Letters, November 2007

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Project additions

Sir,

As an elderly ‘anorak’ whose specialist subject is ‘Aston Martin Racing 1962 to 1964’, I would like to comment on Andrew Frankel’s feature about Project cars. The factory only ever entered Project 212 once, and as we all still remember how it led the opening laps of the 1962 Le Mans it clearly achieved its aim. Shortly after it was the subject of aerodynamic experiments in the MIRA windtunnel which benefited the 214 and 215 cars of 1963. Project 212 was ineligible for the 1962 TT, as was 215 for the 1963 TT. In that race Innes Ireland raced 214 in less than ideal specification!

Andrew missed (as I did) the three-car factory entry in the 1963 Guards Trophy race at Brands Hatch on August Bank Holiday Monday. At a late stage Project 215 was withdrawn, as racing it in the UK would make purchase tax payable.In the 1½-hour race Innes Ireland’s 214 came sixth, and second in class; Bill Kimberley’s 214 spun out.

By 1964 all the Project Astons except 215 were sold to private teams, and the Dawnay Racing Team had to enter Project 212 for the Nürburgring 1000Km as their 214 was at home being prepared for Le Mans. As soon as Brian Hetreed was killed in practice the 212 was withdrawn and the remains of the Hetreed 214 cut up, on the orders of his widow.

Brian Joscelyne, Aston Martin Heritage Trust, Essex

Guest of honour

Sir,

The Dennis Carter Guest Column in October must rank as one of the most accurate and perceptive articles ever to be published in any motoring magazine. It is such articles that ensure my subscription renewal to your excellent publication. More of the same, please.

Peter Dring, Codnor, Ripley, Derbyshire

Monkey see, monkey do

Sir,

As a marshal of some 24 years experience I agree with much of what Dennis Carter has said. I do, however, disagree with his conclusion that young drivers are influenced only by what they see on television in Formula 1 races.

I think that they are far more likely to be copying the televised antics in the British Touring Car Championship and its supporting races. If the club is concerned about driving standards it needs to insist on far heavier penalties – say one-, two- or three-race bans – for the more blatant incidents. 

He also states there are “hundreds of marshals and observers at every race”. If only this were so – these days most race meetings do not have the number of marshals needed to effectively police driving standards as well as to ensure safety.

I recently marshalled at the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting where an unprecedented number of damaged cars resulted in 98 recoveries over the three days. It would appear that driving standards in historic meetings are also being eroded.

Bill Turnbull, Gnosall, Stafford

Contra Carter

Sir, 

I find Mr Carter’s comments about driving standards rather strange. First he blames society and then Formula 1, when I think this stems from the reduction in the age at which drivers can now compete. They are coming straight out of karting, where ‘firing people off’ is an accepted form of taking a place – a method, I might add, reinforced as acceptable by Touring Cars, and by the very high cost of competing, which means these young drivers are totally disconnected from the funding.

But, hang on – you could turn this all around and say, being a good driver means staying out of trouble and getting those points. So in such a tough environment today’s championship winners must be very well qualified to move up the ladder! 

Simon Sabel, Orpington, Kent

Herbert a hero

Sir,

Many thanks for featuring Herbert Linge in your August  issue. His accomplishments have been many during a storied career with Porsche AG, a company now totally out of touch with its history and the individuals who helped create the iconic brand. Mr Linge did it all; talented mechanic cum public relations man, superb test driver and factory racer, creator of the race track safety car and Weissach visionary.

I have a copy of his biography, Herbert Linge: Pionier in Pole-Position by Frank Wiesner which, as you say, is only available in German. It is chock-full of many previously unpublished photos and the author tells me that he has enough ‘stories’ for two more books!

Efforts to get the book translated have not been successful, which presents an opportunity for Porsche AG to shine a light on its glorious past by bringing the life work of its first employee to all Porsche enthusiasts.

R Paul Harrison, Ontario, Canada

Purley memories

Sir,

Thank you for remembering David Purley. I was at Zandvoort in 1973 so had cause to admire the guy from Bognor. On that fateful day in July 1977 I was a marshal, standing a little way on from Becketts. As it was the first day of practice there were not many marshals about, so I was all alone. It was a beautiful afternoon – blue sky, flask of tea, birds singing and very relaxed with the ‘pre-qualifiers’ blasting past every now and then. I had become fascinated by a couple of courting wagtails in front of me, when one of them strayed into the path of an ATS and was killed instantly; its partner carried on flying in circles, twittering madly and clearly in distress. I hardly had time to reflect on this small tragedy when ‘Pearls’ went straight on at what seemed undiminished speed, through four layers of catch fencing and into the bank.

For a split second I couldn’t understand what had happened as the car seemed to have disappeared – almost as though David had gone straight through the sleeper wall! I ran to the accident and found David under all this fencing and clearly in a very bad way. I struggled to believe that he could still be alive given the impact and the tiny space he was sitting in. As a fire marshal I backed off and allowed the emergency services guys room to work. I remember him worrying about whether the car would be ready for the race – and talking to everyone despite what must have been horrendous pain.

Once he was in the ambulance and away I remember slumping dejectedly on the bank  pondering the unfairness of it. David Purley – a true hero, a George Medal winner – why should it happen to him? Can he possibly survive those dreadful injuries? Happily, survive he did and he later came to a marshals club dinner and talked about the accident and other scrapes he had got into. It was no surprise how he finally died; I guess he was never going to be satisfied selling refrigerators! Perhaps you could throw caution to the winds and print a few of more of Mike Earle’s recollections of Brave Dave? 

