Letters, May 2016
A nod to ‘Ziggy’ and co
Many thanks for the subtle David Bowie tribute in Mark Hughes’s 2016 F1 preview. I suppose Where are we Now? (The Next Day) would be a good title to summarise F1’s current dismal state… and I Can’t Explain (Pin Ups) suits the new qualifying system.
Richard Mercer, Thornton, Middlesborough
We need a head-banger
The interview with Luca di Montezemolo was nothing less than fascinating, not least his recognition of all that is wrong in F1. It was so refreshing to hear someone speak of the need for a proper business plan that includes the new media, a recognition of the importance of the history and heritage of the sport, and the cost issues that desperately need to be addressed. I am still amazed that, at a time when all types of cost reductions were being discussed, the FIA should introduce a vastly expensive and highly complex new engine formula.
The FIA, CVC and F1 in general have missed the boat in not getting Luca on board as the strong CEO to unite all the disparate elements. If not Luca, there must surely be someone who has the ability to bring this much-needed management to the sport and bang a few heads together.
Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon
Tune in to Torque
One of the delights of reading Motor Sport is its ability to reawaken memories that have been shunted off to the recesses of one’s brain. So it was a very pleasant surprise to turn the page in the February issue and find the feature on Track Torque.
As a boy growing up in Hampshire, introduced to motor sport by James Hunt’s battle to the world title, I was an avid listener to the programme. Living some 40 miles from Portsmouth and on the wrong side of the Downs, getting reception on medium wave was always a challenge. Constant adjustment of the tuning dial and staying upstairs meant I was able to hear most of what was going on. And those competitions! I must have filled in many postcards or sealed-up envelopes and eagerly sent them to Portsmouth. Two wins I recall were a Williams FW06 T-shirt, worn until it fell off me, and the one I still have, a programme from the Indy racers’ visit to Brands Hatch and Silverstone on consecutive weekends in 1978 – complete with most of the drivers’ autographs. This very special prize came with a note to “Take very good care of this.” Almost 40 years on I think I have respected this advice.
Keith Morgan, Cambridge, Cambs
On the Button
I was pleased to see the wisdom of Mark Hughes including Jenson Button in his Top Ten F1 Drivers for 2015, while other ‘expert’ rankings left JB out. There is a reason why Button is still in F1. He is clearly one of the most complete drivers of his generation and has more than held his own against the likes of Hamilton and Alonso. Martin Whitmarsh, a man who should know, said it best in a recent Motor Sport interview: “Jenson is an extraordinary talent, and he’s underestimated.”
Steve Angell, Glenview, Illinois, USA
Just another passenger
Your correspondent’s relating of his lucky escape at Silverstone while simultaneously gaining his friend’s admiration (Letters, April) reminds me of a similar incident in the early 1970s.
I was then a dealer specialising in mainly sporting cars. Realising that most prospective owners were likely to be impressed by the rapidity of their choice, I developed a test run that involved two long east/west straights joined by a huge roundabout.
I would endeavour to travel as fast as possible while appearing very casual about it and often remark on it being difficult to “open her up fully”. As speed always seems faster to the passenger, this was usually well received.
On one occasion in a Jaguar E-type, I completely misjudged the roundabout and lost control of the back end. We were both passengers… I twirled the steering this way and that, completely ineffectively, but the car somehow recovered its equilibrium and we continued on the return leg a little more slowly. The punter was fulsome in his praise of my driving ability and very excited with his test run, but decided against the car as he felt he did not possess the level of skill required to tame such a brute. That’ll teach me!
John Atkins, Springfield, Chelmsford, Essex
Berger at full chat
The interview with Gerhard Berger in your excellent magazine’s March issue recalled a more relaxed and accessible time in F1.
In 1989 my business partner and I were in Spain to attend our first live F1 race. Following practice we were dining outdoors at a restaurant in town and noticed Gerhard Berger seated at another table. We were surprised and delighted when he came over, inquired if we were in Jerez for the race and introduced himself. Our ensuing conversation was the highlight of our weekend. Thank you Gerhard.
Jake Jacobsen, Marysville, Washington, USA
I met Tom Swallow (Flywheel, March) during a photo shoot in Bristol some 20 years ago.
During intervals between shots, we had a good chat and he told me about the book and its incredible survival. He also told me that when first captured and interned, there was plenty of tinned food but neither tin-openers nor plates and cutlery with which to eat it. They quickly learned how to adapt the empty tins to fashion the missing implements. Furthermore they then devised efficient petrol burners to heat the tins in improvised saucepans.
