Readers letters, September 2015

When Dan honoured Jim

Thank you for the recent articles on Jim Clark. He was my hero and still holds a special place in my memories.

I once went to his trophy room at Duns and discovered Dan Gurney and his wife had just visited with members of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club.

When the group dispersed I had a lovely chat with Mr Gurney and his wife. I mentioned that Jim’s dad had said Dan was the one driver his son feared, to which he replied, “It sure never felt like that at the time!”

After leaving I visited Jim’s grave at Chirnside, just as Dan and his wife were leaving. Fresh flowers had been laid, doubtless by the Gurneys. What respect they must have had for each other, shown by a simple act of remembrance.

Clark was a giant of a man in his profession, yet humble in everyday life. Thank you for these period memories.

Ian Grieg, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Meeting Clark, Petty & Foyt

Thank you for the July issue – Mille Miglia, Daytona 500, Jim Clark etc. On April 5, 1958, during the BRSCC meeting at Full Sutton, I got the drop on 24 others (Le Mans start) and bolted to lead the Daily Mirror Trophy race in my Austin-Healey 100. I was so far ahead I was laughing – literally.

With two or three laps to go, the race was in the bag. Then a dot in my mirror grew and in the blink of an eye went past – a Porsche splattering my car with broken Tarmac. Its driver was Jim Clark. I’m proud to have talked with him – a tough competitor and a true gentleman. I’m so old now I cannot remember much more about it. Did I come second? I’ve no idea.

Drivers always used to be available. When I went to the Daytona 500, the night before the race two men came to the motel. “Are you from the Isles of England?” they asked. “We’ve hired a room; we’ve got sandwiches, beer and coffee. Join us. We’d like to explain a few things about stock car racing. Then you’ll enjoy the 500 much more.” They were Richard Petty and AJ Foyt.

Modern F1 has no characters and is buried in technicalities – get rid of it all. If we’re lucky, it might disappear and we’ll have only historic racing to watch.

David Brook, Bidford on Avon, Warks

Copse and rubbers

At Silverstone in March 1965 I raced my Gilby in a sports car race and recall approaching Copse during practice, with a ball of spray closing fast.

Jim Clark then came flying past in his Lotus 30 and I wondered how he could corner so quickly in the atrocious conditions. Paul Fearnley’s August article revealed that Jim’s car was fitted with R6 compound tyres, to a new R7 anti-aquaplaning pattern, while I was on R5s. It has taken 50 years for me to learn this, but now I don’t feel quite so bad about Jim’s ability to come past me in the rain at such a pace.

David Driver, Poyntington, Sherborne, Dorset

Gold Leaf Team Ford Corsair

I was delighted to read Simon Arron’s recent feature about Gold Leaf Team Lotus and would like to relate the small part I played.

I had been an advertising executive working for Player’s, a relationship that encouraged my participation in motor sport and I began competing in the Player’s No6 Autocross Championship.

When the Gold Leaf negotiations were brought to their conclusion, some of us were briefed. The stickers were produced late on Christmas Eve and the cars were due to compete in livery for the first time on January 1 in New Zealand. So, how did the stickers get to cars that had been repainted in secret and then securely hidden?

The answer was air freight, but the stickers had to be delivered to a reliable company at Heathrow. I was due to visit my parents in Devon for Christmas, so I drew the short straw and was sent to Heathrow. By the time I reached London’s outskirts, snow was falling and the traction of a somewhat tired Ford Corsair GT was poor. Thankfully, my autocross experience helped me reach my destination. After I’d waited for the paperwork to be completed and signed, it was almost midnight.

My reward? The roads west of Reading were closed and the night was spent sleeping on the floor of Reading police station. Christmas lunch in Devon was eventually a late leftovers supper, but the glamour of working behind the scenes in motor sport was good grounding for the future.

John N Foden, Le Lude, France

Token gesture

Perhaps engine tokens could provide a solution to Mercedes’ domination of F1. Development tokens could be allocated according to an engine supplier’s success – or otherwise.

So, Honda would get more tokens than Mercedes in order to catch up, which should close the field. Mercedes might not like it in the short term, but if ever it fell behind it would be able to use the token system as above.

Mark Elliott, Sydney, Australia

Sticking a spoke in

I really enjoyed your Mille Miglia 60th anniversary articles and was lucky enough to get Sir Stirling Moss to autograph my Bburago SLR model at Shelsley Walsh last year. Stirling took some time examining it before pointing out that the four-spoke steering wheel was wrong.

He said he’d raced with a three-spoke wheel and had asked if he could keep it after the race. The official Mercedes line was “no”, so he unbolted it himself.

The next time the SLR appeared it had a four-spoke wheel!

Ross Herbert, Linley Green, Herefordshire

Flying on the ground

Having just read Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections in the July issue, I would like to add my thoughts. The use of wings in racing is absurd. F1 has never been relevant to the road: wings and huge downforce do not feature on road cars.

Non-wing sprint cars compete every week in the USA, on dirt or asphalt, and some have 1000bhp. Having spent a lot of my youth racing on asphalt, I now drive a methanol-powered sprint car. It’s not the most potent, but has more than 700bhp and the racing is often close.

John Bicht, Placitas, New Mexico

Worcester source

The revived Chateau Impney hillclimb proved to be excellent. The organising team seemed to have thought of everything, the paddock was a joy to wander and there were many great cars – including the Fiat S76.

It was a good start to what will hopefully become a regular event.

Tim King, Bishampton, Worcs