Letters from readers

Lotus documentary


I wonder if any of your readers could help me with the research for a proposed TV documentary? We are trying to trace the whereabouts of all the surviving Lotus 72 Formula One cars. We know of six out of nine constructed. Two are held by Team Lotus, one is owned by Michael Schryver, one by David McLoughlin, one is in the Donington Collection, one has just been sold from the Foulston Collection. We assume that the car that Jochen Rindt had his accident in was scrapped. That accounts for seven; can anyone help with the other two? Emerson, do you have one? If anyone has any information or leads, please contact me.

I am, yours, etc

Gary Critcher, Whitton, Middlesex

Maranello mystery


Regarding the 250 Ferrari spotted at Goodwood Festival of Speed last year by your reader, Mark Postill from Southampton, I may be able to help him identify this gorgeous sample of Italian art.

In 1961-62, Pininfarina built five different aluminium-bodied Ferraris based on the 400 Super America lines, but with short wheelbase and fitted with 250 engines.

The car exhibited at Goodwood is most certainly chassis 2643: it is the only one which had a slight kink over the rear wheel arches behind the doors. It also had an auxiliary wiper fitted on the roof at the edge of the screen (this was missing at Goodwood) and a small trap near the offside headlight for quick access to the cooling system. This car has quite an interesting racing history and is important in Ferrari evolution as it was the hack used by the factory to develop the 250 GTO.

Built at the beginning of 1961, Chassis 2643 was fitted with a 250 Testa Rossa engine with dry sump and six Weber 38 DCN carburettors. The car was extensively tested by Bizzarini and his team and finally entered by SEFAC Ferrari for Le Mans in 1961 as a 250 GT Sperimentale. Raced by Fernand Tavano and Giancarlo Baghetti, it was withdrawn after 13 hours because of engine failure.

The car returned to development duties until the beginning of 1962 when it was sold to Luigi Chinetti, the American importer. The car was immediately entered for Daytona under the banner of the North American Racing Team for Stirling Moss to drive, finishing fourth overall and first in the GT class; it was his last race in a Ferrari.

At Le Mans in 1962, the car was described as a 250 TR and was not competing in the GT class. Hughus and Reed finished ninth. In 1964, the car, now red, was sold successively to W Luftniann and Al Garthwaite, becoming once again Chinetti's property in between. In 1968, the registered owner was R Shackleford. It appears that the car presented at Goodwood by Symbolic Motor Co had been extensively restored, although that shade of red is not really '61/62 Ferrari vintage.

I do hope that I have been able to shed some light as to the identity of this fine specimen and raised it from near anonymity. It is much more than just another Ferrari.

I am, yours, etc

Patrick Tison, Catford, London

Whose hillclimber?


I have found this little racing car. It had been bought in England in 1975 and since then stored unused here in Germany. The manufacturer and also the history is unknown to me. The engine is a Triumph Twin Speed connected to a Matchless gearbox. As the tank capacity is very small, I presume that it was used for hillclimbs. There is a nose badge saying 750MC.

I wonder what 'shoestring racing' means which is printed on one side of the car. The only significant detail which might help to identify the car, is the steering wheel. It shows the letters ‘HGV’.

Maybe one of your readers could help?

I am, yours, etc

Horst G Auer, Dortmund, Germany

Bucket feats


How nice to know that Sir John Whitmore's Greatest Race should be the 1959 Le Mans, and how well I remember it. John, however, isn't entirely correct in his memory of events. The first problem with the starter motor was at the third regular pit-stop, by which time it was dark. When it appeared that we would have to take off the manifolds to get at the starter motor, we almost thought it wouldn't be worth carrying on, but Willie Griffiths, former chief mechanic for Team Lotus, who had been looking after Jabby Crombac's Elite in the next pit, came to our rescue.

