Letters, November 2020

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What an excellent article on Ron Flockhart. I remember well, as a teenager, listening to the odd BBC broadcast with Raymond Baxter – “Here we are at Le Mans, with Jaguars leading…”

Flockhart and his co-driver Ninian Sanderson could do no wrong as far as I was concerned. Oh Lordy, how I wanted to be part of it all! Yet just 10 years later, in 1964, I was at Le Mans, a lowly mechanic with the two Deep Sanderson cars entered by Chris Lawrence. Absolutely wonderful! Early in the week, Chris asked which of us had not been round the circuit. I and five others all piled into the works ‘hack’ Mk7 Jaguar tow cars, and with Chris driving (three in the back and three in the front, with Terry Hopson sitting on the handbrake in the middle) we set off for a couple of laps.

It was dark and the Jaguar’s dash lights didn’t work, so going down the Mulsanne Straight, I kept lighting matches and passing them to Terry, who held them up to the speedometer.

“Eighty, 90, 100!” called Terry. “Let’s see if it will do 110.” Then the exhaust fell off! Chris slowed right down and we crept back to the paddock. Happy, happy days.

Jim Gavin, Warrenpoint, Co Down

wind tunnel

Designer Ron Tauranac tunnel-tests a Brabham BT7 at MIRA in 1963. But what was the date?

I hope that your readers might be able to assist. It is 60 years since the opening of the Full-Scale Wind Tunnel at MIRA, still the only full-scale automotive tunnel in the UK, and I have been interested in its history since I began testing there in 1991. I attach a picture (above) that I have not been able to date. I believe this is Ron Tauranac in a Brabham BT7 in 1963, but the Classic Team Lotus website has similar pictures of the 1963 Lotus 29/1 at MIRA, and I wondered which might have been first.

Further reading pointed to the possibility of Dan Gurney being a link between the two. While driving for Brabham in F1 in 1963 it seems Dan was effectively the instigator of the rear-engined Team Lotus Indycar via Ford and appears to have been ‘loaned’ to Lotus for that first Indianapolis campaign. Any information on these photos and the possibility of Gurney linking the two would be appreciated.

Geoff Le Good, Northwich, Cheshire

Liberty deserves our praise and thanks for rescuing Formula 1 in this memorable year. A flexible approach has paid off. We can now look forward to new challenges such as Portimão and, apparently, an oval at Bahrain. Imola has always been a favourite, despite its history, and Turkey with that never-ending Turn Eight will be a special challenge for the tyres.

Now I wonder how Mr E would have tackled the situation?

Mark Watson, via email

I enjoyed the article concerning Ron Flockhart, and I recall the occasion he gave a talk to Cambridge University Motor Club in, I believe, 1958. He was an entertaining and charming raconteur and referred amusingly to his experience driving Prince Bira’s Maserati 250F when he rolled it on his second lap at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1954. He remarked that the moment it turned over a second time was when he lost control. True sang-froid!

Jeremy Willings, Easebourne, West Sussex

Glad to see the article on Ron Flockhart but I am surprised at only a passing reference to Ron’s third place in the 1956 Italian Grand Prix. To quote from my book Formula One: The Real Score?, “Through all that came the Connaught of Ron Flockhart which had started on the back row and had overtaken nine cars on the opening lap! He was only lapped once and his only stop was a precautionary one for fuel on the penultimate lap. This was the first World Championship podium finish for a British F1 constructor. No fluke either as, although he’d only qualified at 118.92mph he averaged 125.67 for the race itself. An improvement of 10sec per lap!”

I first went to a motor race in October 1957 for the Gold Cup, and at that point Flockhart was a big name through Le Mans. He finished fifth from 15th on the grid.
I do feel that Monza should be regarded as a milestone in British F1 history. Okay, neither Ron nor Connaught became big players, but paired up with his Le Mans victory earlier, it shows what a wasted talent was Ron Flockhart.

Brian Harvey, via email

The Mulsanne article in the October edition was a joy to read, as were the accompanying images to look at. One can only imagine the feelings of both terror and joy when hanging onto the wheel at maximum speed. The images show quite clearly the roller-coaster nature of the straight, something I had no idea about until I rode down it on a GPZ900R motorcycle on the Thursday morning of race week (the roads were briefly opened to the public) while attending the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hour event.

Happy days!

Rob Gent, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Thanks for a great October issue. Lunch with Jonathan Palmer took me back to my first grand prix abroad at Jerez in 1987. My wife and I met Jonathan at the bar in the hotel where the Tyrell team were staying. He was happy to answer our questions for some time, and when we entered the dining room we found ourselves seated between the Tyrell and Lotus tables.

Not being used to the habits of grand prix teams, we were surprised to find ourselves dodging flying bread rolls as an inter-team battle took place. Great days, and he continues to do an excellent job at MSV including our local circuit at Oulton Park where we had a great weekend at the recent Gold Cup meeting.

As a Lotus enthusiast, I couldn’t help but notice the error in your Parting Shot photo in the same issue. It’s actually a 1969 car, which is given away by the exit ducts in the nose and the brackets on the roll hoop for the high rear wing supports. The wings were banned at the previous race in Monaco after Hill and Rindt crashed at Barcelona. The confusing feature is the rear spoiler, which looks similar to the ’68 car but was actually a rush job for Monaco and was replaced by a proper wing for the Zandvoort race, so your photo must have been taken during practice.

David Boote, Nantwich, Cheshire

Evinrude motor

Take one racing Evinrude outboard motor, lay it down and build a racing car around it…

I found Paul Fearnley’s website article on two-stroke-engined cars very interesting. Currently I run a V8 two-stroke complete with CVT transmission in hillclimbs and sprints in the UK. The engine is a 3.6-litre F1 Evinrude outboard from a race boat giving about 350hp and 380lb ft of torque.

Just completed last year, the project took me three years to put together, running in a Prosport 3000 chassis with Darrian body bonded on. Installing it with the crank horizontal instead of the original vertical layout gave a few problems.

I’m awaiting calls from the F1 teams – there aren’t many two-stoke fanatics left in this county.

Peter Hubbard, Tharston, Norfolk

Reading your article in the latest edition of Motor Sport on Jonathan Palmer reminded me that in 1975-77,  I worked as a tyre fitter for the Sydenham branch of Firestone. We used to fit the racing tyres for the small team that prepared JP’s Marcos as well as various Davrian Modsports cars. It was nothing for a race car to turn up outside our premises, having been driven round from the garage used to prepare the car, with a set of slicks for fitting.

One day, Mr Plod appeared in his Allegro panda car. Looking very bemused at this Davrian, he uttered the words, “I assume it’s taxed and MOT’d?”

“Of course, officer,” I replied. He smiled and drove off. It was local policing when the Old Bill had a sense of humour!

Chris Farr, via email

Renault V10

A 3.5-litre Renault V10 at full chat was spine-tingling to hear, with its ear-piercing 19,000rpm red line

I agree with Franc Wells about Formula But the sound of the current V6 turbos is okay — gruff and purposeful. What foresight by Bernie E and others eight or nine years ago for F1 to have hybrid engines and make the formula relevant to production cars. Despite the perceived dash for all-electric, hybrid road cars are the future for many years to come.

I very much liked the lovely sound of the pre-mid-1980s turbo era, the long-lived V8 DFV and Ferrari V12 but the 19,000rpm V8 and V10s, before the current V6 hybrid era, at times created more pain than pleasure to the ear.

James Thacker, Warwickshire

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