Letters, May 2011

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Tom on two wheels
Sir,

I was saddened to hear of Tom Walkinshaw’s passing (March issue); he and his association with Jaguar played an integral part in my fascination with motor racing from my earliest memories.

For my first experience of motor racing I was fortunate to be taken to the 1984 Tourist Trophy at Silverstone to see the Jaguars compete in the European Touring Car Championship. The weather may have been awful, but as an excited five-year-old the sight of Tom on two wheels in the XJS through the old chicane more than made up for it. I also recall the groans as the collection of cars aquaplaning into the catch fencing at Woodcote grew larger. The excitement grew as Tom battled to catch the Eggenberger BMW in his ailing Jag, but alas the V12 succumbed just short of the finish. As an introduction to motor racing, though, it was hard to beat.

I was also lucky to witness the XJR-6 taking its first win for TWR driven by Warwick and Cheever in the Silverstone 1000Kms in 1986. We were delighted to see the Jag beat Derek Bell in the Porsche and the pole-sitting Lancia LC2 in its iconic livery. This success led to us being glued to Ceefax for 24 hours each June from 1987-1991 to catch any updates from Le Mans, back before today’s levels of TV coverage. Watching the BBC coverage of the last hour of the 1990 Le Mans race showing Tom pitting the cars for a wash and brush up before taking the flag was a wonderful moment.

Sadly, Tom couldn’t beat the illness that was his final opponent, but I imagine he fought tooth and nail to the very end, just as he did the first time I saw him.
Mark Staite, Bourne, Lincs

Lip service
Sir,

Further to the letters about chin spoilers, the first reference to one I ever came across dates from 1956. Denis Jenkinson reported that when he and Stirling Moss went to collect their Maserati for a practice run on the Mille Miglia route they found that “on the bottom of the radiator air intake a protruding ‘lip’ had been built, and there were vague mentions of the front of the car lifting at over 130mph, but this would cure it”.

On race day the lip had been removed, without explanation, but what can surely be described as a chin spoiler is visible on the Maserati 250F which Stirling Moss took over from Cesare Perdisa in the 1956 French GP after his own car had retired. This was presumably intended to stop the nose of the car lifting on the high-speed Reims circuit. An innovation which we could credit to Formula 1, then — unless somebody knows better.

The rear-set radiators that Richard Falconer refers to on the Chaparral 2E Can-Am cars were certainly trendsetters. Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Mirage, Matra and Ferrari all raced sports cars with side radiators before the introduction of the Lotus 72. Jim Hall was also working on a singleseater with side radiators, planned for Indianapolis but rebuilt for F5000, which had it appeared on schedule would have pre-dated the Lotus 72. But once again this was an idea tried out in F1 before anything similar was fitted to a Chaparral. Surely we must all recall Ian Burgess and Hugh Aiden-Jones with the Anglo-American Equipe’s modified Cooper-Climax, which ran in mid-radiator configuration in the 1962 Pau GP, though it later reverted to a front radiator.

But yet again, scarcely original. Just what was the first rear-engined racing car with rearmounted radiator? The Benz Tropfenwagen from 1923 — probably…
David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Brands hitch
Sir,

Simon Taylor’s excellent feature on John Webb’s successful tenure of Brands Hatch (February issue) rekindled some happy memories for me. Having ridden and driven and won quite a few races at this marvellous circuit over 35 years, it has always been my favourite.

One of my most high-voltage moments there was in 1985 at the European Grand Prix. Webby’s charming wife Angela invited me and my fellow Dangerous Sports Club member Hugo Spowers to do a bungee jump just before the Formula 1 race. We decided to do it from a Citroen 2CV hanging from a crane jib. While suspended at 225ft and not yet connected to the rubber bands, an Avro Vulcan bomber on a very low-level display was flying straight towards us! After much effing and blinding and armwaving on my part, the pilot flew the aircraft away to the port quarter, avoiding what could have been a rather nasty situation.
Those really were the days. ‘Elf and safety, eh?
Malcolm Clube, Kensington, London

Drive and ride
Sir,

Mat Oxley’s excellent article on Mike Hailwood (March issue) prompted memories of earlier times when top drivers and riders competed at many mixed meetings in their respective races.

It was possible to see Farina, Wharton, Parnell and Moss and other top drivers, and cars like the Mk1 BRM, Thinwall Special and ERAs, and then top bikers such as Bob McIntyre and others in the next race on Manx Nortons, AJS and Matchless. Now that was motor sport! Just imagine Valentino Rossi at Monaco!
Andy Suddon, Hawick, Roxburghshire

Bare truth about James
Sir,

Arrived home from Race Retro to find James Hunt and Susan Shaw staring at me from the porch floor (April issue). Interestingly, an equally attractive Susan Shaw was at college with me in 1965.

My personally endearing memories of Hesketh and Hunt are twofold. Firstly a visit to Easton Neston as a Member of the Silverstone Club around ’73. I’ve never forgotten being in awe when told that Cosworth engines were around £9000 a pop!

In 1987 I made my first visit to the Monaco GP. Wandering around the paddock on the harbour edge one evening, as you could then, there was James on the afterdeck of a yacht, sandwiched between two very bronzed leather-clad females, sipping drinks.

Oh for a return to such relaxed times. Lewis being admonished for spinning the wheels of a road car, for instance, is just pathetic.

Had my late wife and I been blessed with a son, his names were to be James Jody — but not necessarily in that order.

