In the hot seat

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Le Mans was just another race to Roy Salvadori. Blessed with the fastest name this side of the Channel, this true Brit loves Goodwood, but says that Ferrari is in his blood

Were you using the same settings as John Surtees in the Yeoman Credit Coopers during 1961?

Eric Perrin, Geneva, Switzerland

I wanted to stay on the factory settings. John had a lightweight car and played about with his, but I can’t remember if it was better or worse. We weren’t as quick as the works cars, but they had the great advantage of having Jack Brabham; he knew them so well. In those days there wasn’t too much you could do with the car, apart from the obvious things like tyre pressures. We were running on Dunlops and the engines were all dealt with by Coventry Climax. It was down to the drivers.

Did you actually say “Give me Goodwood on a summer’s day and you can keep the rest”?

Ross Ainscow, Anglesey

Definitely me, but the last bit has been cut off: “You can keep the rest of the world”. It was my favourite circuit, first of all because it was only 40 minutes from Esher and Kingston where I lived and worked. You had better weather there. You were in a good mood all the time. Silverstone was never as pleasant; the circuit was always dull. When I made a comparison with any circuit, Goodwood always came up trumps. You see what it is today with the Revival, which is amazing.

Do you consider your Le Mans win as your greatest motorsporting achievement?

Ian Cowieson. Edinburgh

No. I never liked Le Mans particularly. It was lovely being there for a week; it was a holiday. But I can’t say much for the race: damn dangerous, long and tiring. You’ve got to be a bit of a nutter to like it. But it had tremendous prestige. Carroll Shelby told me that winning at Le Mans helped him enormously in America, but nothing much changed for me.

My best drive was at Monza 1963, in the three-hour GT race before the grand prix. I beat the GTOs for the first time with the Aston Project car, my last race for the works.

Le Mans was just another race.

People label you as an ‘airfield track’ driver. Is that fair?

K Moore, Bedford

Yes and no. I couldn’t have been so bad because I seemed to do very well at Le Mans, Crystal Palace, Oulton Park, Aintree, Monza, and Brands Hatch. But if you asked me if I preferred to race at an aerodrome track or Pescara, there is no question — you couldn’t pay me enough to go to Pescara again. Or Dundrod. But then again I thought Spa and the Nürburgring were marvellous.

If BRM had built the V12 in 1966 might Cooper have ditched Maserati before 1968?

Nigel Urwin, London

Difficult question. Mario Tozzi-Condivi had an extraordinarily good deal with Maserati: we borrowed the engines and they maintained them; the BRMs were quite expensive. At that stage they had said they were going to build an engine, but we knew it was quite a long way off.

How bad were your hand and face burns from the Aston Martin Goodwood refuelling fire of 1959?

Michael Cox, Evesham

Much worse than I thought at the time. They flared up the next day. I went to my local hospital and they treated them very gently and very well. They had a new form of bandage that didn’t stick to the skin, so they wound me up like the invisible man. It looked like I was going to be okay for Monza in the F1 Aston a fortnight later. But just before that I visited a clinic in Switzerland. They ripped the bandages off — they couldn’t have been rougher — the burns started to fester and I was in big trouble at Monza; it does not help when you get brake dust in the wounds. But you just got on with it then. It was an inconvenience.

How did managing Cooper compare to being a driver?

Alan Davidson, Dundee

Not for me, being a team manager; you get all the aggravation from drivers, and all the worry. I didn’t mind making decisions for myself, but when you do it for other people it is a different thing. For example, at Spa, when the cars were flying off the circuit because it was flooded — should we pull in the cars? I didn’t want that responsibility. And in Mexico, the last GP, we had the Cooper-Maseratis in a good position. But Jo Siffert in a private Rob Walker version suffered a steering breakage. Then Jochen Rindt had trouble with his steering. And we had our last car, John Surtees’s, in the lead. We knew that if we pulled John in he wouldn’t like it one bit. What do you do? Not the sort of job I’d want for any length of time.

Do you think having a ‘fast-sounding’ name was a bonus?

Alex Goodchild, Hampton Wick

I think on balance it was. I used to get extremely good starting money, mainly in England. Mind you, I’m as much of a Brit as anyone. My mother, whose maiden name was Ferrari, came from Tuscany. But I was born and schooled in England.

How did you rate Aston Martin’s Project cars?

Alan Collier, Aylesbury

Very quick. Heavy to drive, with no power assistance to the brakes — but I loved that because I hated the system on the Jaguar C-type. It was a luxury to compete in a lightweight E-type or GTO — even a Cobra was lighter to drive. But the Aston had the edge on road-holding, and also had wonderful brakes. A good race car — but not the easiest.

Seven retirements and one DNS: just how bad was your ’62 F1 season?

Dave George, Westchester, USA

By that time I was thinking about getting out of F1. I wanted more time with my businesses. But Reg [Parnell at Yeoman Credit] said I should do another year and offered me a deal with the Lola, which was new. John Surtees did all the testing; there was a shortage of engines and Coventry Climax could not maintain them — we weren’t a works team, remember—and they needed rebuilding for each GP. The arrangement was that I would have the last race engine from John, so it was not in the best condition; it had already lost its edge. But I am not complaining, I knew the deal from the start. And John was certainly driving faster than me at the time. I got paid adequately and I have no beef at all about it.

Why did you fail to qualify the BRM P25 for the1957 Monaco GP?

Richard Holmes, Wheathampsted

There was trouble with the brakes, even before I arrived. My deal with BRM was on the understanding that Lockheed would be responsible for the brakes, but the team had a terrible reputation for modifying things. The only two occasions I drove for them was at Goodwood and Monte Carlo. On both occasions the brakes jammed on. After Goodwood they said it was sorted, so at Monaco I thought the engine had seized — but it was the brakes again. I thought, ‘I’ve had enough.’ I paid them back some money, which I shouldn’t have done I suppose, and bought myself out of the contract. The real hero for my money was Ron Flockhart. He put up with a lot.

How come you never drove for an overseas team?

John Blundell, London

I did. Carroll Shelby and I drove for Maserati at Sebring. It was a disaster. I can’t tell you how disorganised it was. They got the regulations mixed up and called us in after 18 laps when it was clearly stated you couldn’t refuel until after 20. The better deals were in England, although I did drive for Briggs Cunningham a couple of times and that worked out very well.

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