Letters, September 2010

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McQueen’s great escapade

Sir,

I was interested to read Eoin Young’s feature on Steve McQueen and Le Mans (August issue) and would like to add the following comments. When Eoin said that Steve did not do the jump in the The Great Escape this, I believe, is true. I met the stunt rider Bud Ekins when I used to visit my friend Alain de Cadenet in California for our yearly motorcycle trips into the hills. I got to know Bud, and after several years and with Alain’s help I managed to purchase from him my 1913 Flying Merkel. Bud told us that the evening before the jump was due to be shot, he and Steve went and checked the ramped area and Bud decided to have a go as he felt it better not to do it blind on the day. The jump went well, and Steve told Bud to get off the bike and he then jumped the fence just as the sun was setting, with Bud as his spectator.

Bud also gave me a picture of him and Steve dressed as Germans on the Triumphs, made to look like German machines. He said that when they started filming the bike chase, after the first take the director asked Steve to go slower as the hired stunt riders could not keep up. Steve said if he slowed down it wouldn’t look right, so it was decided that he would dress up as a German and he and Bud would chase his character, which is what happened.

Although the film Le Mans was not a great success, Steve’s other film about motorcycling he paid for, On Any Sunday, is just fantastic.

Vic Norman, Cirencester, Gloucester

Innovation welcomed

Sir,

Congratulations on the August issue looking at 1970 – I thought it was great, though clearly the ‘modern era’ started in 1972 (in March at Brands Hatch to be exact).

Can I make a couple of observations on your editorial? The focus on F1 to the exclusion of all else isn’t limited to the daily media – look at the cover of Autosport over the last decade or so and compare it with the 1970s or ’80s. Your article on Penske gives a clue to why this might be – you write about an innovation that differentiated them from the pack, something that is impossible in all the spec formulae below F1 and, regrettably, at Indy. Where’s the interest in seeing, or reading about, identical cars which the teams can’t improve? Le Mans is of course an exception, so the lack of interest is odd. Still, long may it continue.

I’m amazed by the anti-green sentiment you have stirred up. Racing should be used to stimulate environmental innovation – at Le Mans and in F1. We need to be part of the solution not the problem and, given the chance, F1 innovates like nothing else on earth. Think of what they might come up with.

Finally, your photo of Jochen Rindt with the British GP trophy is wonderful – who wouldn’t want that on their mantlepiece? Without wanting to show my age, it is so much cooler than a copy of a modern steering wheel.

Ian Mann, Divonne-les-Bains, France

Mercedes magic

Sir,

I read with great interest Doug Nye’s article on the Uhlenhaut 300SLR coupé (August issue). I was a flag marshal at the 1955 Tourist Trophy at Dundrod and saw this car in full flow, driven by both Stirling Moss and Juan -Manuel Fangio. Fangio’s performance was unbelievable. I was positioned at the bottom of Deer’s Leap, a steep descent culminating in a sweeping right-hander, with a view to the top. I heard the distinctive exhaust note and then it appeared, going flat out. It was the ‘Gullwing’ version driven by Fangio, with Karl Kling in the passenger seat looking totally relaxed.

This was phoned through to the pits by observers, as a result of which the car was pulled in. It was discovered that as Kling had no previous knowledge of the circuit and Fangio did, he would take him around.

I enclose a photo of Moss exiting the hairpin in the ‘Gullwing’ (above).

As a reader since 1946, I would like to congratulate you on the very high standards you continue to maintain.

Alex Furphy, County Down, N Ireland

Letter of the Month

A memento for Jimmy

Sir,

In July Andrew Marriott asked who placed the wooden cross between the pine trees at the site of Jim Clark’s death. It was my son Sönke and me. Let me explain why.

For me Jimmy Clark stands for brilliant driving in the shadow of death. His sad eyes and bitten nails showed he was aware of the danger, but fought it through excellence.

I first saw Jimmy race at the 1961 Dutch GP. A remarkable performance against the superior Ferraris. In the following years I witnessed some of Jimmy’s excellent drives: a Lotus 23 at the ’Ring, his first GP win at Spa, his rocket start in the Goodwood TT, three Zandvoort victories, pole at the ’67 German GP. Now and then I was close to him in the paddocks, but didn’t talk to him – he was an untouchable.

Since his death I have read much about Clark, asked driver Kurt Ahrens for his memories of that horrible April 7, and visited the site of his death.

In 2005, after Hockenheim was shortened, the cross was moved and re-dedicated. For the 40th anniversary in 2008, my son and I put the wooden cross between the pines. I chose a happy photo which shows him in a Lotus 49, and fitted a brass plate with simple details.

We didn’t tell anyone about our clandestine memorial, so let’s see what happens now. I’ll be there for the German GP and will walk into the woods to the place which marked the end of James Clark’s life.

Henning Hobein, Plettenberg, Germany

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