Letters, September 2010

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A champion in all but name

Sir,

I greatly enjoyed the August issue of Motor Sport and its 1970 theme. Though other years may not have been so pivotal, I wonder if the ‘year’ idea might be repeated in the future?

However, I must heartily and respectfully disagree with Sir Jackie Stewart’s comments regarding Pedro Rodriguez (`Pedro’s Twin Peaks’) when he says, “I don’t think he was World Champion material, to be quite honest”.

During the 1971 World Sportscar season when he drove for John Wyer’s JWA-Gulf team, Pedro scored four wins — more than any other driver. He dominated two breathtaking races, winning against seemingly unbeatable odds. The Brands Hatch BOAC 1000 story is often told, but lesser known was his similar feat at the Osterreichring. Pedro led the first 30 laps but had to pit with a flat battery, losing over five minutes and three laps while the battery and a faulty voltage regulator were changed. He rejoined the race in seventh. By lap 86 he was up to third and pitted 13 laps later to hand over to Richard Attwood. After 10 laps with Attwood at the wheel, Rodriguez pleaded to Wyer to have ‘his’ car back and he rejoined the race a lap and a half behind the lead Ferrari of Ickx/Regazzoni. On lap 122 he got into second, and about five laps later he unlapped himself.

Unfortunately, as Pedro receded into the distance, Regazzoni ran off the circuit, thereby handing an unexpected win to the Rodriguez/ Attwood Porsche but robbing the spectators of what would have been a nail-biting finish.

Though the World Sportscar drivers’ championship was not instigated until 1981, it is interesting to note that if one uses the scoring system employed from that time, Rodriguez would have won the 1971 title with 110 points, ahead of Jo Siffert on 92. Irrespective of the theoretical points situation, Pedro won more rounds that year than any other driver: he was a World Champion in all but name.

Rather than Sir Jackie, I think the last word on Rodriguez should go to Wyer. Never one for hyperbole, John said of Pedro in his 1981 book The Certain Sound, “At the wheel of a car he was the complete tiger, in the mould of Fangio, Moss and Clark.” Serious praise indeed.

Duncan Curtis, Caine, Wiltshire

Fight for a female F1 star

Sir,

I enjoyed Franca Davenport’s article on women in motor sport (July issue) and publicity surrounding the new FIA Women and Motorsport Commission. There are many reasons why women haven’t gained a strong position in F1, and here I can speak with authority as an ex-racer (including TGP F1), chairman of the British Women Racing Drivers Club and with my company Chevron Racing Cars Ltd.

Why have Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher done so well in the USA? Mainly because of Lyn St James and her ‘Women in the Winning Circle Programme’. This driver training has helped produce these stars. The last thing we had in the UK was John Webb at Brands Hatch in the ’80s, and we gained Divina Galica and Desiré Wilson.

Despite no funding the BWRDC continues to network exclusively for our competing members, with our new Gold Stars initiative flagging up female talent supported by mentors Susie Stoddart and Liz Halliday. The highest award for women in motor sport at the moment is the Lord Wakefield Trophy, kindly presented by the MSA, plus our committee are working hard on finalising ‘The International Woman Racing Driver of the Year Champion’, which the FIA failed to take up when it was proposed to them.

F1 drivers are supreme athletes. Women are built to perform in this environment with their higher inherent levels of co-ordination, balance and stamina. I can’t believe that an F1 team have not realised this and done a ‘Lewis Hamilton’ on one of our young female karters.

Helen Bashford-Malkie, Chairman, BWRDC

Woman of the 24 Hours

Sir,

The article on women in motor sport was a reminder of the continued support that exists within the female gender for ‘our’ sport. On page 111 you ran a picture of Liz Halliday and it was good to put a face to the name after she supplied the commentary for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on Eurosport.

Over the past two years the coverage has been superb. Even the odd lapse adds to the sense of occasion, hinting at what it must be like for those in the pits real-time. Liz’s unflappable, knowledgeable commentary added considerable breadth to the reporting, and some of her technical descriptions were, likewise, riveting.

Derek Robson, Knaresborough, N Yorks

How clean is your showroom?

Sir,

Simon Taylor’s comment in ‘Breakfast with… Roger Penske’ (August issue) regarding the spotlessness of Maranello Concessionaires’ Egham showroom reminded me of a visit I made with my five-year-old granddaughter.

Already able to distinguish between a 360, 430 and 550, upon walking into the showroom her first observation – spoken in a very loud voice – was ‘Ooh, what a lovely clean floor’.

Out of the mouths of babes…

John Day, Ferring, West Sussex

Fired up with emotion

Sir,

Further to your wonderful article on the Lotus 38 (July issue), I went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and got to the Classic Team Lotus area just as Lewis Cullington was firing her up. It was joyous but also moving for me and the others there. After Lewis finished we clapped loudly.

The smoke coming off the heads and exhausts as she got hotter was testament to the tremendous care and attention that has been lavished on her.

On the stand was Derek Moore, conservator at the Henry Ford museum, designer Len Terry and Walter Goodwin, who had re-built the engine in Indianapolis. Then who should appear but two of the legendary Wood Brothers! It was so fitting that Leonard and Delano were there. I understand they were the right side refueller and tyre man on that special day.

Thanks to all – the Henry Ford, Classic Team Lotus, Lord March and Sir Jackie Stewart.

Russ Taylor, Grange Park, Northampton

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