Time isn’t of the essence
I read with great interest Mark Hughes’ article on the recent driver choice dilemma facing Williams. Mark explains the difficulty in balancing commercial and sporting equations that Williams has needed to address in a very clear and articulate manner. The problems facing an independent team in current Formula 1 are very clear, mainly due to the imbalances of income and the skew towards the large and already well-funded teams.
There has been talk of cost caps etc for some years, but alas without any meaningful effect. A major issue has to be that massive portions of the teams’ budgets are directed to the research and development of aerodynamics, which increases levels of downforce and pushes budgetary costs beyond the reach of the smaller teams – it’s all disproportionate to the funding needed simply to run a team. That such sums are spent to find nanoseconds of time is astonishing, especially with the resulting (negative) effect on racing quality.
The increasing levels of downforce have been a major topic among fans and the motor sport media, all of whom want reduced downforce and decent racing. These views are obviously of an alien nature to the team technicians; they are focused on those ‘vital’ nanoseconds and never mind the fans, aka the ones who pay the team bills. It would appear that the teams have a self-perpetuating desire to get bigger and spend ever larger sums on things only they desire, to the detriment of F1, laughably these days still called ‘Grand Prix’ racing.
I suppose it is possible that the various technical committees that are exploring the workings of F1 will emerge from their current state of torpor and burst into action. In all this the FIA is notable for its silence, while Liberty comes up with really important decisions such as not having grid girls any more.
The closed and rather insular world of F1 is indeed strange.
Neil Davey, Newport, South Wales
Being Fred Gallagher…
I had the good fortune to be at three diverse events in 1985 (Motor Sport, March): Safari Rally, Le Mans and the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.
The most memorable was the Safari. Björn Waldegård was supposed to win in Toyota Celica no3, but Juha Kankkunen was the surprise winner in no21. All the publicity shots had been taken of Waldegård’s car.
A few days after the event, I posed as Kankkunen’s co-driver Fred Gallagher while a Toyota mechanic (British) drove no21 around some gravel tracks near Nairobi airport to obtain pictures of the winning car “in action”.
Le Mans was certainly a spectacle and Mansell’s win at Brands made me a huge fan. I ended up having the pleasure of seeing his final win in a single-seater when he beat Emerson Fittipaldi in a Grand Prix Masters event at the new Kyalami circuit.
Ian Dove, Cape Town, South Africa
When the wheels come off
Further to Neil Kirby’s letter – and in particular the Porsche 956’s propensity to lose front wheels – I recall this happened generally to the private teams. I read (probably in Motor Sport) that such teams did not believe that the torque figures provided by Porsche for the wheel nuts could possibly be correct, in that they seemed to be far too high, and the use of lower settings led to the problem.
I also remember, while at one of the Silverstone long-distance races, an interview with David Hobbs in which he said he heard a bang and felt the handling go somewhat awry. Not being sure what was wrong, he thought it best to pit and get the car checked over. The crew promptly replaced the missing wheel. He seemed to think it quite amusing that, having raced for some 20 years, he was unable to tell how many wheels were on the car.
Tony Elgood, Beckenham
I’m just writing to say how much I enjoyed my visit to Race Retro in February. The guests on the Motor Sport stage were on their own worth the admission fee. Brian Redman in particular gave vivid recollections of a very different and dangerous era of motor racing.
I’m looking forward to attending next year’s show. Might I suggest Jackie Oliver would be a great draw on the Motor Sport live interview stage!
DM Barker, via email
A mechanic writes
I have just bought the April copy of Motor Sport and found an error. You have a photo showing Frank Matich’s F5000 McLaren M10B at Laguna Seca, dated 1973.
The shot was actually taken in 1971. I was chief mechanic at Frank Matich Racing, and Frank came second to David Hobbs that weekend. In 1973 we raced our own Matich A51s at Laguna Seca
Derek Kneller, via email
It has been interesting to read your tests of 1970s racing saloons such as the Cologne Capri. As a club saloon car racer in this period, the technology of such cars was of interest, though with limited amateur budgets we could not easily emulate their capability. However, by the lucky chance of choosing to race a second-hand Vauxhall Viva GT, and less fortunately needing to rebuild its mechanical parts into a new shell, we came to be involved with Bill Blydenstein’s DTV establishment at Shepreth, and thus gained access to decent racing technology.
My Firenza shell started as a replacement for ‘Old Nail’, which was Gerry Marshall’s mainstay racer. But with his team developing plans for ‘Big Bertha’, a Ventora, my need for a new shell was solved, and in the summer of 1973 we made a new racing car with glassfibre panels and so on.
