Hash and splash




Two letters in the March issue prompt this one. Mike McDowell writes on Ivor Bueb, and Robert Edwards writes on the Masten Gregory/Archie Scott Brown showdown. More than 40 years on, perhaps it is time to clear the air.

As Mike says, Ivor felt himself to be under a lot of pressure, but the amount of brandy he drank before each race, to “steady his nerves”, could have lost him his driving licence today. Bueb was far from being the only driver of his time to get tanked up before the racing. In common with some contemporaries, including Fangio, Masten Gregory habitually ingested chemical substances. When he beat Scott Brown at Silverstone, his head was on a three-foot string above his shoulders.

Bueb used alcohol before racing, Gregory often used drugs. Neither was unusual in this. Stirling Moss recalls that, before the 1955 Mille Miglia, Fangio gave him one of “his famous stamina pills”. Stirling has written, “Fangio’s pill was fantastic… apparently there were-a couple of weird South American compounds involved which the chemists were very wary of trying to reproduce.”

It was a different age and a different culture. Louis Chiron, for example, was appalled when he arrived to compete in the Carrera PanAmericana only to discover that the race was ‘dry’ and he could not take his flask in the car. Giovanni Bracco won the 1952 Mille Miglia on brandy and 160 cigarettes. Benzedrine, as well as alcohol, was a popular additive among drivers of the time. It was a long time ago, and we are grown-up people, so please may we stop being coy? Ignore this, and we ignore an essential element of history.


Mike Lawrence, Chichester, Sussex