We knew we were only allowed to replace things which were carried on the car, so Willy got me to get all the team members on the pit counter but leave a space between him and John's feet, through which he rolled the starter pretending it was hot, so hard that it fell off the back of the counter. I picked up a new one from under the pit counter, also pretending it was hot, and replacing the bushes before having it back within seconds and off went Jim on his next stint.

The next time it happened was broad daylight, and we did use the bucket of water trick, with the new motor resting in the bottom and my remembering to extract the cold one and pretend it was hot! As John rushed off, the Pit Commissar gave me a hefty slap across the back and in his inimitable Franco-Scottish said “Ahhh! V-a-i-r-y good acteeng!" The Auld Alliance had paid off; had we been entered by Team Lotus rather than a Scottish team we might have been disqualified there and then! We lost almost two hours in the pits, yet still finished second in the 1500cc class.

I have many very happy memories of Sir John's company, both within the Border Reivers team and subsequently at his Mayfair flat (shared by Jim and later Jackie Stewart as well). Including an unforgettable first sight of Monaco in 1960 when Jim drove the FJ Lotus and I, too, discovered in amazement Alan Stacey's artificial leg, when he took it off and Innes carried him down to the murky Med for a swim. Like John, I have fond memories of Alan, a wonderful team-mate for Jim, who was equally devastated by his fatal accident at Spa.

I am, yours, etc

Ian Scott Watson, Greenlaw, Berwickshire

Short-cut to success


I enjoyed Adam Cooper's feature on motor racing cheats, but there are one or two examples of sharp practice from the earlier days that he might have mentioned. One of my favourites is Harry Schell's remarkable qualifying performance in a 2.2-litre Cooper-Climax at the 1959 US Grand Prix at Sebring, a time achieved by the simple expedient of taking a short-cut round the back of the circuit out of sight of the race officials.

Schell's new time put him on the first row of the grid and bumped Tony Brook's Ferrari to the second rank. At the start of the race Brooks was hit up the back by his team-mate, Wolfgang von Trips, and stopped at the end of the first lap to check the damage. Brooks ultimately finished third, but had he won - and he'd qualified faster than both the cars that finished ahead - he would also have won the world championship that year.

I am, yours, etc.

Shaun Campbell, Catford, London

Points make prizes


I have an idea which I think could restore the excitement to Formula One. If we look back to 1950, there were only six World Championship Grands Prix, each therefore worth approximately 17% of the total points available in the season.

Look at 1997, however. Each Grand Prix was worth only 6% of the total available. A victory in one Grand Prix is now worth only a third of its value in 1950, in championship terms.

Surely the way to restore the excitement to the world championship is to cut the number of races which count towards it to six, as in the beginning. The world championship would become less of an endurance and reliability test, and each victory, and place, would be consequently three times as valuable. Alongside the current search for regulations to encourage overtaking, this format would also provide an additional incentive to make that pass. The racers are there - Villeneuve and Schumacher proved that when there is enough at stake - and overtaking can be done.

Bernie would not like the idea, but there is a way to keep a full calendar of F1. Keep the current quota of 16 or 17 races, but rotate those races which will count towards the championship between the circuits, and hold the remainder as lucrative non-championship GPs. To keep the grids respectable, maybe all 16 could count towards the manufacturers' title. Each track keeps its annual GP, and every two or three years, hosts a world championship event. The non-championship races would provide an opportunity for 'one-offs', where the consequences of a failed overtaking move do not destroy a season's work.

It might be wishful thinking to hope that the FIA would for once put its commercial ambitions aside for the good of the sport, but I do think the current world championship needs to be changed. It produces too many meaningless races, and too little incentive to win each and every Grand Prix.

I am, yours, etc

Mr C Graham, Kenoway, Fife

Road racers


Your archive feature Did You See It? reminded me that the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort was also a regular spot to see Formula One cars being driven to and from the circuit. The enclosed photo shows Chris Bristow's Yeoman Credit Cooper on the sea front returning to his hotel.

