Lies, damn lies and RStatistics
It was an absolute pleasure to read about the 30th anniversary of the Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 in May’s edition of Motor Sport – I can’t believe it was that long ago!
As a 20-something back in the 1980s the Cossie captured my imagination – particularly the glorious black-and-orange Eggenberger machines of Ludwig, Niedzwiedz and Soper. There was something about that Texaco livery that made RS500s the stuff of dreams. Unfortunately, my bank manager and insurance broker made sure that ownership of a road-going version stayed as just that – a dream.
Michael Thorogood’s stats on the greatest racing car of all time provided interesting pub debate material. While the Cosworth’s win ratio is certainly impressive, though, I beg to differ with his choice of ‘greatest racing car of all time.’ Mine would also be a 1980s car – who can forget the all-conquering Ralt RT3 from the earlier part of the decade?
For a period from 1981 to 1984 (so it easily qualifies for the three-season rule), the little Ralt swept all before it in domestic Formula 3 championships across Europe and elsewhere. It was the weapon of choice for all the hot-shoes of the time, including Stefan Johansson, Jonathan Palmer, Tommy Byrne, Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle.
If we consider just the British F3 series, Ron Tauranac’s design won every single championship race bar one in 1981 – a 98.7 per cent win rate that easily eclipsing the Cossie’s 84.6 per cent!
So, Michael, I’d like to ask you to get your spreadsheet and slide rule fired up again and apply your criteria to the little (and very pretty) RT3. This one could run and run
Matt Aitken, Leigh on Sea, Essex
Memories of a giant
Thanks to all your contributors for their excellent coverage of the life of one of the all-time greats, John Surtees.
I was fortunate to meet him a few times and was taken by his friendliness and willingness to discuss the sport, especially the engineering side, when I was involved with making and selling race engine components.
Going back a bit further, I was lucky enough to have been at Mallory Park, the motorcycling leathers just about fending off the monsoon, to see John win the Formula 2 race Doug Nye mentioned in his piece. If memory serves, he beat Jacky Ickx by three laps – and he was no mug in the wet. I’ve attached a picture from the day (above).
David Walker, Coventry
The quarry men
Simon Arron’s excellent piece on the Longridge circuit (May 2017) triggered some memories for me. As well as spectating from the precipitous vantage point of the quarry edge, I had the opportunity of having the circuit to myself on several occasions. Local construction and plant hire company NA Robson owned the track, so I would call at the firm’d yard office near Blackpool where they would helpfully lend me the circuit keys. “Make sure we get them back on Monday,” they’d say.
Once, as a result of this rather informal procedure, I met up at Longridge with TVR’s sales director Stewart Halstead to carry out photography for Peter Filby’s book on the company, Success against the Odds. Stewart and I then spent the afternoon leathering around the short kidney-shaped track in the famous factory demonstrator 3000M, TVR 100. We also took Stewart’s works racer there for a photo call.
On another occasion, after the “ceremony of the keys”, I arranged some location filming for the BBC’s lunchtime programme Pebble Mill at One, with saloon car champion Bernard Unett in his works Avenger and Gavin Waugh in his rally version. For added spice the cars were also driven by 12-year-old lads as part of a competition, all on an otherwise deserted race circuit in a Lancashire quarry, possibly the only one in the world in such a location but now long lost. Thanks, Simon, for jogging my memory. Those really were the days.
John Bailie, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs
Taming of the shrewd
I’ve just read Simon Arron’s piece about Longridge, a circuit at which I raced many times in such unsuitable cars as the Shelby Cobra Kincraft and a McRae GM1 F5000. Though I won one race, I hit the wall a couple of times.
Kim Mather, who was a much smoother driver, did well to keep his BRM P153 in check on this ferociously short track (and usually win).
Ian Stronach, via email
Draw and order
With F1 under new stewardship there is no doubt that things have to change and younger viewers – with a more limited attention span, perhaps – must be attracted. Qualifying is stale; let’s have a revolution and have a live draw Friday evening (part of a broader entertainment show?) pairing up the fastest 16 drivers from the average times across, say, three free practice sessions on Friday (excluding team-mates). They race over two laps from a standing start (side by side) with the eight winners going through. The same format takes on a knock-out format. Imagine Hamilton and Vettel drawn in the first round – one of them would end up near the back of the grid. No extra tyres would be permitted, so those at the sharp end would have degraded rubber on Sunday.
