Letters: October 2017

Alfas still going strong

I write to ask you to correct an inaccuracy in your otherwise excellent Pescara report, which gave great prominence to the magnificent Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio model belonging to Ven Fonte. Contrary to your assertion, this particular car is not the ‘only survivor of the quartet’, nor even the most original of the survivors – and according to Fusi there were five RL TF team cars in 1924, not four.

No less a magazine than Motor Sport has featured the ‘other surviving’ Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio model previously (most recently in June 2005).

The present owner of the ex-Styles/Crowley Milling/Lurani Pescara-featured RL TF, the great collector Ven Fonte, is a respected friend and from the time of the two cars being side by side at Bonfanti’s workshop, he too recognises that his car isn’t “the only survivor of the RL TF team cars”, or “Campari’s car” – even if he was sold the car as such. I attach pictures of my RL TF – one from Zandvoort and another from 1924, just before its arrival in UK after Tony Lago’s short ownership – the car is identical today with all original body panels from 1924, having removed the pointed tail fitted in 1924/5 for Brooklands.

The Pescara-featured RL TF looked very different when it was in UK between 1925 to about 1970, when fitted with a completely different UK body. My car is substantially identical to how it was in 1924 – only the period tail fitted for Brooklands and the well-base tyres being different.

These early 1920s Alfa Romeo RL TF cars are not by any means museum pieces. They are very usable road/racing cars, more-than-capable of safe motoring in modern traffic and of surprising most other road users with their 80mph cruising performance, 100mph-plus top speed and exceptional roadholding. Several replica RL TFs have been constructed, and some of these with original RL parts are indistinguishable from the original RL TFs. But the fact is that there are at least two original Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florios in 1924 guise able to be seen in continuing action.
Christopher Mann, Greenwich, London

Strength in depth

Peter Fox’s breathtaking image (August) of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes hard at work at Suzuka reminds one how hard the F1 driver has to work to get ahead.

Further into the publication, in celebration of the iconic Williams team’s 40 years in F1, we’re treated to a taste of a Williams of the current era versus a Williams of another era, the legendary FW14B. Karun Chandok further highlights how hard an F1 driver has to work to get the most from the car and reminded us how Nigel Mansell, with his upper body strength, was able to master the FW14B.

Finally, in celebrating Nigel Mansell’s inclusion in the MS Hall of Fame, Patrick Head paid Nigel a great compliment. When he stepped into a Williams back then, everyone raised their game, acknowledging no one could make it go faster. After all, that’s what Frank paid our Nige to do – even if he was a difficult man out of the cockpit. The gladiators of F1 today are no different from those of yesteryear – boy, have they got nuts whilst being blessed with sublime skill and a touch of tetchiness in between. Motor Sport has done a grand job of bring these memories and insights together.
Nick Meikle, Adelaide, Australia.

Very close shave

As always, I enjoyed your “Lunch with …” feature, but I don’t remember (or recognise) Mike Wilds without his trademark shoulder-length hair and full beard and moustache. I saw him race in F5000 and F1 in 1973-75, and my photo shows him chatting with Brian Redman (above) at the Daily Express International Trophy race at Silverstone on April 6-7, 1974. That’s the Mike Wilds I remember!
Jeff Allison, Ken-Caryl Valley, Colorado

A GT40 in our car park…

I have just read with interest Gordon Cruickshank’s article on his visit to the FAST museum at Farnborough, and the wind tunnels on the former RAE site. I worked in and around wind tunnels during my career at the RAE from the 1960s, including the massive 24ft model. The Benetton F1 team tested in the 11.5ft tunnel in the 1990s and I believe the rolling road they used is still there.

Another F1 connection was the use of the 24ft version by Dan Gurney’s Eagle team in the 1960s, to resolve a radiator flow problem in the Weslake. I also saw the 1969 Le Mans-winning Gulf GT40 driving around the site, in connection with a film being made about carbon fibre – the car used some CFRP in its bodywork. The sight of this car in one of the RAE car parks among humble commuting vehicles was rather incongruous!
Ian Moir, Dorking, Surrey

Short-lived record

I enjoyed your excellent article on David Hepworth’s 4WD hillclimb special, in particular when he broke the half-minute barrier at Shelsey Walsh in June 1971. I went up in my Repco Brabham just before David and I broke the existing record with a time of 30.08sec. David ran last with a time of 29.93sec, so I held the record for less than half a minute!
Tony Griffiths, Warwick

Bruce on top in London

Further to the letter from Nigel Urwin in September’s Motor Sport, on the subject of Mike Flewitt’s McLaren M4A, this car’s first “race win” was in the hands of Bruce in the second heat of the BUA International Trophy at Crystal Palace on Spring Bank Holiday Monday 1967. After leading for many laps he ended up third in the final. See Motor Sport, July 1967.
Ian Pratt, Waltham On The Wolds, Leicestershire

Mini in miniature

Regarding the article in the August issue on slot cars, I was there in 1966 and 1976 when the RAC Rally came through the Ingleby forest of North Yorkshire near Guisborough. In 1966 the works Minis were the sight to see, and then in 1976 it was the Lancia Stratos.

