Letters, July 2022

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Seeing John Hindle’s letter regarding a stoplight grand prix involving a GTO Ferrari [April] dislodged an almost-forgotten similar event, showing how times have really changed. A group of friends and I had decided to see the Can-Am race in 1966 at Bridgehampton, and one of the favourite evening activities was to scour the local gas station garages for race cars (Bridgehampton had no on-track garages). The dessert after that crawl was to visit local bar parking lots to see the visiting cars.

I was looking over a particularly nice silver Aston DB6 when I heard the unmistakeable sound of V12s hard at work. Streaking by the bar (on a two-lane secondary road) was a liveried 1964 Ferrari GTO racing a Ferrari 250 LM. Using both lanes, mind you. Both were easily into triple figures. As we were remarking on that amazing sight, minutes later, lo and behold, both cars roll into the lot. The ’64 GTO said “Spencer Motors, Hollywood California” on its door, the LM just in its red glory. Both drivers stepped out, closed the door and went into the bar.

It was a sight for the ages… as was seeing the Cunningham C4RK coupé the next day. Ah, the ’60s!

Norman E Gaines Jr
Hartsdale, New York, USA

Start of the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours race

Vic Elford’s “beautiful white Porsche” at Le Mans in 1970 gave a reader the motor sport bug

Getty Images

Like so many others, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Vic Elford. Although he did not win Le Mans or stand on an F1 podium, his many other racing accomplishments and bravery have left a long-lasting legacy. For this sports car and racing fanatic, ‘Quick Vic’ was instrumental in giving me the motor sport bug, while at the wheel of that beautiful white Porsche 917 LH he was co-driving at Le Mans in 1970.

As an 11-year-old, I went to the local theatre and watched the movie Le Mans four times in the same weekend. Although it focuses on the Gulf Wyer 917Ks, the opening laps of the race, led by Vic, hooked me into the sport for life.

I later researched the 1970 race and the brave drivers of the day. I read Vic Elford’s autobiography and followed him in media up to his passing. I also ordered some items from the Vic Elford website many years ago including the Quick Vic 1970 art print by Roger Warrick of that memorable no25 917 LH, which I proudly have hanging in my office.

While putting in my order I had the privilege of communicating with both Vic and his wife. By all indications, besides being a very accomplished and diversified driver, he was a good man. He will be missed.

Brad Shaddick
Toronto, Canada

I can’t help thinking that the comments of George Russell and other F1 drivers about the physical impact of the apparently innocent-sounding ‘porpoising’ of current F1 cars should surely be a massive wake up call for the FIA.

What has such rattling and bodily pain to do with the much vaunted safety focus of the FIA? Let alone any potential for long term health effects on drivers. Football is now having to face serious questions about players suffering Parkinson’s and worse in later life, apparently due to the impact of heading footballs. Being macho and part of the show doesn’t seem to have helped there.

Given that some aerodynamicists and designers were aware of the potential for porpoising, where were the associated FIA driver impact and health assessments? The current F1 driver-rattling has something in common with the health hazards of crew slamming in high-speed watercraft, contributing to back, neck and other serious health conditions. In any case, what has ground effect to contribute to average road car improvement, let alone in this form?

The writing is surely on the wall, and it is time for this nonsense to stop. Maybe for this season only sliding skirts should be allowed before the FIA reset for 2023.

Steve Singleton
by email

Patrick Welland’s letter in the May edition about John Bolster getting tangled up with broadcast cable reminded me of a similarly funny incident that happened at pretty much the same spot in 1985. By that time I was in the habit of attending on qualifying days rather than going to the GP, the usual routine being to install myself in the grandstand opposite the pits towards the Woodcote end for the morning then to walk the track in  the afternoon.

As I was happily watching events in the pits prior to morning practice I noticed, along with just about everybody in the grandstand, Murray Walker marching along the pits in the direction of Copse. As you can imagine much cheering, whistling and good natured “How’s it going – what’s happening Murray?” ensued. In typical friendly fashion the man waved and smiled to approval and applause from the fans.

