Letters, November 2008

What would Jenks say?

Since I was old enough to stand I have been a Ferrari fan and never a fan of McLaren. While I am a tifoso, I feel that after the arrival of Schumacher, Brawn etc, the entire ethos of that team changed, to the detriment of Grand Prix racing and to motor sport in general. In contrast I like Ron Dennis’ candid approach and believe that fairness is at the heart of the team’s ethos. Furthermore, it is impossible to refute the fact that Lewis Hamilton’s approach to racing, and his speed, have reinvigorated the sport.
In Motor Sport’s report on the 1978 German GP, DSJ bemoaned the growing commercialism in motor racing and the fact that while James Hunt’s McLaren was disqualified for taking a short cut to the pits, the ATS of Jochen Mass, which did the same thing, was treated very differently. DSJ signed off his report with the words “if that was the ‘Max and Bernie Show’ I think I will stick to motor racing”.
The treatment of Hamilton by the stewards following the Belgian GP has left me feeling much the same, and one wonders quite what DSJ, Hawthorn or Nuvolari would have made of it. In many ways I am pleased they were not there to witness it. It was contrary to everything that sport should be about and, coming from a country which is the home of modern motor racing, I am appalled at the prospect of this sort of action being allowed to go unanswered.
I don’t believe motor sport can sink any lower. I’ll stick to the Goodwood Revival to watch ‘Fearless Frank’ et al indulge in some real racing.
Jonathan Layzell, Hinton Blewett, Bristol

Lewis for the title now

I write in disgust after hearing of Lewis Hamilton’s demotion to third place at Spa following what appeared to be a well-deserved victory. I have supported F1 for many years and have always believed it to be fair and unbiased against any one team, but I am starting to question whether all teams are equal or whether some (i.e. Ferrari) are more equal than others.
Hamilton’s punishment seems to be the latest in a series of severe penalties dished out to McLaren in comparison to the paltry slap on the wrist administered to Ferrari whenever it steps out of line. It was obvious that Räikkönen had no answer to Hamilton’s pace, skill and commitment in the closing stages in the wet at Spa, and in my opinion the rightful race winner has been denied his victory. Having never previously been a huge Hamilton or McLaren fan, I for one now wish him all the best for this season and hope he can go on to take the title.
A March, Nottingham

Nanny F1 in a state

My enthusiasm for Lewis Hamilton is extremely well controlled and as a Scot I have no desire to see an English F1 World Champion! Regardless, Hamilton’s drive at Spa was sublime. On the only F1 track which puts a premium on bravado, and in the most difficult racing conditions known to man, he coped superbly; his reward is punishment meted out by men whose pulse does not beat to the frequency of motor
We must remove Max, Bernie and co. What charges would Gilles and Arnoux face today? America, and its obsession with lawsuits, has created a nanny culture in our country. It appears we now have nanny F1. At Spa they glued, rather than nailed, the coffin of F1’s raison d’etre – racers going racing.
Gordon Mann, Perth, Tayside

No advantage to Hamilton

Hamilton’s penalty at Spa was grossly unjust.
He cut the chicane to avoid a collision with Räikkönen, and then allowed Kimi past on the next straight. Räikkönen subsequently crashed, meaning the pass did not affect the outcome of the race (a reason given for Ferrari not being penalised for misdemeanours in the recent past).
It was suggested that Hamilton maintained a greater momentum despite letting the Ferrari past. Without rewriting the laws of physics this cannot be the case. For the Ferrari to have passed the McLaren, Hamilton must have been moving slower, and this on a part of the circuit where the Ferrari will have been under acceleration. This is the blackest of days for the sport.
Stephen Mosley, Bognor Regis

