Letters, March 2013

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A long way from Holmes

Sir,

With regard to Snetterton and the AD016 (Austin 1100) race, I was there taking photos. The cars that were loaded back onto the transporters afterwards were not the same shape as the ones that arrived! I recall the fun the drivers had on the grid, putting on their handbrakes and easing out clutches, forcing the cars into a synchronised porpoising motion on their hydrolastic suspension. Then came the long, lonely dark and cold but happy ride back to Surrey on my Lambretta…

Martin Holmes, Pyrford Green, Surrey

Straight and narrow

Sir,

Doug Nye’s recent article about the 1962 Autosport 3 Hours brought back a few Snetterton memories.

I attended the meeting, spectating by the hairpin at the end of the old Norwich straight. The race for Austin 1100s was an unbelievable spectacle. The sight of all those brand-new cars barrelling into the hairpin was quite something — it amazed me that they all got around. It was certainly entertaining.

At the time I believe BMC was hoping to sell these cars after the race. What a silly idea!

In the main event Jim Clark was in a class of his own, but it was a shame his Lotus broke down. I also recall watching Mike Salmon in the new Aston Martin Zagato, accelerating away from the hairpin with the back of the car snaking from side to side.

Terry Fletcher Standon, Herts.

Hill street blues

Sir,

Doug Nye’s comments about interview responses remind me of one I cherish from way back when.

Graham Hill had been presented with some major award — I can’t remember what, it might have been the Grandstand Sports Personality of the Year. In the media scrum afterwards a microphone was shoved in Bette’s face and she was asked if there were times when she regretted being the wife of a racing driver. Back came the response, “What, like now for instance?” There were no further questions!

Martin Roche, Colac, Victoria, Australia

Bare necessities

Sir,

Your recent article about Denny Hulme provided an insight into something that has puzzled me for more than 50 years.

Michael Stahl revealed Denny’s liking for driving road cars in bare feet. In 1960 I lived in Mitcham in the southern suburbs of London and used to cycle with my brother to watch two racing drivers working on their cars in a nearby road. These drivers were Denny Hulme and George Lawton. On one occasion, when a spare part was needed, Denny leapt into his Ford Zephyr to go to the local garage, and drove off with bare feet. I was 12 at the time and quite amazed by this behaviour, but the article has now shed some light on where this came from.

I often wish I had owned a camera in 1960 — I missed the chance to obtain some unique pictures. Thanks for a great article that gave some new insight into a quiet champion.

Roger Hoyle, Camberley, Surrey

A borrower and a lender B

Sir,

Your website piece ‘The Best of MG’ shows a works MGB barrelling down a village street on the 1966 Targa Florio, a picture that features my bumpers!

I’d taken myself down there in my MGB and, following ‘our’ late Continental Correspondence’s advice, had driven the whole way and not cheated by using the Naples-toPalermo ferry as the teams did. (And yes, he was right: Naples was about halfway from London in terms of driving effort.) Once there, I found a wee note stuffed under my wipers stating that Stuart Turner ‘needed’ to see me at the Albergo Lido. The Bs had failed scrutineering due to their lack of bumpers, so that picture shows my bumpers barrelling towards us in that hot Italian setting.

Margot Healey was a very welcoming Chef de Camp and I slept (under my tonneau) in their car park for the duration. I also enjoyed a hilarious evening with the whole BMC/ Healey troop on the bumper cars at the Palermo fair, plus a memorable practice lap of that tremendous course, on open roads, with Richard Bond in EJB 806C — the ’65 Healey in which Timo Makinen so nearly won the previous year’s RAC Rally. This was Ted Worswick’s practice car, because he’d entered his ex-Sebring lightweight Healey 3000 and was also part of the BMC family at the Lido.

En route home I caught up with the BMC barges north of Naples, where they quickly replaced my glowing brake pads at the side of the autostrada, and then asked if I’d drop Timo off at Rome airport. He promptly postponed his flight and we subsequently propped up the bar. I then needed to borrow 15 quid off him for petrol home to the UK, but I repaid it on a subsequent visit to Abingdon…

Pieter Thoenes, Canada

Wizard of Oz?

Sir,

I have just finished reading the Gordon Kirby story on the IndyCar Series’ search for a new CEO. I’d like to put forward the one man I believe has not only enough runs on the board with regard to his CV, but also the nous and acumen to deal with the Penskes and Ganassis of the pitlane. He has a vast knowledge of the sport, its history and promotion. He dragged the Australian Touring Car Championship from a walking corpse, which it was in the early 1990s, to become arguably one of the top three touring car series in the word.

Gentlemen, I give you Tony Cochrane, who is just out of work and looking for a new challenge. Oh, and he got Frank Sinatra to come back to Australia after that, er, incident with the press in the 1970s…

Andrew McKenzie, by e-mail

Continuation racing drivers

Sir,

With reference to Gordon Cruickshank’s article ‘Revive, Recreate’ ( Jan 2013), the debate regarding how far to go when restoring or simply maintaining a historic car will surely never achieve consensus. The following comment might help, but probably won’t!

