Letters, September 2006

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Chiron points

Sir,

Yes, I agree you have produced a great issue, though I hope the reduction of the letters page is not part of a permanent trend…

My real reason for writing this month is to raise two or three points about Louis Chiron and his career. I believe that I am right in saying that he was the only driver to have raced in both the Grand Prix Manufacturers’ World Championship series of 1925-1927 and the present drivers’ series from 1950. I also understand that he was actually leading team-mate Nuvolari’s Alfa in the 1935 German GP – a race that he had won in the past – only for his transmission to fail on lap five. Also there were two French GPs in 1949. Louis won the F1 Grand Prix de France at Reims while the Grand Prix de l’ACF itself was run for sportscars at Comminges three weeks later. Louis eventually finished fourth with Paul Vallée sharing his overheating Talbot.

And he did not ‘hang up his helmet’ after the Mille Miglia in April 1956. He attempted to do one more Monaco GP – this time in a Scuderia Centro-Sud Maserati 250F, but the engine blew up before he could qualify. He also tried the works team’s spare car – with a sadly similar result. He certainly continued with Osca sportscars that year.

I have found Autosport refers to him racing in the Nürburgring 1000kms, GP Supercortemaggiore at Monza, Reims 12 Hours, Pescara GP and the Swiss Mountain GP at Ollon-Villars.

His last race? That would appear to have been the 1957 Mille Miglia in which he shared a Citroen DS19 with André Testut, a fellow Monegasque. They finished second in the 2-litre section of the Special Touring Class. This was not intended to be his swansong, however. Looking forward to Le Mans, Autosport told us: “Maglioli’s co-driver in one of the works Porsches is announced to be 57-year-old Louis Chiron, although friends of the great French veteran are urging him to change his mind”. They must have succeeded.

He also did a few laps in practice for the 1958 Monaco GP in Testut’s by then obsolete Maserati 250F as the owner was way off the pace. This would seem to have been a test to see what was wrong with a mate’s car rather than a serious attempt to qualify.

As I said – a great issue. Keep up the good work.

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

Moss’s ‘ring feat

Sir,

I read Nigel Roebuck’s article on Sir Stirling Moss with great interest. I have to agree that it is very enjoyable talking to Sir Stirling. I had the opportunity to do so about a year ago at Shepherd Street when we interviewed him for a book project on the Nürburgring 1000 kilometre race.

In his article Nigel mentioned the 1959 Nürburgring race and claimed that Moss did 41 laps in that event. Just to put the record straight: Moss in fact did 36 laps. Moss pitted for the first time after lap 17, and Fairman took the car over for six laps (the Brünnchen incident happened on lap 23). Moss took over for another 10 laps and had to hand over to Fairman on lap 34 in order not to contravene the ‘three-hour rule’ (a driver was not allowed at the wheel longer than three hours). Fairman did only two laps and then Moss drove to the finish from lap 36.

Still, this was certainly one of Sir Stirling’s best-ever drives and that he won three more of these gruelling 1000km races at the ’Ring speaks volumes.

Udo Klinkel, Buch am Erlbach, Germany

The affable James Hunt

Sir,

I’ve just read the article on James Hunt in the latest issue of (the delightfully green) Motor Sport.

In 1992 I worked briefly for the F3000 International outfit Pacific Racing. My tenure as a young and inexperienced team gofer was short but during my time with Pacific I had the pleasure of meeting James. During this time he was a consultant with Phillip Morris and, because Marlboro sponsored Pacific, he was present in meetings.

At the first race of the 1992 season at Silverstone, I abandoned whatever menial task I had been assigned and snuck in to the Marlboro hospitality bus to watch the start of the race on the monitors, to find James alone doing the same. As I was the lowliest member of the Pacific team, the bus was definitely off limits. I apologised for disturbing him and was leaving when, taking pity perhaps, he invited me to stay and watch. I was stunned.

At the 1992 Pau race, I again sneaked away from my fetching and carrying duties to watch the start from the first corner, only to find, to my delight, that James had done the same thing. This time, I took the opportunity to chat a little longer. He was affable and easy going.

I never imagined a boyhood hero could be so approachable and so down-to-earth.

My career in the motor racing industry ended a few races later, less than a year before James died. When I heard the news I felt like I’d lost an old friend, even though I’d only spent minutes in his company.

Matt Bailey, Norwich, Norfolk

They’re racers – race them

Sir,

My letter is to ask why we should stop racing old cars as suggested by Max Mosley in your interview and by your correspondent from Switzerland, Michael Bernhard.

Why do we have to keep these beauties in a garage when they were conceived for something totally different? Of course, there’s no point in racing recklessly, but why not race hard?

Why not with Lotuses, McLarens, Audis, Ford Escorts, Lancia 037s or Aston Martins? To me, having a car like that kept like a sculpture without the chance to enjoy it to the fullest is a joke.

If I were to buy an Audi Sport Quattro S1, I’d go to the Circuit de Catalunya, race it until I get sore, go to classic events, call Walter Röhrl, ask him to give me tons of advice to get the best, according to my skills, from it, and if I ever get tired of it, sell it…

What’s the point of spending an awful lot of money if you can’t enjoy it?

Abel Cruz, Barcelona, Spain

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