Letters from readers, November 2003

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Champagne moment in time

Sir,

I have been fortunate enough to visit Goodwood and Reims recently, and I am sure that I’m not the only person to have been struck by the contrasting fortunes of these famous tracks.

The buildings at Reims have deteriorated slightly since Andrew Frankel’s visit for Motor Sport in 1998, but are still essentially sound. The Shell sign atop the large grandstand has collapsed, the Total signs on the pits have disappeared and much of the area in front of the stands is overgrown — but otherwise things seem much the same.

There’s much enthusiasm for historic racing in France — Pau and Angouleme spring to mind — and I find it hard to believe that the same passion for the sport’s history cannot be regenerated in the Champagne region. It would be fantastic to restore these buildings and bring the place back to life. There is an ongoing debate about the fate of the buildings, and one option is their demolition to make way for houses. Time is running out.

The famous corners of the circuit, like Thillois, have the inevitable modern junction improvements, and the N31 is a dual-carriageway, but it would still be physically possible to occasionally use these roads for motorsport. Are there others interested in exploring these possibilities?

I am, yours etc,
Paul Leek, Benenden, Kent

A Reims Revival, now you’re talking. Can we get the Mayor of Reims over to Goodwood? — Ed.

* * *

Star letter
Leaving few loopholes

Sir,

The late Tony Rudd came to see me many years ago when I was at the Ministry of Transport to discuss legislation on occupant safety related to the GRP construction of the second-generation Lotus Elite.

Business over, we adjourned to the local pub for an interesting lunch where I teased out many interesting tales of his earlier days. One I recall involved him flying an RAF Canberra; he got a red flare from the control tower — meaning ‘don’t land’. One wheel had not come down and, even worse, he couldn’t get the other one back up. Flying around to use up fuel he did an outside loop to get the wheel back in its well. Having accomplished this he bellyflopped gently onto the wet grass, consequently arriving at the edge of the airfield still possessed of considerable velocity. He sailed through a hedge and across a busy road. He still chuckled at the memory of that bus driver’s face!

Subsequently, having discovered a mutual interest in Norfolk Broads sailing, he sent me several pages of handwritten foolscap detailing all his favourite stretches of water and their pubs and restaurants. This information stood me in good stead for many years.

Truly, a character and a gentleman.

I am, yours etc,
Keith Martin, Milton Keynes

* * *

Visiting hours

Sir,

It’s good to know that Motor Sport is still around and still cares. Your September article on the great Denny Hulme was terrific.

I don’t quite remember where or when I met Denny and, truth be told, I didn’t know him all that well. And yet…

I was banged up bad in 1973 because of an accident I’d suffered during the saloon support race at the British Grand Prix. I was rushed to Northampton General hospital, but I wasn’t rushed out — I was looking at a long stay.

A few weeks later, at around midday, Denny strolls into the ward. “Hi Brode,” he said. I was amazed to see him standing there.

I asked him if he had been testing at Silverstone. He hadn’t. He said that he had a free day and he thought he’d come and see me. Denny lived in Surrey! That’s a long ride.

We spent a fantastic two hours talking about racing. He told me of the accident in qualifying at Indianapolis that your article referred to, of how the drugs he was given while he was recovering from his burned hands caused him to hallucinate: huge spiders and all kinds of creatures were at the end of his bed! He said it was terrifying.

When he got out and went testing, one finger kept bleeding. That was how the doctors discovered that the bone was sticking out!

Denny went through all that suffering because he knew how badly the McLaren team was hurting after the death of Bruce. Now that’s a man we should never forget.

I am, yours etc,
Dave Brodie, via e-mail

* * *

Banking on the net

Sir,

With reference to WB’s item on the Montlhery petition there is an easier way to register, for those with intemet access. All you have to do is log on to www.motorlegend.com/montlhery and fill in a few details.

I can well recall howling around the banking in the Dulon Porsche just inches behind David Piper’s 4.5-litre V12 Ferrari — the sound was certainly impressive from where I was sitting! So let’s do what we can to save Montlhery and ensure that others may enjoy such experiences for many years to come.

I am, yours etc,
Keith Martin, Milton Keynes

* * *

Ronnie revelling

Sir,

I marshalled at Woodcote during the 1973 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and I recall us driving home after practice still shaking our heads in awe at Ronnie Peterson’s attack.

It had been a very sunny afternoon and ‘Super Swede’ seemed otherworldly as his Lotus 72 floated through in a perfect drift at, I would guess, 150mph. And, as the next day would prove, there was no run-off comfort zone should you get it wrong.