One other tale is that his sister sent a postcard to his prison camp with a view from the top of Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean. He told me that dreams of one day living near here kept him going. On retirement he bought the second cottage down from the top of the Yat rock… He was quite a character.
Graham Evans, Mitton, Glos
I enjoyed your excellent reflections on Mike Parkes in the April 2016 issue. Don’t forget the in-car sound recording he made of a lap of Monza in 1966, on the vinyl LP The Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix made in association with the Frankenheimer film. It was worth it for this track alone. It must be available on that interweb/tube thingy; I still have one of the LPs.
Turn up the volume and glory in the sound of a Grand Prix Ferrari V12 howling around pre-chicane Monza –one of my Desert Island Discs.
Keith Martin, Gt Linford, Milton Keynes
My compliments to Adam Cooper for his summary of Mike Parkes’s multi-faceted life.
While recovering in hospital from his Spa F1 accident, Mike was rather anxious to race again: his first option was Ferrari, of course, but he also applied to John ‘Wyre’ (sic!) and Ford for a race seat at Le Mans 1968 to “prevent the Germans from winning this race”. It certainly did not help that he got the spelling wrong…
May I take the opportunity to ask readers to share their recollections of Mike Parkes with me? For eight years I have been carrying out research in order to write his biography and the project is almost finished, but surely there are even more anecdotes out there.
My e-mail address is [email protected]
Andreas Hackbarth, Munich, Germany
No left turn
I was interested to read Derek Linney’s letter (March 2016) about his unauthorised trip around Silverstone’s Grand Prix circuit.
During the 1970s, and prior to the construction of the bridge over the Wellington (née Club) Straight, the only access to the paddock at club meetings was across the track. Between races, there was a mad dash of cars and transporters before marshals closed the gates prior to the next formation lap. At the conclusion of each meeting, it was possible to drive towards the paddock but turn left onto the club circuit and complete a lap.
This became a regular feature of my trips to club meetings, and I was certainly not the only one enjoying this illicit track time. It all came to an end one day when there was a hue and cry after an opportunist gentleman left the paddock in a Ford Transit containing a large quantity of stolen racing wheels and other equipment. Fortunately he was apprehended by some burly marshals, but security increased and my ‘track days’ ended.
You just can’t imagine things like that being allowed to happen today.
Keith Lewcock, Maids Moreton, Bucks
A puzzling man
Congratulation on producing a great piece on the four-wheeled exploits of one of the very best racers of all time, Mike Hailwood.
Being equally fascinated by both two- and four-wheeled racing of all types, my two stand-out performers have to be John Surtees (why doesn’t he have a knighthood?) and Mike ‘the Bike’ Hailwood, who from what I read was possibly the nicest guy to have in your team.
As an avid collector and trader in all things motor sport, I was trawling the flea markets near to my home in Spa, Belgium, and saw a familiar face staring out from behind the wheel of a Lola T190 at Zandvoort in 1969: yep, a Mike Hailwood jigsaw, bought for 50 cents! A bargain indeed.
Neil Leigh, Spa, Belgium
Keep to the beat
Motor Sport just seems to be getting better and better.
In your Finish Line section in the March 2016 issue, I was struck by something Martin Brundle mentioned. I hope that neither Martin nor David Coulthard will take offence, but I have passed on David’s advice to Martin to my nearest and dearest – “Don’t waste a heart beat.” That says it all. Motor Sport does indeed have everything.
Adrian Lever, via email
Memories of ‘Brookie’
‘Good old Brookie’ indeed (Doug Nye, April 2016). My father worked for Leslie Brooke during WWII and on until about 1950. He was involved with various projects, including a side-valve diesel engine, self-priming water pump and a telescopic hydro-pneumatic garage jack. Brookie was very kind to my parents, father being kept on a retainer during his wartime REME army service. That no doubt supplemented his army pay and helped mother bringing up two small boys.
On Sunday mornings, father would occasionally walk my brother and I the short distance from home to Brooke’s house in Stoke Park, Coventry, where his racing cars were garaged. One memory is of sitting in a red car which I can now only guess would have been around 1948 and one of the Scuderia Ambrosiana 4CLT Maseratis.
Father accompanied Brookie to various hillclimbs and race meetings during this time, including visits to ERA in connection with the E-type GP2. After the 1947 Indianapolis entry with the E-type proved disastrous, my father remained over here and Brookie rewarded my brother and I with an American battery-powered electric train set. Even though they parted company around 1950, they continued to meet at the BRDC Daily Express Silverstone events.
Geoffrey Harrison, Ilkley, Yorks