Mr Victor Bryant has raised some objections to my piece on the 1939 Tripoli GP (April). He is correct in saying that Nuvolari, not Lang, won the 1939 Yugoslav GP — I misread my notes. A different matter is my including the Tripoli GP in the European Championship; that was industrial strength brain-fade.
The question as to who was the more successful driver, Caracciola or Nuvolari, is a minefield. For a start, one has to go through the entry lists to decide what really was a major race (there were many times when the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio, for example, were really only Italian national events). I assessed two of my heroes in one way (without suggesting who was the greater driver) and Mr Bryant disagrees, No problem, it is a point which has the potential for a friendly debate late into the night.
In fact, I was being slightly provocative, but only slightly. It annoys me that drivers of the calibre of Caracciola and Lang are today rarely given the credit they are due. Too many journalists ‘know’ that Nuvolari was this, that, and the other, because they have read other men’s opinions. Let me be the first to say that we never saw the best of Nuvolari. For some years he was kept out of the Alfa Romeo team by Vittorio Jano (who thought he was too wild), and later he was kept out of Auto Union by Achille Varzi (who thought he was too quick).
For his part, no driver has hurt himself as badly as Caracciola did in 1934 and yet has returned and won grands prix — and three European Championships. He was not always an admirable man, but his courage and determination were extraordinary, even by the standards of other top drivers.
Having owned up to two mistakes, I must add a third. According to Paul Sheldon’s A Record of Grand Prix and Voiturette Racing, Lang did not even win the European Championship. It was his year, unquestionably; he is usually credited with the title and Lang himself believed that he had won it. The trouble lies in the points system — only four races counted, and the driver with the lowest number of points won.
Points were awarded on the basis: 1, 2, 3 points for the first three, 4 for any driver who made it to three-quarters, 5 for those who made it to half distance, 6 for those who survived the first quarter, 7 for early retirees and 8 for non-starters.
By this reckoning, the real 1939 European Championship was Herrmann Muller (Auto Union) who won the French GP, was second in Germany, fourth in the Swiss Grand Prix and retired from the other two, so he was runner-up, while Nuvolari did not finish a race, yet was fourth in the Championship.
It looks like a good few books will have to be rewritten! Among them will be the ‘authoritative’ works which I used to assemble my story. Milner finished only three European Championship races in three years, all in 1939, Lang won five of the eight Grands Prix he started in 1939 — there’s something not quite here, isn’t there? There has been something not quite right with more than one World Championship as well.
Given the recent fuss over the disqualification of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard from the Brazilian Grand Prix why do not the powers that be ensure that F1 cars use bogstandard (complying with BS 7070 or its ISO equivalent) four-star petrol?
The race organisers can wheel a tanker down to the local garage and fill it up with Shell, BP, Elf, Agip, Exxon, NAFTA, Tesco, or whatever and then dole out equal amounts to each team for use during the race weekend.
I recently had the privilege of uncovering after 25 years what is believed to be the original Jochen Rindt Lotus 69, raced successfully by Jochen in the 1970 Formula season before his tragic death at Monza.
There are no signs that the car has had any further racing activities since. All the numbers and dates on the components match with its construction in 1969 and to it being the original car which was formed from the adaptation of a Lotus 59. The chassis number is 69-F2-4.
I need more information on the car and its early history and would be grateful to hear from anybody who can throw further light on its early history, and mechanics who might have worked in Jochen Rindt’s races with Bernie Ecclestone. Please contact Peter Spooner on 01753 511567 (Office) or 01344 26396 (Home).
This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of a motor sport club for the employees of the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton. We should like to make contact with any former members of the BAC Motor Sports Club of the 1940s and its successor, the BAC Motor Club from 1955 to date, to invite them to a celebration event on June 18 at Filton.
We should also like to hear from anyone present at the sprint meeting run by the club on Fitton airfield on 28 October 1945, which was the first post-war tarmac speed event held in the UK, and anyone who was involved in the evolution within the club of the 500cc racing car formula during 1945. This formula became the basis of Formula 3, when some of our members went on to form the 500 Club, forerunner of the BRSCC.
Stoke Gifford, Bristol.
Outside Looking In
Having enjoyed BTCC racing on television over the last season, I decided to go to the TOCA meeting at Silverstone to see some good racing and to get a close-up look at a touring car. What a hope. The racing was fine, almost as impressive in the flesh as on TV, but where were the cars before and after the racing? Screened off behind a solid wall of transporters and motorhomes, with all the gaps fenced off with tapes and the pit shutters mostly down. It was absolutely impossible to see them inside their pits; in this case the free paddock transfer was completely worthless, unless you were an addict of Renault and Ford trucks.
Yes, there is a pits walkabout, but a shuffling queue past a row of static machinery is not the same as being able to watch the teams actually doing their job. If you can’t see real people working on the cars, you might as well be watching Scalextric racing. Of course I don’t want to get in anybody’s way — what about some sort of gallery above or through the pits? Touring car racing has brought a new surge of customers to the race-track, but they seem to be less important than the sponsors and the people in the business. Yes, if I were a team manager I too would appreciate a nice weatherproof pit with lots of room to work, but I’d like to think I could still remember being an enthusiast on the outside, and not make the poor punters feel like unwelcome intruders.
With the CART/PPG IndyCar series now under way in the States, Motor Sport may be interested to know that neither LWT or Carlton (and therefore, I assume, the other independent TV companies) plan to show these races in full or as edited highlights in the UK.
If you wish to lobby for continued coverage of this exciting race series, the addresses in London to write to are:
– Carlton Television, 101 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4AZ.
– London Weekend Television Ltd, The London Television Centre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9L1.
Palmers Green, London.