He then turned sharp right down an alley between two pits and that was that; the grandstand returned to the warm rumble of anticipation. Just as the encounter was starting to fade, out pops Murray from the alley, looking a little frustrated and red-faced! The grandstand realised as one that Murray had come to a dead end leaving him no choice but to reverse tracks and face the music. It was a delicious moment followed by even louder cheering and clapping and to Murray’s great credit he joined in the fun, laughing and waving over a ‘for crying out loud!’ expression.

Good times, with more notable events waiting to happen with Rosberg’s 160mph lap in the afternoon.

John Grace
Aigues, Spain

Watkins Glen Toe past and present

A view of The Toe at Watkins Glen from the 1990s. Right: IMSA racing at the same corner as it is today

Just a small thing, but I believe that Helmuth Koinigg was killed in 1974 at the corner known as The Toe, and not “at the end of the back straight”, as Maurice Hamilton mentions in May’s Watkins Glen story [The Glen]. It is at the end of a straight, but having been to the Glen I’d consider the back straight is the one that climbs up the hill ending with what is now called The Outer Loop. Maybe it’s me interpreting the article’s words differently because I’ve actually been to the circuit (in 1993) and know the layout. What amazes me is that the very same Armco arrangement still exists there nearly 50 years on – though I can see that it’s better protected and hopefully properly installed.

The incident happened right at the beginning of my interest in the sport, and so has never been forgotten.

Ian Rumens
Uckfield, East Sussex

I greatly enjoyed the Villeneuve vs Pironi feature [June]. I learnt a lot more about them through the memories of Nigel and Maurice, like when Nigel said that he spoke to Gilles over the phone and when he asked Gilles if he had been in contact with Pironi, Gilles replied, “I’ve declared war.” It was interesting to read what made up a large part of a controversial and tragic Formula 1 season which I have been watching all the way through on F1 TV. Gilles would probably have been world champion in 1982, and I think it’s great that his son Jacques won it himself 15 years later, thus doing his father’s legacy proud.

Xavier Downey
Ipswich, Suffolk

What have we learnt from the Gilles Villeneuve/Jochen Mass qualifying accident of May 1982 [Villeneuve vs Pironi, June]? Not much, it seems. Two cars drawn together at wildly different speeds, a track ‘misunderstanding’, and the outstanding driver of that generation dead from a violent and devastating accident.

Wind the clock forward 40 years: the penchant for modern tracks to have flat-out blind corners, drivers dawdling in qualifying, searching for a gap to nail their quick lap, and one track ‘misunderstanding’ would create the mother of all accidents.

Something has to be done now, so there is a process that doesn’t put participants, drivers, crew, marshals and spectators at risk. Qualifying needs to be changed – maybe a shoot-out, top-10 Bathurst-style, or fewer cars on track at a particular time. There are plenty of brains out there with better ideas than me who could come up with a solution that is exciting and compelling, so the sport doesn’t feel unnecessarily sanitised.

Andrew Lynch
Horsfield Bay, Australia

What a delight it was to see Russell Bulgin’s name in print, still being remembered for his unique style [Flashback…, June]. While the article focused on Russ’s special relationship with Senna, below, it should also be noted that he seemed to have this personal touch with everyone.

Ayrton-Senna-with-Russell-BulginAs a budding journalist in ’78, I’d rock up at races and complete an informal band with Russ and Keith Sutton of Sutton Images. I opted for a career in the automotive industry and became an armchair fan, but not before being featured by Bulgin in a 1979 edition of Cars and Car Conversions!

When Russ took the features editor job at ‘Triple C’ he had to relinquish his coverage of the Aurora AFX series for Powerslide magazine. As I was already attending these races for the Birmingham Post & Mail, Russ recommended me to the Swiss magazine. So when I had collated the results of a crowd survey that I’d carried out at Silverstone’s championship finale but could find no one to take the article, I gave the data to Russ for him to use. As a thank you he opened the feature by saying that I made the Birmingham Post & Mail “the most switched-on daily newspaper covering motor sport in Britain”. Of course, I still have a copy.

I too enjoyed my own special relationship with the great guy.

Ian Oswell

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