Credit where it’s due
If you look back 10, 15, 20, or 25 years in the correspondence columns of any motoring magazine you’re liable to experience déjà vu, for many of the letters deal with subjects which are still current preoccupations. Indeed, many could be printed today with little alteration.
There is the “I would like to thank the marshals. . .” letter; the “what about British drivers?” letter; the letter which proposes new formulae; the one complaining about spectator facilities at the British Grand Prix (a body of literature to which in the past we have contributed), and there is the one which complains about the lack of motor racing coverage in the mass media.
As they say about jokes, the old ones are the best ones; so it is with Letters to the Editor.
It is therefore with mixed feelings that we most bid farewell to an old and familiar favourite, the letter complaining about motor racing coverage in the mass media. Every editor will miss its passing, for it has always been a yeoman stand-by. On the other hand, every enthusiast must welcome the fact that the letter is now more or less redundant.
Every magazine received protest letters when motor racing was neglected in the mass media, but we have received no correspondence now that the serious daily and Sunday newspapers, and the radio and television channels, particularly BBC 2 with its coverage of F1, are giving unprecedented coverage to the sport.
This column was written after the first three European Grands Prix. We have been able to watch the races in full as well as receiving edited highlights later the same day. For this relief, much thanks.
Much of the credit for this extended coverage must go to the commentary team of Murray Walker and James Hunt. Every informed enthusiast knows that they frequently make “mistakes” (the inverted commas are deliberate, for it’s one thing to watch a race on a large screen, at home, without the pressure of knowing that there are millions of viewers hanging on to one’s every word, and it’s quite another thing to sit in a box in front of a small monitor and to actually commentate). Every informed enthusiast “knows” that Walker and Hunt often state the obvious — but the “obvious” isn’t always obvious to the casual viewer who tunes in and who may stay tuned. If you talk to friends who are not committed to the sport and yet who occasionally watch the coverage, you will find a wide measure of appreciation for the work of Walker and Hunt. We think they do a fine job treading the line between giving the sort of information which the knowledgeable viewer wants, and the sort of elementary comments which can make the casual viewer feel at home with what is, after all, a complex sport.
The two men generate a peculiar chemistry. You have the older commentator who is also one of the most conscientious journalists in the game, and you have young (well, youngish) James who has actually sat in the cockpit and won Grands Prix. It’s an irresistible combination. It’s a combination which has helped our sport to unprecedented popularity and it’s high time someone said so, gave credit where credit is due, and said, “Thank you, Murray and James”. This column has often been devoted to criticism. It’s a pleasant change to be able to praise. We have singled out BBC 2 and its commentary team but praise is also due to the other television channels, to national and local radio stations, and the teams who put together the sports pages of the literate newspapers.
It’s great to be able to say “good-bye” to the once-justified letter of complaint regarding media coverage of the sport. We look forward to the day when we can also say “good-bye” to the letters of complaint about treatment of spectators at the British Grand Prix, the letters which call for better support for home-grown driving talent, those which highlight injustices, bad design, bad service, and all the other wholly justified complaints which Motor Sport, in common with other magazines, regularly receives.
Robin Herd of March recently received the Duke of Edinburgh’s Designers’ Prize in recognition of his firm’s outstanding contribution to motor sport, in particular, to current Indycar racing.
March has enjoyed 15 years successfully making production racing cars which have won innumerable races and championships around the world.
We in Britain too often take for granted our own racing car industry which includes not only car constructors but engine builders, fabricators, makers of gearboxes and all the rest. The fact is that our racing industry is simply the best in the world. Excluding purely national formulae, well over 90% of all 1984 single-seater races were won by cars built in Britain. Without in any way lessening March’s achievement in winning this important award, we feel that, in a sense, it is a recognition of our entire industry for March has always been dependent on other suppliers; Cosworth for the DFX Indycar engine, Hewland for gearboxes, and the anonymous fabricators and craftsmen who act as sub-contractors. In honouring Robin Herd, Prince Philip honours an industry of which we all can be proud. If the rest of British industry worked as hard, as well as competitively, as flexibly and with as much pride as our motor racing industry, from men like Robin Herd, Eric Broadley, Ron Tauranac, Adrian Reynard, John Barnard, Patrick Head et al down to the humblest “gofer” and wheel polisher, then this country would have very few industrial or econornic problems.
We congratulate Robin Herd and March on receiving a well-deserved honour and, at the same time, take our hats off to all the others engaged in a great industry.
