Letters: March 2018

Dan Gurney

I first met Dan at his All-American Racers HQ in Santa Ana when I was introduced by Sue Weaver, a long-standing friend from his racing days. With me being a pilot and motorcyclist, and Dan being what he was, we hit it off immediately and started chatting about engines, cars, aircraft and the like.

The next time we met was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed which he was attending with his wife, Evi. Dan had his superb hand-built Alligator motorcycle on display. Being a keen biker myself, I was much taken by its quality and Dan said he would let me ride it the next time I was in LA. Being the star, Dan was very busy talking to friends and fans alike, so while he was doing so I was given a full briefing on the Alligator by a very smartly dressed man who knew all about it.

“Yes, sir” he enthused, “0 to 60 in one millisecond, contra-rotating props, flame-throwers, machine guns, the lot. Would you like to sit on it?”.

How could I refuse? I climbed aboard and imagined myself tearing round the track!

After more talk he moved on to another potential customer, again giving the full briefing about how wonderful it was.

Dan freed himself from the throng and, coming over to me, asked what I thought of the Alligator. I said I loved it and wanted one, especially after the incredible enthusiasm of his sales manager.

Dan looked puzzled, and said “Who do you mean?.

I pointed to the well-dressed man, to which Dan said “Nothing to do with me – I’ve never seen him before!”.

Just another example of the enthusiasm Dan Gurney generated!
Michael Jay, East Sheen, London

Remembering Bette…

I very much enjoyed your editorial on Bette Hill. I had the great pleasure of meeting her at Donington Park in 1991 at the HSCC 3-litre Formula 1 Festival. I found her absolutely delightful to talk to and she kindly signed a photo of herself in my copy of the book entitled The Cruel Sport. It is a superb photo which conveys the tension and apprehension on the pit wall.
Graham Bayley, South-west France

… and Graham

I have just received the February issue of Motor Sport magazine which is written and presented to its normal very high standard.

I am writing to you with reference to your Matters of Moment column and I must thank you for your moving tribute to the late Bette Hill. What a life, with such a mixture of triumph and tragedy.

The May 2000 letter to the magazine from Bette further highlights what I believe is the underrated record of her husband Graham Hill in the history of our sport. He will always
be in my top ten.
Stephen White, Sutton Coldfield

CUT and come again

I read your CUT 7 article with great interest as I sold car no2 to Richard Meins. Sadly, there are inaccuracies in your piece.

Firstly, after the car was damaged in Paul Vestey and Richard Ward’s ownership they took the shell to a scrap yard. Fortunately the scrap man did not put the shell in the crusher but it ended up in a car breakers in Stratford on Avon where Dick Soans bought it for a pittance.

Secondly, Richard Meins did not meticulously rebuild Penny’s ‘ratty’ racer; she still has it, albeit re-shelled by me in a deal where she displayed amazing generosity in re-uniting the shell with its progeny, the continuation DHC. Penny is as Jaguar as Blackpool Rock !

Initially, I just wanted the shell out of circulation as at the time there was speculation as to how many CUT 7s there were. I thought of making it into a tree house for my grandchildren.

However, fate intervened again and I was persuaded to make use of it and decided to make the shell into a first-class road car to sit alongside what had been 256 DJU for 30-odd years, the works-backed, FIA Championship-winning race car. We soda-blasted the shell which turned out to be a real horror – it could have been a rallycross car! The rear-end damage was properly repaired, buckets of filler removed, rotten panels replaced and saved, the roof jacked straight and the unique rear light/air ducts re-created from photographs. What Richard Meins purchased from me was an immaculate fully trimmed road car. I guess if you want a first-class racer you strip the shell again, and VMS have done an outstanding job in that regard for Richard Meins, and all credit is due to them.
John B Lewis, Dymock, Gloucs.

Sharing the credit

I enjoyed the rally flavour of the February edition but as so often happens in the media I feel you do the chap in the seat without a steering wheel in front of him a disservice.

Your piece on the African Classic rightly lauds McRae and Burns as victors of the original events and, by association, co-drivers Nicky Grist and Robert Reid as ‘the only British winners’. But you seem to have neglected Fred Gallagher who has no fewer than three East African Safari wins to his name guiding Juha Kankkunen and Björn Waldegård…

And that was when it really was a Safari!