Race-day was remarkable for a few reasons. Firstly that Scheckter-induced pile-up on lap one, in which, amazingly, only Andrea de Adamich was injured — I think John Surtees felt more badly hurt! (I gave Scheckter’s rear wing back to McLaren’s Phil Kerr). Secondly, you could usually depend on the Formula Three boys to provide the shunts at a big meeting, but on this day they were the only guys to keep their noses clean. The saloons were blighted by a dreadful accident between the Daves, Matthews and Brodie. Even the historics did something wrong!

I do not have photos from that day, but I have some wonderful pitlane photos of early 1980s GPs.

I am, yours etc,
Stephen Archer, Great Missenden, Bucks

The search for photographs of Ronnie sliding his JPS through Woodcote continues. So, a year’s free subscription goes to the first person to provide us with one — Ed.

* * *

Driven spare

Sir,

I was pleased to read Paul Fearnley’s article on Classic Formula Ford in October’s issue. I was also delighted to see how highly he rated the Crossle 25F.

He mentioned that Merlyn spares are still available; I should like to point out that the Crossle Car Co can offer a full range of spares, too, for virtually all of our Formula Ford, Formula Two and sportscar designs. These are still manufactured in the original factory from the original jigs.

This class of racing really does offer tremendous value for money.

I am, yours etc,
Arnie Black, Crossle Car Company Ltd, Belfast

* * *

Gauging Goodwood

Sir,

Last month you published an interesting editorial regarding the Goodwood Revival meeting. Yours was a question that needed asking…

My tweed jacket, flat ‘at, elderly tie and I made the long trip from New Zealand to Goodwood in 2001 and ’02. Both trips were absolute magic, and I’m hoping to get back there again before too long.

I agree about the need to keep the programme fresh. But I don’t think that pre-WWII fields or Edwardians are the answer. Surely that would defeat the purpose of the superb job Lord March’s team has done in recreating the look and feel of a certain period of time.

The off-circuit atmosphere of both years was just wonderful, and is an inseparable part of the attraction, but it does need careful thought each time to avoid it seeming too circus-like.

I have some suggestions. Firstly, I love motorcycles, but why do they get two races? Could one be for period sidecars, or different capacity classes? Or why not have two saloon races divided up by engine size or date? And perhaps two Formula Junior races for different periods. Also, the mix of drivers is great, but could more ‘names’ from the 1970s and ’80s be persuaded to take part?

In the end, it’s a weekend worth travelling around the world for, and I don’t think its formula needs much done to it.

I am, yours etc,
Mark Holman, Wellington, New Zealand

* * *

Fringe activities

Sir,

Thank you for the interesting article by Gordon Cruickshank on the brief life of the Scirocco team in the October issue. All too often fringe marques are overlooked and their backgrounds never revealed.

I would, however, like to raise a couple of queries on the subject. Firstly, Tony Settember has always been referred to as Hugh Powell’s ‘guardian’. Is there any truth in this?

Also, the chassis of the Scirocco was said to have been based on the Emeryson Mk2 reworked by Hugh Aiden-Jones. Does this answer the outstanding question as to who designed it?

Finally, how revealing it is to compare the attitude of the Scirocco with Dan Gurney’s Brabham in the photo taken at the British GP (page 80). The Brabham is cornering flat and low; the Scirocco is up on its front suspension and looking a real handful.

I am, yours etc,
Mark Whitelock, Wadhurst, East Sussex

* * *

Then as now

Sir,

Your recent comparison of Goodwood lap times then and now made fascinating reading. But what it did not mention was the pace drivers used to maintain throughout long races.

In the 1963 TT, Graham Hill and Mike Parkes finished just 0.4sec apart in their GTOs after 130 laps of driving solo. Their average lap time, including incidents and pitstops, was 1min 30.8sec! Graham put his Ferrari on pole with a 1min 27sec.

I do not recall Pirro or Tambay beating that in the 2002 TT Celebration race, despite driving a considerably developed lightweight E-type and AC Cobra respectively.

I am, yours etc,
Doug Ellis, Horley, Surrey

In 2002, the average lap time for the winning Cobra of Tambay and Henri Pescarolo, induding a pitstop, was 1min 32sec — over 40 laps. Tambay’s fastest lap was 1min 28.716sec; his pole was 1min 28.023sec — Ed.

* * *

Thank you and goodbye

Sir,

After reading your Matters of Moment story in the August issue, my first reaction to Mercedes’ plans for Brooklands was one of disappointment at the very simple design of its proposed test track: it reminded me of a Scalextric layout.

Surely it would be possible to add some more challenging stretches in the manner of Indianapolis and Rockingham. It is to be hoped that Mercedes will seek advice from appropriate quarters once the outline approval has been given.

One other matter: from where do your correspondents get the unwieldy and unbelievably pompous ending that appears on their letters? This is 2003, you know!

Nicholas Milton, Wellington, Somerset

They get it from us. But you’re right — no more. As you can see — Ed.

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