Letters, November 1992

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Weights and measures

Sir,
The data table in the article on the TVR Griffith (August 1992) in an ingenious example of the gratuitous mixing of systems of units. Power is quoted in bhp, torque in lb/ft, speed in mph, fuel consumption in mpg and tank capacity in gallons. Yet the linear dimensions, wheelbase and track etc, are in millimetres and the car’s weight is in kilograms.
For the sake of (I think) a majority of your British readers and all your American ones, can you not give specifications in both imperial and metric units? Until, like the clever French, we all learn to pace out distances in millimetres, why frustrate a high percentage of your readership.
R J Wyllie, Troy, Virginia, USA.

Open letter to DSJ . . .

Sir,
I discovered the world of F1 motor racing as a teenager, when my father took me to the British Grand Prix at Brand Hatch for ‘The Return to Power’ the new three-litre formula (or half that size supercharge – how absurd). I was bitten immediately. Soon afterwards, I discovered Motor Sport, and your excellent articles, full of facts and insight, brought alive all the races I would never see at first hand. Thus you were instrumental in weaning me into the venerable publication, to which I have remained loyal for many years. I consider myself to be a member of the great British ‘Joe Public’ as far as motor racing goes. I go to the British Grand Prix as often as possible (working in the Middle East doesn’t help), and would never consider running onto the track while the participants were still at it.
I used to attend some club events when I lived near Oulton Park, and I’ve turned out for some drag racing and motorbike events. I was also a co-founder of a very small motor club many years ago.
I drive a Mazda 929 (my wife’s) – nothing spectacular, but, at least, it’s rear-wheel drive, as the Good Lord intended things. My own vehicle is a Honda VF-400. Yes, I know it rates as a café racer, but, on a limited budget, there’s not a lot of choice out here. My all-time heroes are Jim Clark, on four wheels, and Mike the Bike on two.
You have been/still are a mentor to me. Apart from that, you are a champion yourself. Your Mille Miglia win, with the greatest racing driver never to have won the F1 Championship, quite apart from all your other achievements, give you your well-deserved place in the history of motor racing.
I am so sad to say that you are not turning me away from Motor Sport, because of your witch-hunting whinge against the man whom you so often accuse of whingeing.
Please, Denis, if you cannot say anything good, or at least objective, about Nigel Mansell, then don’t say anything. We all know you liked Keke Rosberg, that Nelson Piquet was a particular favourite, that Alain Prost has tremendous style, and that Mr da Silva is the second coming. In your August outburst you said: “Mansell may be fast, and may win races, but no way is he in the same class as Prost or Senna in driving artistry.” I seem to remember that Gilles Villeneuve became a legend, even with you, because he was fast. Yes, he broke cars, but, so what? F1 is about being fast. The champion at the end of the season is not the one who records the least wear and tear on the machinery.
Yes, Mansell has the best car (thanks in vast proportions to Renault/Elf et al). For how long did Senna enjoy the same, yet you wrote eulogy after eulogy about him? This year we have, at long last, a British F1 champion. Patrese had nothing to prove. He is a race winner under the right circumstances. Chauvinistically, I would like the champion to drive a British car, with a British engine, with British fuel and British tyres (the car to be a Lotus in BRG?), but we can’t have everything, can we?
Mansell, in so doing against the might of the Honda and McLaren, will vindicate what have always been to me two wrongs: John Watson’s peremptory dismissal from McLaren and Honda’s removal of support from Williams, because Williams failed to win the championship (because Piquet couldn’t accept the Patrese-style team player role, recognising the superior performance of his team-mate).
You may of course, disagree with much, or all, of what I say, but my view is representative of many. Mansell is one of the best, and is entirely deserving of one championship at least. So please, DSJ, don’t demean yourself with petty sniping. Leave Mansell alone, please.
Michael Stokes, United Arab Emirates.

Petty sniping! There was nothing petty intended in my remarks – DSJ.

A Question of sport

Sir,
I am surprised MG Baldwin (Letters, August) emphasises the sport aspect of modern Grand Prix racing when the whole activity is so money based.

I agree with fellow August correspondent Richard Hinton, who points out that that VSCC and 750 MC racing is still sport, mainly because it takes place between genuine club members who are self-financing amateurs.

If sponsorship takes over or intrudes, as the RAC indents, then the sport is lost.
Richard Hulford, Westerham, Kent.

