Letters from readers, November 2000

Franco Lombardi writes


May I please correct the errors of fact and impression in the Matters of Moment piece about me in your September issue.

1. I am not lying in an Italian jail as your piece suggests. The sentence was imposed after only a short summary procedure, and is effectively in suspense pending the full hearing of the case on appeal. I have every confidence that the higher court will reverse the sentence when the full facts are heard.

2. The court which heard this case could not and did not pass any judgement on whether either of Mr Favero’s cars was genuine. However, you should know that the President of the Italian Automobile Historic Federation declared to the Secretary of FIVA, by a letter dated 20 April 1994 and which has never been revoked, that Mr Favero’s 375 Plus machine must be considered false and that no FIVA passport should be issued for it.

3. Under Italian law (and I would have hoped among all fair-minded people), I am entitled to the presumption of innocence, meaning that I should not be considered or described as guilty of an offence before a final verdict. The motoring magazines in Italy have understood this, and if you had contacted me or researched your piece more thoroughly, I am confident that you also would have respected this important presumption.

I am yours, etc, Franco Lombardi, Genova, Italy

FIVA’S Technical chief writes


FIVA cannot leave unanswered the article under the headline `FIVA Representative Jailed for Extortion’ (October issue). The information published is incorrect in certain aspects: Professor Franco Lombardi is not, and has never been, a FIVA representative responsible for authenticating car identities. In 1993, Professor Lombardi (then Vice President of the Italian Ferrari Club) was entrusted by ASI, the Italian historic vehicle body, to investigate the authenticity of a particular car stated to be Ferrari 375 Plus, the 0386 AM. Agreement was reached that such investigation be carried out in addition, on behalf of FIVA.

His investigations were contained in a documented report that was approved by ASI, and subsequendy by FIVA, as a result of which the car was recognised as being a modem copy incorporating some original parts obtained from various sources, built up around a chassis of recent construction.

The Italian court did not rule on the authenticity of that car (or others), as this was not the purpose of the trial.

I am yours, etc, Derek Drummond Bonzom, Chairman, FIVA, Technical Commision

Laps of concentration


Your ‘Magic of Indianapolis’ words and pictures (October issue) carried me back to the 1966 Indy 500. I was 14 and a rabid Jim Clark fan — an anomaly for a Chicago boy. My dad taught me the excitement of Formula One and took me to Indy in ’64 when they had the big MacDonald/ Sachs fireball (I can still feel the heat) and Clark’s suspension broke when he was leading. I saw Clark win in ’65 and so ’66 was my third race. We sat over Turn One and, as any good fan, I had my scorecard to keep track of the race, and earnestly recorded the leaders’ progress over 200 laps. How better for a boy to follow his hero?

As is well recorded, Clark had handling problems with the STP Lotus 38 and spun several times. He was still leading by lap 160, however, and looked to be on his way to a repeat drink of Hoosier milk.

If you look it up, you will find that Clark’s teammate that year was George Snider in an identical STP Lotus, except only Clark’s had white-wall tyres on the inside track. I think Snider’s number was 39; Clark’s was 19. In those days, each car in the 500 had a USAC steward assigned to record its progress. They sat/stood in the control tower in the centre of pitlane and ticked off the laps.

On lap 168, I think — I wish I still had that scorecard! — an STP Lotus crashed at Turn Four The track announcer boomed, “And it’s Jimmy Clark into the wall!” From my seat at Turn One, I put my binoculars on Turn Four and saw an STPred Lotus sliding to a halt; but seconds later, Clark’s white-walled 19 appeared. I kept recording the laps and was as astonished as Team Lotus to find Victory Lane occupied by Graham Hill.

What happened? I am convinced that, when Snider hit the wall, the steward tracking Clark, upon hearing the PA announcement, and knowing Jimmy had already spun several times, momentarily looked away thinking his working day was over. Clark, meanwhile, slipped past and, before the steward realised, that lap was missed!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I am yours, etc, George Del Canto, Walton-On-Thames, Surrey

Not the percentage game


I wonder if I am alone in thinking that Joe Scalzo’s splendid story (Stars and Gripes, October issue) sat uncomfortably with Adam Cooper’s article about Jochen Rindt’s last days?

Joe’s writing is always colourful and he is clearly correct in saying that the US constructors unleashed experimental cars whose handling miseries were almost beyond comparison. Correct but incomplete, I suggest, because Colin Chapman also returned with the Lotus 56, in which Mike Spence died, and the Lotus 64, whose imperfect build proved nearly fatal to Andretti. The flaws in the Lotus 72 were similar.

The simple fact is that the period Joe describes was one of the most innovative of the past 50 years and it seems most designers were on the boundary where their design aims exceeded their technical knowledge and capability.

Today’s racing cars are thankfully much safer, but somewhere along the way we’ve lost the adventurousness. Nowadays we read press releases in which a one per cent design change is deemed to be ‘radical’.

I am yours, etc, Wyn Edwards, Quedgeley, Gloucs

Dundrod’s founding Fathers


I read with some interest Paul Fearnley’s Track Test of Dundrod (October issue). The article brought back many memories of the era of motorsport in which I grew up in Northern Ireland. However, in the interests of accuracy one other name should be added to the list of “movers and shakers” who made it all happen. JW Haughton was the Chairman of the Ulster Automobile Club and an influential figure in the business community during that period. PB (Pat) Webb was the Chairman of the Antrim County Council who had the political ambition for the Dundrod project that helped it through local government channels. The missing name is that of my father, Gordon Neill, who was the Honorary

Secretary of the Ulster Automobile Club at that time and the Clerk of the Course for all the motor car races that took place on the Dundrod circuit. He was the man who supplied the sporting influence, had control over the whole project, and made it happen.

He was the man who also had to take the flak when it all went wrong!

I am sure that all those who worked with my father during that exciting period of motorsport in Northern Ireland would acknowledge that his name should be mentioned in any article on the Dundrod racing circuit.

I am yours, etc, Malcolm Neill, Reading, Berks