Readers letters, September 2009

Schuey great without Brawn


Mr Hasker wants to reassess Michael Schumacher’s achievements in comparison to other World Champions, and the extent of Ross Brawn’s influence on his successes (Letters, August). So here goes.

In 1991 in Michael’s first Formula 1 race, he qualified the Jordan seventh on the grid. He then scored points in his next three races for Benetton. All this before Ross joined Michael.

In 1996 Michael joined Ferrari, committed to making the sleeping giant a winner again – unlike Fangio, who just jumped ship each season to make sure he was in the most competitive car. Michael scored three wins in the uncompetitive Ferrari before Ross joined the team towards the end of that season.

It is true that during their successful periods at Benetton and Ferrari, Michael and Ross worked as a team, but when Ross told Michael what lap times he needed Michael produced them – Ross was not in the car with him.

Success inevitably comes as a result of team effort, but this has always been the case, just as Stewart’s wins were orchestrated by Ken Tyrrell and Clark’s by Colin Chapman.

John Fyfe, Edinburgh

Silly statements season


I refer to the letter ‘Time to reassess Schumacher?’ in your August issue. Well, the silly season is upon us again. I find these short-sighted thoughts get under my skin as I get older.

Statements of this kind all revolve around one large word – ‘if’. Anyone can hypothesize on this subject for a lifetime, but there is only one guide we can go on – the facts. Like him or loathe him, the wins, fastest laps or any of the other records of Michael Schumacher show that he is, so far, the greatest driver of all time. I deeply admire the wonderful ability of Ross Brawn, but what about the contribution of Jean Todt or Luca di Montezemolo – was that nothing?

The letter also does Jenson Button a disservice. Are we going to say Ross won his races for him? No. Ross is a gentleman who happens to have a mastery of his craft, but as he has said several times, once the lights go to green there is nothing he can do.

On a different subject, thank you Motor Sport for last month’s wonderful article on John Surtees. I think he and Lorenzo Bandini did a great job. The two of them not only had their rivals to beat, but also many back-stabbers. Forza Big John and Renzo – and thanks for the memories.

David Woodman, Rolleston-on-Dove, Burton-on-Trent

DBR4 has form


When Andrew Frankel writes that “with the likes of Attwood at the wheel, [the DBR4] is at last doing what it was designed to do; winning races,” he shows how short memories can be. As a schoolboy, I recall Neil Corner doing the business with this car in the early 1970s in VSCC events.

Moreover, Corner was winning against the likes of Lotus 16s; this year, the VSCC has limited its races to pre-1958 cars, which keeps the 16s and Ferrari Dinos out but ‘grandfathers in’ this 1959 DBR4 because the first one was built at the back end of 1957.

I can attest, too, that the 300 horsepower figure is very real, because it left the 250hp ERA I was driving at Silverstone for dead down the straights.

Mark Gillies, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Panamera lacks style…


Andrew Frankel’s review of the Panamera (August issue) confirmed what I have long suspected, that Porsche can no longer style cars.

The 911 is so stuck in its looks that it is impossible for the casual observer to distinguish one model from another, or even one decade from another. So when called to venture from its 911 comfort zone, Porsche’s design department seems to be left floundering.

It is pretty obvious where they got the front end of the Panamera from – it’s a morph of a 911 and a Cayenne and stop the process halfway through. Job done! The back end appears to be inspired by that icon of how not to design a car, namely the last and highly forgettable Ford Granada. It’s a bit like the story of the king’s new clothes – nobody in the Porsche hierarchy had the balls to say, ‘That’s a dog, do it again!’

The Panamera will no doubt prove to be a competent means of getting from A to B, but in this market that is simply not enough. If I had the cash I would buy one and put a Camm tail on it. No, come to think of it I will stick with my 928GTS, a timeless design from when Porsche employed people who could draw a decent body shape.

Mike Raeburn, Whiterashes, Aberdeen

… but 935 was indeed a classic


I very much enjoyed the article on the Porsche 935 (Classic Racing Cars, August) having always loved this “big beast” of a – what? Sports car? No! GT car? Well, I suppose so – that was what it was classed as.

In the 1984 Sebring 12 Hours, however, it was the De Narvaez Enterprises 935 that won, not “De Varzares”. It couldn’t have hurt that it was also crewed by Stefan Johansson and Hans Heyer, as well as De Narvaez, who was no slouch by any means. All entered and run by Reinhold Joest too…

I’ve driven 934s and 935s. As far as the 934 is concerned, give me an RSR any day! Throttle lag and too much weight really hurt the enjoyment quota of a 934. But a 935… That’s a different matter, particularly with the twin-turbo versions.

What wasn’t mentioned was that the Porsche factory built some 40 cars to be sold to its customers in 1977-79, the latter being single-turbo IMSA versions bound for America.

Purists may sneer at their lowly “production car” origins, but, believe me, when you light up the turbos of a 935 down a good straight, the rest of the field goes backwards at an amazing rate! Great cars.

John Starkey, by e-mail

Schermany calling


I enjoyed Doug Nye’s ‘The Ghosts of Reims’ story in the July issue, as I always do when I reach that section of the magazine.

As for that mysterious ‘Schorsch’ Meier, mentioned in the text, his name was actually Georg. In some parts of Germany they apparently give the name Georg a French pronunciation!