Lesson from America

September 1992’s Cotton On (‘Step forward, men of vision’) smacked the nail right on the head. Max Mosley wants to come up with grid-stuffers, converted F3000 cars to appease the three-million dollar men of Peugeot, Toyota and Mazda. It didn’t work terribly well in CanAm years ago – F5000 Lolas against Donohue and Penske, Porsches. I know they eventually won, but who was left in the series?
If anyone has been to an IMSA race, or seen one on the tube, they will know who has the key. An easy solution and a viable alternative to Europe would be to sub-contract the running of the SWC to IMSA. A bit of fine-tuning, and add Peugeot to the list of big-name teams and drivers that are already in place – Toyota, Mazda, Jaguar, Nissan, Chevrolet and Buick.
The short-term cure is to learn from the Americans and then to formulate a world series to incorporate all sanctioning bodies. If the right decision is not made, then adios SWC.
Tony Clegg-Butt, Nairobi, Kenya.

An officer and a gentleman

Sir,
One reads with increasing astonishment and boredom about the hype and psychoanalysis of F1.

No one expressed surprise when my firm sacked Frank Williams as an engineering apprentice for not complying with his terms and conditions of employment, least of all Frank.

He is equally entitled, surely to fire his employees if he is not satisfied with their attitude and application.

As life progresses one learns that past achievements are of little commercial value to those seeking to create the future, and F1 now seems to be all about greed and money – not sportsmanship.

Nothing can be taken away from the skill and dedication over many years that has finally rewarded Nigel Mansell with the championship, and he richly deserves the rewards, both prestigious and financial.

But – oh dear!

Now he is world champion, and a millionaire, wouldn’t it be great if he could continue to perform for the glory of his country and to justify the adoration of his admirers – or has greed distorted the best thing British motor racing has had to cheer in decades?

I was mildly amused recently when apprehended by the law for a slightly over-enthusiastic performance in my Astra. “Who do you think you are, sir, Stirling Moss?” inquired the officer. The temptation to reply “No, Nigel Mansell” might have earned me more than just a warning. At least I was taken for a gentleman.
Allan Wildsmith, Chesterfield.

Fond farewell

Sir,
So Nigel Mansell really has quite F1 this time, has he?

Good.
Much as I enjoy watching British success in any sport, I also appreciate it when your sportsmen show good grace. As gifted as he may be behind the wheel, Nigel Mansell’s post-race manner always grated with me.

I look forward to Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert and, hopefully, Damon Hill and Mark Blundell getting their chance to follow in Mansell’s footsteps as future British F1 champions.

Having watched a substantial amount of Indycar racing via satellite TV, I wonder how Mansell will adapt to giving interviews the moment he steps out of the car, win or lose? Even after bitter disappointment, the leading Indycar racers show their class, and are prepared to spare a few seconds politely explaining what has happened for the benefit of the TV viewer. Nigel will have a lot more to learn than the different driving technique demanded by high-speed ovals.
Don Keyfield, Hale, Cheshire.

Stars on P45?

Sir,
In his report of the Italian GP, DJT wrote: “At Monza we saw what deserves to be remembered as one of the best sporting gestures in F1. “Sporting gesture, my eye! If Mansell was going to give Patrese the race he should have kept quiet about it. To this day I don’t expect Stirling Moss knows if Fangio ‘gave’ him the 1955 British Grand Prix, and that was 37 years ago. That’s what I call a sporting gesture.

Why don’t we get rid of the current batch of front-runners, with Prost and Senna following Mansell’s lead? They wouldn’t really be missed, would they? Into their place would come a new bunch of racers, and within a couple of Grands Prix they’d be going as fast as their forebears. It would also be a good way for Frank Williams and Ron Dennis to bypass the big wage we keep reading about. When a star gets greedy, kick him out and break in a new one…
John Olliver, Ashford, Kent.

Collectors’ corner

Sir,
I have been a regular reader of Motor Sport for over 40 years, but now I find I must dispose of my collection of motoring books due to lack of space.

Among these I have three bound volumes of Motor Sport, numbers 25, 26 and 27 (1949, 1950 and 1951). I was wondering if any readers would be interested in them?

Finally, I would like to congratulate you for producing such an excellent magazine. I find it most enjoyable.
C E Paine, Olney, Bucks.
Letters will be forwarded – DJT.

Taxing question

Going through papers of my late father-in-law, I came across the depicted tax disc.

A man with a fund of stories and recollections told me that the car, a ‘Soryana Pedrosa’, was bought by one of his four brothers from a gentleman in the ‘20s and used by them until being left to rot in a farmyard. The last bit of it I remember was a front wing, used as a makeshift rainwater pipe, but even that has gone now.

Perhaps someone could shed some light on this make. Being 55, and a reader only since the war years, my knowledge of the older makes is sadly lacking.
Terry Weaver, Bembridge, Isle of Wight.

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