Letters

Kyalami eye witness

I have seen various claims about drivers being first to reach the scene of Peter Revson’s fatal accident at Kyalami. Alastair Caldwell (December) stated that it was Denny Hulme. In your May 1974 issue, Hulme, Fittipaldi, Hill and Keizan reportedly stopped to help.

I was there as a marshal, decided to watch at Jukskei Sweep and took with me two fire extinguishers. From there one could see several corners. Eddie Keizan’s Tyrrell had just disappeared through Sunset when Graham Hill entered Barbecue. Then came Revson, and I watched him from Crowthorne into Barbecue. It was here that I realised something was amiss, since he did not turn but continued straight on.

There was no brake lock or tyre smoke and he plunged nose-first into the Armco, halfway between Barbecue and Jukskei. I have no recollection of starting to run, but before I reached the car it was engulfed in flames. Eddie Keizan and I arrived at the same time. So intense was the fire that there was no way I could get close. Eddie, however, took both my extinguishers and walked backwards towards the car.

With my head in Eddie’s stomach, I operated both extinguishers from under his arms. Graham Hill then arrived and followed Eddie’s backwards method. Slowly we began to suppress the fire, but then one of the extinguishers ran dry. That’s when Denny Hulme arrived on a fire truck – and it was he that operated the large on-board extinguisher that defeated the fire, allowing Graham to unbuckle Revson’s harness.

Emerson Fittipaldi must have arrived some time after Denny, because I became aware of him directly behind me.

We lifted Revson from the car and put him on an ambulance stretcher that had arrived, but it was obvious that our efforts had been in vain. Contrary to some published claims, it is not true that he was decapitated.

I sat down with Francis Tucker, the chairman of the SA GP committee and a practising lawyer, to give a sworn statement that was used in the inquest.

During a post-race gathering at Francis’s house, I asked Graham how everyone felt following Revson’s accident. He replied, “Nothing happened. Forget it.”

Eric Fletcher, Pretoria, South Africa

Spain ’76 revisited

In his interview with Simon Taylor in your December issue, Alastair Caldwell spoke about the disqualification and reinstatement of James Hunt’s McLaren in the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix.

He claimed the Spanish scrutineers informed Ferrari before the race that the M23 was illegal, but did not tell McLaren. I have never read any report that verifies this statement. As far as I am aware, Ferrari didn’t even protest the winning car after the race. No doubt Mr Caldwell would say that was because they were already ‘in cahoots’ with the scrutineers. But why would the Spanish authorities inform Ferrari and not the team concerned?

I have read that the discrepancy was spotted by Peter Jowett, who was employed by FOCA as a technical consultant. Jowett then informed the scrutineers. Can anyone shed light on this matter?

Bryan Caldwell, Vancouver, Canada

Fillet of soul

I read February’s cover feature with considerable interest. It has been my great privilege to pilgrimage to each of these magnificent circuits in recent years and each is compellingly different, yet equally special.

I particularly enjoyed the way your feature celebrated the on-going history of all five venues. These theatres of speed are living circuits and each has had to adapt in its own way to face the challenge of hosting modern motor racing. None of them exists exactly as it did during the 1930s, but each still hosts top-line racing in a form that would have been recognisable to the pre-war greats.

What sets these five tracks apart from their modern equivalents is that great intangible: soul. This isn’t something that can be built in; it develops only through human endeavour. You cannot recreate the lip-wobbling emotion of Monza in South Korea, for example, as I believe has been demonstrated during the last decade in Formula 1.

I visited the Circuit of the Americas for the last US GP and it already has a soul. Whether it’s the fans’ enthusiasm, the heady smell of barbecuing meat or the sincere respect of the drivers, COTA is halfway to ‘great’ status.

It just needs 80-odd years of motor racing heritage...

Andrew Swift, Wakefield, Yorks

Maserati date debate

A recent Motor Sport photo of several Maseratis has been brought to my attention. I have five photos (bought many years ago) that were clearly taken at the same time as yours, at Casa dell’Auto in Turin. I think, as Doug Nye surmised, this was a Piero Dusio-connected company. Certainly all the cars pictured had been through Dusio’s hands pre-war.

Despite the annotations with your photo, I am sure that the date is earlier than September 1947, as 6CM 1535 reappeared at Bremgarten in June 1947 (driven by Hurzeler) with a different nose to that illustrated. I’d guess your photo is from 1944 or 1945.

Adam Ferrington, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs

Canvas city chiefs

I read your feature on journeys to European circuits with great pleasure. But saying “camping facilities abound” at Le Mans is perhaps akin to saying “the Nürburgring has many corners”. For many of us, going to Le Mans is about the quality of the camping as much as the race.

We camp to see old friends and make new ones. The eclectic mix of people and their cars creates a relaxed atmosphere, making the most of local food and especially the spicy merguez sausages. And the variety of cars on site is sensational – I have seen everything from Aston’s finest via Renault Alpines to a standard Golf camouflaged up as Vulcan XH558 (plus a Red Arrows formation displays on Raleigh Choppers, complete with smoke, and a beer-bottle model of Tower Bridge).

