hotel lobby was a staple of the week. Two points, though.

Firstly, there was a reference to Al’s 1978 win in Jim Hall’s Chaparral. That one was actually in Hall’s Lola – Johnny Rutherford scored Chaparral’s Indy win in 1980.

Although your Crowning Glory headline was perhaps appropriate, I would assert that this more appropriately describes Al Sr’s achievement of being the only driver ever to win all three major 500-mile Indycar races – Indianapolis, Ontario and Pocono – during the same season. Through sheer luck, 1978 was the only year in whch I saw all three 500s live and it turned out truly to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Norman E Gaines Jr, New York, USA

Been there, done that

With all this talk about Fernando Alonso going to do the Indy 500 and chasing the Triple Crown, I’m not sure whether people at McLaren realise that their company has already won Indy 500s, Le Mans, a few Monaco Grands Prix and several world championships – quite some achievement for a constructor and I am surprised more hasn’t been made of the fact.

Julian Nowell, Walton on Thames, Surrey

Greatest lapse…

I could not believe that your ‘greatest laps’ feature in the June edition omitted to mention Jochen Rindt at Monaco, 1970. On the final lap of the race he beat the pole time by 0.8sec to win in a three-year-old car.

A lapse of judgement on your part, I feel, though I would still like to thank you for a wonderful magazine that I have enjoyed for several decades.

Michael Barrow, Hove, Sussex

Year of the Cat 

In enjoyed June’s article about great racing laps, but was disappointed to see no mention of any of Martin Brundle’s 78 racing laps in the Jaguar XJR-14 during the 1991 World Sports Car Championship race at Silverstone.  Coasting into the pits at the end of lap one with a broken throttle cable, he went from dead last to finish third and set fastest lap. I watched him overtaking through Becketts complex, sometimes going three abreast! 

Steve Taylor, Dalbeattie, Scotland.

A fitting tribute

I was chuffed to see the images of my good friend Dick Lees in Private View (May 2017). Dick and I first met on Okinawa in the US Air Force in 1966, me from Florida and he from Iowa. We quickly discovered we shared the same interests in motor racing. For the next 47 years and regardless of where we lived, we shared them over the phone, through mails or in person until his passing in 2013.

The narrative about Dick’s time in England was very interesting as I shared many of those moments with him. We visited the Lola factory together in Huntingdon – and I bought an MGB GT (I still have it 43 years later) from Syd Beer, as Dick did. And, of course, we both enjoyed the words and photographs of Manney, Cahier and Dick’s hero, Jenks. 

Private View captured the essence of Dick as the photos were mostly of people – he was an avid fan who came out to enjoy a motor race and he loved chatting to people.

Thanks for remembering and paying tribute to Dick through his images.  He would be very pleased and proud they were shared with his fellow fans—the readers of his favorite motor racing magazine. I’ve enclosed one of my favorite images taken by Dick. It’s well-known Ferrari mechanic Giulio Borsari contemplating his task of installing a 3-litre flat-12 engine in a Ferrari 312 B2 at the 1971 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Jeff Allison, Ken-Caryl Valley, Colorado

Blyton: business as usual

I would like to thank Simon Arron for his kind comments about Blyton Park in your June issue. Could I also take this opportunity to reassure readers, a good number of whom come testing on our asphalt circuit, that despite the change of ownership it is very much business as usual with us. 

New proprietor Lawrence Tomlinson has done amazing things in the 10 years he has owned Ginetta and his drive and enthusiasm are absolutely in tune with the ethos of Blyton Park.

Our big sprint weekend of the year, featuring a round of the British championship and therefore some seriously quick single-seaters, is on July 8/9. The “young lad with the clipboard” will be pleased to see Simon again and I can commend this very busy weekend to any readers who might want to see some intense competition. There is no charge for spectators.

Richard Usher, Blyton Park, Lincs

The sound of music

I enjoyed reading Dickie Meaden’s Racing Lines feature (June 2017) . While I have more than a passing interest in historic cars, it’s not just the racing, handling or the look that appeals to me. I hadn’t fully appreciated how much the noise remains a draw. 

It occurred to me during the Donington Historic Festival, specifically in the race for pre-1973 sports cars. They just sounded so wonderfully brutal. Having followed many forms of motorsport on and off since the mid ’60s, I do find modern racing visually interesting but aurally sterile.

I’m also missing the drifting odour of Castrol R, but that’s another subject.

Martin Cooper, Bramcote Hills, Nottingham

Orchestral manoeuvres

I so enjoyed seeing Valtteri Bottas take his first Grand Prix win and the close finish at Sochi. Conversely, it was truly horrible to have Putin on the broadcast, jabbering backstage about how great it is to have full hotels full.

But why on earth, with so much money being thrown around and a supposed emphasis on making the F1 fan experience great, are the national anthems rendered with recorded music? Imagine the drama of a full band.

Rob Hayes, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Attention to detail

What a beautiful photo you chose to accompany Paul Fearnley’s words on Fangio’s 1957 conquest of the Nürburgring.

It was a practice shot, though. On the day ‘2529’ wore the yellow upper nose-band of Argentina and the maestro a different shirt from his extensive collection of Suixtils.

John Kerruish, Folkingham, Lincs

This isn’t the modern world

Thank you for a fascinating article on the Toyota simulator lap of the Nürburgring – maybe you should have let Sabine Schmitz have a go! The hardware is impressive but the real magic is in the software and algorithms. Computer simulations of lap times go back a surprising number of years.

The first I am aware of is Ford’s use of a computer to calculate lap speeds at Indianapolis in 1963. They predicted 150mph for the Lotus 29 Ford V8 running on gasoline. On the third day of running Gurney achieved 150.501mph.

In 1971 the Watkins Glen circuit was extended from 2.30 to 3.377 miles. Cornell University Aeronautical Department assisted the planners by using a computer simulation to design the circuit for a theoretical F1 lap time of 100 seconds. This assumed a “perfect” driver taking the scientifically best line. They possibly overestimated the lateral g loads F1 cars could achieve, but then tyre development was coming on apace. Jackie Stewart took pole with 1min 42.642secs, a 2.642 per cent error. Not bad for a 1971 computer.

Peter O’Donnell, Epsom, Surrey

Wolfgang Amadeus Senna…         

Thank you very much for your article about the “out-of-body experiences” of racing drivers. As a professional classical musician my colleagues and friends often find my passion for motor racing a bit weird, but here is the crossover. Performers can have similar experiences, made possible by their complete mastery of their craft and provoked by the stress of live performance. 

Surprisingly, this can also happen to composers. Stories of Mozart writing works in full orchestral score without the slightest correction are legion. “Need an overture for Don Giovanni tomorrow? Give me that bit of paper, and I’ll write it down on this billiard table.” Handel was the same. He was often accused of stealing bits from other composers, but it seems he sometimes needed their ideas as triggers. But then the music would flow out in a seamless stream of creation – Messiah in three weeks was slow by his standards..

These moments of creative fantasy, when pure instinct takes over, were described by an English writer Charles Butler as early as 1636: the composer is “transported by some musical fury, so that he himself scarcely knoweth what he doth, nor can presently give a reason for his doing”.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

Graham O’Reilly, Aulnay-sous-Bois, France

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