Letters, June 2010

Working with the Warwicks


I write to say how very much I enjoyed Simon Taylor’s article on lunching with Derek Warwick in Jersey (April issue).

Some 40 years ago my father, Samuel Lee, was company secretary to Warwick Trailers in Alresford and he always said Derek would be the next World Champion. Derek, as was stated, was frequently in the wrong car and place!

I never met Derek but tales of life in the ‘Running Horse’ aka The Runner were legendary, as was Stan’s driving and flying. Uncle Stan, who only had one eye, was well known for parking the Jag on local hedges. Another interesting yarn involved the delivery of some quick-setting cement to someone’s driveway! Happy days.

John Lee, Fareham, Hants

Historic Penske is perfection


Thank you for the wonderful article by Andrew Frankel on the Penske PC26 in the February issue (yes, a while ago, but it takes time for the slow boat carrying Motor Sport to reach Sydney!).

Two buddies and I share a 1981 PC10 and a 1983 Lola T700 (right), and I can only echo Andrew’s sentiments. The noise, vibration and acrid methanol exhaust do indeed make the first driving experience terrifying, and when you experience full boost for the first time it takes all your willpower not to park the car and run to a safe distance! “Pulverising, monumental thrust”, as Andrew so accurately put it.

To my great amazement, however, we have become accustomed to the (easily modulated) power and really enjoy the evocative driving experience. The Australian Historic Racing bodies have been very supportive and we run against F1 cars from the late ’70s to mid-80s. We are not far from matching their times while we learn how to fettle and drive. Indycars are much more drivable than people think and the Cosworth DFX and Hewland VG500 ’box have shown bulletproof reliability. No computer nonsense needed for start-up and the power begins at 6000rpm, continuing past 10,000, although we use 9000 as our limit to preserve the engine and contain the 10-litres per lap methanol consumption! The Lola makes 880bhp with the ’83 pop-off valve, while the PC10 has a larger qualifying turbo on the same mechanicals. We are still restoring the Penske, which has a finer finish than the Lola and is beautiful, as every Penske was. Both are a credit to their British builders’ craftsmanship.

Historic Indycars may live in the shadow of Formula 1’s supermodels, but they have provenance, presence and performance that is more than equal.

Ian Buddery, Sydney, Australia

Maggs and much more


I’ve just spent an enjoyable weekend reading the latest Motor Sport (May issue), and in particular, enjoyed reminiscing through 60 years of the F1 World Championship. ‘That was the decade that was’ brought back many forgotten memories. However, I feel I need to comment on one or two matters. In Doug Nye’s section on the ’50s, Luigi Musso died in the French GP and not at the previous GP, Spa. Secondly, in the section on the ’60s, corporate sponsorship arrived in 1968 not with Gold Leaf Team Lotus at the Tasman Series, but with Team Gunston in the South African GP on January 1, the last GP won by Jim Clark.

Lastly, I was a bit taken aback by Damon Cogman’s statement in his review of the Tony Maggs book, that ‘South Africa isn’t blessed with a huge history of international motor sport success’. May I remind DC of Maggs contemporary John Love, who raced for Ken Tyrrell at the same time and was a British touring car champion for him in his Mini. (OK, John was a Rhodesian who won the SA Formula 1 title six years in a row!) Then there is Gordon Murray of Brabham and McLaren fame. And what about Rory Byrne of Toleman, Benetton and Ferrari? Oh, of course, not forgetting the 1979 F1 World Champion, Jody Scheckter.

Jan Dijkman, Florida Park, South Africa
There’s no dispute about the quality of South Africa’s finest; we merely observed that it is from a smaller pool – Ed

A World Championship away…


I was reading Motor Sport last evening, when two things took my fancy. First, a C-type Jaguar offered for sale by Chequered Flag. The ad reads: ‘C-type JAGUAR, 1953, immaculate in red with black interior and tonneau, with Webers, Borrani wheels etc. An original and mechanically perfect example. £865.’

Second, a small display ad which reads: ‘Mr Scott-Moncrieff will, during August, be chuffing quietly through the canals on a narrow boat, thankful for a month away from motor cars. There will, however, still be a good selection of pre-war Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars on view at Rock Cottage, Basford Hall, Leek. So, by all means, come and have a look. If you see one that you like sufficiently to buy, leave the money (all prices are clearly marked) and take it.’

It was the August 1960 issue of Motor Sport. Pity that our world has changed so much.

Perhaps the most telling change is evinced by the cover picture of a front-engined Grand Prix car sideways and with a dented nose, leading a much smaller (and not sideways) rear-engined car. The caption reads: ‘Early duel between Phil Hill (Ferrari) and Jack Brabham (Cooper) during the French GP lasted for 29 laps, until the Ferrari’s transmission failed. The dented nose was caused when it ran into one of Brabham’s tyres.’

Duels in Grands Prix are rare these days, and the chances of one lasting 29 seconds are infinitesimal, let alone more than one lap!

Christopher Wigdor, Grayswood, Surrey

Jenks would have approved


I was pleased to see the letter from Ray Truscott in the May issue for two reasons. First, I have at last found someone (apart from Bill Boddy) who has been reading the magazine longer than I have – I started in 1949. Second, he mentions Jenks and said that he would approve of the magazine as it is now. I agree. However, at the first Festival Of Speed I spoke to Jenks and one of the questions that I asked him was, “Will Motor Sport be as good in the future as it has been in the past?” His reply was a definite “No”.

