Readers letters, June 2009

Shame on you, Lewis


I’ve followed the debates on these pages on the merits or otherwise of Lewis Hamilton and for the first time I feel the need to put pen to paper. I so wanted to be able to support a British driver and team when he came into F1. However, my support was short-lived. Monaco 2007, to be precise, when he said he was glad to be on the second row to “get away from the monkeys at the back”. I thought it a bit rich this young boy in his first F1 season should call the likes of Kubica, Button, Coulthard, Barrichello and Fisichella monkeys. It was strange that no apology was offered from Lewis or McLaren.

Hamilton himself has said he isn’t popular in the paddock. Go figure, as they say. I knew then he would cook his goose sooner rather than later and it seems the timer has just gone off. What worse crime can there be than to see a fellow driver stripped of his points and receive a penalty, and to act dumb in front of the stewards? What worse crime than to walk away with those points and celebrate the fact in interviews that he’d done better than he had imagined? He has said he’s not a liar, based on the fact he didn’t say anything at all, but he is just as guilty as Dave Ryan and was complicit in the deceit.

How different this British ‘hero’ is to Stirling Moss, who defended rival Mike Hawthorn in Portugal ’58 and subsequently lost the world title by a point. How easily he could have turned a blind eye. How small he makes Hamilton look. It’s terrible too to think of the sportsman that was Bruce McLaren and to see what the team has done to his name both with this episode and the recent spy scandal. They are a disgrace to his name and to British sportsmanship. What goes around comes around and now Hamilton is one of ‘the monkeys at the back’, but this is a phrase he hasn’t used this year. Thank God we have Ross Brawn and Jenson Button to support.

Stanley Sweet, Dancevoir, France

Cost cuts could go further

I refer to Nigel Roebuck’s lengthy piece on the state of Formula 1 in the February edition and the cost cutting planned for the 2009-10 seasons. I am disappointed at the tinkering at the edges this represents. If Max Mosley is serious about reducing costs, he should look at how NASCAR limits expensive technology and apply that to F1. The racing would be better if the drivers had to shift gears with a proper gear lever connected to a proper gearbox. As for reducing maximum engine rpm to 18,000, are they serious? Let’s go back to a real world limit of 10,000rpm. Torque would make a welcome return.

And as for teams having more employees than the local high school has students, well, I’m aghast. My son’s V8 Utes series-winning team here in Australia, High Tech Motorsport, runs a three-car team and competes in support of the V8 Supercar series all around the country. They do it with a full-time team of four, including the management. Just like the old days… Good hard racing, realistic budgets, drivers who have to pay for their drive or bring sponsorship, and dedicated, talented technicians who also drive the transporter, are the pitcrew and do their own testing and development. I think that’s where “on the smell of an oily rag” came from.

Stephen Asprey, Sydney, Australia

Winning the lottery


After the debacle that was the start of the F1 season I have a suggestion for a new scoring system, where the results aren’t dependent on the actual race. That way we can watch a good race and maybe Martin Brundle and Anthony Davidson (he did an excellent job of commentating on Malaysia practice) can give their top 10 based on who’s driven best.
Then 10 days later, after lots of protests, hearings and technical examinations, the stewards can give their result, with finishing places as a guideline. For the final say, Max and Bernie can decide who they want to finish, in which order, behind the Ferraris and in front of the McLarens. Do you think it will catch on?

Misha Ostrava, Winchester, Hampshire

Whistling in the dark


I’d always assumed that Europeans in general, and notably the British, possessed a reasonable level of intelligence. Now that Grands Prix in the Eastern hemisphere are required to be run in semi- or complete darkness (like Speedway), I am forced to review that assumption.

The only sensible explanation I can think of for this stupidity is that viewers in the West lack the ability to program their video recorders. Ever since the invention of such devices, we in the Antipodes have used our native intelligence to record all GPs in the Western hemisphere. The added advantage is being able to fast forward through the ads, although perhaps Europeans would have trouble with that as well.

Or could it be that the only intellectually-challenged European is the one who introduced this “F1 in the dark” caper?

Robert Burke, Adelaide, South Australia.

Did Dam Busters help Jenks?


There has over the years been considerable debate over the origins of the idea for the roller map used by Moss and Jenks in the 1955 Mille Miglia. A system of strip maps on rollers was developed for use in the famous Dam Busters raid (May 1943) to overcome the difficulty of reading sheet maps when flying at very low level. Much of the equipment for that historic raid, such as the bomb-aiming devices, was developed at the Royal Aircraft Establishment where Jenks worked during the war. Could this have been the source of the idea? If so, there is some irony that the system was used to facilitate a German victory almost exactly 12 years later.

John Roberts, Prevessin, France

A very sad loss


Thank you for the nice article about Peter Bryant and the Ti22 in the April issue. As a fan I missed much of the Can-Am fun and only personally witnessed the dominance of the Dodge-powered Shadows in 1974. I have since enjoyed many historic events and love the noise and excitement when the Can-Ams run.

Recently I attended a reunion of drivers in honour of Riverside International Raceway at Riverside, California. Mr Bryant was in attendance and shared many stories about the Ti22 and his days with Shadow cars. It was a great weekend. Very sadly, he passed away only a few days afterward. [Obituary, p24]

I look forward to seeing the new Ti22 at Monterey Historics this coming August.

