Readers' Letters

Stacey’s sock tactics

Interviewed by Simon Taylor in July, Peter Warr mentioned Alan Stacey who had lost part of his right leg in a motorcycle accident.
One of my National Service pals, Dave Pearce, worked with Alan at de Havilland and recalled one of his favourite stunts. Before using an electric pistol drill near anyone unaware of the artificial limb he would say, “I’ll just test this one first”, plunge the bit through his sock, followed by, “yeah, that seems OK”. The reaction of the second party, I gathered, was most rewarding.
Richard Wingett, Saltash, Cornwall.

The first Japanese GP

One of the articles in Motor Sport that I truly enjoy is the Lunch With… series by Simon Taylor, and the piece featuring Peter Warr was no exception.
Mr Warr talked about winning the first Japanese Grand Prix in his earlier days with Lotus. I would like to point out that this race was held at Suzuka, not at Mount Fuji as stated. The Fuji International Speedway was yet to be constructed when the inaugural Japanese GP was held in May, 1963.
Until Soichiro Honda built the Suzuka track in the early ’60s there had been no proper racing circuit in Japan. In more than one way the first Japanese GP was a historically significant event, not only for Japanese motor sport but also for the country’s entire automobile industry.
I was a college student in Tokyo at the time and there was no way I could miss it. I managed to coax a friend into making his new Datsun Bluebird available and several of us piled into it to drive down to Suzuka.
The highlight of the race weekend was watching Peter Warr comfortably pull away from the entire field to win the main event in his little Lotus 23. The field was a mixture of sports, GT and production cars running in separate classes. I can still remember the sight of Peter’s Lotus coming round the final sweeping corner leading on to the front straight (no Casio chicane back then) with hardly any roll.
Apparently I was not the only one who was struck by the Lotus’ speed and beauty.
Later, when the Japanese economy gained strength, it became possible for some people to import sporty vehicles and more than a few of my contemporaries became proud owners of the Lotus 23.
Many thanks to Peter Warr for a wonderful memory, and to Simon Taylor and Motor Sport for jogging the memory.
Taro Suzuki, Birmingham, Michigan, USA

Macklin didn’t deserve blame

I was aware of Lance Macklin’s part in the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, but I never knew much about his life until I read your insightful article in the July issue. You painted a warm picture of a colourful, charismatic, talented and honourable racer who never deserved to be tainted by motor racing’s greatest disaster.
In his brilliant book Mon Ami Mate Chris Nixon dissected the accident and laid responsibility, quite rightly, at the doorstep of Mike Hawthorn. Nixon argued very persuasively that Hawthorn and Fangio were caught up in a personal duel inappropriate to a 24-hour race. Knowing his team would ultimately lose to the Fangio/Moss duo, Hawthorn, absorbed in an attempt to win the battle if not the war, was determined to get into the pits first. This led to his decision to overtake Macklin, thereby setting in motion the tragic events that followed.
Mr Nixon mentions that after the race Fangio met with Macklin and suggested, for the good of racing, that Macklin not claim any one person was responsible for the disaster. Nixon never uses Fangio’s appeal to support his conclusions of Hawthorn’s responsibility, but it does make perfect sense. Why would Fangio have asked that of Macklin? Fangio was blameless. Acting probably more out of honour, concern and respect for Hawthorn, I am certain he must have felt the great racer should not have been made a scapegoat for what was, after all, a racing incident. A gallant gesture on Fangio’s part.
Michael Amechi, Colchester, Essex

Hawthorn deserved to win

I fully concur with the sentiments expressed by David Baxter in Letters, August. There was never a harder-charging driver than Mike Hawthorn, particularly considering his debilitating kidney disease. Of his many outstanding performances I witnessed, two stand out. At Spa in the 1952 European Grand Prix he was fourth to the Ferrari team of Ascari, Farina and Villoresi, and soon after in a mixed-formula event at Boreham he led the race in the same 2-litre Cooper-Bristol in the pouring rain, only for Villoresi and Landi to overtake in their 4½-litre Ferraris when it dried out.
Although one cannot dispute the logic that first past the post should be champion, it does little justice to those great drivers who strive to win in often inferior machinery. It is to Mike’s credit that he drove with his head rather than his heart in 1958 to become Britain’s first World Champion.
Ron Lea, Chairman, Hawthorn Memorial Appeal

Dam hooligans

Your tribute to late Jim Clark in the May issue was very poignant as it coincided with the passing of Geoff Sakzewski, the son of the gentleman who built Lakeside in 1960. Geoff always looked forward to Jim’s visits and told me the following story. Geoff and Jim Clark shared a passion for water skiing. On one particular hot and sunny afternoon after practice at Lakeside for an upcoming race, they decided that a spot of water skiing on one of the dams on the property was just the thing to cool down.
They had the skis and rope but no boat. Not a problem for these two! Geoff got the tractor out and attached the rope to it. Jim arranged himself at the water’s edge. Geoff took the tractor up the hill, roared down the other side, across the dam wall and up again. Jim took up the slack at the right moment and proceeded to ski gracefully across the dam. Great fun!
This went on until Geoff’s father Sid arrived after being alerted by a neighbour that a couple of ‘hoons’ were racing around and water skiing on the dam. Sid’s anger subsided when he realised it was his son entertaining the current World Champion. Geoff reckoned if it had been anyone else he’d have been in for a bollocking. Instead there was laughter and more water skiing.
Lakeside was recently reopened to racing after a six-year battle with the local council. The circuit has a new promoter with a 30-year lease – good news for Australian motor sport fans. Hopefully there will be many more stories, though maybe not concerning water skiing!
Richard Croston, Australia

