Letters, May 2020

I wonder if you are comparing like with like in the two cars in April’s Spirit of Le Mans article. We have raced our GT40 over the years, but we have tried to keep our car as original as possible bar the usual maintenance, repairs and making good battle damage. But no “development or use of sophisticated suspension” etc and with the original-spec engine, around 380bhp and not the 450 in the GT40 you feature. Even the full-house Gurney Weslake Le Mans engines, one of which we have, didn’t do more than 420. The 7-litre Mk2s and 4s with around 490bhp and 220mph were banned for being too fast and got shafted when Ferrari and Porsche came up with 600bhp-plus and around 250mph. We have retired our GT now, as we want to keep the car as original as possible and we don’t have much chance against replicas and ground-up rebuilds, to which we give away around 120bhp. But it has always been thus. We have raced other classics in original form, but soon we either have to keep up with all the mods or go to the back of the grid. I must admit we have run the car with the Weslake engine, which was ‘character forming’ and did not suffer fools gladly. The sound with straight-through pipes is what motor racing is all about, but the original engine is now back in the car. Should we renovate the Mona Lisa if it looks out of date? An original GT40 is a masterpiece, is it not?
Mark Finburgh, Edgware, London


Le Mans LP

Released in 1967, this LP let you hear GT40s at full chat, but has long been unavailable

It was pleasing to see that the film Le Mans ’66 was up for the Academy Awards. I saw the film in January and really enjoyed it. Where did 2½ hours go? However, I can’t help feeling that Decca Records have missed out on a chance of re-releasing the soundtrack album Le Mans 1966, released in 1967. What a superb re-release that would make. I still have the original 12in vinyl album, but…
David Clayson, Wellingborough, Northants

[The soundtrack to the recent film has been released on vinyl as well as digital, while the 1967 Decca soundtrack is available unofficially on YouTube and other places online. GC]

The Porsche 911 which features in April’s You Were There feature was not “affectionately named Piggy” – but its driver was. David ‘Piggy’ Thompson was the York pig farmer who rallied the 911, as well as sundry Fords, Vauxhalls and Mitsubishis between the late-Sixties and the mid-Nineties. As a council lawyer, I remember once meeting David about a planning application or something equally riveting. Our conversation soon turned to motor sport, and David was positively glowing about his young son’s driving talent. It wasn’t just paternal pride either, as James Thompson (for it was he) went on, among other things, to win the BTCC twice. Sadly, David died in 2003, aged just 57.
John Aston, Thirsk, North Yorkshire

I was intrigued by Mark Hughes’s comment that “An opposed piston two-stroke was considered for a GP car in the 1920s” in the March edition. None of what he discusses is either new or impossible. When I worked for a publishing firm, my job once took me to Holland Park, where I had the pleasure of meeting the late, great Amherst Villiers. In conversation, he mentioned he’d been working with Graham Hill on a possible new engine to take advantage of the then-current turbocharging regulations in F1. Villiers’ solution was a turbocharged three-cylinder two-stroke with sleeve valves. He wouldn’t elaborate but gave me the impression the power output would have been pretty formidable. Sadly, it never saw the light of day, but it was typical of the man’s very original and innovative approach to engine design. I seem to recall he once put a supercharger on a Rolls-Royce, driven by an Austin 7 engine on the running board. When I knocked on the door, it was answered by his daughter Janey who seemed rather touched that people still remembered her illustrious father in the 1980s.
Gregor Ferguson, Hunter’s Hill, NSW, Australia

Since being taken by my father to Charterhall as a child I have been a follower of all things Jim Clark. More recently, my wife and I attended the 50th commemoration at Duns and Chirnside church and village hall, driving up from Kent. I will probably be one of many to point out that Jim lost his life at Hockenheim and not the Nürburgring as stated in your article. April 7, 1968, is etched in my mind. Like many on that day, I was at Brands Hatch for the BOAC 500 when the announcement came through. The memorial clock at Chirnside proved troublesome over the years. After many attempts to keep it going, it now sits at 11.45am as a timely reminder. Thanks as ever for a great magazine. My wife and I intend to venture north in April; we’ll drive the tour and visit the now much-improved museum. Bill Shewan, via email What a delightful read the latest Lunch With… feature on Hugh Chamberlain was. It brought back so many fond memories of Hugh, his merry team and in particular Will Hoy. Hugh and Will not only played rugby for Royston RUFC, but ran a Sunday social side known as ‘The Slippery Nipple’. Many a happy Sunday was spent running off Saturday’s hangover and then retiring to the Black Horse pub for a few beers and good old sing-song! I haven’t seen Hugh for some time now, but he doesn’t appear to have aged at all!
Martin Tomlinson, Duxford, Cambs

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