Now I can relive those moments whenever I like as I’ve built a slot car rally stage in my garage, complete with cars and spectators – as the picture (above) shows.
Paul Vickers, via email

Garden cuttings

I am sure that I am not the only reader scratching their heads as to what is secured on the passenger seat of the Ferrari 275P in the September Parting Shot. Maybe they could have been more successful had they not stopped at a local garden centre!
Jon Jeffrey, Conwy, Gwynedd

Potted history

Re September’s Parting Shot, I love what looks like lobster nets in the passenger seat of Parkes’ 275P, for getting out of the notorious Le Mans sand banks. Parkes had sent half an hour digging his 330LMB out of one in the 1962 race so I suppose he wanted to be well prepared.

Bring back the sand banks! It certainly would encourage our current heroes to stay within track limits.
David Fox, Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, USA

Key issue

Thank you for at last putting into print how damnably stupid ‘keyless go’ is!

I lost a Friday evening a couple years ago after dropping off a colleague at a station. As I drove out of the drop-off zone my Ford Galaxy crew van started to make beeping noises, then the dashboard flashed red. That’s when the light dawned… I ended up chasing the train a third of the way to London before managing to connect with the keys and finally getting home at 10 rather than 7.30pm.

Another colleague dropped off someone in Paris then set off to Southern Italy in a diesel Audi A6 with a full tank. She ended up spending two days on a sofa in a small Italian village she’d diverted into from the main road in order to get a decent meal. She didn’t realise she was truly ‘keyless’ until she’d parked up outside a promising-looking restaurant. The ‘keys’ had to be couriered there, at huge cost…

Worse still was another journalist friend of mine who parked his new press fleet Mercedes CL near the tall fence of the beer garden where he was having Sunday lunch with friends and family. He put the keys on the table; then his son doubled around the pub and drove the Merc around the corner out of view. My friend was about to call Mercedes press office to report it stolen when his son fessed up!

When will car makers, who supposedly clinic everything to death, realise just how stupid this is?
John Lakey, Birmingham

Plaudits for Broadley

Thanks to Motor Sport and Sam Smith for the fine obituary of Eric Broadly.

Those of us in Canada who have admired the British Lola brand may not have known his story.

The attention to detail in the piece was amazing and it certainly deserved a full page.

If Chaparral and McLaren were rock and roll, the design of Lola was ballet.

The level of excellence in your magazine is admirable.
Bill Shepherd, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Crime and punishment

During the recent Wellington Test Match between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions, Sonny Bill Williams quite rightly received a red card for a dangerous and illegal shoulder charge on Watson.

Peter Sagan was disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France after a rather sinister elbowing of Mark Cavendish into the barriers.

In the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel twice deliberately drove into Lewis Hamilton and what did he receive – just a 10-second penalty, and when he was called to the ‘headmaster’s study’ his apology, if that is what it can be called, was accepted without question, there were smiles all round and Vettel was sent back to his classroom. Of course! He drives for Ferrari, so no great surprise then that he was let off so lightly.

I have long since given up on F!, which sadly lost the plot some while ago, and now devote my time to Historic racing around the circuits of Europe. And what a pleasure it is.
Chris Humphrys, Gaucin, Malaga, Spain

Formula other one

Once again, the future of the British Grand Prix is being called into question. Should we be asking whether Silverstone needs F1? There is no longer a French, a German or a San Marino Grand Prix, and even the Italian Grand Prix has recently been under threat.

Would it possible to create a new Grand Prix series, using these circuits?

It could be a single-make series, or possibly some of the smaller F1 teams could be persuaded to join. The television rights would be sold to BBC or ITV making it free to air; and in-car radio communications would be banned, putting the emphasis back on driver skill.

Yes, it could not compete with the financial clout of F1, and would not initially attract the elite drivers. It would, however, be more accessible and entertaining than the dreary processions currently being beamed from Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur or Abu Dhabi.

If nothing else, it would reinvent Grand Prix motor racing as a sport, and not simply a business opportunity for faceless moneymen.
Michael Cartwright, Waterloo, Liverpool

Classic sounds

I felt compelled to write to you to share the delights of the Silverstone Classic last weekend. The highlight was standing near the Luffield corners and listening to the aural delight of the Williams FW14B being driven in a spirited manner. It was mind-blowing to hear this car in isolation – you could hear it all around the lap, popping and banging on the overrun then sweet as a nut as the throttle was applied. And the millisecond gear shifts! It is amazing how these 3.5-litre V10s spinning at colossal rpm managed Grand Prix-length races. The mind boggles at what happens to all those moving parts inside these masterpieces.
Philip Cardis, Ilkley, Yorks

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