Tunnel vision

Apologies for this late contribution to the correspondence about the Brands Hatch tunnel. As a follow-up to the letter from David Venables, and your subsequent digging, I can definitely confirm your suspicions. I was a “paddock kid” throughout the ’50s for motorcycle racing as my father ran two bikes, and I remember there was a short tunnel from the then paddock entrance to the beginning of Paddock Bend.
I am sure this early tunnel did not cross the track, as the marshals used to queue the bikes up for their exit to allow the machines in from the last race. The tunnel therefore ran in only one direction at a time. It ran under the public access road for safety reasons, supposedly. I’m not sure exactly when it was built, but may have been when the Druids loop was added in the early 1950s.
Peter Calvert, Banstead, Surrey

My brother Cliff…

In the August issue of Motor Sport you reviewed Graham Gauld’s biography of my brother, Cliff Allison. Thank you for your kind words, but imagine my frustration to find that I am described as Tony Brunskill’s sister, Pat. I hope Tony is not too offended. Cliff’s family, me included, all helped Graham to take over the results of Tony’s interviews with Cliff. Graham sorted out all the material, added his own research and has produced a very readable book. We are all pleased that the biography is finally in print.
Pat Smith (nee Allison), by e-mail

Now I know whom to blame

I love watching motor sport on television. But if you live in America, and you aren’t partial to NASCAR, it can be real tough. During the height of the racing season you can watch Cup races, Truck races, Outlaws… you name it.
The other great thing for the NASCAR fan is the programming. Recap shows, round tables, historical documentaries – it’s all there.
But where is the programming for sports car racing? Or Formula 1? Or rallying? Not just the races, which are hard to find anyway, but where are the documentaries about legends like Jim Clark? The five greatest Le Mans cars? Best battles from the Rallye Monte Carlo? I feel like I’m the only one who wants this kind of coverage of the whole of motor sport. Kind of like a Motor Sport Magazine channel – now there’s an idea! I know there are many people like me with the same concerns about race programming.
Who is to blame for this? Whose neck is available for the wringing? Who can I point the finger at and say, “it’s your fault that I can’t get my fix”. Well, now I know. Thanks to Gordon Kirby’s article in the July issue entitled ‘Born of necessity, died of neglect’, I finally know who is responsible for the overwhelming amount of programming relating to just one form of motor sport, and the equally overwhelming lack of programming relating to anything else.
Indy and CART drove a hundred miles an hour in opposite directions, creating a hole big enough for NASCAR to drive three-wide right up the middle. NASCAR became a marketing tour de force and little by little attracted the attention of big-money advertisers. Together, the advertisers and NASCAR have created somewhat of an airwave monopoly. Advertisers want to see their logos, networks get paid by advertisers. Pretty simple math really.
It only adds up one way. NASCAR gets hours and hours of airtime. And I sit on YouTube typing in things like, ‘Best battles of the decade from the Rallye Monte Carlo’.
Wade Devers, Boston, Massachusetts

Le Mans ‘Classic’?

It must be the most evocative name in racing, up there with Indianapolis, Monaco and the ’Ring. So, travelling to the Le Mans Classic for the first time, my expectations were high. What were those expectations? Easy: great drivers, in great cars, on a great circuit. And so it was. But, only a few great drivers in a limited number of great cars.
Something is wrong.
Imagine: a Bugatti arrives at Arnage. Can there be anything more evocative? And then the driver, with both hands, holds up a three-foot cardboard banner saying ‘hello’ to friends in the crowd. This is not racing. It’s a carnival. And the Bugatti driver should have his licence revoked, because he is risking the lives of those around him who are committing everything to compete.
One such is the driver of the Ferrari ‘Breadvan’, a unique and famous car, which is being driven with absolute determination. How we praise the owner and the driver that they should risk such a precious piece of motor racing history. But, at Indianapolis, the car runs wide and slams into the tyre wall. The appreciative crowd shouts ‘hooray’ and applauds.
I’m lost for words. One of the world’s great cars will be that little bit less original, and the owner that little bit less likely to risk his car in front of such unappreciative party-goers.
Don’t get me wrong. Le Mans should be a party. And Le Mans Classic should be a celebration respecting the achievements of our predecessors. But the rich owner’s wife wobbling around at Tesco-car-park pace is a sham. How can a Porsche 935 be beaten by a BMW M1?
Hooray to the classic car heroes of today who raced on the edge throughout the weekend. Boohoo to the organisers who accept pitiful drivers and then charge the race-goers to view ‘Classics’ but instead offer weekend club racers.
Having said that, nothing can take away from the sight of the glowing headlights of the Talbot, Lagonda and Bentley as they battled through the night, nose to tail, contesting first place. That was ‘classic’.
Tim Greenhill, Berkhamstead, Herts

Wrong slot

On page 125 of the September issue of Raw deal for real F1 fans

I have sympathy with both of last month’s F1 enthusiasts, Sam Lever and Mark Winter. As a teenager in the ’50s I crawled through holes in the perimeter fence at Silverstone to get a free view of my heroes. They raced on a track where the Armco was 50 gallon oil drums, filled with sand. Things, thank God, have moved on. As Sam says, however, real fans go to see racing, not book into a five-star hotel on the inside of the first corner, or sit in air-conditioned grandstands, being served fillet mignon. Mark’s right – at the prices demanded in order to meet the requirements of ‘the Bernie bank’ and keep the track owners solvent, he should get top service.
The move of the British GP to Donington is undoubtedly the first step in eliminating it from the calendar. When the management realise it’s impossible to break even, let alone make profit, Bernie bank can then move it to a more obscure, but profitable area. Cayman Isles GP anyone?
Barry Ashtont, by e-mail