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We refresh, you react…

I am a firm believer in an old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Gone is your magazine’s classy and familiar front cover, replaced by a design that could be from any magazine. The great Nigel Roebuck is pushed farther back into the magazine and placed after numerous new car tests — you are supposed to be Motor SPORT.

The great photographs from ‘You Were There’ seem to have been replaced by a cartoon. Dumbing down of the worst kind. If a story or biography is interesting, then tell the full story. I imagine the average reader has a long enough attention span to cope with a full article.

Why not focus your undoubted talents on the content quality?

You have turned a classic into a run-of-the-mill mag. As far as this now ex-reader is concerned, you have followed McLaren’s lead and failed spectacularly, turning a Red BullRenault into a Marussia-Cosworth.
David Leah, by e-mail

Getting the green light

Congratulations on the updated look of the ‘green ‘un’. A couple of observations from a reader since the Fifties: liked the Jenks ‘When they were new’ — more of this, please. You must have an immense back catalogue of articles such as these — ‘Continental Jottings’ etc — and there would be no harm in dipping into it to see how things were. Some past work from the Bod would also be welcome. I liked the `Technofile’ explaining the latest F1 developments and the Guy Allen graphic story (I was winner of the Hill/Clark print from last year).

I do not like the size of the caption fonts — they’re hard to read even with specs. But good effort. Keep it up.
Phil d’Arcy, Cheltenham, Glos

Cautionary Taylor

I’m inordinately fussy about getting every historical detail in my Lunch With… interviews correct. So I was deeply ashamed to realise, just after last month’s issue had gone irrevocably to press, that in my article with the great Tony Brooks I’d managed to misplace the 1959 American GP. As I knew perfectly well, it happened that year only at Sebring — not an ideal F1 venue — before moving to Riverside for 1960, and then to its long-term home at Watkins Glen. Entirely my fault, entirely not Tony’s. My humble apologies to all readers. I am now standing in the corner, wearing a traditional dunce’s crash helmet.
Simon Taylor, Chiswick, London

Lure unto itself

I would normally hesitate to buy the magazine if its cover picture was of a Grand Prix ‘bike, but in the case of April who could possibly resist the lure of Barry Sheene?

I was a spectator at the Silverstone test day in 1982 when Barry had his huge accident. I witnessed the ball of fire on the approach to Woodcote and got to the scene within a few minutes where Barry, Jack Middleburg and their smashed machines were scattered. Medical help took a long time to reach the accident.

Prior to the mishap I was scared to watch the action because it was an open test session, with far too many bikes ranging from 50cc to 500cc on the circuit at once. The 500s were constantly weaving through the slower bikes and the speed differential was enormous. Little has been said about this aspect of the day, but an accident was inevitable.

Anyway, what a fantastic tribute you provided; the picture of Barry and James Hunt was a classic. It’s quite amusing that we now consider Kimi Raikkonen to be exciting…
Aaron Walsh, Northampton, Northants

Wizard in Oz.

Your recent feature on Barry Sheene reminded me about some of his observations as a MotoGP commentator in Australia back in the Nineties.

Television coverage at that time was hosted by Darrell Eastlake, a charismatic general sports commentator, with Barry the specialist providing technical back-up. It was a great match, Darrell with his loud and excitable style and Barry’s down-to-earth descriptions of both on-track action and behind-thescenes insight. Commentary ‘incidents’ were frequent, but two memorable episodes come to mind. Firstly, as a rider parted company with his bike, Darrell commented that he was amazed at how riders can come off their bikes at speed, slide down the Tarmac not feeling a thing and nonchalantly walk away. He was quickly corrected by Barry’s dry response: “I can assure you that sliding down the track with skin and bits coming off hurts like hell!”

