Letters, May 2014
I’ve just been reading about your article in April’s issue on your ideas for shaking up the world of F1. I was particularly interested in the use of the word ‘punkish’ to describe what the sport needs right now.
This grabbed my attention as I happened to use the same language to describe the approach we’re taking on some of the work that we’re doing for motor racing, in particular F1, at the moment at Polyhedrus Electronics.
I described it as, “Anarchy in the FIA.”
If you’re planning to turn this into a movement I need a subscription!
Jon Masters, Salisbury, Wiltshire
By George, it’s Orwellian
I enjoyed Nigel Roebuck’s recent reflections with Martin Brundle. However, his reference to an Orwellian future was somewhat ironic – especially where Brundle was concerned.
In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith was employed to rewrite history, removing all references from the records of those who had fallen foul of Big Brother.
Martin will recall that his Tyrrell team was judged by FISA (as the FIA was then) to be using illegal lead shot ballast (plus other minor infringements). Tyrrell was not only disqualified, but all its points for the season were removed.
It was as though the team had never existed. This conveniently removed Tyrrell from the right to vote on the lowering of fuel capacity for the following season. It was the only team holding out against this and the decision had to be unanimous.
The year was 1984…
Dr Peter O’Donnell, Epsom, Surrey
Off the hook
Many of your readers remark on the sad demise of Formula 1 as a sport and suggest good, achievable solutions to improve overtaking and, therefore, the fans’ enjoyment.
Let’s have much smaller wings, narrower tyres, anything to increase braking distances: eradicate poor driving and we will see some proper racing again.
I attended my first British Grand Prix in 1960 (grandstand seat 10 shillings, or 50p in today’s money) and didn’t miss one for 32 years. I struggle now to watch it on television.
One reason I stopped going was my discovery of the Formula Ford Festival. Johnny Herbert won on my first visit, in 1985, and I was hooked. The cars were narrow, with road tyres and no wings, and the racing was fantastic. Just look at the list of winners from the 1970s through to the ’90s… and then consider Formula Ford today. Wide cars, slicks, wings and perhaps a dozen drivers on the grid. Herbert was one of 180 entrants when he won – they really were the good times.
In the meantime, please keep up the good work at Motor Sport. Reading your magazine – with gin and tonic in hand – and the Goodwood Revival are the best ways to enjoy my racing.
Guy Raines, York
Revson: another view
According to Andrew Frankel (April issue), there was a suggestion that Peter Revson graduated to F1 “more for his money than his pace”. At the time, my own feeling was that the colour of his passport was more helpful than the colour of his money.
As Leon Mandel’s Speed With Style biography shows, Revson and Teddy Mayer had known each other a long time before the McLaren director gave him a chance to take over Chris Amon’s M15 during practice for the 1970 Indy 500 – 10 laps to show what he could do. Little more than a year later he had won the Can-Am series. Revson might not have had many lucky breaks earlier in his career, but this time he did: there was a vacancy in the F1 team.
Revson liked to think his style said he was a gentleman, quoting an unnamed writer who defined a gentleman as, “Someone who never undermines the self-respect of another.” That certainly didn’t prevent him being less than respectful in his criticism of rivals, particularly Mark Donohue.
The choice of Mark’s own quoted tribute to Peter – “Nobody ever applied himself harder to succeed” – seems rather ironic in the circumstances, especially if you read the Paul van Valkenburgh and Michael Argetsinger books on the Penske driver. And it must be said that Shadow and Eagle both approached Mark to drive their cars before they turned to Revson – a detail not mentioned in Mandel’s book.
David Cole, Oakham, Rutland
Nobody can doubt that we missed many potentially titanic battles between Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, but a decade earlier we lost some that might have been even more intense.
After Gilles Villeneuve died in 1982, we missed the chance of seeing him go head to head with Senna.
It could have been a golden age, with those two plus Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and – had he, too, survived – Stefan Bellof in the prime of their careers.
Given how Gilles reacted to Didier Pironi’s actions, it would have been fascinating to see how he coped with Senna’s tactics and Bellof’s speed. The whole scene would have been very different. Who would have filled Villeneuve’s seat if/when he left Ferrari for McLaren? And who would have partnered him in Woking? There is a series of questions we can never answer, but the racing would have been terrific.
Mark Bowley, Coalville, Leicestershire
Join our club
It is great that Motor Sport stands almost alone in its ability to write freely. I have come to think of you as the Radio 6 of the motoring world, open to all yet sufficiently knowledgeable to ignore the rubbish and keep the informed entertained.
I come from Mat Oxley’s side of the industry, but have been dancing around four wheels for as long as I remember. All forms of modern motor sport are fast falling into a trap. A double-points finale for F1 (among other sins), NASCAR’s Chase, The Showdown for British Superbikes… the list goes on. But I am far less interested in ‘the show’ than the sport. What, though, about the casual observer?
