Letters from readers, May 1998

The two Nigels…


That the letter written by Mr Burrell in the March edition appeared at all only goes to prove Motor Sport is totally unbiased. However, for Mr Burrell to call into question the standing and knowledge of Nigel Roebuck suggests this outstanding Motor Sport magazine must have caught his eye and he made an impulsive purchase. Impulsive because he obviously knows so little about the sport we refer to as motor racing and must have wondered what it was all about.

The article to which Mr Burrell refers, Legends, was I feel, a most accurate one about Mr Mansell who, in a Grand Prix car (mostly when the car was performing at its best) was really someone but out of the car… And then to compare him with Stirling Moss proves without doubt that motor racing is a new discovery for him.

Finally, there is to be a 20p increase next month. Only 20p! This amount falls well short of the ‘Mansell’-type motoring magazines to which he must be referring, which I believe are still provided daily on the news stands and gave the greatest diatribes in his era.

I am, yours, etc.
Gordon Wallace, Royston, Herts

The Mutton Grand Prix


A letter from Bob Burrell in the March issue of Motor Sport reminded me of the Mutton Grand Prix held by Frazer Nash Club at Silverstone in, I think, 1947 when sheep were being grazed without being taught the rules of the road. A Frazer Nash rapidly converted a misguided sheep into mutton, maybe to beat the current rationing rules!

The cost of poultry he quotes reminded me that in 1949 I was able to hire the entire Silverstone Circuit for £3.13.0 (£3.65p) which included insurance. Furthermore two volunteer St. John’s Ambulance men turned up, perhaps hoping I was going to provide them with the opportunity to practice. Fortunately I did not require their services.

I am, yours, etc.
E A Stafford, East Chesham Bois, Bucks

No crowding


I am writing as an ordinary member of the Vintage Sports Car Club.

Having received so much publicity from the VSCC for ‘new’ Motor Sport, it was disappointing to say the least to read your Editorial paragraph on the absence of spectator publicity for the Hereford trial.

Many VSCC members loathe and regret the hijacking of their hobby by the PR people, the sponsors and the auctioneers who are hell bent on turning private enjoyment of funny old cars into a public spectacle to be advertised and only judged a success by the gate.

May we be permitted to enjoy our closed-to-Club events in peace without the tiresome restrictions that public admission involves? Anyone who really wants to attend only has to join the Club and will be welcome to spectate.

I am, yours, etc.
Marcus Croome, Ampney Crucis, Cirencester

(If you re-read what I wrote, you will discover I neither intended nor attempted to criticise the discouragement of spectators from VSCC trials as you imply. In such highly specialised circumstances, it’s a policy I happen to agree with. But that does not stop it being an unusual policy, any more than it stops me saying so. — Ed.)

In search of Dellow


I am trying to trace the whereabouts of a Dellow that was driven by the late Ted Cleghom in the 1953 34th Land’s End Trial. Cleghom was often described as Norfolk’s leading rally driver and was a motoring legend in the county. The fact that he lost his right arm in an accident when just 22 makes his subsequent success almost unbelievable.

Ted was part of a team, driving a Morgan Plus Four, that in July 1955 set up a 24 hour record at Snetterton averaging 66.25mph. The other drivers were Jack Sears, Oliver Sear, and Dennis Allen. In 1959 Ted entered his first Monte Carlo Rally, this was short-lived but he drove in another seven ‘Montes’ before calling it a day.

It may be that ECL 787 is no longer around but it would be nice to hear from anybody who know what happened to that Dellow.

I am, yours, etc.
Martin Page, Caistor St Edmund, Norwich

Run, baby, run


One of the features of your new format that I enjoy most is the My Greatest Race series. I would be interested to know if David Brodie would agree with me about his particular greatest race.

This epic battle occurred at Cadwell Park on a date I have long forgotten, but was in the year that Mr Brodie campaigned his famous Escort `Run Baby Run’, against Gerry Marshall and Co. The meeting in question was a normal national event until the saloon race, when who should appear on the grid than one Hannu Mikkola in a plain white works Escort TC. I assume Ford were in preparation for a tarmac rally.

Whatever, the ensuing race was certainly the closest and most thrilling race that I have ever seen with, plenty of door-banging place changing throughout. At one stage, possibly under the impression that Brodie’s Escort was considerably wider than standard, Mikkola overtook his rival on the narrow, steeply inclined grass verge along the start/finish straight. After the race there was a stampede of excited spectators to the paddock wishing to view the two protagonists and their battle-scarred cars. I remember there was no back slapping or jostling for autographs, just an awed silence.

I would be most interested to hear Mr Brodie or other reader’s recollections of this race.

With reference to your excellent new format I have one request. Would it be too much, for the sake of subscribers in far flung locations without access to other publications, to include a results page covering F1 and other major championships?

I am, yours, etc.
DT Spence, Bogor, Indonesia

In the Navy


Following Bill Boddy’s interesting piece in the March issue of Motor Sport, I did a little research today to find out what happened to Lt H E R Torin. One of the few features of Birmingham which the city fathers have not yet succeeded in ruining is the Reference Library; among other things, this contains Navy Lists going back to when Nelson was a midshipman, and these proved invaluable.

Harry Ernest Richard Torin had held the rank of Lieutenant, RN, since 16th March 1936. The September 1939 Navy List shows him as being on a short course, not assigned to any ship, but by December 1939 he was attached to the Fleet Air Arm, again with no ship specified. On 15th August 1940 he was appointed to command 792 squadron at HMS Vulture (RNAS St Merryn, Cornwall), and seems to have remained there until June 1941. By February 1941 he had been awarded the DSC. On 1st June 1941 he was appointed to command 770 squadron at HMS Jackdaw (RNAS Gail Fife). I think both squadrons seem always to have borne number 800 and above; I have not yet been able to establish what types of aircraft they flew.

