Letters, November 2012

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The principle of penalising

Sir,

I wonder how the principled Ron Dennis has reacted to Lewis Hamilton wilfully broadcasting vital technical secrets of the McLaren team. Surely Dennis’ instinct must be to penalise Hamilton? Or has Hamilton now truly become bigger than McLaren?

I also wonder if Ron now thinks he let the wrong driver go at the end of 2007…

David Goddard, Hove, Brighton and Hove

Formula 1’s roulette wheel

Sir,

Hasn’t it been an exciting F1 season? In the sense that the random rattling of the ball on a roulette wheel is exciting. As a contest to find the best drivers/teams it has been less successful.

DRS has opened up overtaking opportunities. However, a more desirable route might be to reduce the high downforce/high drag aerodynamics which create a wake that prevents cars from closing up and deters overtaking. The millions spent on devising new ‘turning vanes’ and other aerodynamic appendages leave most fans cold and also make the cars less damage tolerant.

After the summer break presumably each team has developed several potential improvements, but the limitations on testing mean they may have arrived at Spa not knowing which changes were successful, making it a gamble which configuration to select. Permitting testing at the end of the break would allow each team to demonstrate its true potential in the coming races.

There may be justification for having tyres with deliberately short lives, but the severe restrictions on the number of available tyres lead to silly situations – drivers sitting out qualification runs ‘to save tyres’.

Plus we have the dubious spectacle of race leaders running one or two seconds a lap below capability to eke out tyre life, while some backmarkers circulate faster than the leaders. The variability in tyre performance from race to race is another factor leading to random performance and penalises those teams that would otherwise succeed by careful test and analysis.

The improvement in driver protection has been remarkable, but now we have competitors who, consciously or otherwise, use their machines as weapons. There is a need to inject some vulnerability into the equation so that drivers will drive accordingly. The tracks need to be far less accommodating of those who stray off the designated course – maybe not quite Monaco-type masonry, but higher kerbs and soft verge areas beyond them.

Would changes such as these reduce the viewing audiences? Football, golf, tennis and other such sports manage to attract huge and growing worldwide audiences by allowing the skill of individual performers and team managers to be the prime factors in success. We need to reduce the random factors and once again let skill and commitment be the determinants in our sport.

Phil Collins, St Catherines, Tewkesbury, Glos.

Breaking the enthusiasm

Sir,

I have followed Grand Prix racing since the spark was ignited at Silverstone in the early 1950s.

It surprises me to say this, but the recent changes to the sport, and especially the holiday break during mid-season, have contrived to dull my enthusiasm. Watching practice at Spa was like the beginning of a new season, and all the momentum seemed to have been lost. I have never understood why teams cannot practise during the season; this is F1, and restrictions to the cost are futile. The richest teams do not always prevail, and I don’t want to watch second-class acts receiving concessions to make them competitive. KERS and DRS are artificial enough without a helping hand to junior teams who should cut their teeth on lesser formulae before entering F1 when they are good and ready.

The marketing men have got it wrong for me, and my interest is waning.

Anthony French, Fetcham, Surrey

Beauty and the beast

Sir,

First of all, thank you for publishing my photos of Goodwood in the ’60s. It was a real thrill to see them in your great magazine.

The reason for this message is to offer a contribution about the 1963 Le Mans Cobra 39 PH, described in the ‘King Cobras’ article by Gordon Cruickshank. It was fascinating to read that this was the car that Jack Sears drove from last to first in the GT race at the British GP meeting at Brands Hatch in July 1964. Once again, ‘I was there’ and was prompted to look again through my old photographs.

I found this image of Sears when he was carving back through the field, captured at Bottom Bend. He is overtaking the beautiful Ferrari GTO of David Piper – I like to call this photo ‘Beauty and the Beast’. I was taken to this meeting by my father as I was only 16 years old at the time.

It is the last meeting at which I used my folding Kodak camera before graduating to a 35mm camera later in the year, so I’m afraid the quality is rather low, but it has resulted in a rather atmospheric image giving a great impression of speed.

Roger Hoyle, Camberley, Surrey

D-type mystery solved

Sir,

I was most interested in the AC Cobra feature in the October issue, in particular the reference to Bruce Ropner as the article, together with subsequent information derived from the internet, helped to solve a mystery that has been with me for the best part of 50 years.

I was brought up in the small village of Leeming Bar in North Yorkshire. Before it was by-passed in 1961 the A1 trunk road ran right through it. One of my earliest motoring memories is of the sight and sound of a Jaguar D-type as it accelerated rapidly out of the village heading north.

I have often wondered who the owner was and it is now clear that it would have been Bruce Ropner’s father Sir Robert Ropner, the shipping magnate, who apparently used to commute in the D-type to his office in Darlington.

