Letters, November 2016

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Rio grandee

Thank you for the excellent article on Alex Zanardi in your last issue, a fitting piece from the departing Damien Smith.

Having just learnt that Zanardi has won yet another Paralympic gold medal in Rio, I am almost lost for words at the ambition and determination of this man. He’s almost 50, for goodness’ sake.

He has always been a talented driver and surely would have achieved even greater things in F1 with the right equipment. He shouldn’t have survived his horrific accident according to the doctors on site, but his incredible fitness levels pulled him through. Oh, and he trains, competes and wins Olympic gold medals while still being involved in motor sport. What an inspiration. I just wish more youngsters were aware of him, given the diminishing fanbase of that demographic within motor sport.

Personally, I feel Alex Zanardi should be a shoo-in for the Motor Sport Hall of Fame without a vote.

I realise you can’t do that, but please add him to next year’s short list to allow us to put it to the vote.

Peter Phillipson, Hulland Ward, Derbyshire

Lunch without

Heartfelt thanks from this reader go to Damien Smith for his excellent stewardship of this fine, and to me indispensable, magazine, and also to Simon Taylor for what, along with Nigel Roebuck’s column, has consistently been my monthly highlight.

I will sorely miss Simon’s accounts of his lunches with motor sport participants of all shapes and sizes, though I respect and understand his decision to call time after 125 feasts.

Each and every one had a relaxed authenticity that is rarely found in interviews elsewhere.

Mike Allen Rottingdean, Brighton

And for dessert…

It was with great sadness that I read of Simon Taylor’s final Lunch… For many years this has been a highlight of the magazine, always interesting, funny, sad, illuminating and captivating. I found lunches with the not-so-famous most absorbing, partly I suppose because their tales are less familiar. Those moments when the interviewee goes quiet, remembering those who didn’t come back, have been extremely poignant and it’s easy to make a list of those whom we wished could have enjoyed a lunch with Simon, if fate had not intervened.

Thank you Simon, it has been wonderful, and I look forward to reading whatever it is that you put your pen to in the future. 

Thank you also Damien; the magazine is in fine fettle and I hope it continues in the same vein. There aren’t many jobs
I can’t put off when Motor Sport drops into the letterbox. 

Andrew Scoley, Bracebridge Heath, Lincoln

While Simon Taylor has called time on his own Lunches, you’ll find in this issue that Lunch goes on – and so does Simon. To prove it, we have Lunch With… Jacques Villeneuve and Simon track-testing two ERAs. Ed

Recalling sideways Sears 

Jack Sears, who passed away recently, was a member of Tommy Sopwith’s 1960s Equipe Endeavour Jaguar MkII team. Along with Mike Parkes, he had epic Group 2 touring car battles with the rival team of John Coombs, whose members included Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori, as well as at times Dan Gurney, Mike Salmon and Colin Chapman. 

I attach a photograph taken at Aintree in 1962. It shows Jack on the grass at Tatts Corner, losing second place to Roy Salvadori. Eventually he finished fourth behind Graham Hill, Salvadori and David Hobbs in another Jaguar.

Michael Cookson, Audlem, Cheshire

Air necessities

I enjoyed reading David Brabham’s reflections on his father and share his admiration of Jack’s versatility in tackling so many regimes successfully – and simultaneously. However, there was one further cross he had to bear that throws an even harsher light on the difficulties he faced – travel.

In today’s world of high-speed air travel with non-stop flights worldwide, the planet is smaller than it was in the 1960s. I well remember Sir Jack regaling me with the tribulations of flying long-haul, in those days by Super Constellation turbo-prop or “Super Connie” to use his words. It could take days and he could reel off all the stops from Australia to the UK just as a regular Central Line commuter can between Liverpool Street and Oxford Circus – only in his case there was the added annoyance of extra delay as he said, “We always seemed to need an engine change in Karachi.”

As David rightly mentioned, such deeds blow you away.

John Atkins, Benfleet, Essex

Let them race

I particularly enjoyed October’s Motor Sport. The Jackie Stewart Lunch was an excellent high point for Simon Taylor to end this absorbing series. JYS’s thoughts confirm his status as an outstanding ambassador for the sport, except for his comments about team orders; for a driver to be stopped from racing properly against his team-mate removes competition. Toto Wolff is absolutely right to rule out team orders – and we’ve benefited from seeing his Mercedes drivers going head to head. 

In addition, I for one am very interested in hearing the F1 radio chat. It helps provide an additional layer of information about the drivers and how they think and operate. Why deny us the comedy, frustration and intrigue?

Thanks, too, for a great magazine.

Jonathan Hollands, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

Spoilt for choice

What a fabulous weekend of wheeled sport we had on September 4-5. The 6 Hours of Mexico, Formula 1 from Monza, the British MotoGP and two monumental stages of the Vuelta España. The hardest thing was how to choose what to watch. I had to tune in to Monza – even after two less than riveting seasons I couldn’t bring myself not to watch live, but I really wish I hadn’t bothered.

In contrast, the previous day’s WEC race was yet another corker, but it was the MotoGP that really stood out and it wasn’t just the racing (though this was fantastic). The coverage itself was first-rate, with innovative, informative graphics. I found the F1 coverage staid, uninspired and old-fashioned, with the same camera positions that have been used for the last 20 years.

