Readers' letters

Letter of the month

Jack the gentleman

I had the humbling experience of Jack Brabham’s no-nonsense approach to racing car preparation; it was a wake-up call at the time. In 1988 I was involved with Derek Bell Racing, running his son Justin in Vauxhall-Lotus. Via our Camel sponsorship we also took on David Brabham from Australian Formula Ford. Preparing two recently delivered cars, I was at our workshop one evening alone when in walked Jack and David, unannounced. After polite introductions, I was almost speechless when Jack asked, “Who are your mechanics?”

Here was one of the heroes of my youth, the three-time F1 world champion; how could he possibly be impressed by anything I said? I mumbled a few words about our ex-FF mechanics, knowing that we were up against Marlboro-backed Dragon Motorsport, which was running Mika Häkkinen and Allan McNish. But Jack was diplomatic and put me at ease. Next, he asked me which was David’s car as they wanted to remove the gearbox and check it through. A toolbox came in and they proceeded to strip the ’box; once apart Jack took a file to the shifter detents. He then reassembled the box and I helped them refit it to the engine. Jack and David seemed very satisfied; we had chatted over a couple of hours in a relaxed atmosphere.

I felt this was a typical example of his down-to-earth thoroughness, attention to detail and above all, his gentlemanly approach. There is no doubt that his ways have influenced his sons (and grandson) in their careers. What a racing family! Long may it flourish.

John Penfold, Chichester, West Sussex

Pequignet Manufacture
The writer wins this Pequignet Gents Moorea Ranelagh model in stainless steel with an automatic movement, anthracite dial with date, worth £835.

Digesting lunch

With reference to my Lunch with Simon Taylor, I think he must have been looking at the morning’s practice times for the 1970 Italian GP because Jochen was in fact 0.8sec faster than me by the end of Friday’s practice.

Meanwhile, before I get Johnny and Mika beating me up on my ill-advised attention span comment, it has to be said that their concentration was in fact total once at work. There was rivalry of course but friendly with not even a hint of the childish play-acting going on between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The Lotus pair even shared a hotel room. We all had to.

Finally, I’d like to point out that although I had a challenging time in the Lotus F1 Team, I learnt a lot very fast. Chapman gave me an extraordinary opportunity and I was able to put the experience to good use on my return to Hethel working in Roger Becker’s newly formed chassis development department, and with technical director Peter Wright. I seemed to be back where I belonged, dealing with unfinished business.

John Miles, Hingham, Norfolk

Pushing the limits

It’s time to stop the whinging about F1 and enjoy the great racing this year. Have we all forgotten the boring, processional races of years past? Of Alonso and Webber being stuck, lap after lap, behind Petrov while Sebastian Vettel strolled to his first championship?

The lack of passing then was due to the technical regulations at that time. One could say that was a very artificial situation. Now with DRS, we have lots more passing. If DRS were preventing good racing, we would see a lot more repassing, ie if two equal cars were fighting for position and one ‘artificially’ passed the other using DRS, then the car just overtaken would be able to repass at the next DRS zone. The proof that DRS is doing what was intended is that we rarely see this situation.

Secondly, I sympathise with the designers who feel constrained by the technical regulations. We all love to see innovation. But if the engineers were given complete free rein to design the ultimate F1 car, is not the reality that it would be undriveable, due to the physical limitations of us mere humans? We obviously need technical limits, but it is tricky getting them right.

The lower noise is a by-product of that same great engineering. F1 should always be about the internal combustion engine, but let’s see how much power we can extract using whatever those engineering geniuses come up with. It is astonishing that the 2014 cars are virtually as fast as last year’s but use 33 per cent less fuel. Why can’t our various governments show some courage and decree tough rules like those for passenger cars?

Joe Crichton, Vancouver Island, Canada

Scales of justice

Can someone please explain to me just what is going on here? Kevin Magnussen gets a six-place deduction for defending his position. Admittedly he was quite robust, but he hit no one. Yet although the TV view from Rosberg’s cockpit clearly shows him turning into Hamilton and causing an avoidable collision, he gets no penalty. The fans who booed had a perfect right to voice their displeasure in the only way possible.

Steve Gray, Suckley, Worcester

Foiling the aero

With all of the current debate surrounding the state of Formula 1, but seemingly an impasse prevailing as to how to both reduce costs and improve the sport, I would suggest one change that would surely contribute to both: clip those front wings!

These aerofoil appendages have grown ever more complex, with countless hours spent in wind tunnels in search of minute improvements, and more time and money to fabricate them. Perhaps worse, their excessive width renders them liable to damage in anything resembling close racing, often through no fault of the damaged car’s driver. And if the contact has not already inflicted tyre damage, as in the recent race at Spa, the resulting shrapnel on the track constitutes a hazard to all runners and might well result in a safety car period, all of which distorts the race result and does nothing to enhance the image of the sport.

Reducing the allowable overall width of the front wing by perhaps 50cm, and placing a limit on the number of different aerodynamic elements, could at least be one small step towards cost reduction and better racing.

James White, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Waive the rules

I just finished reading the article in which Adrian Newey discusses his six best F1 cars. What leapt out at me from each section of the article was this phrase, repeated throughout in one form or another, “due to the drastic changes in regulations”.

The rules change way too often, and the rulebook is far too long and complex. Other than rules regarding driver and cockpit safety, the rest of the rulebook should be no more than about 10 pages, allowing for creativity, innovation, and cars that do not all look alike.

Jim Casey, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Creeping silence

Hugh Ross asks why there is controversy about the sound of F1 in 2014 when there wasn’t back in 1977 when turbos arrived. Surely it’s obvious. It’s because then there was only one turbo team!

Renault’s engine was new technology in F1, and it added something we lack in modern racing: variety. It wasn’t until 1981 that Ferrari became the second turbo user, and then gradually the whole grid switched. We went through a period of painless acclimatisation. I don’t even mention that these cars had massive horsepower, were spectacular and often unwieldy, and the drivers were heroic in their efforts to master them.

I watch all the races on TV these days, but friends tell me the live sound is fine. What I do know is that the racing is good and, recently, every Grand Prix has been truly exciting. Let’s hope that the double-points stupidity does not decide the title.

Gareth Rees, Plaisir, France

Mallory lark

Growing up in East Anglia in the 1950s, Snetterton became my second home.

I was enthralled by the racing on this windswept piece of old airfield. When I moved to the Midlands, Mallory Park was the first circuit I visited. What a difference; bowl-shaped like an amphitheatre, I could actually see much of the track from just one spot. Many a happy day was spent there.

I was therefore delighted to hear they had managed to slot in one car meeting this year and decided to go.

Simon Arron says in the October issue, “We’ve become used to one-make everything in this day and age.” Well, I haven’t, which is why I rarely visit circuits these days, preferring other forms of motor sport. However, the Classic Sports Car Club line-up at Mallory looked like the format I traditionally enjoyed; great variety within each race, the cars look different, they sound different and they adopt different racing lines.

Two cheerful ladies were dispensing tickets and programmes with a smile; still ‘the friendly circuit’, I thought.

A man standing a few paces away was exchanging comments with those queuing to get in, me included.

Reading the programme I noticed a photo of the two chaps now running the place. Eddie Roberts was the person I had spoken to at the entrance a couple of hours earlier.

Now, when were you last welcomed into a race circuit by the boss himself?

Mike Dodman, Bromsgrove, Worcs

Speed dates

In October’s You Were There, Geoff Hughes’ photo of Agostini waving to the crowd can’t be 1968 as stated, because Ago is wearing a full face AGV helmet that he started to use in 1972. The no8 on the yellow plate tallies with the final race of TT week 1972 – the 500cc Senior which he won.

The wave is more poignant because Ago has decided he will never return to race at the Island again. That very Friday in the previous ultra-lightweight 125cc event, his fellow countryman and friend Gilberto Parlotti had been killed in an accident when he lost control in the rain, while leading the race.

Mike Fairholme, Grantham, Lincs

Generation game

I’ve never felt older as a motor sport fan than I do today, not even when Group C cars first started racing as ‘historics’.

It’s not that Max Verstappen is only 16, either (I’ve had years to get used to being older than anyone driving a Grand Prix car). No, what has really made me feel old is that I’m five years older than his dad! Life just isn’t fair.

Mark Bowley, Coalville, Leicestershire

Remembering Eoin

Like many people I was deeply saddened by Eoin Young’s passing. I started Jarrotts back in 1988 and Eoin [who bought and sold automobilia] was our first ever customer – it must have been at The Racing Car Show in 1989. “Okay John, get your order book out!” – I clearly remember it.

The occasional visit to Eoin’s Vintage shop in East Horsley (and lunch afterwards at his local pub, of course) was always good fun, with many a tale to tell. He often mentioned Jarrotts in his Autocar column, about our paddock antics, rare finds and how much he liked the stands taken at various shows. I enclose a shot I took of him at Silverstone in the late 1980s ‘sitting’ in the full-size BRM V16.

John Olliver, Folkestone, Kent

Predicted outcome?

I read with interest Mark Hughes’ analysis of Lewis Hamilton – the man and season. I have not followed your accounts of the current F1 politics, so I might be stating the obvious, but to my mind Hamilton’s problems this year are somewhat simpler.

By the fourth race it seemed to me that Mercedes realised it was certain to win both of this year’s F1 championship titles. They only had to choose which of their drivers was to become the 2014 title holder.

Now, who would make the best ambassador for the Mercedes publicity campaigns? A clean-cut German or a Brit who tends to present himself a bit like an American gangster?

From here on Hamilton’s ‘minor technical problems’ have been completely predictable. This was when I and many others stopped watching.

Given the grid’s make-up, I would hazard a guess that MB can ‘influence’ the performance of its Mercedes- powered competition as well.

Dick Bidgood, La Rochelle, France