A great scrap spoiled

I thoroughly enjoyed the race from Spa, and felt the (original) result reflected a just return for Hamilton, who overcame his early error to drive a superb race. He pressured Kimi at the right time and drove with great skill and determination. I felt their spat in the dying laps was exactly what we want to see – the two best drivers of the current crop battling it out in the two best chassis. Hamilton did cut the chicane, but only after having been given no option by Räikkönen; after which he duly slowed to allow him past again before challenging at La Source.
What a shame to hear subsequently that Hamilton had been penalised. I cannot see the justification for this. Mark Blundell seemed to think in his post race wind-up that Hamilton might be deemed to have gained more momentum from straight-lining the chicane and thus be at fault, but that doesn’t add up. The film clearly shows Hamilton alongside Räikkönen in the early part of the straight and then lifting so that he fell behind the Ferrari.
I thought how nice it was to see Ron Dennis once more on the podium to receive the constructors’ trophy. It seems, though, that the Woking team is still to be a victim of unfair treatment. Ross Brawn may say that any perceived favouritism toward Ferrari is not real, but Spa is just one in a long line of events that would suggest otherwise, and I am disgusted.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Fans will vote with their feet, and rightly so.
Sam Lever, Lillingstone Lovell, Bucks

Where was Ferrari penalty?

The two incidents involving Ferrari (the release of Felipe Massa in the Valencia pitlane and
the Hamilton/Räikkönen event at Spa) show favouritism towards the team. While Massa may not have been at fault, the crew released him into the path of a car. Therefore Ferrari should have had points deducted for causing a near-accident.
The Hamilton/Räikkönen incident was clear. Hamilton did not gain an advantage and let Räikkönen back ahead. Many people, including Jackie Stewart, said there was no case to answer.
Every time there is an incident involving McLaren, especially if Ferrari is also involved, McLaren come out as ‘the bad boys’. Could it be that a black British driver is not acceptable to
the FIA as a World Champion?
Mrs H C Trickett, Bradford on Avon, Wilts

Valencia nothing to Spa

Having been posted to Bovington Camp, Dorset in the early ’70s, and Germany later that decade and in the ’80s, I was fortunate to see some great drivers and exciting racing on some interesting tracks. Brands, Thruxton, the ’Ring, Hockenheim, Norisring, Spa, Nivelles, Le Mans, Osterreichring, Salzburgring, etc. That led to a lifetime of following F1 and some club racing in the US.
In August I visited Road America, where the American Le Mans Series ran along with Formula Atlantic and other support races. Road America is a great road course at four miles long. Two weeks later I watched the Valencia F1 farce. Another city track better suited to a parade than a race. It was incredible listening to the media talk up what a “grand” venue it was. Duh!
I then arose early to tune into my favourite race, Spa. Fantastic! Sure, the weather made a mess of things at the end but, as usual, what a great event. Thankfully Monza is another track where it is possible to pass without either taking both yourself and your adversary out.
Bernie, it’s the racing we F1 fans hope to see, not a charade. Don’t let Spa slip away again or you’ll risk starting down a slippery slope where droves of fans will flee your increasingly elitist events. More Valencias the sport does not need.
Colonel Colin McArthur, US Army (Ret), St Helena Island, South Carolina, USA

Moss first seen at Brough

Stirling Moss did not make his race debut at Goodwood – it was at Brough, Yorkshire, six weeks earlier. The short airfield circuit hosted motorcycles and 500cc cars. The latter attracted a similar field to Goodwood. Stirling won a heat and the 500cc final, and also a handicap.
Mike Lawrence, Chichester, Sussex

Berkshire Special treat

In his excellent column Doug Nye often has a surprise or two, and I was not disappointed by his September article on the ‘Berkshire Special’.
The car came to my notice in 1955 when the BBC ran a programme on the British hopes for that year’s F1 season. It was hosted by Raymond Baxter and, if memory serves me correctly, included models by BRM, Connaught, Cooper, HWM and the ‘Berkshire Special’. Since then I’ve been unable to unearth any details of its racing history and had assumed, rightly it now appears, that it was never raced in its original format.
Another car mentioned by Doug was the Rotorvic Lotus 23, and I was delighted to see it run at Goodwood. I first heard of it in 1965, but I had to wait 43 years to actually see and hear it. I was impressed by the workmanship of the engine – not to mention the sound!
Michael Stark, Bearstead, Maidstone, Kent

