No more nicknames?
Nicknames seem to have become obsolescent in modern-era motor racing. Perhaps it was the wartime service background of so many past heroes which sparked the nickname habit. Physical traits had their sometimes logical, occasionally ironic, result in the cases of ‘Lofty’ England – towering well over six feet tall – ‘Curly’ Dryden – bald as a coot – or ‘Ciccio’ – more or less ‘Chubby’ – Ascari (below). Then there were the far more complicated and often completely apocryphal nicknames merely invented by the press hacks; Mike Hawthorn became ‘The Farnham Flyer’, Raymond Sommer ‘The Wild Boar of the Ardennes’ (eh?), Luigi Fagioli ‘The Abruzzi Robber’ – and more.
Years ago in Australia I was reduced to tears listening to the old-time Speedway racing memories of Kim Bonython – sometime racer-turned-promoter-turned radio personality-cum-gallery owner. Even in his late eighties/early nineties Kim remained razor-sharp with a fantastic recall of names, places and events. That grasp is something – unhappily – I sometimes lack, but among the gales of laughter and aching ribs I do recall a story he told involving one hapless Adelaide speedway star whose career had been punctuated by a most unfortunate accident. I can’t recall his proper name, but let’s say it was something like ‘Arthur Nolan’.
Kim recounted how he used to speak, terribly high-pitched and squeaky. Nothing was ever right for him – always demanding this and that. His fellow Aussie racers had deep personal sympathy for him, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been reflected in the nickname which they cheerfully invented. Oh no – they never left much to the imagination when addressing old Arthur ‘No Nuts’ Nolan…