Letters, March 1991

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Opinions expressed are those of correspondents and not necessarily those of Motor Sport

***

Railton Request

Sir,

At Christie’s auction of unrestored motor cars at the Beaulieu Auto-Jumble, I purchased a 1933 Railton Terraplane, perfect in every way, apart from a couple of things; firstly the Perkins P6 diesel engine fitted in 1954 and secondly the substantial garage which fell on it in 1987.

The car, universally slated by the historic Motoring Press, turns out to be one of only three surviving Ranalah-bodied tourers, and prior to the auction was unknown to the Railton Owners Club. I feel sure it is a car which some long-time reader of Motor Sport will know, and I am anxious to trace the car’s history.

Reputedly one-owner until 1989 when sold and exported to France, its registration number is ALU 601, a London series. I am not sure, though, whether it is the original, or the car was re-registered in 1954 when the Perkins P6 Diesel engine was fitted. The car also has a Wilson pre-selector gearbox, has always had blue upholstery and I think was originally painted black. It was subsequently painted red, maroon and finally green.

If anyone knows of this car’s past history I would like to hear from them; likewise from anyone who has a spare Essex Terraplane 8 engine or 1934 or 35 Hudson Eight and would like it to go to a good home.

Nigel Plant

Norwich, Cheshire

***

Mediocrity

Sir,

After whingeing about the use and misuse of something being unique, perhaps DSJ would care to contemplate the phrase “Mediocre in the extreme”. ( Motor Sport January 1991, p.6).

D Bagshall

Toot Baldon, Oxford

***

Trackside View

Sir,

Maybe DSJ’s trackside view of Formula 1 racing allows him an appreciation (October 1990) of Ayrton Senna’s driving above the level of less fortunate mortals who must make do with TV. Would I were so fortunate.

Nevertheless Senna’s inevitable progress to the top of his trade has a relentless, tedious quality about it that on television has helped reduce the sport for this follower to a level of sameness not seen for many years. Perhaps Senna is a genius and that quality is the mark of genius, but if it is, I’d rather have the Rosbergs, Mansells, Alesis, Prosts et al who at least do appear fallible and therefore human for at least some of the time, but in the process offer a degree of excitement that lends interest to the spectator.

Every person to his or her own opinion but while Senna is undoubtedly an exceptionally talented driver the attributes which appear to have got him where he is now are not always so admirable.

Phenomenal strength of determination, concentration and dedication to the task go hand in hand with a refusal to let anything get in his way, and a degree of impatience which, together, have been demonstrated many times in his overtaking tactics. These could variously be described, depending on one’s point of view, as very brave, lacking in judgement, highly intimidating, very aggressive, rather reckless, just plain dangerous, and so on.

The overall impression one gets from television is that most drivers simply play safe and get out of his way, but the few who do stand up for themselves when they think they are entitled to the racing line through a corner are likely to get run down or ‘pushed’ off the track.

It seems we are going to have to put up with all this until such times as Senna betters everyone else including Fangio. Let’s see now — six drivers’ Championships means four more years at least!

J F Day

Scullin, Australia

***

McLaren Defence

Sir,

I feel Colin Routen’s letter about chances for British Formula One drivers was a little harsh on McLaren. They are after all a business and as such are responsible to their sponsors to win the World Championship. To ask them to recruit inferior drivers because of nationality would be like turning down Honda engines because they are Japanese.

On the other hand their involvement with various schemes to encourage British talent in young drivers, and in particular their interest in Alan McNish, would suggest the lack of British talent does concern them, and they are looking to have a British Champion in the future.

Ross D Herbert Virginia Water, Surrey

***

Sir,

I was interested to read Colin Routen’s letter on British drivers and their lack of encouragement by constructors into the higher echelons of Formula One. I must take issue with his statement that during the Eighties, Britain produced three world class drivers: Mansell, Warwick, and Brundle. I know it is always debatable as to how we define world class, but despite Warwick’s best efforts, and all that we still hope Brundle will become, Mansell stands some distance above them.

There is, however, another British driver who rates above at least two of Colin Routen’s choice — John Watson.

Has he forgotten that Watson won four Grands Prix in the early Eighties plus, of course, another in 1976. He came close to the World Championship in 1982, finishing joint runner-up with Pironi. If we have three world class drivers in the period, we certainly had four!

Denis R Bell

Belfast, N Ireland

***

Blue Train Rover

Sir,

As a reader of Motor Sport for over 40 years, I was interested in the article on the Rover Blue Train.

We purchased a light six Rover new from T Baker of Reading to replace a large Renault which was written off in a fog by a Hovis Steam-wagon on the A4 near to where Heathrow airport is now located. I drove the Rover for 76,000 miles with no mechanical trouble, not even a brake reline.

I had served my time at a country garage where I learned to drive on a Stellite when I was 14 years old. The cars we dealt with are mostly unknown today — De Dion, Mars, Calcott, Clyno, etc. I frequently went to Brooklands with my boss, who was a friend of Tim Birkin, in the Rover or an HE 2-litre; on one occasion I rode as a passenger for a few laps in the Bentley when on practice before a big race. In the 1930s I drove a Morgan 3-wheeler (VY 9599) in a clubman’s event but retired when the rear tyre deflated; the Morgan had previously been driven by Sammy Davis (it must have been Gwenda Stewart’s car -Ed).

