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Questions of ethics

Sir, 

Congratulations on publishing Nigel Roebuck’s article (Legends, September issue) on the disgraceful conduct of Ayrton Senna at Suzuka in October 1990.

In my lifetime’s involvement in motorsport at all levels, three unsavoury incidents stand out as low points in our great sport. In chronological order they are as follows:

1. ‘Lofty’ England’s ‘corporate’ exoneration of Mike Hawthorn’s involvement in the terrible 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours accident when he was directly, but accidentally, the cause of the disaster;

2. The cynical Schumacher ‘chop’ to remove Damon Hill from the Australian GP in 1994, thus confirming the German’s World Championship. Also unpleasant was Murray Walker’s refusal subsequently to attach any blame to Schumacher whatsoever;

3. Senna’s totally deliberate taking-out of Alain Prost at Suzuka, as detailed by Nigel Roebuck.

What a relief it is to those of us who think ethics should still exist in sport, as well as in all aspects of life, that you have the courage to state the facts as they happened.

John Sismey,

Bourne, Lincolnshire

Some controversial opinons. What do other readers think?–  Ed

***

Prost hit first

Sir,

Nigel Roebuck’s column in the September issue repeats the tone that he and most of the British motoring press adopted in the immediate aftermath of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.

Fair enough, Senna’s actions were reprehensible, but what I’ve never understood is why Prost’s equally disgraceful actions in the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix — and the obscenity of the subsequent action taken to vilify Senna by Jean-Marie Balestre in the name of FISA— have always been treated so lightly. To my knowledge, Prost’s move in 1989 was the first time in F1 history that one driver had deliberately crashed into another and been allowed to benefit from the situation, and yet post-race Senna was the one accused of endangering other drivers.

Perhaps if the motoring press and FISA had taken a stand against Prost’s professional foul in 1989, the pathetic climax of the 1990 championship might never have happened.

Malcolm Parker,

Hampshire

***

Tin-top teenager

Sir,

How thrilled I was to find another issue of Motor Sport  celebrating a wonderful era in the British Touring Car Championship. Marcus Simmons’s excellent and informative article on the dawn of the Super Tourer period was particularly welcome in the wake of your magnificent `tin-top’ special earlier this year.

As a young reader of your magazine I’m unacquainted with Jim Clark’s exploits in touring car racing. I know little about Frank Gardner or Gerry Marshall and I’ve only become familiar with the Cosworth RS500 era since watching videos of Andy Rouse masterfully weaving his Sierra through the streets of Birmingham during the Super Prix meeting.

Mention the names Hoy, Harvey or Cleland, however, and I’ll fondly remember watching these heroic figures sweeping wheel-to-wheel through the Craner Curves or launching themselves across the old Dingle Dell in front of massive, enthusiastic crowds. There were clashes, of course, but replaying footage from 1992 recently I’m reminded of how there was an inherent ‘cleanliness’ to the action on track and that the drivers had a great deal of respect for each other.

Only after the infamous Silverstone coming-together did we see a driver losing his temper (Cleland on Soper: “The man’s an animal!”), a fact which reflects badly on the constant bitching that blights the BTCC in its current form.

It is perhaps unusual for a 19 year-old to reminisce about “the good old days” but, as far as I’m concerned, in British Touring Car racing the early ’90s were just that.

Alex Roache,

Stratford-upon-Avon

***

Lost racer wanted

Sir,

Have you seen this car (photo)?  If so, and it’s sitting in a barn somewhere, its builder Hugh Mayes would like to acquire it for restoration. It was called Opus and powered by a 1-litre Auto Union three-cylinder two-stroke engine mounted behind the driver.

Hugh also campaigned a DKW Junior and has recently acquired a race-prepared example in Holland which he is currently fettling. He can be contacted at Welton Hythe, Daventry, Northants NN11 5LG, telephone number 01327 844858.  And my interest in the car?  That’s me driving it at Silverstone in 1963.

Erik Johnson,

Poole, Dorset

***

Happy as Barry

Sir,

I enjoyed reading your article on Barry Lee (Cult heroes, September issue). It brought back memories of one day at secondary school in 1985. A lesson had been cancelled for a period of road-safety training. “What a yawn,” we all thought. We were taken to the main playground where a coned course had been laid out and at one end stood Barry with an idling Sierra XR4i. After a brief introduction he gave us a sublime demonstration of car control as he quickly traversed the course.

He invited a volunteer to join him, then chucked that car around the playground resulting in a very green-faced art teacher and skidmarks in the playground that took months to wear away. Instantly the man became a hero to 60 impressionable 15-year-olds who witnessed this demonstration. I can’t say we learned anything that day apart from the fact that Barry Lee was a racing driver with superb car control!

Kevin Miller,

Cambridge

***

Cobb — unsung hero

Sir,

I was interested to read the article by Bill Boddy (August issue) about John Cobb. I still have copies of WB’s original interview with my father, Jim Rands.

It has always been disappointing to me that John Cobb has not really been given the credit he deserves for his achievements at Brooklands and on the Salt Flats. He did not make those achievements to create headlines but to satisfy himself.

Reid Railton’s design for the LSR car was revolutionary and held the record from 1937 until ’64, when Donald Campbell only raised it to the speed Cobb had achieved in one direction in a car which cost many times that of the Railton.

Thank you, Mr Boddy, for reminding people of a great driver.

Robin Rands,

Chelmsford

***

Oooohhh  Matron!

Sir,

Look at the spectators, top far right, in your Parting Shot  (September issue) of Innes Ireland and Bruce McLaren having a tangle. I didn’t realise Kenneth Williams was a motorsport fan!

Could this be where the immortal line “Ooh, you’ve broken my halfshaft!” came from?

Chris Wright,

Hove, East Sussex

And didn’t Sid James once star with Jack Brabham in The Green Helmet?  (Look we’ve mentioned it now! ) — Ed

 

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