Singapore fling

Steve Slater’s article (October issue) reminded me of competing in the 1966 Singapore GP at the Thompson Road Circuit. The race was won by Lee Han Seng in a Lotus 22, from Rodney Seow in a Merlyn Mk7 and myself in the Lotus 20B
I had bought for £595 after a trip into the monsoon drains by its original owner left it ‘not quite square’. My progress was hindered when the gear lever snapped off. Luckily I knew Colin Chapman had used the steering-column gearshift lever off a Ford Zephyr, such as I used as a tow car. Trickling past the pits I hurled the offending part at the crew with orders to get the ‘spare’. After a lap stuck in gear they were ready to fit it.
The race favourite had been New South Wales Champion Greg Cusack in his Brabham, but a trip into the drains at Devils Bend deranged his gear linkage and he staggered in fourth. Steve mentioned the sandbag chicane to protect VIPs in the stand just down the road. This claimed the life of one driver early in the race.
Luckily the weather was overcast, though very humid, for these races usually involved a tough two-and-a-half hours driving in the midday sun. They should have run them at night!
Tony Goodwin, by e-mail

Stacey footnote

Richard Wingett’s letter about Alan Stacey in October reminded me of another Alan incident.
I was a de Havilland apprentice in the 1950s and knew Alan slightly.
Travelling home to East Anglia one Friday his MG finished up in a ditch. The screws of his foot had come loose and it didn’t transfer to the brake pedal for a corner. A following motorist was very concerned and asked Alan if he was alright. “I’m okay,” said Alan, showing the driver his empty trouser leg, “but I seem to have lost my foot.”
I believe the man fainted.
Tony Andrews, Coalville, Leics

G12 was a revelation

Further to the piece on the Ginetta G12 (October issue), I was junior mechanic with Geoff Wright at the car’s debut in 1966 at Mallory Park. The G12 was a revelation against the Elans, so the Walkletts entered it in the Formula Libre race. Chris Meek took off like a rocket and was dicing with Chris Summers in his Lotus 24-Chevrolet when they collided on the back straight, wrecking the radiator. Spare parts were rare those days, but Geoff spied a G4 in the public car park, so we lifted the bonnet and removed the radiator!
On our return the Walkletts had removed the damaged radiator and straightened the thing out to fit the new rad. The other drivers were on the grid when Chris drove out and reversed into his pole position. He stormed into the lead but by lap seven had started to slow. Then as he passed the pits the bonnet section flew off! One Elan passed under it before it landed. Chris was now driving defensively, holding the Elans up. On the last lap he almost came to a standstill in the chicane, then blasted down the straight, crossed the line first and stopped trackside. Phew!
The reason for the strange driving tactics? Due to the hasty rebuild the engine had started to overheat… By the way, we did return the radiator, and when we told the owner it had just won the race he seemed quite chuffed!
Jonathan Moorhouse, Moor Lane, York

Collins also shone in sports cars

Nigel Roebuck’s story about Peter Collins (August issue) brought back memories of the driver I revered during my school days. He, Moss and Hawthorn were the most-mentioned British drivers of that era in Australian magazines.
I feel the article failed to acknowledge what a great sports car driver Collins was, winning the Tour of Sicily, second in a wet Mille Miglia and first in the Supercortemaggiore race with Hawthorn, all in his first year with Ferrari. He was also second in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Moss in an Aston Martin. In 1957 Collins won the Venezuela sports car GP with Phil Hill, probably his best result. His Mille Miglia drive was exceptional, but was thwarted by rear axle failure. Peter started his final year by winning the Buenos Aires 1000Km and the Sebring 12 Hours with Hill. So from 1955, when he and Moss won the Targa Florio for Mercedes, until his death his sports car results were outstanding.
Max Keith, Taralga, NSW, Australia