Letters, November 2006

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Can-Am and tin tops

Sir,

Your September issue of Motor Sport is, yet again, so full of evocative subjects. I refer in particular to the 40 years of Can-Am, a class of machinery that we will never ever see again in serious competition, certainly in the unlimited format applied to the rules of that time.

I never saw Can-Am, but as a spectator at Silverstone on numerous occasions when Europe’s Interserie championship series visited the circuit, well remember the aura that surrounded such machinery.

The memory of Kauhsen and Kinnunen on one occasion, having a mighty battle for the lead and banging wheels at high speed in the Porsche 917/10TC, is something never to forget.

And then the Cologne Rangers. I recall the 1973 Silverstone ETC round (Tourist Trophy), at which the sight of those Capris coming through Woodcote, wheels waving as depicted in the picture, just sent one into raptures.

If I remember correctly, on that day both the Capris and the BMWs for once put Frank Gardener on the back foot as his 7-litre Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was shredding its tyres in his attempt to keep pace with those machines. This has got to be what motorsport is all about…

Arthur McColl, Somerset

McQueen correction

Sir,

Re Busman’s Holiday (October Motor Sport), Steve McQueen was in the UK during 1961 making a film called The War Lover in which he played a Flying Fortress pilot. His co-star was the English actress Shirley Ann Field. It was not until 1963 that The Great Escape was made.

Brian Morland, Luton

Whizzo saves drowned rat

Sir,

What a pleasure to read the interview with Barrie Williams in your October issue. I enjoyed Barrie’s conversation 34 years ago when I was a penniless student, hitch-hiking from Preston to London to meet my girlfriend. I had reached the Coventry exit on the M6 and it was pouring with rain and freezing cold.

Mr Williams pulled up in a BMW CSL and asked where I wanted to go. Warmth poured from the new car and when I told him I was trying to get to London, he replied that he was ‘going up to town, too.’ Barrie told me that the car behind was being driven by his girlfriend and therefore he couldn’t ‘cane it’. I, of course, was perfectly happy in the dry, warm splendour of this car. Far from being aloof, haughty or in possession of any airs or graces, he proceeded to engage me in a conversation which has stayed with me to this day. We spoke of his racing with Mazda, his experience of testing behind a Porsche 917 at Silverstone which achieved wheelspin at 120mph while pulling away from him on the straight. I owned an NSU Quickly moped at the time and dreamed of these cars. I had never even had the money to attend a motor race; I was enthralled. All of these anecdotes were told with a laugh which Simon Taylor’s interview confirms has, thankfully, remained with him.

I wonder how many current racing drivers would stop and pick up a drowned rat on the M6, and entertain him with tales of ‘derring do’ that would stay with him until his 50th year? Thank you Mr Williams.

Brian McHale, Milton Keynes

Peter really was perfect

Sir,

In the same week that Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, it was inconceivable that another of Australia’s heroes, Peter Brock, could be killed.

Brock was one of Australia’s favourite sportsmen and a household name like no other.

‘Brocky’ was probably responsible for my lifelong fascination with the sport. It is hard to describe the affection with which he was held. Everyone will have their own anecdotes but I’d like to toss in a few.

How often do you see a Formula 1 world champion elbowed out of the way so a child can get a touring car driver’s autograph? At least Alan Jones had the grace to look amused when asked to ‘Get outta the way, mate. I want Brocky’s autograph.’

Walking through the pits late in the evening at Lakeside, I saw ‘Peter Perfect’ sitting on a drum signing autographs for a circle of kids. He didn’t leave until every child’s programme was signed. …

Louis Thomas, Queensland