Letters, September 2014

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Letter of the month

Fear of the past?

Watching coverage of the German GP qualifying session, I was struck by how poorly F1 connects with its past. The Sky team made brief mention of the old Hockenheim, Jim Clark’s death and John Surtees winning in Germany, but their focus is on the here and now. I don’t blame broadcasters for that, but F1 should do far more to connect with the history of the sport.

The owners of the F1 ‘brand’ seem singularly uninterested. A simple example: season review videos, the first of which appeared in 1981 (if I remember correctly); why have these not been made available on DVD, or as digital downloads?

While your magazine reminds us ever month of the events, cars and personalities that have made motor sport what it is today, the owners of F1 (hardly averse to making a dollar or two wherever they can) fail to exploit, or more importantly celebrate, the past. Do they fear the past is more interesting, exciting, glamorous or appealing than the present? A brief parade of cars at Silverstone was very welcome, but more should be done to make the connection.

Michael Day, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Pequignet Manufacture
The writer wins this Pequignet Gents Moorea Ranelagh model in stainless steel with an automatic movement, anthracite dial with date, worth £835.

Forza Luca

I have noted a lot of criticism of Ferrari head Luca di Montezemolo recently.

I find it curious that a reasonable amount of said criticism has been within the pages of Motor Sport magazine. Why curious? Because Motor Sport evokes a certain spirit from a bygone age and

I genuinely believe Mr di Montezemolo embodies much of that spirit. He might not be to everyone’s taste, but can the man’s passion really be questioned?

I have no doubt that the interests of his team are foremost in his thoughts and deeds, but he has mentioned enough times that he worries for the state of Formula 1 and I am convinced his words are said with conviction. Beyond his urge to ‘repair’ the sport, I find myself interested, entertained and indeed amused by his flair and his occasional emotional outpourings against whoever is standing in the way of Ferrari; he is a link to the era many Motor Sport readers appear to crave. For all that he remains an employee, di Montezemolo has been around long enough to be considered an integral part of both Ferrari and Formula 1. You could say he is Ferrari.

Personally, I would take a dozen di Montezemolos over some of the dull hired hands who are content to float from job to job or team to team as suits their ambitions or pay demands. Mr di Montezemolo has honoured his team through thick and thin, and with a passionate heart.

I say it’s high time he was given a break by the media and fans. Give him the respect he richly deserves!

David Herron, High Rickleton, Tyne and Wear

Full and frank discussions

I read with interest the very fine story of my pal Peter Revson (April). I happened to be the third member of the FJ RevEm Racing Team – Tim Mayer, Peter and myself, Bill Smith, in the early 1960s. I had a lot to do with Peter’s Indy and F1 programme. Teddy Mayer did not tell Peter to look somewhere else for the 1974 season; on the contrary Teddy Mayer, Tyler Alexander and I spent the better part of a week in New York City trying to get Peter to stay with McLaren.

Peter was being represented by Bud Stanner of IMG with offices in the General Motors Building; we stayed across the street in the Plaza Hotel. Each day we would march back and forth to meet, sometimes with both Peter and Bud, sometimes with one or the other. Sometimes we thought we had a deal for Peter to stay, but in the end he went to Shadow. Too bad, because McLaren might not have had the very best car at the time, but it was a very safe one.

H William Smith Jr, Norwich, New York, USA

Overall picture

In your August issue, the two pictures of one-time team-mates Hans Stuck and Derek Bell laughing their heads off triggered my memory of spotting words on the back of the German’s overalls: “I’m Stuck with Bell.”

Brian Joscelyne, Braintree, Essex

The great divide

What is missing from F1 is not sparks, loud noises or scoring gimmicks; it is the connection to fans through driving. We once knew and understood what the drivers were doing because it was just an extreme version of something we did every day. As wings, aero, and ultra-sophisticated systems have been added, along with odd and unrelated challenges such as planned tyre degradation, the race car and the task bear no resemblance to our own driving experience. It’s nice that someone can actually learn how to use the contemporary F1 steering wheel, but what’s that got to do with racing?

We could pretend to be Stewart.

I wouldn’t know how to pretend to be Vettel. (Note Sebastian’s comment after recently driving a stick shift for the first time.) The solution is not more shiny objects dangled in front of fans, but racing vehicles we can relate to again.

Robert Beck, New Hope, Pennsylvania, USA

Silent protest

Looking back to 1977, when the 1.5 turbo engine was introduced to F1,

I don’t recall any controversy arising from the sound these engines made. What is different now?

Hugh Ross, Felsted, Essex

Racing Lessons

I read the Lunch With… David Brodie with keen interest, because the early Seventies are an anchor for my interest in motor sport and the Run Baby Run Escort was a draw to any race meeting.

I’m pretty sure that the Brands Hatch dice with Roger Williamson, which David described, was the final round of MCD’s Special Saloon Championship sponsored by Hepolite Glacier and won by Roger. My father was responsible for Hepolite and Glacier’s racing support activities, and to the day he passed he maintained it was the finest race he saw.

I also vividly recall the 1973 British Grand Prix weekend and the saloon support, with Brode’s crash and all its terrible consequences. After that race and before the GP itself, several folk were sitting in the Hepolite Glacier caravan having a cuppa when we were joined by Tom Wheatcroft and Dodge Williamson [Roger’s father]. The mood changed and a hush fell when the wrecks of Dave Matthews’ Capri and Brode’s Escort were towed past. I seem to recollect they had to cut the roof from the Escort to release David. I believe that Gavin Booth was incapacitated by that accident and did not make a full recovery prior to passing away.

