Letters, May 2007

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Sports cars should race

Sir,

May I add my agreement to Andrew Frankel’s comments (April issue) on Bentley’s withdrawal from racing after winning Le Mans in 2003? It seems a massive waste of the investment made to achieve this victory. 

From Bentley’s perspective no potential customers will remember the 1920s and a single win soon fades into obscurity. Porsche on the other hand seems to have got it right. There has not been a Le Mans 24 Hours in most peoples’ memories in which there has not been a Porsche competing; there can hardly have been a race for sports cars anywhere in the world over the last 50 years without a Porsche. These facts define the maker and tell the world what they are getting when they buy. They may not always be winners but it demonstrates a passion for racing which the enthusiast will want to buy into. BMW have achieved a similar status in touring cars.  

By contrast the company that has the most to gain from this philosophy is Jaguar, and it seems to continually miss the point. In its racing heyday in the 1950s and into the early ’60s Jaguars were regulars in sports and touring car racing; cars were available not just to the works team but also to privateers and the Jaguar image was created. 

There are certain manufacturers, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Jaguar, BMW, Alfa Romeo whose names just shriek motorsport, but they cannot live on that fact forever. Only an ongoing presence at the track can keep the image alive.

Rod Hunt, Seaton, Devon

Pink stamp 30 lives

Sir,

I really enjoyed Bob Dove’s ‘So much for Commitment’ letter in the January issue. Those ‘old and tired magnesium uprights’ Mr Dove mentioned have, thanks to Mr Peter Denty, been replaced with new cast aluminium ones, on all four corners. 

Being the present steward of the ‘Pink Stamps Lotus 30/40’ and its later (when sponsored by Cronk Garages) 453bhp ex-David Weir Ford GT40 Gurney/Weslake 5-litre engine, it seems important the world now knows it’s safe! 

Richard Keyes, Portland, USA 

Regga memories

Sir, 

I was saddened to read of the passing of Clay Regazzoni. He was one of my favourite drivers from the 1970s. I saw and photographed him on numerous occasions at Daytona, Watkins Glen, Mosport and St Jovite. 

 My most vivid memory of Clay was the 1975 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen when, in an effort to aid team-mate Niki Lauda, his Ferrari became very ‘wide’ and blocked Emerson Fittipaldi’s McLaren. Going through the Glen’s old ‘Scheckter chicane’ he almost came to a stop, shifting to first gear as Lauda motored away to victory and the world championship.  

Joe Cali, Syracuse, NY, USA  

Technical detail wanted

Sir,

I read with instant agreement the editorial in the April 2007 edition of your esteemed magazine. 

As an armchair viewer of F1 whose budget cannot extend to actual attendance at the races, I rely on printed matter to show me how the modern cars develop. Up until the mid ’80s I could guarantee that I could garner information easily regarding development of the cars but now I cannot even work out how the aerodynamic package has changed let alone the suspension. 

I follow F1 by building models of my favourite cars. I am now in the perverse position that I can get better reference pictures of what is under the shell of Stirling Moss’s Aintree Maserati than I can Michael Schumacher’s 2006 F248. And yet more people watch the sport and more is published than ever. A sorry state of affairs. 

Ian Hartup, Leeds, Yorkshire  

Little British heroes

Sir,

First of all thank you for the excellent magazine, and for reverting to the recognisable front cover. Your ‘Classic Cars’ article (April) prompts me to compare the achievements of the Corvettes at Le Mans in 1960 with that of the Ted Lund/Colin Escott MGA.  

The cavalcade of Corvettes’ impressive, brash, start to the 24 Hours produced an eighth place finish for the John Fitch/Bob Grossman. The MGA Twin-Cam came twelfth. 

The little A also captured the 1601cc to 2000cc class win. Not bad, eh? Let’s hear more about these little British heroes of the tarmac, including those that took America by storm in the 1950s and early ’60s.

I was also wondering if any of your readers have any photos of Brunton hillclimbs in the early 1960s, when as a youth I used to help out at the start (courtesy of Mr W A ‘Bill’ Short, BARC South West) with the hockey stick timing device. I lost interest in motorsport after about 1966 when a different type of rpm (45 on black vinyl) took over, and seemed to attract more girls than 6000rpm on black tarmac. 