A formula to offer cheap offer cheap motor racing is always welcome news, and this time Tunbridge Wells Motor Club are the instigators with a grasstrack series which will cater for most vehicles currently competing in Rallycross, Minicross, or Autocross, plus a class for rallycars. Regulations are available on receipt of sae from Jim Greenfield, 50 Woodland Road. Tunbridge Wells. Kent TN4 9HN.
At the end of April, the Ferrari Owners Club held its AGM and a lunch to celebrate 25 years of the Ferrari importers Maranello. Guest of honour was, of course, Col Ronnie Hoare, Chairman of Maranello and Patron of the Club, and representatives of Ferrari in Italy were joined by some of those who drove for the Colonel, including Mike Salmon, Richard Attwood, John Surtees, and David Piper. The meeting, held at Cheltenham Racecourse because of the large attendance expected (over 200 in the end), boasted some exciting cars — 250 GT0s, SWBs, and Testa Rossas new and old. After lunch, there was a presentation to the Colonel of a number of mementos, includuing a picture of his favourite Ferrari of all those he has owned, a 4-litre GTO.
The Central section of the Alfa Romeo OC are the hosts at an informal gathering of classic car enthusiasts of all types on Saturday June 29th, at the Sutherland Arms, Tibberton, near Newport, Shropshire. This will be the fifth such occasion, and raffle proceeds will go to charity. The meeting starts at 12 noon and will run through to an evening barbecue. Further details from Timothy Harrop. 5 Park Close, Barton Park, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire. A fortnight later the NE Section. are holding Northern Alfa Day at Nostell priory in collaboration with The Fiat Twin-Cain Register and the X1/9 OC. Members or Alfa and Fiat enthusiasts will be welcomed at the event, which includes a concours, gymkhana and autoiumble.
Obituary, Kenneth Evans
We are very distressed to have to record the death of Kenneth Evans, after a recurring illness. Tall, very slim trilby-hatted Kenneth was one of the most enthusiastic of pre-war semi-amateur racing men to frequent a motor-racing Paddock. With his brother DG. Evans, and equally slim, good-looking sister Doreen, who began at the age of 19 and managed by their father, the trio took part in most of the British races and sprint events of the 1930s, but it was Kenneth who went on to buy a monoposto Alfa Romeo and race abroad.
By profession estate-agents, so keen were the sons and daughter on motor racing that Bellevue Garage (Racing) Ltd was formed in Wandsworth opposite the original garage, with soundproof test-bays and a very professional organisation for preparing their own and customers’ racing cars. In 1931 WE. Wilkinson was taken on as foreman, later to be made Manager and then generously given a Directorship. They had a Perkins diesel-engined Bedford truck and a shed at Brooklands, and specialised in MGs. They hired-out racing cars to would-be racing drivers for modest fees.
Kenneth Evans had owned a 1,500 cc Alfa Romeo and his brother a Type 43 Bugatti, before concentrating on MGs. To list all his successes would require a complete article, and, racing apart, he competed with distinction, with his brother and sister, in many pre-war mud-trials, notably with the ex”Muskateer” MG Magnettes. His first Brooklands win was in 1933, with a modified Montlhery MG Midget and he merits references on a further 22 pages in the official history of Brooklands Track. Sprints and long-distance races alike came naturally to Kenneth and his versatility was further demonstrated when he shared an ERA with Ian Connell, with whom he was sixth, for instance, in the 1938 Nuffield Trophy Race at Donington and third, with Briault, in the previous year’s 200 Mile Race
at that circuit. By then Kenneth had achieved an ambition by acquiring the ex-Nuvolari 2.9-litre P3 Dubonnet-ifs Alfa Romeo, with which he took fifth in the 1938 British Empire Trophy race at Donington. Evans also campaigned the car abroad and in 3.2-litre form it was ninth in the 1937 German GP, a fine performance for a lone British driver of an obsolete car. The Alfa Romeo got home just in time before war broke out, having been entered for the Swiss GP and in April that year it had set the Class-D Campbell-circuit lap-record at Brooklands to 73.66 mph, in perpetuity. Five years earlier KD. Evans had set a 750 cc-class Mountain circuit lap-record of 55.98 mph, broken the following season by Charlie Dodson in the “works” A7. Finishing his education at Oxford, Kenneth Evans was typical of the better gentlemen racing motorists of his day. Recently he had devoted his time to supporting the Brooklands Society in its hopes of attaining the “40-Acre” site at Brooklands . — W.B.