Speaking up for spectators
I am part of a motor racing team that goes round many circuits, but on this occasion I wish to ask for your support on behalf of the paying spectators, whom I feel get a very unfair deal from the circuits to which they pay a lot of money to attend.
On the boat on my return from Spa, I met five intelligent 25-30 year old enthusiasts who asked me if I could tell them who had won the Formula 3000 race. They also asked me who had won the World Sports-Prototype Championship Race. They thought it was Baldi but they had no idea who came 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
A radio commentary is useless if you do not understand the language and position boards are nowhere near universal. Of the circuits I have attended this year, for instance, I can report the following: Dijon — no place indicator boards; Le Mans — inadequate place indicator boards. There is a commentary in English, but what about the Germans, Italians, Spanish and other nationalities; Jarama — no position indicator boards; Brands Hatch — excellent indicator boards, but they could do with some updating and more of them where the circuit itself allows people to stand; Donington — no circuit indicator board but a flashing light situated along the pit straight, which very few people can see anyway, giving the first six positions; and Spa — no circuit indicator boards.
If we just take the two forms of racing, sportscars and Grands Prix, how much more interesting a race would be for a person if they knew that Prost had had a pit stop, dropped four places and now had to climb back. Imagine then the difficulty when there are two or three pit stops in a sportscar race. People just lose the positions and the race becomes meaningless.
The very minimum necessary are indicator boards. FISA and FOCA, who dictate to the teams, don’t seem to do likewise to the circuits. They should insist, however, that by 1993 all circuits must have proper indicator boards in all the spectator areas. The lot of the paying public, who heaven knows gets little enough and yet pays a great deal, must be improved. If we are going to keep racing enthusiasts we have to inform them.
Tony Bellm, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
1966 Monte revisited
I really enjoyed GP’s story of the ’66 Monte, the year I drove a camera car.
Our first thought when the results were posted was that sheet two had been put up before sheet one! The ensuing row was indescribable — the BBC crew filmed it all and it went out on the next Wheelbase. We then remembered the stories that had started earlier in the week, after the “common run”, in Rosies’ bar, all the old-timers, with lots of year bars on their blazers, said that the French would win, somehow. “Remember the year of the Dauphine” etc, etc. And it was Monaco’s one hundredth birthday year …
Then the talk turned to the how; favourite was the nonstandard bonnet strap. Sumpguards, re-positioned fuel pumps, didn’t the navigator’s seat recline? Of course we should have thought that the DS19 had QI lamps as standard, plus steerable auxiliary lamps; the mechanism had to be undone for rallies, they pointed the wrong way in opposite-lock cornering. There was talk of never darkening the Monte Carlo doorstep again, appeals to the Prince, then someone, I think it was Stuart Turner, said, “But think of all the lovely publicity!” So it was agreed that the prize-giving and the Ball could be an all French affair while the Anglo-Scandinavians and other likeminded citizens held our celebrations at “Les Pirates” at Cap Martin. The addition of judicial bangers to the barbecue pit ensured that Pedro’s decorative donkey, Timo up, disappeared so fast in the direction of Menton that it was made an honorary team member, once it was persuaded back!
So it was decided, just before dawn, that the Brit teams would come back in ’67, and really thrash them, and they did.
CP “Pat” Davies, Salon de Provence, France
The Dick Seaman memorial
Regarding your request for information about the Dick Seaman memorial at Francorchamps: back in September 1981, when I was researching the Seaman story for a screenplay (written, but never filmed, alas), I went to Francorchamps and looked for the memorial, having read about it in Rodney Walkerley’s book, Grand Prix in which he wrote of Dick’s death in 1939, adding, “By that tree and outside the gates of the villa into which he was carried, there still stands a small stone bearing his name, which Robert Fellowes and myself arranged with a stonemason of Spa to erect until some better monument should be raised to the name of that great driver and fine sportsman. This was done on the very eve of war, and the occupying Boches made no attrmpt to deface or remove the stone.”
However, by the time I got there in 1981, somebody had removed it, for there was no sign of it on the road side, where it was originally sited. I went into the grounds of the Clubhouse (the villa Rodney mentioned) and found the stone lying by the wall that separated the grounds from the track. This was shortly before work began on the new pits complex.
The stone had a firm brick base and was not the sort of thing you could just pick up and walk off with, otherwise I would have taken it into Spa and dumped it on the desk of the President of the local Automobile Club! Instead I went to see him but his office was shut, so when I got home I wrote to him (with a copy to Gunther Molter, then Press Officer at DBAG in Stuttgart) asking that the stone be properly re-sited and looked after. I never heard from the President and neither did Gunther. I fear that when the construction work started on the new pits, road realignment, etc, Dick’s memorial was just carted off with the rubble. I’d love to be proved wrong, but …
Chris Nixon, Twickenham, Middlesex
Jim Clark memorial
Your Letter to readers article in the October issue reminds me of a recent trip I took to the Frankfurt Motor Show and on to the Mulhouse museum of Bugattis. On the way I decided to call in at Hockenheim and pay my respects to Jim Clark’s memorial there. Although there was nothing going on and not a single vehicle on the track, I was told that it was impossible to visit the site of his accident as the whole area had been altered. I went to the museum there and was shown the spot on the model lay-out, but the woman in charge said she thought the memorial stone for Jim Clark had been removed.
Normally the Lotus team pay their respects every year when they visit Hockenheim, but this year I’ve seen no mention of it. Could this stone have gone the same way as Dick Seaman’s, if so, would it not be an idea to organise some sort of crusade to have these monuments replaced?
PW Phillips, Keston, Kent