However, my soul is bound to be redeemed as I returned to my love of cars, Motor Sport and all, some 10 years ago with the purchase of – yes you guessed it – an MGA Coupé.

Geoff Tabor, Charlton, Hampshire  

Elbows down

Sir, 

I enjoyed Simon Taylor’s Lunch with Mario Andretti (April issue) along with previous ‘lunches’.   

I do need to take exception however to the caption on the Foyt/Andretti photo at the Sacramento mile. No way are they racing at speed. Racing on the dirt miles such as Sacramento, DuQuoin, Springfield and the Indiana State Fair mile tracks required both hands on the wheel and ‘elbows up’.  

While this is a special photo of two of the greatest, they are either on a pace lap or under a yellow flag. 

Evert Wolfe, Logansport, IN, USA  

Impressive dedication

Sir, 

It was with great admiration that I read Nick Reece’s ‘Letter of the Month’ (April). I must say that he and his family count as true devotees in my book. 

To travel all the way toLe Mans in a Hillman Imp shows a certain level of commitment but to drive there in 1965 and sit beside the track for a whole year awaiting Ford’s maiden win is above and beyond the call of duty! 

He certainly deserves that prize for endurance. 

Bob Allen, Woking, Surrey  

Convivial Gurneys

Sir, 

I agree with Mark Valsi’s assertion in his letter in the March issue that meeting heroes can be daunting, but the convivial nature of Dan Gurney soon quells any nerves and misgivings.

When Dan and Evi Gurney visited The Jim Clark Room in Duns, Berwickshire in July 2006, those fortunate enough to meet them were overwhelmed by their uninhibited friendliness towards virtual strangers. The sheer joy of being close to one of the all-time great drivers was outstanding.

Dan has the common touch and he made time to sign autographs, talk about the past and his future plans. Not all drivers are so warm and willing to give so much to the public. But Dan Gurney is a true gentleman and it was an honour to meet Mr and Mrs Gurney. 

Andrew Dickson, Hawick, Roxburgh

Lunch lover

Sir,

I’m in love with Simon Taylor’s ‘Lunch with…’ series. I’m sure that every racing fan would give an arm to be in his shoes.  

One quibble on the Mario piece, though: Michael has never won at Indy, despite leading a prodigious number of laps.  Happily, that book is not yet closed, as Marco’s dad notched his best finish ever last year, third behind his son, giving him all the more reason to return for more shot. Those of us who delighted in Michael’s Indycar triumphs and suffered through his F1 debacle would like nothing more than to see his mug on the Borg-Warner. 

And one last note: I’ve always believed that although the English motorsport press is second to none, its inevitable myopia has led to underestimation of the anger still felt towards one N Mansell here in the States; the self-interest played out during his team-mate Mario’s last season in Indycars clearly diminished Mario’s joy in that year. For that, at least in the States, he will never be forgiven.

Gary Parsons, Berkeley, California

You were there

Start them young, so the saying goes, and this holds true for Jeremy Collier who sent in these photographs taken by his father at Silverstone in 1964–65.  

“Dad used to be a first-aid marshal, usually at Copse corner”, explains Jeremy. “I was fortunate to be taken along as 

a seven- or eight-year–old.”

Pre–season testing was not the organised, heavily policed affair it is today, and among the photos were some that showed Bruce McLaren shaking down his latest Tasman Cup Cooper.

“Bruce allowed dad to try out the cockpit for size and took the photo to go with it”, says Jeremy. It’s impossible to imagine a track marshal getting so intimately close to the most up–to–date racing machinery today, let alone actually being allowed to get in it.

McLaren’s close friend and fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme, at the wheel of a Brabham BT8 sports–racer, was also snapped by Collier Sr.

“Denny Hulme pulled off at Copse corner for some unknown technical reason during practice for a Martini Trophy race.’”     

Just as Jeremy’s early encounters with motorsport sparked a life–long interest, so the intervening years have done little to dampen his father’s enthusiasm.

“Dad’s still going strong at 75!” he explains. 

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