It’s general knowledge, I believe, that most of the cells in the human body are replaced during a normal lifetime — often several times over. Apparently the human skin is gradually replaced every five to seven years. So you can preserve/replicate/revive old cars as much as you like, but old racing drivers are, without exception, anything but the original. Stirling Moss and his ilk are, literally, not the men they once were. But the important thing is, we love to watch them having a go at Goodwood and accept them for who they are. Or were.

I also wanted to say how much I loved ‘Lunch with Rick Mears’. What a driver — and what a great magazine.

Richard Tudor-Owen, lxworth, Suffolk

Peace haven

Sir,

In December 2012, I visited the Hotel Panamerica, Buenos Aires, to see a Juan Manual Fangio exhibition that had cars, trophies, gloves and one of the great man’s helmets.

Currently Argentina and the UK are not on friendly terms and to young Argentine people it has always been that way. I showed several of them the 2011 Motor Sport issues which documented that Fangio proudly had a Falkland Islands driving licence.

Once the young folks read and translated the English they realised the situation between the two nations had once been far better than it has for the last 30 years. I hope the copy they made of your short notes is distributed.

Robert Rowland, Indiana, USA

Missing ingredients

Sir,

Peter Wright (Letters, January 2013) makes the case for the Balance of Performance approach to racing, which, as he says, has become the norm. I’m afraid much has been lost by that approach. It used to be understood that racing was between types of cars; if you built or ran a car that was faster, you would have an advantage. An equal driver in the best car would win. That’s the way it was for the first century of motor racing. To put it simply, in the 20th century we had car racing; in the 21st century we have driver racing.

In the 20th century, one of the excitements was a superior driver compensating for an inferior car and winning anyway — eg Stirling Moss and his Lotus sometimes beating the much more powerful Ferraris in 1961. Another excitement we’ve largely lost is the drama of a superior car coming along and knocking the previous champ off its pedestal, such as Ford taking Le Mans dominance from Ferrari.

The most important thing that’s disappeared is character. A GT Ferrari, Porsche and Lotus didn’t just look different from one another; they were different in their attitudes and capabilities. Sometimes a car came along that was just plain superior — such as the Ferrari GTO, Porsche 917, Porsche 962, or Jaguar XJR-14 — and racing had a new star. Note that those are the cars that are revered in racing history, the cars that draw the crowds at historic events and concours — cars that were allowed to be individual and superior.

Fortunately those days are not gone completely. In Formula 1 and WEC, Balance of Performance has not been allowed to take over completely; some cars are still better than others. We still have the drama of Alonso almost compensating for a slightly inferior Ferrari in 2012, and Vettel dominating in a superior Red Bull in 2011. It is no coincidence that these are today’s most exciting series.

Steve Bleier Trumansburg, New York, USA

Unjust deserts?

Sir,

As we move from reviewing the last season to previewing the next, I think we must consider again whether motor sport’s association with Bahrain is appropriate. Although it has slipped from the mainstream news, it seems precious little progress has been made to improve human rights in the country.

As well as the human rights concerns I think we need to ask why the Bahraini ruling family has so much influence with the FIA. There is no motor racing tradition in the country and I doubt any sponsors would have significant interest going there, because only about 500,000 people live in Bahrain — the vast majority of them in poverty. We all know that Formula 1 is run solely for the benefit of its shareholders (and would not expect any decisions concerning the series to be made for reasons other than financial gain), but the FIA is supposed to be a non-profit organisation. Why, then, is Bahrain routinely awarded world championship events?

I really do think our sport’s continued relationship with this regime does it nothing but a disservice, and only reinforces the impression that it is morally bankrupt, with no consideration for anything other than dollars.

Mark Bowley, Whitwick, Coal ville, Leicestershire

Keep on runnin’

Sir,

Further to Doug Nye’s mention of Alfa Romeoengined boats, I recently discovered a book about the wartime bomband mine-defusing exploits of my uncle, Commander Edward Woolley, GM and Bar. Veteran car owners might remember him as the owner of an 1897 Daimler, the oldest British production car in existence, and a 1923 Renault 45.

The book, Mines over Malta, is interesting in its own right, but in particular there is an account of the recovery of an Italian motor boat abandoned off Malta. It was powered by a six-cylinder Alfa Romeo 2300cc twin overhead cam engine, still in running order.

Thomas Woolley, Rothley, Leicester

All roads lead to roam

Sir,

I was interested to read about the Nash Metropolitan at Goodwood. For another reason why this model is famous in motor sport history, read about Stuart Lewis-Evans going down to the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix, as told in The Last Road Race by Richard Williams. It’s fascinating stuff.

Roger Stead, Sheffield, Yorks

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