This particular race also saw von Trips use in practice the prototype rear-engined Ferrari that was to become the 156 Sharknose.

I am, yours, etc.

Grahame Page, Taunton, Somerset

Farmyard Grand Prix


In reference to your article on Grand Prix cars being driven on public roads, herewith a couple of photos of my Ecurie Ecosse A-Type Connaught being driven on the road. The cars are under braking for the Tesco chicane before turning left onto the long straight (142 mph), up to the B&Q curve, then though Jones's farmyard, and back to the start.

Cost of eight items of poultry =£28.40

Alternatively, consider the cost of a practice day testing at Silverstone = £120!

Moving on to the article by Nigel Roebuck. I ask - is he a serious reporter for Motor Sport? Or is he the same as the childish reporters we hear of in the tabloids today, covering tittle, tattle and trivia?

I suggest the latter. To waste space in Motor Sport telling us he doesn't like Mansell, but does like Patrese is nothing but utter rubbish, and I would suggest that true sportsmen have no interest in whether Nigel Roebuck likes or dislikes anybody.

To attack Nigel Mansell, who is arguably the most exciting driver since Moss, now that he is probably retired, is not on. Nigel Roebuck should understand that the enormous popularity of motor racing in this country is in no small part due to the phenomenon that was Mansell.

The bookshops are crammed with motoring magazines written by many journalists who without his boom would be out of work or maybe writing for the tabloids.

I am, yours, etc.

Bob Burrell, Rettenden, Nr. Chelmsford

In defence of the Nimrod


It was interesting to read your article in last month's edition on the rise and fall of the Aston Martin Nimrods. However I did feel you dwelt rather too much on the failure of the Hamilton/Works car, giving little credit to the Viscount Downe entry and the considerable successes it achieved before its disastrous accident at Le Mans 24 Hours in 1984 which ended its racing contribution.

If anybody could make a success of running the Nimrod, it had to be Richard Williams his total dedication and enthusiasm for the project together with his highly skilled mechanics and long distance race preparation of a very high order.

Throughout the '82 season the car finished every race with not a single engine failure. The burned valves at Le Mans were caused by a failed metering unit had this not occurred there was every likelihood that it would have finished fourth, the position held for hours before the problem developed. Nonetheless, the Downe car finished third in the World Sportscar Championship at the end of the year.

Tickfords supplied the engines to both teams. It would be most unlikely that they would have given us a more reliable engine than that of the works. They really tried their very best and were so enthusiastic, after all it was only a tweaked up road engine that had been around in various forms for nigh on 20 years. There was no doubt that the maximum rev-limit was crucial, but providing this was adhered to, the engines proven to be strong and very reliable.

It is hard to understand why the Hamilton/Works car suffered so many engine failures. They had engaged the services of good drivers but their experience in Group C long distance racing was limited.

Perhaps the patronising remarks made by Tiff Needell prior to the Le Mans race about the Viscount Downe entry was, after all, poetic justice. They never finished a single race.

I am, yours, etc.

Michael Salmon, Trinity, Jersey

Has anyone seen my Jaguar?


Around 1964, I bought a second car. The car was Jaguar XK120, with maroon and grey paint.

It had a badge declaring the car had been driven by Stirling Moss to win the Tourist Trophy race at Oulton Park around 1952. I later sold it, as it was an 'expensive toy.' I have often wondered what happened to that car. Can anyone help?

I am, yours, etc.

Gordon Ackrill, Solihull, West Midlands

Root? Vegetable?


I find myself compelled to write in response to Mr Connaught's letter in the February edition of Motor Sport. I cannot understand why anyone would find it necessary to put pen to paper (or in his case, more likely quill to parchment) to make such an inane comment. I can only assume this is because Mr Connaught is:

a) 104 years old and has lost his sense of humour
b) Henry Root
c) a High Court judge

I think we should be told.

I am, yours, etc.

Mr N Plevan, via e-mail