Letters from readers, September 2000

Honour satisfied


The news of the sentence imposed on Prof Franco Lombardi [see Matters of Moment] who, apparently out of greed, has tried to stain the honour of my old and dear friend, Olivier Gendebien — now regrettably no longer among us — has arrived in Argentina.

I am pleased by the Italian court judgement even though I am sad that Olivier has not lived long enough to see justice done in the case which he initiated. For my part, I have no doubts, nor had them at any time whatsoever, since I knew well both Olivier Gendebien and the Ferrari 375 Plus car, which I drove at the Maranello Autodrome when it was made available to us by Ferrari.

Now, about this automobile, a sibling of the one in which I won Le Mans in ’54; I can state, after a very thorough examination, that it truly is a genuine, original car. With respect to Olivier Gendebien, I can also state without hesitation that he is not, and never has been, a counterfeiter! And anyone who knew Olivier’s character could only agree. Furthermore, a man like him, with his name, sports history and background, could never have had a reason to engage in the construction of counterfeit cars.

I would be immensely pleased if you could publish this letter out of respect for the image of the great champion Olivier Gendebien, and your readers, who I believe share my great respect for Olivier.

I am, yours, etc, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Uruguay

Hats off to Connaught


I was delighted to read Martin Brundle’s appraisal of the Connaught A-type; he is fully justified in waxing lyrical over the pre-selector gearbox.

Characteristics of the car’s handling might well have changed in the last 48 years, but when I drove A3 to fifth place in the 1952 British Grand Prix, it was beautifully balanced with only a touch of understeer to cope with.

I must correct Martin on one point. In the immediate post-war years, we certainly raced either bareheaded or with linen helmets, but crash hats from Herbert Johnson were obligatory by 1952.

I am, yours, etc, Eric Thompson, Shamley Green, Surrey

Bring back Slicks


Reading the July issue I couldn’t agree more about how Martin Brundle liked mechanical grip from the Fl cars 10 years ago, and how stupid tyre rules spoil today’s grand prix racing. I think there should be some big changes for 2001. First the FIA should make all the teams closer by having the first 10 cars/drivers in each race collect points from 15 for the winner down to one point for the tenth-placed driver. This would allow other teams apart from Ferrari and McLaren to get points.

Also if the engines were limited to 17,000 rpm for all cars and a minimum engine weight of 100kg, Formula One would be more down to the driver and car set-up. At the moment Fl is far too political and it doesn’t matter what or who it is, the person/ team/company with the most money will win every time.

The whole idea of Fl is speed, danger and competitiveness, so let’s have slick tyres back please.

I am, yours, etc, A Birkley, York, Yorkshire

Burnenville Question


I must disagree with Doug Nye regarding the corner at Spa through which Chuck Daigh is drifting his Scarab (lovely shot). I am sure this is Burnenville as the road is sweeping slightly downhill as it goes on towards Malmedy. If it were Raidillon then the road would sweep uphill from Eau Rouge, and the background would be a steep wooded slope, not fields as seen. And what about that wall? Bumenville was a scary comer and it can still be seen today, allowing one to be respectful of those drivers who tackled it as Chuck did.

Having just read Archie and the listas,I am amused by Reventlow’s description of these wonderful cars as being “a piece ofjunk”. Thankfully Briggs Cunningham and Walt Hansgen didn’t agree.

Thanks for a wonderful monthly read.

I am, yours, etc, J. Penfold, Chichester, West Sussex

Rose-tinted spectacle


Your August 2000 issue arrived yesterday and I delved into it during lunch, reading first ‘Senna vs Schumacher’ in your article Uncrowned Duels. Lest admiration and nostalgia blur the memory, let us not forget the number of times both of these

drivers have deliberately run off, or even rammed, their competitors. Of course, admirers of both men can argue that the current attitude of the FIA allows such unsportsmanlike behaviour; nevertheless, both drivers are diminished by it.

I am, yours, etc, Gordon L Jaynes, Virginia Water, Surrey

First Swerve


I would have thought that Simon Taylor, of all people, would be able to recall that the inventor of the violent swerve at the start of a grand prix is, in fact, our own Nigel Mansell, as first demonstrated in the 1990 Portuguese Grand Prix when he moved across on team-mate (and championship contender) Main Prost to effectively ruin his, and the team’s, race.

In that instance it was a foul committed by an Englishman on a Frenchman so nobody minded. Indeed it seems to have been completely forgotten in the idiotic furore stirred up when the offence is (as in France a couple of weeks ago) perpetrated on a Scotsman by a German. I wonder why that is?

Maybe all the outraged ‘fans’ of grand prix racing should stick to less esoteric sports like football, where the bad guys are all foreigners.

Simon Taylor should have at least mentioned the truth, surely?

I am, yours, etc, Kristoffer Blegvad London

Finger trouble


What a sad state modem Fl must be in, judging by Simon Taylor’s column this month. He wonders if they should consider penalising a driver for moving across the track to block an overtaking manoeuvre. And he suggests that slowing down to an unpredictable degree for a corner is a questionable tactic.

In the same column he talks about when Formula One involved racing. If he looks back he will find that a standard technique for keeping your lead is to enter a corner slower than normal so as to be able to accelerate out at an unpredictable point.

Perhaps he would like to see a rule that says you can only overtake stationary cars, then we would have even more of Max Mosley’s exciting pitstops — and people who have never overtaken in their lives (test drivers, for example) wouldn’t have to learn a new technique when they reach Formula One.

And what is this about Schumacher lifting off mid-corner? If he was driving on the limit then lifting off would result in a swift exit off the track. Or does the computer that controls the car somehow defy the laws of physics? Of course, it is possible in modern, endurance, F1 races that they aren’t driving on the limit (even when you have another driver breathing down your neck?), but if that is the case, how can you even start to compare Schumacher to a real racing driver like Senna?

