I was pleased to see the word Penske on February’s cover, as Indycar machines are too often regarded as being unsophisticated compared to an F1 car. During the 22 years I ran Penske Cars I lost count of the times I was asked about the differences: my response was to liken one to a horse for flat racing, the other to a jumper – essentially the same animal but with very different objectives and function. In the 1990s a Champ Car would frequently reach 250mph, often running three-abreast just inches apart with no run-off area. Accidents were frequent and horrific, so the cars had to be built to withstand such eventuality if the driver was to have any chance of survival. In 2000 Gil de Ferran, driving a Penske-Reynard, set the world closed-course speed record at 241.428mph.
Champ Cars were once the equal in every respect of any F1 car of that time, none more so than the pure-bred Penske, designed and built in Poole by Penske Cars Ltd. This little company set the standard by which all others should be judged, and from 1973 to 2006 it designed, built or extensively redesigned cars that won a Grand Prix, 12 national championships, 13 Indy 500s and 115 races. It saw the rise and fall of March, Reynard and many other suitors during this period, and provided all the support for Team Penske, one of the most successful teams in the sport’s history.
I do take issue with Patrick Morgan’s comment that the featured PC26 arrived as a basic tub, with scrap wishbones and some bodywork. Not so. At the end of 1995 this chassis was returned to Poole and converted into a show car, pristine in every respect. For us this was a hallmark car, being the last totally designed and built by Penske, and once its show car career finished it was put to one side. For several years it resided in my garage as I had every intention of owning it myself. However, with the closure of Penske Cars and limited space for my toys, I offered it to Patrick as I knew his love of Penske machinery would ensure its protection. I also made available another Penske chassis that had languished in Brooklands Museum, and this was indeed a pile of unloved pieces, so perhaps his memory has lapsed in this respect!
Andrew Frankel’s test is a fitting tribute to a remarkable car and an outstanding group of individuals who, over 33 years, combined their talents at Penske Cars Ltd.
To conclude, I politely remind Patrick Morgan that he promised me a drive of the PC26, to fulfil an ambition. After 46 years of building cars for others to drive, I need to feel the thrill Andrew portrayed so well. Patrick, I’m waiting!
Nick Goozée, Maiden Newton, Dorset