Good to see Ronnie’s name kept alive, too. That ’78 pole lap from a vantage point at Westfield: Ronnie approaching like a low-flying jet aircraft – all heat haze and blurred – not in touch with the ground – visibly faster than the others – he can’t possibly get round… We all hold our breath and step back, expecting carnage – and then he’s gone, unbelievably still on the road… 

Ian Jackson, Hayling Island, Hampshire

Hamilton hype hater 

Sir,

I am, I’m afraid, falling out of love with Formula 1. I stuck with it through the technical scandals, the hideous past qualifying formats, the – apparent – lack of on-track action, I gritted my teeth to watch the outrageous 2005 Indianapolis GP, and even tried to defend it. However, the camel’s back is now broken – and the straw comes in the form of gappy grinning cheeky-chappy Lewis Hamilton.

It isn’t Hamilton himself that brings problems. He is, of course, hugely talented, gracious in his winning and a credit to British sport, etc, etc. The problem is with the British press and TV.

The main offender is ITV which, before the season had begun, dubbed him a superstar by doing a TV special on his really rather short career. This made no sense to me; he might have been rubbish in F1 for all they knew back then. I still maintain, however, that Anthony Davidson is better considering he is in the worst car and still fetching decent results.

It seems now that a race won’t go by without the public being reminded by Mark Blundell about what a brilliant race “wot was won by ’amilton”. Also, how come we always end up being asked his dad’s view on everything? Why can’t we hear from Felipe Massa’s dad for a change? Why has Fernando Alonso’s mum not discussed tyre strategy with us yet? And why won’t Kimi Räikkönen’s gran come on air for a short explanation of why he can’t open his mouth properly? 

I think this year ITV must have spent more airtime on Lewis Hamilton than they ever did on Michael Schumacher. They might as well call the pre-race programme ‘The Lewis Hamilton Show’. I must admit, however, that it isn’t just ITV that has packed the schedule with Hamilton fever. Not only is he now in countless adverts, but he was also letting the satellite viewers of the country know what music he likes.

Of course, this could be normal when a decent British racing driver comes along. Having been only two at the height of Mansell-mania, I am a little ill-prepared for such things. 

Maybe I should just ride it out and see. You never know, perhaps James Allen will one day get bored of screaming “Hamilton wiiiiiiiins!” Well, one can hope. I suppose I could always start following historic racing. It always seems more interesting to watch, and at least in that most people will be happy even if an American wins in a Ferrari!

Alex Michaelides, Bromley, Kent 

Programme produced 

Sir,

Further to the recent correspondence regarding the 1972 post-British Grand Prix cricket match between Lord  Brabourne’s XI and Grand Prix Drivers XI (although I think they were ranamed ‘XV’ on the day) I have attached a scan of the programme cover which I hope will be of interest.

As a teenager at the time, I also persuaded my Dad to take me to see the 1970 and 1974 matches and have attached scans of the programmes from those games too.

Graham Lee, London E18

Youth of today speaks 

Sir,

Contrary to Martin Moore’s letter (September), I left the Chaparral pit at the Goodwood Festival of Speed feeling slightly disenchanted. Agreed, I had not the fortune to meet Mr Jim Hall but the gentleman I spoke to on the Friday seemed uninterested in talking to a spikey-haired youth that afternoon. 

I am not the archetypal historic motorsport fan, I admit. I am only 19 years old and probably look even younger. But I have a passion for motorsport, and especially historic racing. To begin a conversation about my fascination with the white cars, only to be shrugged off and told to ‘pop over to Texas’ and visit the Chaparral museum was a little disappointing.

However, the purpose of this letter is not to complain about the man at Goodwood. I’m sure he was very busy. My point is that I think young people should become more involved with historic racing, and for this to happen a little encouragement would not go amiss. I understand there are many conceptions surrounding today’s vulgar youth culture but I must not be the only person who doesn’t care about Citroën Saxos and would rather plan a long weekend at the Nürburgring Nordschleife than on Ibiza.

The future of motor racing looks decidedly bleak; eco-friendly prototypes and production racers based on the clone-platform road cars don’t promise much excitement. The tracks are uninspiring and show no sign of becoming any better – take the recent Valencia F1 proposal, for example. While it is true that one cannot live in the past, is this really what we want the next few generations growing up thinking what motorsport is about?

If younger people take no interest in historic racing, once the current 40-plus generation has given way to mine, then it may well fade away for good. It is all very well to have manufacturers encouraging the ‘engineers of tomorrow’ – I am myself a motorsport engineering student. But it may well be worth considering who will engineer the cars of yesterday, too. And who will turn up to watch them race – if anyone cares enough to drive them.

It won’t be too long before you hear someone ask what a carburettor is.

Gary Skipp, Solihull

Alastair called ill

Sir,

While enjoying the October 2007 issue and reflecting upon yet another superb set of articles, I was suddenly horrified by the comments of Alastair Caldwell on James Hunt’s performance in the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix. In one short piece he had called Hunt a “stupid bastard,” an “idiot” and a “fool”.

James was far from perfect, but he was the World Champion that year after claiming pole position and leading almost all of the race in commanding style in extremely difficult conditions. The fact is he tried to make his tyres last as long as possible but had to make a late pit stop. Having resumed in eighth place, he fought back and took the third place he needed for the title with only a few laps to spare.

A few years ago I saw a television programme about the life of James Hunt in which Alastair Caldwell made other derogatory remarks; he clearly nurtures an ongoing dislike of James and uses every opportunity to put the boot in. I find his comments to be particularly offensive; especially when the recipient is no longer here to defend himself. I would strongly suggest that he keeps his bitter and twisted opinions to himself.

Gary Spaven, Cottingham, East Yorkshire

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