This wouldn’t matter if the core product was in good health, but the poor coverage just seemed to magnify the problems we all know about. The cycling showed what can be done with a well put-together highlights package and a tiny fraction of the budget.

Mark Bowley, Whitlock, Leicestershire

Flying doctor

Andrew Frankel’s recent article on the Porsche RSR referred to the 1973 Sebring 12 Hours, where winners Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg were joined by team owner Dave Helmick. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading the late Mike Argetsinger’s 2006 book on Walt Hansgen and his impact on road racing in the USA during the 1950s and ’60s, as it’s 50 years since Walt’s accident during the 1966 Le Mans Test day.

The connection between the two is that Dave Helmick was a US Army doctor who happened to be at Le Mans when Walt’s accident took place and was asked by Ford to help. It was he who arranged for Walt to be transferred from a hospital in Le Mans to the US Military hospital in Orléans by helicopter. Sadly this was to no avail, as Walt died a few days later, never having regained consciousness.

Dave was clearly no mean driver himself as he was also part of the winning team (again with Haywood) in the 1977 Daytona 24 Hours.

Chris Hall, Hemel Hempstead, Herts

Right place, wrong car

I agree with Gordon Kirby that the 1970 Can-Am race at Mosport was very exciting. Jackie Oliver challenged the McLarens hard, but he was in the Autocoast Ti-22, not a Shadow. Both the Autocoast and the AVS Shadow described in ‘Can-Am Curios’ were at that race. I think it is more in retrospect that I realise the significance of Can-Am, as this was only the third race I had
ever attended.

Dave Walker, Huntsville, Ontario, Canada 

Under the skin

Just a little correction to your piece on the 1966 Lola T70 in the September issue. All Lola T70s, from the Mark 1 to the Mark 3B coupé, had monocoque chassis. You wrote that MkI and II had tube frame chassis, but they didn’t. The Mark I, II and III chassis were similar to one another, but with subtle differences including suspension changes, but the Mark IIIB coupé was totally different, simply adopting the T70 moniker in order to get the car homologated. The Mark IIIB coupé was effectively a 1968 T160 Can-Am car but with a roof.

John Starkey, via e-mail

Statute of Liberty

Everyone talks about the Liberty Media takeover of F1 as though it is going to improve the spectacle. Unfortunately, more publicity, coverage and social media won’t alter the fact that Grand Prix racing is currently a bore. I watched the opening laps of Singapore, turned off at lap nine because the cars had spread out and were no longer racing and turned back on with one lap to go. The cars were in exactly the same order. 

The tracks are too long and the aerodynamics are pointless. Liberty probably wishes it had bought the FIA instead if it wants to improve the show.

Timothy Hadleigh, Cobham, Surrey

Bygone snapshots

Your obituary of Jack Sears and the article on Jack Brabham (October) took me back to a couple of race events at Snetterton in 1955.

At one meeting Sears, in the latest ‘fintail’ Lister Bristol, was leading a dice with Archie Scott Brown in the older works Lister Bristol. My elder sister’s boyfriend bet me that Jack would win, but in the end Archie prevailed and I doubled my week’s pocket money (a whole shilling). I later saw Archie smiling from ear to ear in the paddock, but was too shy to ask for an autograph.

The second event was the Vanwall Trophy. Brabham was driving the bobtail Cooper Bristol and I was spectating with my father at Coram Curve. I can still picture Jack cornering in huge opposite-lock drifts, looking on the brink of disaster but obviously in total control.

John Hindle, Penshurst, Kent

Malice, a Ford thought 

As a massive Ford fan, I was looking forward to your Le Mans GT story earlier this year. When my copy arrived, I clutched it and delayed opening the magazine until I’d made myself a perfect cup of coffee, settled into my favourite reading chair and finally tore open the plastic packaging, slid the magazine from its protective cover… and found a glorified Volkswagen on the cover rather than a Ford GT. It transpired, of course, that there were three different covers and so only a 1-in-3 chance of getting a Ford. Talk about disappointed! It was like being given a few pairs of socks at Christmas rather than a Scalextric set, but the articles were terrific, as always. One thing, though. I believe it was Roy rather than Ray Lunn who had a major role in the Ford GT’s development.

Michael Turley, Altrincham, Cheshire

Autumn almanac

I used to live close to Riverside International Raceway, and Can-Am cars came every October. There was no sound more pulse-raising than hearing them on the opening lap during the series’ glory years.

 Can-Am was every bit as fast as F1
in those days, drivers often trading lap records on the tracks where both appeared. Unfortunately, it was the great success of McLaren that hastened the end – beating them was a challenge that attracted the corporate might of Porsche. The M20 could not compete with the speed of Porsche’s turbos and Team McLaren soon disappeared.

 Can-Am is gone, but wonderful memories remain. The back straight at Riverside measured one mile and George Follmer set a record top speed of 219mph in 1972. The following year Mark Donohue’s prediction that the Porsche 917-30 would reach 250mph caused track management to avoid risk and use the short course. The pace of acceleration seemed like an illusion from the nearby Turn Six grandstand. 

Carl Slate, Santa Maria, California

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