The mix of people, cuisine, cars and the odd tipple makes a great sandwich for the racing. And you haven’t really been to Le Mans until you have been woken in your tent by a Corvette/Aston battle every few minutes.

Andy Graham, Redhill, Surrey

Her name wasn’t Lola…

The Duckhams/de Cadenet Le Mans car, featured in my You Were There photo gallery (February), was not a Lola, contrary to your caption. Gordon Murray designed it using Alain de Cadenet’s Brabham BT33 as a starting point. He drafted it in his spare time, after getting home from his day job at Brabham. Our small team built the car in a London lock-up. It performed very well given that it had previously covered only 12 test laps around Silverstone’s club circuit – a credit to the effectiveness of Gordon’s design.

John Sisson, Australia

Joy of the printed word

That was a wonderful piece by Simon Taylor on the one and only A J Foyt (February). There are a couple of points that us old-timers (I can remember Foyt winning Indy in 1961) would note as perhaps having been lost in translation.

It was George Snider, not “Schneider”, who drove AJ’s dirt car. And that’s a USAC dirt car (later known as Silver Crown) in the photo from Sacramento’s Golden State 100, not a sprint car. There are subtle differences in chassis and engine, even though to the untrained eye they might look the same.

Keep up the great work. Even though I have the technology to enjoy the electronic edition, there’s still something wonderfully fulfilling about savouring each of your printed pages.

Greg Rickes, Latham, NY, USA

Changing of the Guards

I enjoyed Simon Taylor’s “burger” with A J Foyt. I was at Brands Hatch for the 1964 August Bank Holiday Guards Trophy race.

We had all anticipated that the John Mecom trio of Foyt, Walt Hansgen and Augie Pabst would show our lads the way around. However, Foyt’s Scarab Chevrolet contrived to hit David Piper’s 250LM at South Bank on lap one. His team-mates managed little better…

Autosport subsequently had this to say: “Foyt unofficially practised on the short circuit on Sunday and it is said suggested to [race organiser] Nick Syrett that this was the track on which to run the race, with the fastest cars starting from the back of the grid.” Now that would have been worth seeing.

David Fox, Schwenksville, PA

Foyt, a genuine giant

As a long-time subscriber living in the heart of NASCAR country, I found Mr Taylor’s splendid lunch with the inestimable A J Foyt informative and enjoyable. Thank you for a perfectly written piece on one of the true giants of international motor sport.

Daniel Pope, Piney Flats, Tennessee, USA

Discovery channel

Your recent piece on a forthcoming Baillon Collection auction was in error. It was not Lord Carrington but Lord Caernarfon who, with Howard Carter, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Dr Peter O’Donnell, Epsom, Surrey

Mick Hill remembered

I was sad to hear of Mick Hill’s passing. Having lived close to Silverstone, I spent many weekends at race meetings and always admired his beautiful yellow Capri. There were always interesting creations, like Bill Cox’s 7.0 Capri, but I don’t recall Hill being beaten very often.

I remember the debut of his VW Beetle, too, and waiting eagerly to see it during qualifying. It didn’t appear, though, and I joined a crowd in the paddock to watch Mick and his team trying to free a jammed throttle slide. He was probably fuming, but joked with us about the ‘joys’ of running a new car.

Graham Jewers, Paignton, Devon

Ford focus

I enjoyed reading Simon Arron’s item on the post-race celebration at Le Mans 1967 (January 2015). Reference to the three-car Ford accident in the early hours reminded me that I was there, evidently not far from Nigel Roebuck.

Later that morning I took a photo (above) of two of the cars at the trackside. As I recall the third car was out of shot on the left. Your excellent archive reminded me of the full facts – that an impatient Mario Andretti, just after leaving the pits with a brake problem, was tossed off the road when he tried to slow for the Esses. He escaped from the wreck of the MkIV (car 3) with three broken ribs. The next car on the scene was the Ford MkIIB (5) of Roger McCluskey. With wreckage in his path and uncertainty about the driver still being in the remains, McCluskey threw his Ford into a spin and bounced off the earth bank and back into the road. Then Jo Schlesser arrived and aimed for the small gap between the other two Fords. The space was insufficient and his MkIIB joined the carnage.

Greg Thompson, Lydd, Kent

Sign of true class

As an avid reader of your magazine and collector of Grand Prix memorabilia items, I was saddened to read of the recent death of Jonathan Williams.

I enjoyed your tribute and read with laughter the comments about how amazed he was that autograph hunters managed to track him down. I was among them and contacted him in March 2014. He was most obliging, sent me a few e-mails and mentioned that he could never get his head around eBay prices for autographed pictures of fellow Ferrari star Chris Amon.

He sent me two beautifully autographed pictures with some other inclusions – and this while he was obviously in poor health.

I was glad that I had the opportunity to thank him.

Heath Richards, Auckland, NZ