David A Reifsnyder, Los Angeles, USA

Crossing the line


Doug Nye’s take on Gilles Villeneuve is an interesting one but he is probably right. However, to me, his view applies even more to Stefan Bellof. You can be too quick and too brave for your own good. There’s a big price to pay.

And Doug, you are most certainly not alone in your assessment of Senna. His on-track behaviour set the standard for Michael Schumacher to follow. Why should two drivers of such high calibre step so far over the line? Well, because they could, and in the knowledge that any penalty imposed would be of the toothless variety.

John Turner, Spalding, Lincs

All American destiny


One of the things that I enjoy most about Motor Sport is the stories about drivers/teams who tried to establish themselves as winners in the sport and in so many instances did very well, but eventually may have fallen short for some reason of their ambitious goals.

The recent fine Gordon Kirby article (April 2009) ‘When Eagle spread its wings’ made me recall a dark-horse team that 37 years ago came very close to challenging the established teams at that time.

Dan Gurney’s new Eagle was initially on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on opening day in 1972. However, it wasn’t the All American Racer’s entry driven by Bobby Unser. It was the entry by long-time car owner Fred Gerhardt of California and driven by Jim Malloy of Denver, Colorado, veteran of four previous 500s. Reliable and savvy Phil Casey was the chief mechanic.

The year before, Malloy had been a late replacement for Lee Roy Yarbrough, who, as a team-mate to Unser on the AAR team, had destroyed a new 1971 Eagle in turn one and didn’t feel comfortable trying to qualify the ’70 model back-up car. Picked by Gurney, Malloy qualified the back-up after just a few laps, started 10th and brought the car home in fourth place for the 1971 race.

Malloy was a versatile driver who had been the fastest rookie in the 1968 race and had driven in all four USAC divisions. On the day the track opened, Malloy in the new 1972 Eagle easily broke the track record! For the unprecedented and unusually high opening day lap times, he was confronted by chief steward Harlan Fengler to see if he was comfortable at that speed. Jim assured Fengler that he was, and that the car had plenty of grip and even more speed. For the next five days, Malloy held the fastest times while the AAR ‘factory team’ readied their own entry. When Pole Day arrived, Malloy had established himself as a possible pole winner and certainly a front-row qualifier. As Pole Day was rained out, the cars took to the track the next day for time trials. In practice, Jim crashed heavily in the third turn. He did not regain consciousness and died three days later.

The 1972 Gurney Eagle gave the Gerhardt Team a chance to be at the pinnacle of the 500 that year, but that was not their destiny.

Dave Wilhoit, Carmel, Indiana, USA

B before C if it’s a GT


Thanks for your excellent interview with Paddy Hopkirk in the March issue. One correction: the car that Paddy drove with Andrew Hedges in the Targa Florio of 1968 was not, in fact, an MGC, it was the famous MGB GT known as LBL591E. You show this car correctly on p77.

This was the last four-cylinder BMC Competitions Department car ever built. After the 1968 Targa Florio, LBL returned to Sebring (again) to run the 1969 race. This famous car is now here, in Vancouver, Canada, being restored for competition.

Ralph Zbarsky, Vancouver, Canada

Healey howler


In the May issue you printed a picture of an Austin Healey 3000 on the 1962 Alpine Rally. Your caption stated that it is David Seigle-Morris and Tony Ambrose. This is incorrect. The picture is of brothers Donald and Erle Morley, who drove 57ARX; David Seigle-Morris drove 67ARX, car number one, in which they finished eighth overall.

Kevin Seigle-Morris, Penhill, Swindon

Donington lark


I quite liked watching Ayrton Senna on qualifying tyres, rocket fuel, a big black smoke haze following him when he was on full boost. I also enjoy driving my car, which is why I read Motor Sport, and go to as many motor races as possible, which indicates that I am not a ‘Greenie’.

I don’t want to drive to a railway station, pay to park my car, have the side window smashed and my stereo stolen, stand on a dirty platform, then stand on a train, and get on a coach with an agency suicide jockey racing up the A42.

If Donington cannot cope with the traffic for a Grand Prix, can anyone tell me why they are holding it?

Robert Harrison, Worcestershire

On top of the game


I know 21st-century technology helps, but I have to congratulate you on having coverage of the Australian Grand Prix in the May edition, which landed on my doormat only three days after the event. Most impressive, but that is what we’ve come to expect these days from Motor Sport.

Your Matters of Moment comments that readership has risen by 12.6 per cent and that is richly deserved. I am not one of the 12.6 per cent, as having reached ‘three score years and ten’, I have been reading the magazine for far more years than I care to remember!

Content has improved massively over the years, and now your staff and contributors are positively ‘second to none’ in the motoring periodicals marketplace. I have just renewed my subscription for the umpteenth time and have taken advantage of the latest two-year offer which has to be the best-ever value for money an enthusiast of any age can obtain.

Well done all of you, and I look forward to the next two years’ copies arriving.

Peter Anderson, Gillingham, Kent

Miller’s crossing-out


I greatly enjoyed Robin Miller’s article on Daytona’s 1959 Indycar race in the March issue, but I must point out one bit of misinformation. Robin states that Marshall Teague had “no previous Indycar experience” prior to his death at Daytona in 1959.

Teague twice made the starting field for the Indy 500, once in 1953 where he finished 18th and again in 1957 which resulted in a seventh-place finish where he completed the full 500 miles. Couple those two starts with a relief drive of 29 laps for Duane Carter in the heat-plagued 1954 event, and it shows that Teague was not quite an open-wheel neophyte.

Lew Balderson, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA