With reference to your comments in your Hungarian GP report (MOTOR SPORT, September 1987) on how we disagree on certain aspects of Grand Prix racing, all I can say is, thank goodness we disagree on something, otherwise our after-dinner chats at the Formula One races would be awfully boring. Can you imagine it? We’d sit there over a brandy or two, grinning smugly at each other, thinking all was well with the world, and we’d have nothing to talk about.
The important thing is that we agree on the basics of Grand Prix racing; the whole scene of racing is very dear to us, and united we would defend it tethered. You like Alain Prost and I like Nelson Piquet, and that is no bad thing. while our readers get the benefit of reading both sides of almost any argument. I always bear in mind the words of a famous motor racing personage of the past who said, “Show me an unbiased critic and you show me a fool”.
However, though a healthy argument over the rights or wrongs of some situation is good fun, it is very satisfying when we spontaneously see and appreciate something of which we are both enthusiastic at the same time. There have been many of these over the years, and the recent Italian GP at Monza provided another one, in the form of Thierry Boutsen’s drive in the Benetton-Ford.
Afterwards, it wasn’t a question of asking “What did you think of Boutsen’s drive?” It was spontaneous, as we both said “That was some drive by Boutsen, and didn’t he look smooth and confident in second place”. Back through the years there have been many such occasions where our appreciation of a driver’s ability has been spontaneous. I have only to mention Lauda, Andretti, Villeneuve, Peterson or Senna amongst many more, for you to know instinctively the occasion, or occasions I am thinking of.
One thing that worries me is that you and I seem to be out of step with those in power who control the destiny of Formula One, particularly as regards circuits or races. We always enjoyed the Long Beach Grand Prix and the South African GP at Kyalami, and others such as Zandvoort, Nürburgring (the real one) and Montreal — and they have all been got rid of. Now there is a nasty undercurrent of opinion that is suggesting that the Österreichring is due for the chop, to be replaced by an event at some new “facility”.
I know you still weep tears at the loss of Interlagos in Brazil, and I weep tears at the loss of Montjuich Park in Barcelona, and so it goes on. Although we seem to be out of step with the rest of the world, there are some things that suit us, like the loss of Nivelles, Zolder and Jarama, so it is not all bad. But it is worrying in the long term, for after Österreichring, where next? We had better keep quiet about the circuits or races we like, or someone will take them away from us.
I know you are not into the old car game in any great depth, nor the hysterical historic racing, though you are well appreciative of a good old car and a truly historic one, especially if the past history involves Grand Prix racing; but I must draw your attention to the advertisements in the back of the September issue of MOTOR SPORT.
There were four “genuine fake cars” advertised for sale, with carefully-worded descriptions which could not be faulted. For the prices being asked you could have bought a really nice usable modern car. In the second-hand-car trade these prices are described as “replica price” suggesting that a genuine car of the same type would be a much higher price. Roughly, the trade put a ratio of about two-to-one on a “real” against a “fake”. The second-hand car trade and the auction world have created an “acceptable” scene where “genuine fake” cars are valued at 100,000 or more, claiming that it is because a “real” car is worth £250,000.
When the building of fake cars began in earnest, the results were not really worth more than their scrap-metal value in weight. Now some of these fakes have been around for 25 years and the motor trade is spreading the idea that they are valuable “collectors’ items” — not as valuable as the real thing, of course!
Not long ago a copy of the Mona Lisa, done by an Irish artist in the middle of the nineteenth century, came up for auction. The art world valued it at about £4000 and staggered back when it sold for £25,000. One writer pointed out that, regardless of the fact that it was a copy of the Mona Lisa, it was a very old painting “in its own right” — more than 100 years old, so it just had to be worth a lot of money! There are some fake vintage cars that were built 25 years ago, so they must be worth a lot of money, for in certain parts of our strange civilization “old is valuable”.
Some of the specialist writers in the old-car magazines overuse the adjective list as soon as anything old appears. If the paint and chrome are nice and shiny your old car is “magnificent”, “superb” or “beautiful”, even if it was a load of rubbish when it was new. Bad cars of the ‘Fifties are now considered to be “splendid”, “superb” or “magnificent” providing they are very shiny and polished; and they win concours.
The term Concours d’Elegance goes back to when cars and people were elegant, and some of the creations of people in the Thirties were pretty breathtaking to ordinary mortals. Nowadays the word elegant is not used as much, because there is nothing very elegant about a Phase III Standard Vanguard, or someone dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. There are plenty concours, though “of what” I am not quite sure. While on the subject, the word. Concours is being changed to “Concourse” which is something I don’t understand.
All this is a far cry from Formula One, but I wish sometimes someone would describe a Williams-Honda or a Ferrari F187 or a Benetton-Ford as “immaculate” or “superb”, though I am not going to start the trend. It could easily get out of hand. If “old is magnificent”, as seems to be the case with many journalists, I can only sign off as
Yours, Magnificent DSJ
Letters, February 2009
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