`Kryten’ Coulthard might well have been right in worrying about his digital gesture apparently when Mr Posh Spice did a similar thing after a recent football match, he came very close to being punished. What an exciting world we live in where any gesture of emotion is deemed offensive.

And finally Gary Spaven’s letter (August) queries Simon Taylor’s comment that overtaking at Monaco is impossible. Well, you don’t have to go back to 1979 to find it; in the 1998 Formula 3000 race, Juan Pablo Montoya overtook most the field, and showed what a talented driver can do. Yes, of course F3000 cars are different, but they are far closer than Fl in terms of performance, and not much smaller. Let’s hope Montoya is allowed to shine in F1 soon.

I am, yours, etc, Peter Morley, Tevuren, Belgium

Railton Revisions


With reference to the piece on Reid Railton (July), the MG in the photograph is EX135, not the Magic Midget (EX127), and the Class E records using the four-cylinder XK engine in EX135 were achieved in 1948, not 1938.

Sir Malcolm, not Donald Campbell drove Bluebird K3 to the 126.32 mph Water Speed Record in 1937, and I would describe the rear springs on the 1933 Napier-Railton as being double cantilevers on each side, rather than quarter-elliptics.

I am, yours, etc, Richard Wingett, Saltash, Cornwall

Missed opportunity


Last month Bill Boddy’s main item was Ladies who broke male dominance, but he stopped at 1935.

In 1993 Tina Cooper won the Mini Se7en Championship defeating a field of 25 men over the whole season, winning races and emerging as a worthy champion. Having raced these cars myself they are by no means easy, with negligible grip from their narrow concrete-hard tyres. As soon as you get out of shape they are totally unforgiving and put you into the scenery.

It seems incredible that the only genuinely quick lady driver who could consistently run at the front and win that we had seen in years, was not noticed and put into a top team in Formula 3. Who knows what she would be doing seven years on?

I am, yours, etc, Richard Hinton, Ware, Herts

Rosemeyer in London


I think I can add something to Nigel Roebuck’s remarks about Jenks and Rosemeyer.

The Park Lane showroom was Mercedes and they had one of their racing cars in the window, with nothing else, spotlighted. It was very dramatic and there was usually a small crowd looking at it. Both teams realised the publicity value.

The Auto Union team were somewhere else. A-U was comprised of four small firms Horch, Wanderer, Audi and DKW. The latter were introducing their small two-stroke car into England, so what better than the use of the Auto Union drivers to show it to the public? I think Wanderer had a showroom in Albemarle Street and it might have been there or somewhere nearer Great Portland Street. Wherever it was, you could walk in and look at it.

Jenks borrowed a camera, cycled there and took a picture he later showed me, ¾ rear and a bit fuzzy.

When the Press were told about the team and their DKVVs, Rodney Walkerley, sports editor of The Motor, asked three or four of us whether, should it be needed, we would act as chauffeurs for the drivers as they would not know London or England. We went to the handover; none wanted our services, but we did have a very pleasant morning.

The picture shows Rosemeyer driving off: Rodney (trilby hat) and his Ford V8 behind.

I am, yours, etc, Guy Griffiths, Hove, Sussex

Points arising


Recently I have taken an interest in the pre-war races of the 1930s, particularly those of the period 1935 to 1939, sparked off by Chris Nixon’s excellent Racing the Silver Arrows.

I had always understood that the 1939 European Championship was won by Hermann Lang, but after reading an article on the internet, I have my doubts. The article suggested that HP Muller of Auto Union had, in fact, outscored Lang. I checked the results as published in Racing the Silver Arrows and found that they confirmed this exactly, indicating there were four races counting that year to the championship. The results between those two drivers showed the following:

Lang: 1st, 1st, DNF, DNF;

Muller: 1st, 2nd, 4th, DNF

According to my understanding, the scoring system was the reverse of today’s points, being awarded in ascending order with one point for a win, two points for second, etc and eight points being allocated in the event of a non-finish. So the problem is that if we compute directly from the above, Lang scores 18 while Miiller scores 15.1 acknowledge that, without doubt, the most successful driver that year was Lang in the European Championship races, but he does not appear to have been as successful as Muller.

I might be missing some facts, but having checked the race reports on the intemet the above points-scoring situation is confirmed. Is it possible that the history books need rewriting or can your archives or Bill Boddy throw light on this mystery?

A secondary question I have follows from last weekend when I was watching the British Motorcycle GP from Donington Park. An aerial shot was shown of the area beyond Redgate corner which had been Tarmaced over and the commentator stated that “this was where the German pre-war GP cars used to take off”.

Has the old Melbourne Hairpin been replaced with Tarmac? I hope not, for when I was working in the North, I used to detour (on my way to the M1) through Melbourne village just to see the old corner, and every time I passed it, I had the same thrill it was an awesome sight. To me it is a national monument and irreplaceable.

I am, yours, etc, David J Jones, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset

Lucas Interjection


A small comment your July issue. The section covering the Brabham Alfa-Romeo BT45 in 50 years of Formula One makes mention of “electronic fuel injection”. The Lucas metering unit is clearly visible as are the distinctive nylon injector lines.

As Lucas injection appeared on almost every Formula One car for about 20 years, plus many famous sportscars and a host of others, perhaps it would be the perfect subject for one of your technical features.

A brilliant invention, using a mere handful of moving parts working at very close tolerances (.0001″), I have been a fan of it since I recall the announcement of its installation on Jaguar D-types in the 1950s. Now I run a Lucas unit on my Lancia Fulvia; it is amazingly reliable.

I am, yours, etc, Paul De Raymond Leclercq, via e-mail