Well done for bringing Motor Sport back to being ‘fit for purpose’.
Chris Bone, Swaffham, Norfolk

Passing comment
Sir,

The typically logical article by Pat Symonds on F1 overtaking (April issue) threw up a couple of points. The analysis by Toyota merely confirmed what John Hugenholz instinctively knew 60 years or so ago when he designed the Zandvoort circuit. Surely Tarzan would get the award for the corner which has prompted the most overtaking in history. And Pat might also have considered that a slightly banked hairpin, as is Tarzan, gives opportunities for different lines.

He also mentions that drivers simply ‘coast’ as it is not worth the effort to try to pass. Well, the simple answer to that is to give a point for every time you overtake! And lest the purists, of which I am one, complain, the FIA have so messed up the scoring system already that awarding an extra 65 points for one race such as Montreal wouldn’t matter a damn!
David McLaughlin, Abinger Hammer Surrey

Wheeler dealer
Sir,

Jack Pearce was even more of a rogue if Chris Lawrence thought that he had bought the 1964 Monaco-winning Cooper (March issue). The 1964 race was won by Graham Hill’s BRM P261. I presume the car Lawrence refers to was McLaren’s 1962 Cooper T60, which won that GP by 3.3 seconds from Phil Hill’s Ferrari 156.

Many of us club racers in the 1960s ran on J A Pearce wheels. They were attractive but as porous as a sieve. Paddock word was that they were made out of melted down NAAFI spoons!
David Pratley, Bin field Heath, Oxfordshire

Gaining their wings
Sir,

If I may make a minor correction to the great shots of the 1966 Can-Am in the March issue, the high-winged Chaparrals made their debut at the Bridgehampton race which was held on the weekend between St Jovite and Mosport.

On the way to the track we passed the Chaparrals in a motel parking lot with their wings as yet unmounted. You can imagine the reaction as they later came past my flag station with wings in place; we could hardly believe our eyes. On that first day of practice the lateral links locating the wings failed on both cars; Bridgehampton was rough, probably much more bumpy than the Rattlesnake Raceway at the Chaparral shop where testing had taken place.

At least the second failure on Hill’s car occurred on my station; it gave me a chance to talk to Hill while he awaited the end of the session and a tow.

In light of today’s club racing scene, where even the bulk of the MX-5 racers tow with enclosed trailers, it was something that these state-of-the-art cars were towed from Texas on open trailers behind pick-up trucks.
David Belden, Woodstock, Connecticut, USA

Prancing gift horse
Sir,

Far be it for me to correct Nigel Roebuck but I feel compelled to tell the story of the Ferrari P4 mentioned last month (April). Ferrari had all the sentiment of a hungry tiger and after 1967 the cars were shoved out the back. After recovering from a bad shunt at the home of his friend Dick Wilkins, Mike Parkes asked how he could repay the generosity of the recuperation. Dick asked for one of the P4 cars. Parkes had one made out of the three cars and it was sold for £5000 on the understanding that it would never be raced or sold. But Dick later sold it to David Clarke.

I know Graham Hill once drove the car, on the open road, leaving two wide black marks on take-off. Trade plates made it legal.
Anthony Cazalet, Martin, Fordingbridge, Hants

Kerbing enthusiasm
Sir,

The shot of the three Ferraris winning the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours brought back memories. I was a student in Washington DC at the time and flew down for the race. Before checking-in for my return flight at the Daytona airport I was approached by a good ol’ boy in full US racing regalia, who said: “Mr Ireland, did you have a good flight?” Innes Ireland was to take part in the upcoming Daytona 500 and this man obviously had no idea of what the British driver looked like, but had probably heard my accent!

Mike Parkes was on the same flight to DC and, perhaps emboldened by my new NASCAR credentials, I congratulated him on his second place. Parkes was going to Bethesda in Maryland, so I offered him a lift in my old ’55 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon and he accepted. It was not every day I had the chance to impress a Ferrari F1 racer with my driving skills, but this was the opportunity. Regrettably, I succeeded in bouncing the big car over just about every kerb on the way!

Parkes was a real gentleman and invited me to a tour of the Ferrari factory if I was ever in Maranello. I was never able to take him up on this offer, but did see him once again; in hospital, after his Belgian GP accident the same year.
Andrew Rawlins, Paris, France

Aerial friendship
Sir,

Doug Nye’s obituary on Derek Gardner quite rightly reminded us of his considerable design and engineering skills, and of his remarkable contribution to the design of the Tyrrell Grand Prix cars (March issue). His love of aeroplanes and flying, rooted in his formative years in the aviation industry, is less well known. While with Tyrrell, he owned and flew a de Havilland Chipmunk, as I learned when he asked me to paint the aircraft performing aerobatics over Shoreham where it was kept. A common bond through our passion for the parallel worlds of motor sport and aviation was thus established.

Some years later, he set up a business designing and building scaled-down kit versions of suitable aircraft types. I had almost finished my pilot training in 1989 when Derek phoned to tell me of a Chipmunk for sale in Norfolk and I agreed to meet him there to look it over. After some prodding and engine running, Derek told me it was a good one, and that I should buy it. My concern over where to keep it was met with a typically unequivocal offer to put it in his hangar until I found a more convenient home. Within weeks, with Derek’s guidance, I had negotiated a deal and opened the door to a new world.

I will be forever grateful to him that his gentle persuasion led me to enjoy the magical adventure of flying in such a sweet-handling aircraft, and while he will always have a special place in motor sport history, I have good reason to remember his qualities as a thoughtful and generous-natured friend. Michael Turner Aylesbury, Bucks

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