A while ago I sat in a meeting to discuss putting some classic motorcycle racing on the BSB support programme… and talk turned to making sure we put on ‘a show’. I nearly fell off my seat. Members of the general public are not dumb and the skill of an expert rider should be obvious to all. It has nothing to do with ‘a show’.
Why is the Goodwood Revival so popular? Of course it has everything, but at its core is some real racing – AC Cobras drifting, lightweight E-types dancing, Manx Nortons leaning…
Modern racing developments can be likened to those in cricket. We started with test matches, a game of the brain, ripe with mental and physical skills, but there were too many draws, it took five days and people said it was boring. So then came one-day games and finally we have Twenty20…
Until F1 sorts itself out (or implodes), I’d recommend some good, honest club racing. A friend has given up going to the British Grand Prix because, for the same price, he can go to a bunch of club events, see lots of races and talk to the drivers. It is a good day out and shows how things should be done.
Mike Russell, Farnborough, Hampshire
Well done (apparently)
Common sense has prevailed and Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections has been moved closer to the front of your magazine.
The last issue had a superb, erudite piece on Ron Dennis by Mark Hughes – a beautifully constructed article that told me stuff I didn’t already know.
Simon Arron, your guy who’s been almost everywhere, went to the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the first time.
I’ve been going for the last six years and for $85 get a four-day pass to the infield, grandstands, garages, autograph sessions and grid walk. The grandstand seats in the main block are padded, with enough legroom to swing a cat. And they’re pulling the stands apart to make seating even more comfortable by 2016.
One Daytona highlight was bumping into Dario Franchitti in our hotel reception. Still healing after his horrendous Houston crash, he was a real gent and you can see why the Americans love him.
Finally, what was Mark Hughes’s epistle on modern F1 all about? He certainly lit a fire under Grand Prix racing’s bosses. How would you like your F1 stakeholders, Mr Hughes?
Andrew Hodgson, Bury, Lancashire
On the mark, Hughes
I feel compelled to congratulate you on the inspired decision to add Mark Hughes to the Motor Sport team.
His article on the return of Ron Dennis was far more gripping than any fictional thriller I’ve read.
The magazine now has a perfect blend of writers and topics. Maybe Nigel Roebuck could be touted as Bernie’s successor, so long-suffering fans finally get the F1 we truly deserve.
Peter Spiers, Watford
As a visitor to the UK, it was a privilege to be able to buy the latest issue of your magazine. In South Africa, delivery can take eight weeks and correspondence on my part would be too late to be relevant. This time, I can be current.
I enjoyed Nigel Roebuck’s interview with Mark Webber, who exhibited the honesty common to most Australians (except when they play rugby against South Africa). He accepted that F1 had been turned into a circus and has little to do with actual racing. Drag-reduction systems make overtaking as farcical as the value of my home currency…
Did we need the imposition of manufactured tyre degradation, or other external elements, during recent seasons? And is F1 ‘racing’ or merely a fuel-saving exercise? Would people of the calibre of Ross Brawn, Mark Webber and others be walking away if everything was as good as it should be?
Do we really want this year’s fuel-flow limits, or such complex energy recovery systems? Why can’t we have the wheel tethers and carbon tubs – because safety is paramount and we don’t want these superb athletes to be injured or worse – but let teams choose the tyre compounds they want? I’d allow teams to test if they feel the need, but get rid of all the pricey add-ons that make racing so expensive.
Oh, and you can forget all about double points…
Le Mans is more honest than F1, with greater innovation, and Mark is going to have a wonderful impact on the World Endurance Championship.
He’ll be doing some proper racing.
Gordon Forrester, Gauteng, South Africa
Simply red and gold
Gordon Cruickshank’s recent article on Alan Mann Racing brought back some fond childhood memories.
My father Ernie Symons worked for the team back in the ’60s. I remember going to the factory and seeing the Mann cars race at Brand Hatch. I also retain many period mementos.
Thank you very much. I shall enjoy looking out for the great red and gold at future events.
Barry Symons, London
I’d like to take issue with so many of your excellent writers. I think the idea of a double points Formula 1 finale in Abu Dhabi is great.
For too long older drivers have identified the likes of Monaco, Monza, Spa and the Nürburgring as being the most important circuits, but now Abu Dhabi is indisputably twice as good. In fact, might I suggest that double points are awarded for all races? This would extend the excitement all season long…
Mark Witham, Hampshire
Tale of heads or tails
Your magazine was already brilliant, but the arrival of Mark Hughes takes it to another level. As a 40-year Motor Sport veteran, I thought your April issue the best ever.
Mark’s F1 Frontline is a showcase for the story-telling talents first revealed in his excellent book on Tommy Byrne.
Until now I routinely turned to Nigel Roebuck’s column as soon as the shrink wrap was removed. You have now given me a monthly dilemma that only the toss of a coin will decide…
Graham Rowan, Richmond, Surrey