Over the next two years it evolved into a ‘droopsnoot’ and gained more bhp with a 2.3 fuel-injection motor (circa 210bhp). But my car was not unique; there were several Vauxhall Firenzas operating in the club scene and competitive with Ford Escorts etc. The arrival of more silhouette racers and their more powerful engines (some of them V8s) did rather diminish competitive comparability, although in adverse weather conditions one could be on the front row in qualifying ahead of these.
In 1976 a second Firenza (from Scotland) was campaigned with rather more enhanced running gear, as funds for our own silhouette racer never materialised – we were planning a Chevron B19 with Imp bodywork. Unlike Gerry Marshall I did not enjoy a great deal of success, with only six race victories over the two seasons of 1975 and 1976.
I wonder how a technical analysis would assess the potential of these club Vauxhalls. Our racing was restricted by the national fuel crisis, reduced practice periods and reduced race laps. Most race meetings had a special saloon event, however, so one could compete fairly frequently.
Phil Clarke, Norwich, Norfolk
It was a strange coincidence to see a photo of the old BRDC Silverstone timekeepers’ building in You were there (March 2018).
Back in the 1960s Corgi Toys produced a set of Silverstone buildings in kit form – pits, press box and timekeepers’ building. All of them appeared in your photo.
I don’t know whatever happened to mine – my mother probably threw them away – but I recently tried to buy them again.
When I eventually tracked down a timekeepers’ building it was still unbuilt and boxed. The asking price? £6221.00 – and that didn’t even include postage! (Yes, that does say six thousand, two hundred and twenty one pounds.)
I was sad to see that Dan Gurney has died. I watched him hassle Jim Clark into crashing at Brands Hatch in 1965. They say ‘never meet your heroes’, but I did at Goodwood in 1995: a great driver and a really nice guy.
John Day, West Sussex
Like so many who write in, I have been a loyal reader since the days of Jenks and The Bod. Being of a certain age, I am a bit wary of ‘the latest thing’. I’m also aware that the only constant is change, and I have seen your great publication evolve over the years. Regarding the recent ‘refresh’: well done! We will miss Nigel Roebuck, of course, but Doug Nye continues to be an absolute treasure. Mat, Simon, Gordon, Andrew… on every single page the quality of the writing is excellent, and unequalled elsewhere.
I am compelled to write, for the first time, to compliment you on one particular change. It took me about 2.5 articles to go from “Who the heck is Dickie Meaden?” to “I want to be Dickie Meaden!”
Jeffrey Ducken, Bonney Lake, Washington, USA
Don’t mix sport & politics
I’d like to agree with Anthony Schofield’s letter (April 2018), about political comments being unnecessary in Motor Sport. I was moved to write the same thing and he saved me the trouble, as well as expressing it very well.
The only other thing to say is that if the British were even half as good at the economy as they are at motor racing, one would be a lot less worried about the future…
Graham O’Reilly, France
Let’s start with a bold statement. The March 2018 edition of Motor Sport has the best content I have ever seen. Like ever! It’s exactly 40 years since I read my first Motor Sport – March 78 – and the race reports from DSJ of the South American GP’s and his blunt assessment of certain performances and incidents made a huge impression on a knowledge-hungry 11-year-old …
Reading the Explosive ’80s features – brilliantly crafted and illustrated by Arron, Hughes, Watkins, Oxley etc – I agree with Colin Goodwin that ’85 was the best year of all. I remember meeting a red-booted, smoking Keke and doing my first FF1600 race. Good heavens, what wonderful memories…
The article on the amazing Mike Fairholme (who painted my Bell XFM1 in a pseudo-Martin Donnelly livery in 1989), your tribute to the remarkable Dan Gurney, the interview with Felipe Massa. My word, this was my idea my idea of heaven…
My wonderful wife illustrated the meaning of true love when she got me a Motor Sport subscription for my birthday… and this edition alone has made it worthwhile.
In closing, Matters of Moment took back me to 1986. Like Nick Trott I can remember the ‘digital’ speed readout on the old gantry over the pit lane at Brands Hatch… and the whooshing noise… and Ayrton Senna prodding at the throttle through Clearways…
As I get older those memories become so much more precious. I am so glad to have been there and so glad that the Green ’Un revealed such wonderful, evocative stories that always make me smile.
My 24-year-old son has inherited my passion for the sport. He said to me, “The 1980s are motor sport perfection.”
We were there. Weren’t we lucky?
Simon Hill, Kent
Write to: Motor Sport, 18-20 Rosemont Road, London NW3 6NE or e-mail by TAPPING HERE. Please include your full name and address when corresponding.