Letters, September 2007

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An open secret 

Sir, 

While not doubting Jackie Oliver’s abilities, I have to take issue with his memory in crediting Colin Chapman with originating the idea of a wing bearing directly onto suspension uprights.

When Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2Es appeared at Bridgehampton on September 16, 1966 they came with fully developed hydraulically actuated wings acting on the rear uprights. On July 30 the following year, Hall’s 2F won the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch. Despite Chaparral’s legendary security, everybody was able to share in the secrets of the 2F when Shell featured a 2F cutaway by James Allington in its advertisements and gave away the drawing as a free poster!

Chapman would also have admired the rear-set radiators, self-adjusting downforce nose and semi-automatic ’box, but he would have had the satisfaction that his Elite had helped inspire the Chaparral glassfibre chassis tub which had started out four years earlier fitted with the complete suspension from a Lotus 24.

Richard Falconer, Painswick, Glos.

Emmo at the crease 

Sir, 

I am pleased to say that I can throw some light on the date and place of the photograph (June issue) depicting Henri Pescarolo, looking pretty much like a cricketer, and Jackie Stewart, not looking like one, as I played in that very game.

The occasion was a charity match between Lord Brabourne’s XI and a Grand Prix Drivers’ XI on the day after the 1972 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, July 16, at his Lordship’s private ground, Mersham-le-Hatch, on the A20 south of Ashford. How times change. Who can imagine the current crop of Formula 1 drivers staying another night without payment to play a mysterious foreign game which few of them would have understood?

At that time I was secretary of the GPDA. This qualified me to turn out for the drivers’ team, and, as the only experienced cricketer in sight, to become arguably the tallest wicket-keeper in the history of the game.

A few memories of that game live on in the mind. Emerson Fittipaldi, on being invited to ‘bowl’, marched back some 30 yards, turned, tore in and threw the ball as hard as he could. After his first delivery I was forced to stand a very long way back to take the ball head-high. He could literally have killed someone.

Ken Tyrrell was one of the umpires. One of the opposition’s batsmen had spent a long time at the crease. Between overs Ken whispered to me, “If you stand up, take the ball cleanly and whip off the bails, I’ll give him out even if he’s not.” Two balls later he did just that. Fittipaldi was not the bowler.

It was a very hot day. Later, when we were batting, I had made about 40, a few off the bowling of Dick Richardson – the former England batsman – when I turned to Ken and muttered, “I’m exhausted. I must try to get out.” As good as his word, he did the same for me.

The legendary Raymond Baxter was commentating. Although he was to make his name with Tomorrow’s World and motor racing commentaries, his knowledge of cricket did not match up to that of his chosen subjects. After text-book cover drives and square cuts over the loudspeaker would come the words, “another boundary to Nick Syrett, an unorthodox stroke”. I could have murdered him.

The winner of the 1972 British GP? ‘Chucker’ Fittipaldi. I forget who won the cricket match!

Nicholas Syrett, Putney, London

Fascination without the froth 

Sir, 

I would just like to say how impressed I am with this month’s magazine. What a fascinating article about David Piper, who I was fortunate enough to chat to at the 2006 Goodwood Revival. I was also pleased to see a healthy dose of the Lotus marque featured; with the impressive 2-Eleven, Type 78, Lotus Elite and Mario Andretti. It’s a real pleasure reading this magazine – the in-depth articles, down to earth way it’s written and the immense knowledge from your writers. It’s so refreshing after the headline-grabbing froth one reads in other classic car magazines. Please keep it up.

Mark Blanchard, Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames

Jim fixed it for me

Sir, 

Further to Jeff Jackson’s letter in the August edition of the magazine, I was lucky enough to meet Jim Hall at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend. Although I had read the Vic Elford interview in Motor Sport I was a bit star-struck over the chance to speak to such an influential and radical designer, and asked him about what inspired him to make the Chaparral fan car. It was the first question that popped into my head, probably because we were standing next to the car at the time! 

He confirmed the story about a young boy sending him some drawings and described the design he was sent as being a futuristic-looking car with a propeller mounted centrally on the top to push it into the ground. He said that got him thinking about using a fan, but under the car to create a hovercraft in reverse.

One thing in particular I’ll always remember about meeting him is that when I said how much I admired his cars he seemed genuinely pleased. I thought it was lovely that such an important designer would be like that, and that he would take the time to speak to a total stranger. A brilliant designer and a fine gentleman with it.

Martin Moore, West Sussex

Where have all the Wheatcrofts gone? 

Sir, 

I should like to congratulate Simon Taylor on a truly fascinating Lunch with… article in the August edition. Where have all the Tom Wheatcrofts gone? A shining example to all as to the merits of hard work and determination. Thanks again Simon, and to you all for a fine magazine.

Alex Tomlinson, Cleveleys, Lancashire

Teenage kicks 

Sir, 

Thank you for your wonderful feature on DFVs, which brought back a host of great memories.