Another time, Barry was explaining the concept and advantages of slipstreaming: “When a rider is breaking wind ahead of you down the straight…” There was an immediate embarrassed silence in the commentary box, with stifled sniffs and snorts as both tried to regain composure. Barry certainly had a way with words. How could you not like the man?
Graeme Tomlinson, Tungkillo, South Australia

Elan trailer-blazers

A good day today: my Motor Sport arrived with an article about Lotus Elans. In my youth I had many Elans, starting with an S1 and then a muchloved S2 with modified arches and a tow bar. I moulded steel strips into the boot floor, in order that the attachment could easily be removed. It took my girlfriend (now wife) and I 3500 miles around Yugoslavia, towing our trailer complete with full-size tent, tables, chairs and large gas cylinder. The only mod to the engine was removal of the thermostat to get more water moving.
John Gray, Seaton Hole, Devon CI

Masters of disguise

Referring to Malcolm Clube’s letter in April, I am sure many others agree with his comments about today’s F1. Who can see the numbers on the cars, or even relate to drivers because some of them change helmets from race to race? Almost all engines sound the same, too — unlike when there used to be V12s, DFVs and so on.
James Cowles, Moraira, Spain

Fire:a driver’s worst fear

Sterling stuff from Doug Nye in the April issue about fire — the thing most feared by every racing driver.

For some reason I found my Lola T210s and 212s (2-litre sports cars) seemed to enjoy trying to incinerate me. A puncture sent me into a brick wall in Vila Real in 1970 and all we salvaged was a buckled crankshaft with four bent rods attached. At the 1971 Targa Florio, my 2-litre Lola lost a wheel on the straight back to the pits. The car hit a couple of barriers and then blew up, but luckily I was thrown clear when the seatbelt bolts pulled out.

Brian Redman had a fiery accident that weekend in his Porsche 908/3, but was hauled to safety by quick-to-act bystanders. All John Wyer got back was a flat-plane crank with eight rods attached. It came out of a large hole in the road after the blaze died down…
Alain de Cadenet, Kensington, London

Loud and clear

I read Nigel Roebuck’s April article with interest. Sound does matter. I was at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in 1971 when Reine Wisell drove the Lotus 56 gas turbine car. It just swished past almost noiselessly and I thought it would be the death of GP racing if all cars were the same. At Silverstone a few years later, I was late and stuck in traffic. I sat and listened with car windows open, stomach churning with excitement, even though I was a mile or so from the circuit.

Noise doesn’t just matter — it’s a critical part of the whole experience.
Roger Stretton, Frfiton, Norfolk

Obedience classes

As we all know, the higher-ups wanted to toss team orders out of the window some years ago… and now they’ve come back. It amazes me, though, that these are ignored or questioned.

My mother was John Wyer’s secretary from 1949-1956, and she recalls: “John would put out a signal and it was to be obeyed. But it was up to the drivers, if they were being caught, to do what they had to do to stay out front, unless otherwise signalled by John.”

Also, there were some great photos in the race transporter story. On p106 you showed the BMC/MG rig — and the man in the funny hat is my dear old dad! He joined MG for the 1955/56 season and was in charge of customer racing support. He drove the MG rig numerous times in the 1955 season.

Before that he was with Aston Martin and often drove the team transporter, a converted London bus with a threecylinder two-stroke diesel. He told me, “I was hard-pressed to keep up with my Ferrari pals across Italy one night on our way to a party. Their V12 Fiat would out-drag us, then they’d slow up and wait. I was flat out all the way!”
Michael Green, Livermore, California, USA

Bus man’s holler day

We just loved the recent article about transporters. When Mark Rigg and I started racing with the VSCC in the Sixties, we took our Riley in a converted Bedford bus. As the equipe expanded it was replaced by the ex-Mike Hawthorn London bus [above]. This had a Gardener six-cylinder diesel, pre-selector gearbox and indifferent brakes. It could accommodate one car up top via a lift operated by a large starter motor, plus two more lower down. It would do 55-60mph on the flat, but coming back from a meeting at Pembrey I discovered its brakes were not really suited to Welsh mountains…
Mike Virr, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA

Tails of the unexpected

In your recent JD Classics article, I noted reference to a “Buick-powered Mini.., built by someone in the 60s”. That someone was Jeff Goodliff, and the driver was Harry Radcliffe. Your comment about handling was correct: it was like throwing a hammer shaft-first. Harry frequently led races until about half-way, when the weight of fuel in the front-mounted tank no longer balanced the V8 and Harry invariably spun off.

As Harry remembers: “It was the best and worst thing I ever did, the best thing being the publicity it brought us. It was lethal to drive but very nicely built, using an upside-down E-type differential at the front and an E-type gearbox at the rear. It was front-wheel drive, but oversteered nicely because all the weight was in the back.”
Derek Greenwood, Crieff, Perthshire

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