Peter Caygill, Darlington, Durham

Celebrating Clark like Senna

Sir,

Whilst on holiday recently in Northumberland I popped just over the border to Duns to visit the Jim Clark Room, certainly well worth a visit (Ayrton Senna thought so).

A special thank you must go to the very enthusiastic lady who welcomed us and after the visit gave directions to the church where Jim is buried, his primary school (situated next to one another) and the memorial clock, all in Chirnside, a small village to the east of Duns. She also told us in great detail where to find his farm, Edington Mains, just outside Chirnside.

Peter Haynes, Needingworth, Cambs.

Seal of approval

Sir,

Thank you for sending the copies of Motor Sport magazine containing the Private View feature with photographs by Marianne Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. We gave one copy to her and she was more than delighted to see her pictures and the article (right).

Christiane Obermann, Rheingalerie, Bonn, Germany

Silver sightings

Sir,

I thought you might be interested in a reply I received from my father Peter Venning (who rescued ‘Genevieve’) after telling him that the ‘Silver Arrows’ Grand Prix cars were coming to the Goodwood Revival. He recalled his visit to the 1937 Donington GP.

“Do I remember it!” he said. “Even 75 years on I can still smell the aromatic stink of their exhausts, which as one of my chums remarked smelt like cheap boot polish. I remember the start and the first lap – the noise and roar as they disappeared round the top bend, down to Redgate and on to Starkey’s Straight where they really put their foot down and on to 170mph. Waiting at the start for their reappearance, they appeared en masse in a series of very fast jerks. Down the slope to Melbourne Hairpin and up again to the startline; at the brow of the slope the Mercs’ front wheels took off from the ground and the back ends of the rear-engined Auto Unions likewise. And then the British contingent arrived, after an interval long enough to take out a cigarette and light it, and buzzed away happily a great distance after the Germans.

“There was very little spectator control in those days and one was free to walk round the entire circuit unimpeded, stopping here and there to take the odd photo, with my back to a tree to steady the camera, and Dick Seaman in the Merc passing at 170mph within 10 paces of me with his shock absorber trailing down from the axle. If memory serves, this put him out of the race. After the race was won by the German driver Rosemeyer in Auto Union number five, it occurred to me even in those early days that the rear-engine configuration was the obvious design for future racing cars; about 20 years later it came to be just that.

“I was 20 at the time and if I make it to September I will be 95. I wonder if the organisers at Goodwood will be entertaining any of the few survivors who witnessed that epic event?”

Oliver Venning, St Austell, Cornwall

Muddled models

Sir,

I enjoyed the ‘You Were There’ feature in the October issue as I also was an Oulton Park season ticket holder throughout the mid-60s, and attended the featured meeting.

A couple of the captions, however, are incorrect. For example, Graham Hill “by his Lotus 72”.

It was in fact a Lotus 49, the 72 not being introduced until a year or two later. Hill took pole for this race but retired early with transmission problems, leaving his team-mate Jackie Oliver to finish third, behind Stewart and Amon.

Secondly, one of the Parnell BRMs did finish fourth, but driven by Pedro Rodriguez, not Jochen Rindt as captioned. The second BRM, in the hands of Piers Courage retired.

Rindt was in the race, driving for Brabham alongside Jack himself. Both failed to finish.

A highlight for me was the presence of Juan Manuel Fangio as an honoured guest, on what I believe was his only visit to Oulton Park. He was driven around the circuit before the race in an open Rolls-Royce, in the hands of Jackie Stewart.

Fantastic memories!

Kevin Flaherty, St Saviour, Jersey

[Apologies for errors. Slack on our part – Ed]

Mountain Force

Sir,

Mat Oxley wrote a fascinating article comparing an F1 car and a MotoGP bike on a circuit, but how would the Force India compare with the Monster Tech 3 MotoGP bike around the Isle of Man Mountain Course?

Would it be Forces for courses?

Terry Hunter, Chiddingly, East Sussex

Let the spectators spectate

Sir,

I was horrified at the story on this year’s trouble with the British Grand Prix. The positive comments were of course from the people who got into the race. Anyone who loves racing can tolerate quite a bit of discomfort, but we need to be able to get to the track first. The Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 typically get about 250,000 to 300,000 spectators without such problems, so it is possible.

Sadly, it appears Bernie and F1 cater to making money for themselves. The paying spectator is merely background colour for the television screen.

Bernie should attend the Rolex 24 at Daytona. There he would truly learn how to host an event and cater to race fans. For about $100 I was able to rest my bones on the fender of a Daytona Prototype and chat with David Donohue, shake hands with Jackie Stewart and say good luck to Justin Wilson.

Guess what such an experience does for my son? Yes, it makes him into the next generation of racing participant and spectator.

Demand this issue be resolved. Clearly there are lots of people who want to give Bernie and Silverstone their money, if they would only let them in.

Joseph Chimbolo, Connecticut, USA

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