In 1982, while waiting to go to university, I wrote to every major racing team to ask for work experience. Few bothered to reply, but my father was astonished to take a telephone call a few days later from Keith Duckworth himself, inviting me to an interview. I barely survived it, because Mr Pratt (the personnel manager) and Mr Duckworth gave me a grilling in a small, hot room with all the windows closed, smoking incessantly. I felt sick for hours afterwards.

My gap year with the company had its ups and downs, because no one really knew what to do with me. The highlights included being trusted to dynamometer test F1 engines completely unsupervised (would a 17-year-old do that today?), and acting as Mr Duckworth’s personal odd-job boy, which meant a lot of time spent in conversation with the great man himself (in his smoky office with his ash-tray the size of a dustbin lid). This genius taught me more about engineering than Cambridge University managed over the next three years. I also spent some time making brackets for the seat in Mike Costin’s glider!

I remembered clearly lots of details when prompted by your stories of different projects, including the Lanchester balance shafts for the DFL: they made big dents in the test-house walls when they broke off! Also, Mario Illien bringing us a cuckoo clock from Switzerland for the test-house, and his crate of champagne for when the DFY cracked 530bhp – it was never opened!

One of Mr Duckworth’s special secret projects was the ‘stuffocharger’ – a supercharger with no moving parts, like a static Comprex or a two-stroke exhaust system. This was developed on a supercharged BDA which kept breaking the nose of its crank. I suggested a solution (an outrigger bearing) to Paul Morgan, then a project engineer, who dismissed it as stupid. This didn’t stop him from presenting it to Mr Duckworth as his idea! It worked perfectly.

When the special DFY was built for Tyrrell, it was put together by a team of top development fitters working into the night ; two did a cylinder head each, another one the bottom end. I did a few minor jobs like polishing the ends of the valve springs, but when I looked at the job sheet afterwards I found that the fitters had generously named me as one of the engine builders. It meant a lot to me, and I could tell everyone that I helped to build the last DFV to win a GP!

After my stint at university I returned to Cosworth, but it wasn’t the same. Mr Duckworth had been marginalised, and Mr Morgan and Mr Illien had gone. There were layers of clueless management getting in everyone’s way. I left soon afterwards to go freelance, and remain so today. After you have worked for Keith Duckworth, it’s difficult to find the necessary respect to work for anyone else.

Ian Cramp, Coventry

Chapman foxed

Sir,

Congratulations on an excellent feature on the DFV and Lotus 49 in the July issue. 

The piece with Jackie Oliver in particular was so enjoyable as he was there when all the development was taking place and he still doesn’t look any older! The mention of the suspected rear wing failure at Rouen in 1968 led me to dig out my video of the BBC’s excellent series The Power & the Glory. In one memorable episode, ‘The Revolutionaries’, covering the Cooper and Lotus era, some period film footage features the incident, and Jackie discusses it. It still brings a smile to my face seeing Colin Chapman telling Bruce McLaren and his mechanics they had “better have a look and see if there’s any cracks in your bellhousing,” as Colin thought this was the cause of the crash.

Chris Carroll, South Shields, Tyne & Wear

From Russia with love 

Sir, 

Sometimes a magazine just hits the spot! I’m sitting in northern Russia reading the August 2007 mag and I find an article by Dario Franchitti talking about his Indy 500 win and his dedication to that racing legend Jim Clark. Well done, Dario – it is a well-deserved win.

Moving on, there’s a piece about my personal hero, Graham Hill, by one of the nicest guys in motorsport, Henri Pescarolo. Now I start to get emotional because none other than Sir Stirling Moss is talking about Lewis Hamilton and reflecting my views exactly! He’s a star.

Then you bring back so many more memories with Ralph Bellamy and the glorious Lotus 78, a car so far ahead of its rivals it was untrue. The 79 was prettier but what if the Historic GP racers do what Ralph suggests and put the 79 rear end on a 78? 

It doesn’t stop there. You’ve got Mario Andretti talking about his time(s) with Lotus and ‘chats’ with Colin Chapman. Got to say I’m enjoying the interview with Jacques Villeneuve, too: I don’t think I’ll be buying his CD, though. Thank you for stirring so many great memories. 

Peter Mallett, Leighton Buzzard, Beds.

You were there

Inspired by David Tremayne’s masterful The Lost Generation, Paul Mitchell dug out several pics of ’70s stars who were cut down in their prime. “As a racing enthusiast and photographer in the 1970s and ’80s, my recollection is of close and unpredictable racing on some remarkable circuits. Access to pits and paddocks was easy but sadly so many of the drivers I photographed, from Tom Pryce to Tony Brise, Ronnie Peterson to Gilles Villeneuve, are, as David Tremayne might put it, ‘gone but not forgotten’.

“This shot shows the Shadow team’s awning at Brands for the ’74 British GP.” It was driver Tom Pryce’s first season in F1, the former FAtlantic star making his debut in Belgium for Token. For this, his fourth GP  start, he finished eighth.  

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