The times are they a-changing?
Shaun Kelly, Teston, Kent
Pick and mix
With regard to a comment attributed to the late John Surtees in the May issue, about the lack of fresh talent in F1, I believe there is a good, but previously untried solution: two-driver cars.
If each team were required to have one ‘seasoned’ and one ‘new’ driver, with neither permitted to drive more than three-quarters of any race, it would open up the opportunities for youngsters, give teams an opportunity to test new talent, potentially attract new fans and, certainly, set a cat among the canaries. If the new drivers were permitted to remain in that category for no more than two years, it would create an experienced pool of fresh talent and guarantee new openings while weeding out the second-stringers.
With points awarded to each driver based on the car’s finishing position and ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ championships, the old pros would certainly have an impetus to share their knowledge.
With the championship for constructors determined in the same way, teams would have a lot of hiring options. Those with big budgets could choose the best lower-series drivers, regardless of their financial contribution. Low-budget teams could look for the highest-paying youngsters and fatten their coffers.
Imagine the strategic considerations. How many pit stops? An early stop for the rookie to use the slower tyres, with a late-race stop to put the pro onto fresh, faster rubber? It will never happen, but it could be fun!
John Tuleibitz, Simpsonville, USA
Flying on the ground
I loved Doug Nye’s column on the endurance racing Chaparrals of the late ’60s, but I’d like to point out one inaccuracy. He stated that the Chaparral 2E Can-Am car with the auto transmission was the car “which introduced the tall strutted wing to major league motor racing”.
A couple of years earlier, in 1964, I had attended my first professional road race, the Mid-Ohio round of the United States Road Racing Championship. This SCCA Can-Am predecessor featured a wide variety of cars and engines. The Chaparral 2Cs driven by Jim Hall and Hap Sharp were the only winged cars and rapidly drew away from rivals.
Not only did they feature tall, strutted wings, but the wings flattened on the straights and dipped down when the brakes were applied. Tall wings four years before Chapman put them on a Lotus, a sucker car a decade before Gordon Murray’s Brabham and automatic transmission 20 years before it was featured on Mansell’s Ferrari. All of these mark Jim Hall as one of auto racing’s most innovative and original thinkers. Thanks, Doug, for keeping his memory alive.
Karl T Kimball, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
Bristling with ideas
The start of a fresh season. What’s new? Well, we have some new brighter colours and bigger paint tins, but the main talking points are that the new brushes are bigger and have longer-lasting bristles and carbon-fibre handles, which means these highly paid interior decorators will work faster.
When they have finished, we can watch the paint dry.
Mike Rose, Sturminster Newton, Dorset
A better class of cheat
I enjoyed the feature on scandals but thought that it made Smokey Yunick sound fairly innocent by mentioning only his scaled-down Chevelle.
What about his ride height dodges – coil springs wedged open with blocks of ice that would melt later, or mechanics wearing steel toe caps so the car could be parked on their feet? Or the wheels that were so heavy that each needed two mechanics to lift it – obviously replaced by lightweight items for the race? Or the bladder inserted inside the illegal fuel tank – when inflated, it concealed the extra capacity?
But for me his finest hour was when scrutineers were carrying out a scrupulous check and told Smokey that there were nine items to be corrected before his car would be allowed to race. They had removed the fuel tank, to be checked later, but had not noticed the oversize fuel feed pipe to the engine. A mere two-inch bore, it held more than a gallon of fuel. “Better make that 10,” drawled Smokey as he started up his car and drove off without the tank.
Douglas Kent, Edinburgh
I read your article on the RS500 with interest but would like to correct one thing: you say and I quote “the late Rüdi Eggenberger”. This could be a shock to him as he is in fact staying with me for the Silverstone Classic to see the 1989 Eggenberger Bastos car race. He is in good health and now lives between Switzerland and St Raphaël in France.
As a close friend I have had several calls from concerned motor sport friends!
Stuart Niland, Oxford
Deep apologies to Rüdi and Stuart. Ed