Archie vs Masten

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Sir,

With reference to Geoff Whyler’s letter concerning the May 1958 Silverstone race between Archie Scott Brown and Masten Gregory, a few points are worth mentioning.

Firstly, it was clear the Ecosse modifications were highly effective, which is why the Lister works team later adopted something very like them after Archie crashed, and before Frank Costin redesigned the bodywork.

Bill Scott Brown, Archie’s father, was of the opinion that the Ecosse wing fairings offered a great advantage in terms of ‘negative lift’. As an aviator of more than 30 years’ experience, (shot down by Max Immelmann, indeed) he was well qualified to comment. Further, at practice before the Sports Car Grand Prix at Spa, during which he later crashed, Archie himself complained that the nose of the Lister lightened at “some thing over 120 mph”. Despite the fact he was famously inexact about issues technical, it was a concern to all, as the works team were also rather new to a race circuit at which a competitive average was fully 5mph faster than that This in a car which would achieve rather more than 170mph…

Other issues include a measure of needle that Gregory was driving a car which had, obliquely, been offered to Archie, but which he had honourably declined, and also that the Silverstone race marked a watershed in Archie’s career; he had never, at least while running on all cylinders, been beaten by such a margin by anyone, let alone anyone driving a type similar to the one which he himself drove. Undeniably, it was a shock to him.

There has also been some thought that Archie was, discounting his obvious physical handicaps, frailer than he looked; add to this the fact that he was extremely tired, and you can imagine the potential range of outcomes. But a serious person never offers excuses…

No, the Silverstone race was not in any way close; Masten Gregory simply won it, hands down.

As for Stirling’s later efforts, he took the view, as he always did, that “there is always the lap record to go for”, when he was not winning. He won that race going away, from the flag, driving with his usual economy. There had been some frank discussion about the underpinnings of the steering of the Lister before that race, as it had been widely mooted (wrongly) that steering had perhaps been the cause of Archie’s fatal crash, but this would also rather suggest to the sane man that over-egging the pudding when already in the lead was not perhaps the wisest course of action.

I will never fail to be touched by the reverence with which people’s heroes are regarded, including of course, my own. Delighted I was to see Scott Brown ranked where he was in Mark Hughes’ recent study — but where was Gregory?

I AM, YOURS, ETC

Robert Edwards, via E-MAIL