Things then become a little mysterious; a new CO was appointed to 770 squadron on 11th November 1941, and Torin’s entry in the Navy list shows no attachment to any ship on the establishment. In the October 1942 Navy List (which went to press mid-September) he reappears on the establishment at HMS Jackdaw, not attached to any squadron, but his stay there was unhappily brief, since the next edition of the List states that he was killed on 30th September 1942.

Crail was at that time the home of the Service Trials Unit, so Torin’s later attachment (and his absence from the station between November 1941 – October 1942) may have been connected with trials of some new type. Perhaps someone with access to detailed FAA unit records could tell us what happened on 30th September 1942?

I am, yours, etc.
Bob Watt, Droitwich, Worcestershire

Toeing the line


I would refer to the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park this year and the resulting media discussions regarding the conduct of David Coulthard and Mika Häkkinen. I watched the race live and do not accept the view that the result spoiled or cheapened the event. The actions of Coulthard and Häkkinen should be applauded as an act of gentlemanly conduct, the like of which is rarely seen, on or off a racing circuit.

We as the viewing public should be heartened that two men can fulfil an agreement in such an honourable manner Coulthard for the act and Häkkinen for acknowledging it so emotionally in the post-race analysis. Is this not what true motor racing is really about see Moss/Fangio at the British Grand Prix in 1955.

Ron Dennis has on numerous occasions stated that both drivers should act in the best interests of the team. This occasion proved the rule. No one objected quite as strongly when Irvine behaved similarly, and no less controversially, last season when ‘contracted’ as a number two driver. Coulthard and Häkkinen, believing they had the best car in the field, made the unusual and subsequently controversial decision not to race each other and acted as they thought best for the team.

I am no McLaren fan and would have dearly liked to see a number of teams win (particularly Ferrari, Jordan and Stewart) but this display of teamwork has to be congratulated: credit where credit is due.

I am, yours, etc.
R W Shane, Barton upon Humber, Lincs

The voice of reason


What a marvellous article by Simon Taylor in the April issue! Amid all the ‘copycat’ criticisms of Coulthard, Häkkinen, McLaren and Mercedes from all and sundry, his was the only sensible comment on events at Melbourne that I have encountered. Everyone else seems to have forgotten that Formula One is supposed to be a team sport and cannot be compared to any other form of racing.

So the whingeing punters who had bet on Coulthard and failed to ‘lay off’ on Häkkinen felt ‘cheated’, and their carping set off nearly everyone else (except the punters who backed Häkkinen, who have, of course, remained silent). I can’t say that my heart bleeds for those so-called ‘fans’. They would probably have vociferated even more loudly had they witnessed the actions of Fangio at Aintree in 1955, Collins at Monza in 1956 and Moss at Oporto in 1958: and their clamour following Mercedes’ withdrawal from Le Mans in 1955 would undoubtedly have been deafening.

The FIA seems to be no better now than it was when Moss complained about it in 1960! Its dire warning to Coulthard and Häkkinen for what was basically an act of gentlemanly sportsmanship is in complete contrast to the so-called ‘Draconian punishment’ given to Michael Schumacher last year following the fourth deliberate collision of his career. That ‘punishment’ clearly demonstrated, sadly, that the really significant element in Formula One currently is the financial one.

More much more from Simon Taylor, Mr Editor! I have avidly followed Grand Prix racing and read Motor Sport ever since 1950, and I agree with every word he writes.

I am, yours, etc.
Dr P Griffiths, Billericat, Essex

Down out, down under


As a South African I’m always intrigued by reference to the Brits by Australians, as ‘Whingeing Poms’. I am also acutely aware of the Australian capacity for whingeing and bad sportsmanship as was highlighted after the Grand Prix in Melbourne.

I refer, of course, to the ignorance displayed by Ron Walker (chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation) and Andrew Thomson (Sports Minister) following Mika Häkkinen’s win. Surely these individuals know that David Coulthard’s sporting gesture was a repeat of numerous similar actions in motor racing history?

If these individuals aren’t happy with what happened they should consider relinquishing the event, as there are numerous non-whingeing countries eager to stage a Grand Prix… like South Africa!

I am, yours, etc.
Mr L Gorrie, Durban, South Africa

Best buys…


Congratulations on the new look Motor Sport. I bought my first copy of the magazine in 1946 and am now back as a regular subscriber after a gap of some years. Well done.

In the March issue I was struck by David Murray’s remark, quoted by Gordon Cruickshank in his excellent article Double Scotch, that the purchase of three ex-works C-types by Ecurie Ecosse for £6000 represented ‘one of motor racing’s bargains of all time’. It occurred to me that we might have the basis of a mini-series here! There must have been many examples over the years of people buying for a song cars which subsequently became extremely valuable and made a fortune for them (or someone else!).

Perhaps a little editorial might persuade readers to come up with further examples which could trigger off some entertaining material. Just a thought.

I am, yours, etc.
Mr I P L Newton, Welwyn Garden City, Herts

Backing the Brits


Being a member of the Mach One Club, I noticed in this month’s Matters of Moment a few lines on behalf of Richard Noble to stop people sending him any more money.

If enthusiasts would like to, they can redirect their money to another good cause: Racing for Britain, which promotes young British drivers. In the past RFB has supported such drivers as Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, and Jonathan Palmer in the early years of their chosen careers. In return members receive discounts from various companies, as well as organised visits to factories of the racing teams.

If anyone is interested, please contact Steve Sydenham on 01803 522 612 or fax 07070 600 785.

I am, yours, etc.
Terry Fletcher, Shandon, Herts