Örjan Bergstedt, Solna, Sweden

No better than Balestre


Over the years we have heard much of Max Mosley’s intelligence, articulacy and powers of advocacy. So why is it that his negotiating skills are so crass and inept? When he took over as FIA president from Balestre he was greeted as a breath of fresh air, but he has turned out to be even more arrogant and autocratic than his predecessor, albeit having achieved much in motor sport safety. In light of recent events, Mosley’s crisis management has left much to be desired, exemplified by his personalisation of disputes – with Ron Dennis in the past, and now with Luca di Montezemolo, Flavio Briatore and others, all labelled as “loonies”.

The one element of the dispute I have long puzzled over is the right of the FIA to impose financial constraints on the teams. Discuss and encourage cost-cutting certainly, but to dictate budget levels and then propose policing those budgets is surely way outside the governing body’s remit. It would appear that the FIA/Mosley wished to ignore the teams’ own plans to cut costs, and are unaware of the difficulties in managing the financial and personnel issues arising from such draconian measures.

The settlement of this dispute can only be welcomed by any participant or fan of F1 – to have let it develop so far that a breakaway series was planned is simply bizarre. Mosley has only himself to blame for leaving behind a legacy which does not present him in a good light, much the same as Balestre. Any form of governance by diktat will always prove divisive and we can only hope lessons have been learnt, although history tends to disprove this theory.

Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon

Don’t damage Donington


Thank heavens for Jenson Button and Brawn GP. I don’t believe I am alone in becoming disenchanted with much of motor sport, and particularly F1. When the private life of the FIA president gains more column inches than the latest aerodynamic tweak by an F1 team, and with Bernie Ecclestone and/or CVC creaming off profits and making it clear that the teams will get no more cash unless, of course, there is someone (who could that be?) they need to keep ‘on board’, then I’ve had enough.

On top of all this we have the stupidity of the British GP moving from Silverstone to Donington. F1 is about fast cars on fast circuits. Even if the Donington dream sees the light of day, the new layout will completely ruin infield spectating for all but the major meetings, and as for the traffic arrangements, it goes to prove that we have not had a decent road engineer in this area since the Romans left.

Please, please listen Mr Mosley. For decades I have been happy to pay to attend half a dozen meetings a year at Donington, but the way things are going the VSCC meeting in September could be my last. Even switching on the TV for a GP is becoming a chore. You are in danger of destroying your fan base.

Peter Dring, Codnor, Ripley, Derbyshire

Knocked down and ripped off


Having been an F1 fan from the days of Fangio, and not having been to a race for more than two decades, the time had come to see the alleged last British Grand Prix at Silverstone. I have seen Silverstone fairly recently from the cockpit of my old glider, and it brought back fantastic memories of all the great drivers and races. Maybe I should have left it at that. Unfortunately, I did go to Silverstone this year.

I now understand why hardly anybody turned up at Bahrain or Turkey – those people obviously have more sense than this OAP. Who really wants to see Peter Hain on the big screen at Stowe? F1 as we now know it reflects and enhances modern-day attitudes towards greed, money, fair play and sportsmanship, and it is not good. It’s a shame younger fans haven’t had the opportunity to see a proper GP at Silverstone for many a year, when it was still expensive but at least you got a race and not a procession.

The coup de grâce was that while walking to the ‘end of the meeting’ concert, I was knocked down by a BMW VIP car and the driver didn’t have the grace or manners to stop.

Goodbye and good riddance to ‘rip-off Silverstone’. Hopefully a better organisation will emerge in F1 that will give fans, drivers, teams, sponsors and circuits a fair crack of the whip. With a bit of luck, maybe it’s the beginning of the end of the Bernie-and-Max fiasco.

Graham Kench, Folkingham, Lincolnshire

Memories of Monaco


How fantastic to read Simon Taylor’s Lunch With… Tim Schenken (August issue), and yes, it did bring back memories, particularly Monaco 1969. This was my first continental Grand Prix, aged 17, with my school friend Alan Barker. Sitting at the Station Hairpin we noticed the Formula 3 paddock laid out on the old station trackbed. Once F1 practice was over we hurried to look at the F3 cars and – this is the nostalgic point – there was that old Ford Zephyr all the way from Manchester with Tim’s Brabham, red and black, just as he described it.

The F3 race was, as ever, a 1000cc screamer and Ronnie Peterson won. Couldn’t imagine it happening today. So thank you Tim – you brought back some happy memories.

David Fisher, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts

Jackie Oliver, tour guide


I’ve just finished reading your wonderful story on Jackie Oliver (June issue). In 1982 a friend and I were visiting England and stopped in at the Timken Plant in Milton Keynes, as I had worked with several people there when they were in the States. Knowing I was a club racer they asked if we wanted a tour of the Arrows factory up the road. After a phone call we showed up at Arrows and were met at the door by Jackie Oliver. He gave us a wonderful tour of the factory and let me sit in a current Arrows F1 car. He could not have been more gracious, even though I’m sure he could have found better ways to spend his time. I doubt he remembers this, but I certainly do.

Gary David, Macedonia, Ohio, USA

A ‘green one’ for every room!


Someone got it wrong. And it was me. When I subscribed to Motor Sport again, I made a mistake by thinking that one copy would be enough to last the month. How could I be so wrong? I obviously didn’t think of all the times I would require the ‘green one’. Now I am at work and it is here with me. When I go home I bet I forget it and will miss it later. When I’m in the smallest room in the house I will miss it again in the morning.

What I and everyone else should be doing is ordering enough copies for each occasion and different room or car. This would eliminate all the times I ‘need’ it when it’s not at hand, would it not? Possibly five or six copies would cover it. But then there’s the shed also – make it seven.

Many thanks for keeping my eyes down.

Jack Aust, Abingdon, Oxon