During the war I served with the RAF and had many interesting experiences in various parts of the world, and after, I was a regular visitor to Silverstone. Now, though, my days with exotic cars are over and I only drive a Volvo automatic — but I would like to see Brooklands once again.

F C Hine

Reading, Berks.

***

The ‘If Only’ Club

Sir,

I read the letter entitled ‘If Only’ from your correspondent Mr Robert Soper, in the December issue of Motor Sport with considerable interest.

There is no doubt in my mind that he should consider starting a branch of his Club here in South Africa where there are a considerable number of eminently suitable potential members who enjoy their racing on virtually every day of the week on the local roads.

These potential members are principally, but by no means exclusively, using 3 Series BMWs and most VW models.

Pick-up trucks, called ‘Bakkies’ here, and the large Mercs and BMWs also participate with great abandon. Most of these of course are company vehicles.

The rule of the road here is the same as in the UK, but that doesn’t count, these overlooked Fl pilots weave in and out of any space that presents itself in the traffic flow, overtaking on the right or the left, and when really hard pressed using either of the hard shoulders in true racing fashion.

Even the cars know they are racers as they all have brake lights, but winkers are non-existent. Needless to say the Growth Industry here is the Panel Beating Trade, who, come to think of it, would make excellent sponsors for the Club, one with a vested interest.

If your readers think that the above is an exaggeration then consider this: the road death toll over the Christmas/New Year holidays in South Africa was, at the last count, at least 318, and this with a vehicle population a fraction that of the UK. This figure is not exceptional but is par for the course.

Kyalami Grand Prix course is nearby and Mr Soper could help DSJ organise one round of his Serendipity Championship for cars that never were, with an abundance of local talent, opening this up towards World Status.

S Comley

Johannesburg, South Africa

***

Enhanced Road Safety

Sir,

With reference to your article concerning high level rear window brake lights, there is no question here that this is one of the best devices to be adopted for enhanced road safety.

We have had this system in Canada for 5 years now and it really works well. Canadian speed limits cause bunching highways but as an expat, I’m sure it would be even more effective in “Tailgating” Britain.

The key is not so much that you get more warning from the car ahead, but the one (or two) ahead of that, due to visibility right through the glass of the car immediately ahead.

Think about it, “rear ends” are caused by the 2nd or 3rd vehicle ahead and so it has to help if you know these cars are braking. Naturally this is not foolproof, but in answer to your question “Does it pay to have a high level brake light?” the answer is an emphatic yes!

Bernard R Lewis

Victoria, BC, Canada.

***

Baghdad Bound

Sir,

I wondered if these photographs of the Nairn bus mentioned in “Looking Back” In February’s edition might be of interest.

Before the last War there was no road between Damascus and Baghdad (not Beirut), the journey being covered over open desert by a track marked by oil drums. Two New Zealanders, the Nairn brothers who had served in those parts in WW1, set up the bus service.

I saw the Express Coach in Damascus, but alas when I crossed in late 1942 I was carried on one of the older buses, and a very rough and dusty ride it was!

Damascus to Beirut was a very different journey, over two mountain ranges. As I had patients in hospital in Beirut I had a good excuse to visit them from Damascus, and used to do so whenever I could coax a motorcycle from the Transport Officer. Real Motor Sport!

Dr. G E Pinkerton

Huntingdon, Cambs.

***

Old Number One

Sir,

I have followed with great interest the story of the Bentley Speed Six ‘Old Number One’ which has been aired in Motor Sport. Walter Hassan’s book is most informative on the subject.

In addition to the references you quote in your article in the September edition, Hassan also states that after the fatal accident to Clive Dunfee at Brooklands in 1932 “What was left of the new track car was down through the trees on the entrance road below.” He also says that Barnato had a garage in Belgrave Mews West which had been used “to build up the special 8-litre in which Clive Dunfee had been killed in 1932.”

Interestingly enough, later on the book says that the Pacey-Hassan Special completed in 1936 used the engine and chassis numbers of another vehicle in an attempt to beat the handicappers at Brooklands. Perhaps this is how the 1932 track car acquired the chassis number and registration number of ‘Old Number One’. The builders not anticipating that two cars would become merged into one historic entity 58 years later.

C N A Williams

Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

***

Speed

Sir,

On the subject of speed; surely every racing circuit that does not include at least one 2 kilometre long straight is second rate.

FISA has decreed a 2 kilometre limit but why not allow more than 2 kilometres for slower racing cars; those that can reach speeds no higher than 300 kph? Two heroes of speed who should always be remembered are Roger Dorchy (WM-Peugeot) fastest on the old Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, and Bill Brown (Ferrari P4) fastest on the old Con Rod straight at Bathurst.

Keith Gaymer

Wollongong, Australia.

***

Silverstone Thanks

Sir,

On January 29th I received a telephone call from Mark Linford, the manager of the John Watson rally school, inviting me if I was free, to attend one of their advanced Rally training days the next day to make up for my disappointment re Silverstone Rally School (see previous correspondence, February, 1991).

I accepted with alacrity and had a wonderful day with the school. Ramon Ferreyros and Tony Ornstien were our teachers and nobody could have asked for better, both in their driving skills and in the way they imparted their knowledge.

May I take this opportunity to say a big “Thank you” to all concerned in restoring my faith in human nature and, in particular, to Silverstone!

John Starkey

Meriden, Coventry.