Matters of moment: June 2018

There are few things like a sunny spring morning to inspire optimism – especially in the world of motor racing.

After a long, hard winter during which many men, women and machines have been hunkered down indoors, maintaining a low profile and staying out of trouble, now is the time when garage doors are flung open, engines revved, sandwiches packed and journeys to the nearest race track undertaken.

Sometimes, the season springs a cruel trick on competitors and fans alike: witness the Goodwood Members’ Meeting, which took place in the midst of a small Sussex blizzard in March, forcing all who were there to retrieve from deep within themselves that most British of characteristics when under pressure: the stiff upper lip. In truth, though, those lips might simply have been frozen solid.

In any case, for many in the London offices of Motor Sport, the Members’ Meeting has come to represent the bang of the starting gun for the racing season. Our desks have been cleared of winter detritus and tired press releases, while editors, photographers and correspondents have eagerly been planning their diaries and polishing their pitches and story ideas.

I know this because as the new editor of this great magazine, those pitches and ideas are now landing on my desk. Nick Trott, the previous editor, has moved on to fresh pastures and I am grateful to him for leaving the magazine in such rude health.

One of the things that Nick valued – and I hope to encourage – is the interaction between readers and magazine be it via letters and emails, in the comments on our website or via social media. This is very different to my previous jobs, when I was a reporter and editor on Fleet Street, for many years with The Sunday Times. I think it is our shared passion around motor sport that makes the difference – but it is a double-edged sword: if we make any mistakes, I know you will not be reticent in pointing them out.

For now though, our thoughts are focused on the glorious season ahead: will I send Simon Arron to Prescott, a plum job if ever there was one, or would it be better to dispatch our superb photographer Lyndon McNeil and Hamish McAllister our videographer, to capture its quintessentially English feel? Jack Phillips, our web editor and sports car aficionado, thinks he has a brilliant new angle on this year’s Le Mans, but then so does reporter Samarth Kanal… Damon Cogman, our art director, has an idea about our next new cover and Gordon Cruickshank is out of the office on a mystery assignment even I don’t know about – no doubt a gem of a story will be the result.

Meanwhile, Mark Hughes has just called in from Shanghai with a potential scoop on McLaren’s on-going travails. He will call again when he gets to Baku with an update.

Yes, spring has very definitely sprung and all of us at Motor Sport can’t wait to go racing.

THE WHOLE MOTOR SPORT team extends its condolences to the family of John Miles, who died earlier this month aged 74. A mild man of extreme and varied talent, as driver, engineer, journalist and music lover, he represented the best our sport has to offer.

The news prompted me to look back at our Lunch with... interview, which Simon Taylor conducted with John in 2014. Among his reminiscences of life at Lotus under Colin Chapman, he made many a prescient point. In particular, his clear-eyed view of the money-driven world of F1 struck a chord.

“Because I’m an engineer, you’d think that modern F1 should attract me,” he says. “But that’s not the sort of engineering challenge I want. I got much more satisfaction from turning the Vauxhall Astra into a production car that handled well, and there are a million of those on the road. In F1 there is no financial compromise, whereas if you’re designing a production car, even if it’s an Aston Martin, you have to get the results you want and still stay within a budget. On a volume car, if you want to change the suspension geometry and pierce another hole in the subframe, that may be hundreds of thousands of euros. The discipline of that is much more interesting, much more challenging, than F1, where money is no object.”

A full appreciation is available on our website, where Lunch with… has been moved from the archives so readers can reflect on his varied and interesting career.

“Once motor racing was all I lived for,” he concluded. “But in the end you suddenly realise there are other things in life.”