But since the present people have taken over the magazine I think it has a standard that Jenks would approve of. Oh, and by the way the Queen was crowned in 1953, not ’52. That was when she ascended the throne.

Geoff Bell, Emsworth, Hants

Hailwood’s heroics


This morning I enjoyed reading the Tony Southgate/Shadow piece in your April issue. It whetted my appetite for the forthcoming book.

Great stuff, but I stumbled over a little mistake in the book text to do with Mike Hailwood rescuing Clay Regazzoni from a burning car in the South African GP at Kyalami. This car ‘Rega’ drove was not a Ferrari but a Marlboro-sponsored BRM. Clay in fact was a Scuderia team member (with Jacky Ickx) in 1972 (I saw him ‘live’ at the German GP of that year, battling with Sir Jackie for second – with Stewart ending up in the guard-rails…) and returned there in 1974 to form a new team with Niki Lauda.

Apart from that, another fantastic issue. I also appreciate the very open comments of my Car of the Year jury colleague Andrew Frankel about the Aston Martin Rapide. Why build a four-door car without four full seats?

Thomas Imhof, Essen, Germany

The word on John Willment


We are researching a book on the life of John Willment (1928-1997) and JWA (John Willment Automobiles), as well as many other projects in which John was involved. The book project enjoys the full backing of the Willment family.

Many well-known drivers raced and enjoyed success in cars prepared by JWA, and, after he joined forces with John Wyer, JWAE. The list is almost a who’s who of ’60s racing – such luminaries as David Hobbs, Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, Frank Gardner and double F1 World Champion Graham Hill, to name but a few.

But John did not concentrate solely on Touring and GT cars – he also prepared a variety of F1 Brabhams, and Graham Hill scored a memorable victory at the 1964 Rand Grand Prix with the Willment-entered car.

We are seeking further information on John Willment’s many and varied activities to ensure that the book accurately reflects the life of a gifted and very talented engineer. Any past or current owners of Willment cars, former team members, drivers, colleagues and officials who were involved with John or JWA are invited to submit any relevant stories, anecdotes or photos for possible inclusion in the book. Photos will of course be returned. Please contact: [email protected]

The Willment family, by e-mail

Distributing blame


Andrew Frankel’s column about Toyota is condescending towards American consumers. After more or less absolving Toyota, Mr Frankel suggests that somehow the Big Three in Detroit are “assembling the gallows” for Toyota. Utter rubbish; as facts have come to light, Toyota has been shown to have made its own gallows.

Faced with mounting evidence of problems, Toyota dithered and obfuscated. Only a groundswell of bad news forced its hand. A very un-Japanese approach to the problem.

Mr Frankel next suggests that, like SARS or BSE, Toyota’s problems reflect public “neuroses”. More rubbish. If you have worked hard to buy a car you expect safety. There should be no doubts in a driver’s mind about safety. Toyota is the world’s largest car company, and consumers should not be made to look foolish for their concerns.

Mr Frankel also blithely dismisses brake feel concerns and he cites “public fear” as the real culprit. Mr Frankel is an admirable writer, but his pithy dismissal of Toyota’s problems is unwarranted. The fault can be placed firmly on Toyota’s doorstep, and nowhere else.

Scott Brown, San Francisco, USA

Why MotoGP has passed F1


I look forward eagerly to Motor Sport appearing in my local WHSmith every month, mostly for the articles about motor racing from an age when it was actually racing. As a friend of James Hunt’s at Wellington I was a keen follower of his progress through the ranks of F3, in Syd Griffith’s F5000, to winning the World Championship; then later I enjoyed his commentating, often punctuated with expletives such as ‘shit a brick Murray, look at that…’ – wonderful stuff!

Unfortunately, today’s racing is anodyne, a banal display of technocratic cleverness. You think the last two Grands Prix were exciting? Smell the coffee! If you want exciting, then watch MotoGP. The opening Qatar race was unbelievable and had the whole family on the edge of our seats.

I’ll keep buying Motor Sport as I have for the last 50 years, but do keep the articles on this year’s F1 to just a half page each issue.

Nigel Shuttleworth, Morpeth, Northumberland

Mental blocks


Much discussion has taken place on the lack of overtaking in Formula 1. One aspect that seems to have been ignored, however, is the question of driver ethics.

In earlier days blocking a car to prevent it from overtaking was just not done. I have just seen a film about Mike Hawthorn’s championship year and was struck by his comment that Tony Brooks was holding him up at Monaco because he had not seen him in his mirrors. When Brooks eventually became aware of him he pulled over and waved him by.

Imagine that today! Deliberate blocking on corners was considered dirty and dangerous. Now it seems to be applauded. I used to watch drivers such as Fangio, Moss, Ascari, Hawthorn and Collins who all would give each other room in corners and the resultant overtaking was frequent and exciting to watch. Drivers who blocked each other then were unpopular and even penalised. In fact was not the original use of the blue flag to advise drivers that they were holding someone up, and nothing to do with being lapped?

Call me old-fashioned but when I watch a motor race I want to see the fastest car and driver win, not a driver who thinks it clever to keep the faster ones behind him or push them off the road. How can we consider much-acclaimed drivers such as Senna and Schumacher, however skilful, to be in the same class as Fangio, Ascari, Moss, Clark or Brooks who apparently did not need to resort to dirty tactics to achieve their results.

Endless changes to circuits and aerodynamics are surely doomed to failure. We will only see real overtaking when driver mentality is changed. Maybe bringing back the old blue flag rule could be the answer.

Brian Alexander, Bude, Cornwall