Readers' Letters, September 2008, September 2008

Sorry for Silverstone

So Bernie has finally carried out his threat and Silverstone is no longer ‘the home of British motor sport’. What a sad and dirty tale of bullying and big business this has been.
For my part I am very disappointed. Living as I do within a stone’s throw of the track I have seen both what the Grand Prix has done for the region over the years, and also the huge strides forward made by the circuit under its recent BRDC guise. It has been obvious for years that Mr Ecclestone has had it in for both the custodians of the circuit and the track itself, and now he finally appears to have been able to ‘put the boot in’ once and for all. There’s no doubt that Donington is a magnificent circuit. I just can’t help thinking that huge amounts of cash will be spent by Donington and its backers in support of this successful bid, only to find in a few years that Mr Ecclestone now wants that circuit to justify its existence against a new rival bid from a race to be run at an underground car park beneath a super casino in Hyde Park, or some such similarly ridiculous diversion.
Silverstone is probably better off without the GP. Finally the BRDC will not have the sword of Damocles constantly hanging over them. I’d like to state though that as a fan of motor sport for over 30 years I am passionate about what happens on the track, not the quality of hotels and hospitality a circuit may or may not offer. Bernie simply doesn’t seem to grasp that point. As a result the sport is being dragged away from its traditional support base to a more glitzy and corporate one. That is all very well when times are as good as they have been, but as all the western economies roll over, that money is going to be needed elsewhere and funding may dry up very quickly. Bernie will then be left with a very different view of the Silverstones of this world. At the same time the £100 million or so being spent on Donington
is going to look like a costly blunder.
Sam Lever, Buckingham

Rough deal for the fans
I’ve been going to the British Grand Prix since 1992 and for the last five years I have taken my son. The fact is that not enough work has been put in to look after the fans. The facilities are very poor and really have not improved. There is nowhere to sit outside the stands, the food is sub-standard and expensive, and the toilets are dirty. I know it is very hard to put on an event like this in such a rural location but lessons do not seem to have been learnt. I feel the BRDC has been very complacent. I hear them talk about improving the paddock and pits, but what about the fans? I paid £700 for two three-day tickets to sit in a covered stand that did not shelter me from the weather, and then paid £5 for a hot dog that I had to wait in line for 20 minutes to buy and then had to stand in the rain to eat it.
Come on guys, this is the 21st century. This is not acceptable and this is why you have lost the event. I have been to many other races and the fact is they look after the fans better. Again Silverstone puts on a great race, but the fans go away feeling cheated.
Mark Winter, by e-mail

Brundle for the Beeb
Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections, with Martin Brundle’s input (August issue), is reason enough to ensure my continued subscription to Motor Sport. I’ve no doubt that the FIA will read his article and foolishly ignore its contents.
I do hope that when the TV coverage of Formula 1 moves to the BBC they have the sense to invite Martin to continue his commentary “on message” (or should that be “on massage”?). The grid walk does little to enhance the show, but his educated and informative words during a GP are reason to pay attention. I would be intrigued to know what his views are about the practicality of converting Donington Park into a safe/entertaining GP circuit. As it is my local circuit I fear that the character of the place will surely be lost and I fail to understand how 100,000 spectators are going to be accommodated within the boundaries of the existing track.
The World Series by Renault meetings in 2006 and ’07 found the local roads and traffic management system sadly lacking, but I suppose the East Midlands airport is available as a quick exit for those who do not stop until the chequered flag.
Peter Dring, Ripley, Derbyshire

Embarrassed by Max
As usual Nigel Roebuck hits the nail on the head – double his salary. And Martin Brundle: I can’t disagree with anything he said – give him a job. And Max Mosley – be gone! I last saw him at the Hockenheim F2 race in 1968, and I feel embarrassed by him. How anyone can look him in the eye after recent goings on I don’t know. Please, for the sake of our sport, just GO!
Jonathan Moorhouse, York

Well, my ‘old gits magazine’ as my wife calls Motor Sport flopped through the door the other day. Having worked as a gofer and mechanic on the Theodores of 1977 and ’78, I was delighted to see the Lunch With… Keke Rosberg. I remember being in South Africa at the two-week tyre test before the GP. At the Jo’burg hotel reception Keke told us he had given up the fags now he was an F1 driver and was trying to take it all seriously with regards to fitness, etc. He was back on them a couple of months later, probably when he realised that this category was no different to any other – just a bit more talk and bull. To me Keke was a fantastic driver – he always worked hard.
Anyway I just want to correct something he said about the Theodore ‘shitbox’, as Eddie Cheever called it. The one he raced at Kyalami had to have a new tub after the brake pad shunt in testing a week earlier. The old one was beyond repair so we nicked the good bits off it. Vince Higgins back in England riveted together the second tub and flew to SA with it ‘under his arm’. It was put together in a local workshop and Keke raced well until he had to stop with fuel-soaked overalls. I remember emptying a watering can down his back as soon as he jumped out. When the car came back to England it was rebuilt with Alan McCall as the chief spanner/workshop manager. Lots of gussets and doublers were added – this was the same car Keke used at Silverstone two weeks later. Although a lot of these back-of-the-grid cars were indeed shitboxes they still required a huge effort to get them to the GPs.
I’m still working on F1 cars, but now instead of five people and a driver we have 750-plus and drivers. And in our PC world the cars are just slow, not shitboxes.
Things can only improve. Good job Keke.
David Hanna, North Aston, Oxfordshire

