Letters from readers, June 2004

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Star letter

Once a World Champion…

Sir,

I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent Jody Scheckter article in your March issue. It brought to mind a personal experience with Jody back in 1992— over 10 years after he had abruptly retired.

Jody had been invited to Donington Park for the ’25 Years of 3-litre Formula One’ event I had the pleasure of organising on behalf of the HSCC, with the enthusiastic support and help of the circuit’s director Robert Feamall.

With the kind assistance of the current owners, we had arranged for many of the stars of the 3-litre era to be reunited with their former steeds: visitors included Sir Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, John Surtees, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Howden Ganley, among others. Jody was there to demonstrate his 1977 Wolf WR1 and Nick Mason’s glorious Ferrari 312T3.

It’s Jody’s reacquaintance with the pristine Wolf that sticks in my memory — and demonstrated the enduring skill of a true professional. Jody approached the car, tended then, as in period, by Roy Topp. A few words about the car passed between them, then Jody climbed aboard and set off.

At the time, the car was on pole position for the following day’s historic F1 race, having set a very respectable time of around lmin 6sec in the hands of its owner, John Fenning. Scheckter’s first flying lap stopped the watch at 1 min 8sec, followed by two at lm 6sec and a final lap at 1 min 4sec.

Jody rolled into the pits, stepped out and said to Roy: `There’s far too much wing on it and top gear’s too short — I’m on the limiter halfway down the straight. I reckon there’s another 2sec to come.”

Having heard the exchange (and seen the look of bemusement on John Fenning’s face!), I asked Jody how long it had been since his last experience of an F1 car, wondering if maybe he had sneaked in a little refresher.

“Not since I left Ferrari,” was his instant reply.

And what had the Wolf felt like after all this time?

“Like I raced it last weekend.” That’s why he was a world champion. You never lose real talent.

Definitely a magic moment in a magic weekend — the antics of Brabham and Hulme reunited with their cars would fill another few pages.

Steve Lydon, Pioussay, France

Stewart’s sweet V16

Sir,

I enjoyed reading WB’s article in the April issue on Mercedes’ 1958 demonstration at Oulton Park — despite Peter Collins’ disparaging comment about the BRM. The photograph is of the Ws 125 and 154 exiting Cascades.

I was a bit too young to be there that day, but I was certainly there in September 1967 for the Gold Cup — scene of another memorable demonstration: a young Jackie Stewart in the V16 BRM. My father and I were standing on the outside of Knickerbrook and could see Stewart coming down The Avenue, through Cascades and up to Island. We glimpsed him approaching Esso, the staccato blips of the engine echoing as he braked and changed down, but then he was lost to view until he reappeared over the brow on the run down to Knickerbrook. As he drew opposite us the power came back on and, exactly as Raymond Mays had described in his book BRM, we were deafened by the shriek of the supercharged engine.

Stewart was due to do three demonstration laps, but I recall that he did four. On the fourth, after coming through Knickerbrook, he rolled to a halt at the foot of Clay Hill. My heart sank. The BRM jinx had struck once again, I thought. But no! Stewart blipped the engine and executed a perfect ‘Shelsley Walsh’ start. He and the car disappeared under two 6ft plumes of tyre smoke and reappeared a second later rocketing up Clay Hill.

The memories of the sight and sound of the V16 are as clear to me now as they were that summer’s day over 30 years ago, and it still brings a lump to my throat to recall them.

Tim Moore, Withybrook, Warwickshire

`Soft’ at Ards

Sir,

I was interested to read Bill Boddy’s recent reminiscences of Bentley and Mercedes. His story of WO acting as Tim Birkin’s riding mechanic rang bells: the 1929 TT was the first race that I can recall.

I was born on the Ards circuit and, at the age of three, remember Rudi Caracciola winning on a `soft’ day, as we Irish have it. After the race I came across the Birkin/Bentley car in the gateway of Perry’s Farm at Ballystockart. It was about to move off and WO remarked to the world at large that he would be obliged if someone would remove the small child from in front of his motor car! As they moved off, Birkin gave me a wonderful smile and a wink.

In another article, Mr Boddy mentions the name of Adolf Rosenberger, an amateur driver of note who campaigned the Benz rear-engined cars. He and Willy Walb, as part of the Porsche Büro, were largely responsible for introducing Dr Ferdinand Porsche to the rear-engined idea. After the debut of the P-Wagen, however, Rosenberger deemed it politic to leave Germany for America (he was Jewish). Does anyone know of his later life?

Ian McFarland, Ontario, Canada

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