After the fateful Dutch GP weekend when Roger was killed, my father visited David in hospital. Two things struck me when he later recounted his visit. The first was my father’s description of David’s determination. With his terribly broken legs, he had apparently already equipped himself with dumb bells and other exercise equipment in order to commence his rehabilitation. Secondly, he told me how they had both wept when talking about Roger. As lessons in not giving up and that it is okay for men to cry, it was a dad-to-teenager conversation that quite clearly, since I am able to relate it now, stuck firmly in the mind.

Mike Gardener, Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham

Mixing the cream

As a reader for more than 60 years, I must congratulate everyone at Motor Sport on the 90th Anniversary Edition. I did not devour my copy within a couple of days as usual, but took it to France and enjoyed it over a two-week period. As always you have got the mix of F1, historic, road tests and so on just right. How did you manage to get the best contributors together? Finally, Doug Nye’s (Bod Mk2) reports are spot on.

Mike Allaston, Tadley, Hants

Keep on keeping on

At just 36 I recall first-hand motor racing of the 1980s to date, but obviously I wasn’t there to witness the spectacles of earlier decades. As a regular reader of Motor Sport I value the balance you strike between addressing present day racing and satisfying my thirst to learn more about the history of our sport.

With that in mind, your July 90th Anniversary edition was, in my view, simply the best edition of any motor racing magazine I have ever read, particularly the succinct, yet comprehensive, summaries of the decades to date. Every time I read Motor Sport I learn something, which certainly can’t be said of many competing magazines.

Happily the influence of Denis Jenkinson’s high standard of journalism lives on. The Lunch With… feature in the Anniversary issue demonstrated the affection in which DSJ is still held; his reports portray to me an inquisitive journalist who was willing to get right into the action to capture all the detail.

This impression was cemented when I recently read Maurice Hamilton’s excellent new Ayrton Senna – McLaren book. In it is a revealing photograph of Senna, in his Lotus in the pits having a detailed discussion with his engineers. Aside from the main protagonists, a small, bespectacled and bearded man can be seen in the background, getting right into the thick of the action, presumably to capture all of the detail.

Jenks is captured right in the heart of things in the pitlane, no doubt picking up all sorts of details to report back to Motor Sport readers.

The photograph made me smile and was, for me, simply corroborative evidence of all that I’ve read about the late, great Jenks.

Darren Cox, Gornal Wood, Dudley

A shrub by any other name

Someone needs to set you straight about the definition of chaparral, which has nothing to do with a bird, whether fast, flightless or otherwise.

Chaparral is a shrub found in the south-western United States and parts of Mexico, in areas with wet but mild winters and hot, dry summers. The bird sometimes confused with it is called the Greater Roadrunner and has the scientific name geococcyx californianus.

It’s understandable that the very fast and successful cars designed and built by Jim Hall (with the assistance of General Motors) should be named after a fast and successful bird rather than a normally stationary desert shrub, which seldom even travels with the wind as tumbleweed does.

I think Chaparral is a beautiful name for a car, whatever its inspiration.

Carl Slate, Santa Maria, California

Long story short

I was very interested to read your article on the Renault Mégane 275 Trophy-R lapping the Nürburgring in 7min 54sec, a speed of 99mph. An admirable achievement for a production car.

You compared it with the 1982 1000Kms lap times and stated it would have qualified in the top 10. What you failed to mention was the fact that the circuit in 1982 was 14.2 miles and now it is 12.9 miles. The Ford C100 in 1982 lapped in 7min 16sec, a speed of 118mph, and the majority of the 3-litre class were lapping in under 8 minutes, a speed of 110mph plus.

As a point of interest in the 1970 1000Kms the JW 908/3 lapped at 110mph but it must be remembered that, while the circuit was 14.2 miles, it had not undergone the facelift, so the large jumps at Brunchen and in particular the 13-kilometre point were still much in evidence. It was very bumpy, with high hedges and no Armco – a very different ball game.

J Tangye, Stanford Court, Worcester

You are of course entirely correct, the shorter circuit only being used for the 1000Kms for its final outing on the Nordschleife a year later. Even so, the Renault would still have qualified 14th out of 38 in 1983, a few tenths behind the Lancia LC2 of Piercarlo Ghinzani and Paulo Barilla. AF

Cracker Jack

Many thanks to Doug Nye for his tribute to Sir Jack Brabham, not least for his retelling of Graham Hill’s Goodwood story. I well recall this as it was during a race I saw on television at the age of 11. It was actually an F2 race at the Easter Monday meeting rather than Graham’s first works drive with Lotus which had been in F2 the previous September.

Jack then drove a 2-litre Cooper into second behind Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari in the F1 feature race, with commentator Raymond Baxter singing his praises as both driver and mechanic. A couple of weeks later he nearly snatched a win from Stirling Moss’s similar Cooper in the Aintree 200 and I began to follow this Australian’s career with interest. With the death of Archie Scott Brown he became my favourite driver.

I have never had another favourite driver – or team – since Jack retired.

It’s the sport itself and its history that interest me, but if you have ever wondered why I have written all these letters over the years, it all goes back to Easter Monday 1958…

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland

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