Hill deserves credit
I’ve always been a staunch supporter of Damon Hill. His plain speaking, self-effacing style is familiar, but I was taken aback by just how honest he was with Andrew Benson in the July issue. It was a great article and very refreshing to hear a recent F1 star open up so much.
Damon was never the most naturally gifted driver, but that is exactly why he won my admiration. I never tire of watching hard work, and there was a fair bit of that with Damon! During his racing career he was determined and fiercely competitive; he coped under enormous pressure and maintained his dignity. He pushed himself constantly and dug deep to produce some outstanding performances. Damon earned his success and was a worthy champion.
Loyal Schumacher fans no doubt scoffed at Damon’s claim that “on occasions [I was] every bit as good as Michael Schumacher”, but he’s right. Even in the “catastrophic” 1995 season, Hill was still the only driver able to consistently challenge Schumacher on track, even if it did sometimes end with them both in the gravel.
D Greeney, London

Damon’s other top drives
I enjoyed Andrew Benson’s article on Damon Hill, but I have a small bone to pick with his decision to limit the review of Hill’s best performances to those with Williams.
His drive in the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix was certainly one of his best days. In a car that didn’t belong on an F1 grid at the start of the season, Hill drove to near victory, falling to second at the end when the hydraulic system failed. Watching his last lap in the wounded Arrows was an especially painful moment.
His victory at Spa in ’98 was all the more gratifying. Driving another car (Jordan) that had never won, he outqualified Michael Schumacher in the dry and drove a superior race in the wet. Schumacher led on a wet set-up after the heavens opened, but then did what many do in the rain: he crashed (and blamed all but himself for rear-ending Coulthard). Damon, in contrast, did what an accomplished driver does on his best days, driving a controlled race on a difficult circuit in treacherous conditions and staying ahead. A fine day for a fine driver, who is also, good days and bad, a man of genuine character and refreshing honesty.
Steve Babson, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Do mention the Warr
Thank you very much for the Lunch With… Peter Warr (July issue). I had come across his name years ago as a force in the early days of the modern Formula 1 era, and have been frustrated since in not finding any books or articles on this most fascinating person. Your article and pictures of Peter from his days with Lotus conveyed exactly the mental image I have of this vibrant, energetic man – a brilliant, natural leader with an unmistakable joie de vive for the sport. Is it a stretch to suggest that Peter was the real genius behind Lotus? More on Mr Warr, please!
Richard Docken, Beavercreek, Ohio, USA

ALMS is a star draw
I read with interest the article on the ALMS by Gordon Kirby (June issue). Although he made a good synopsis of the series, I have to take issue with a few of his points. To say, “the series is comprised almost entirely of factory-backed teams from Audi, Porsche, Acura and Mazda…” is not a very accurate assessment.
I don’t think specialist chassis or car manufacturers like Radical, Creation, Zytek or Lola would be too pleased to be left off the list. And that’s only the prototype field.
The fact that Porsche has been cleaning up of late is because of the ALMS’ decision to hold off on the adoption of the ACO’s rules which would enable LMP1 cars to be much faster (performance and pitstop/fuelling regulations). In an effort to keep the racing close, these rules are being delayed for as long as possible, but the ACO might force its hand next season.
My biggest issue, however, was the statement that the series has “many good drivers, but no big names or superstars”. I think that entry lists with names like Capello, McNish, Pirro, Brabham, Fittipaldi, Salo and Lamy would get a pretty big draw at any track. How about Stefan Johansson, Didier Theys and Jan Lammers? Who wouldn’t love to see those guys race? Try telling the Corvette Racing fans that O’Connell, Fellows, Gavin and Papis are not superstars, and you’ll have a riot on your hands! I’m not the only Aston fan I’m sure – two-time Le Mans GT1 winner Darren Turner is a real crowd-pleaser, and the list goes on.
F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport, but there have been more than a few hangers-on in that series over the years. Would any of them make the ‘superstar’ list? I think not. The ALMS has great cars, awesome racing, world-class teams and some pretty big names too.
Keep up the awesome magazine!
James Edmonds, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA

Not the British GP
Much as I enjoy the magazine, I do wish you would pay more attention to accuracy when reporting events. On p114 of the August issue you refer to “the 1948 British Grand Prix”. That is incorrect – the first British GP was held on May 14, 1949. The first race at Silverstone on October 2, 1948 was called ‘The RAC International Grand Prix’. I have the programme (price one shilling) and note that Roy Salvadori finished fifth.
Peter Whybrow, Bancroft, Hitchin

Max will be missed
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Max Boxstrom. In the 1970s a group of mechanics from many F1 teams of the time would meet at the Fox and Hounds in Old Windsor. Just after last orders in would stroll Max, who would thus get out of shouting a round – every week.
Time passed and I found myself running the Chaparral Indycar team in Texas. With the new ground effect 2K the multi-piece aluminium wheels on the car would incessantly leak air. Max designed replacement three-spoke magnesium Dymag wheels which made the yellow Chaparral look really mean, and it was very fast.
The car made a huge amount of downforce, but the long, high-g corners taken at higher speeds than F1 meant that the wheels were cracking. I went to England with broken wheels as hand luggage to show Max our problem, but he kept telling me that these wheels were OK for F1, so they must be OK for Indycars.
I got Max to the CART race at Phoenix, with its 150mph lap where the car was on the banking for a long time at high speed and very high load. I sent him down to stand inside Turn One when Johnny Rutherford was out in the car. He came back white-faced, saying in his deep Canadian-English vernacular, “bloody hell”. Suffice to say the next wheels sent to us weighed a ton but they did not crack.
We have lost quite a character.
Steve Roby, by e-mail