Incidentally, it was good to see Doug Nye writing about the Nassau Speed Weeks. I was instrumental in bringing back a Revival in 2011 and the piece of track shown in your photo still exists although somewhat overgrown. Doug also mentions the vibrant social scene back in the day and I still recall that when I first called in on Stirling to ask if he would grace the Revival with his presence he said,
‘In my day I went to race and everyone else went to party; in 2011 I suspect the roles will be reversed!’

Plans are currently afoot to create a more permanent facility.
Nick Harman, Chardonnay, France

Second try

Not unduly to prolong the subject, but the great engine designer and Miller/Offenhauser stalwart Leo Goossen should have his surname spelled correctly at last. There is no final ‘s’.

It is only fair to his reputation to point out that many features of the Scarab engine design were dictated by engine preparers Jim Travers and Frank Coon, neither of whom had ever designed an engine and in fact never would. Thus Leo’s immense experience was not fully brought to bear in the project.
Karl Ludvigsen, Hawkedon, Bury St Edmunds

In praise of versatility

Your article on Hugh Dibley was a joy, reminding me of my time as a youth witnessing ‘proper racing drivers’ who drove all sorts of cars.

It also reminded me that I forgot, in the Christmas melée, to mail you on this rather sore point. When you get to my age jokes about failing memory become a regular thing, but watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix coverage, I did wonder if the C4 team of Jones, Webber, Jordan, Wolff and Coulthard, all of whom I like and respect, had prematurely lost theirs. Their universal disdain of Fernando’s ambitions outside F1 tempted me to put my ageing foot through the television! Had they forgotten their history, and the Great All-Rounders like Moss, Clark, Andretti and Graham Hill, winner of the ‘Triple Crown’ – Formula 1, Le Mans and Indy?

“He shouldn’t have raced at Indy,” proclaimed Eddie. Yeah, right. He only led the bloody thing! Given his frustrating run at McLaren, this was for me the story of 2017.

I’m so glad that as a lad I got to witness Jim Clark racing and winning in F1, Saloons, and sports cars, all on the same day. I am therefore delighted to see Alonso successfully reviving that tradition, and following in the wheel tracks of giants. A racer is a racer is a racer.

Maximum respect therefore to his team boss Zak Brown for countering their arguments and supporting his driver, a true star in my humble opinion.
Tim Hain, Lower Kingswood, Surrey

Stirling performance

Having just heard that the great Sir Stirling Moss is withdrawing from public life, I thought I would share my story about meeting him.

I was a 19 and had not long finished a course at the Jim Russell school at Snetterton. It was mid-1974 and I was heading to Silverstone to a race meeting. Driving my 2-litre Cortina (at speeds in excess of the speed limit!) I was about a mile from the circuit when a Porsche 911 came past me as if I were standing still.

Catching up with the Porsche at the gates,
I followed it until it parked up. The driver got out and it was Stirling. I plucked up the courage to go and introduce myself and mentioned how he had just blown me away. He replied “You were going fast, my boy, but not fast enough!”

Put me in my place, and now being much older, it makes me realise how he did it and I could not. A great and wonderful man. I wish him all the best.
Norman Beldom, Chipping Camden, Gloucs.

True endurance

I would like to thank you for the great article about the Group C cars. As a kid born in the 1980s I always looked at those cars with respect and admiration, terrific to see, so well-proportioned.

In December I got the great chance to talk with Paolo Barilla, 1985 Le Mans winner as you well know.

I asked him about that win and the Joest team. He said to me that he was a little bit concerned when Joest said to him to go flat out all race. Joest assured him that the 956 would not break.

Paolo was concerned because the Lancia cars he drove before became older lap after lap during the race, but he discovered that Joest’s words were true. The 956 was perfect and he pushed to the limit for all the 24 hours.

This is another proof that the 956 was a superbly engineered car in every detail, and it still looks fabulous.

I hope to see Paolo Barilla in your pages in the future. A real gentleman of our sport.
Riccardo Turcato, Italy

SMT racing records

I am writing on behalf of my daughter who for her Media course at college is required to make a documentary on a subject of her choice. She has decided to make a programme based on her grandfather Eddie Gray’s involvement with the SMT Racing Team, both as a history piece but also to highlight the effects of dementia as he has been suffering for a few years but can still recall in detail his trips to Ingliston. She wants to make this utilising his memories, photos and any footage we can find. We are looking for anyone who has footage of the SMT Vauxhall racing car driven by Bill Dryden between 1970-1979 and would be willing to let us have a copy. Contact: [email protected]
Mike Gray, Sutton Coldfield

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