Letters, September 2017

Auf Wiedersehen, petulant 

The events at Baku made a mockery of the FIA road safety campaign. Here we had a four-time champion losing his ability to control his race car through anger; this is absolutely no different to a road rage event on our roads.

To be given a 10-second stop-go does not even come close to adequate punishment. At the very least Vettel ought to have been excluded, made to apologise in public and made to start from the back at the next two races.

Children copy F1 driver behaviour and this was no way to set an example. My three-year-old son was trying to emulate the wheel-banging with his Lego F1 cars after watching the incident! If had this been a driver from a so-called ‘lesser’ team, he would have had the book thrown at him.

Nasair Hussain, High Wycombe, Bucks

Pantomime horsepower 

I watched the Azerbaijan GP – and what a pantomime. Compare this with MotoGP. I think F1 needs to take long hard look at the fake spectacle that is being promoted. After only a few racing laps we had a safety car due to debris. I didn’t tune in to watch a safety car. Then we had another safety car, then we had wheel-banging and then yet another safety car followed by a red flag after just 22 laps. If I’d paid lots of dollars for a ticket I would be well disappointed.

Today’s F1 machines should be given their heads on open circuits like Silverstone, Monza, Spa, Istanbul, Watkins Glen, Paul Ricard and Kyalami etc. As fans we want to see GP cars being driven hard, not lifting and coasting, or conserving tyres, or praying for safety cars. Sean Bratches and his merry men need to take long hard look at what they are providing.

As far as track etiquette is concerned, Vettel should have been disqualified for his petulance. He should know better.

Steve Taylor, Amberley, Glos

Turn the airwaves blue 

There has been much discussion as to whether team-to-driver radio communication is desirable. I would now very much support free use of inter-car radio between the drivers. Vettel said after Baku that he drove alongside Hamilton to gesticulate because he couldn’t speak to him directly. If he had been able to, it would have been a fascinating exchange.

Roger Gullen, Walkern, Herts

Land of the rising son 

To avoid further Triple Crown debate, I think we should be looking for someone to complete the Quadruple Crown i e the Triple plus fathering a GP/world championship winner. NG Hill esq appears to have a very healthy lead.

Ian Page, Haslemere Surrey

Senior moment 

The comment by Steve Soper on the Sierra RS500 water temperature gauge (May) brought back memories of an amusing faux pas on my part.

Back in 1987, Steve drove for the Eggenberger team in the WTCC. He also wrote a monthly column in a now defunct magazine, through which I was one of three competition winners who spent a day with Steve and the Eggenberger team following the Tourist Trophy. Part of the prize was to be chauffeured around Silverstone by Steve in his race car. During my lap, I noticed a display in front of Steve that said
‘T WAT’… I asked if the mechanics were playing a prank on him. “No,” he replied, “it’s the temperature of the water.” Oops.

The following month’s magazine carried a brief report of that day, stating that “Phil Senior was interested in the
T WAT display.” I wonder if that is why Steve can remember how to get the water temperature displayed after being out of that car for 30 years. 

Philip Senior, Gaisgill, Penrith, Cumbria

No place like home 

I really enjoyed the article about Donington Park in the July issue. I have always lived within a few miles of Donington and, while I wasn’t there when it re-opened, I have been going every year since 1981. I have been to every sort of event over the years, from club races to Grands Prix for cars and bikes and from Sunday markets to the Monsters of Rock. One thing that remained constant across all these was that you always felt welcomed, the atmosphere always inclusive. The reason for this is undoubtedly the warmth and enthusiasm of the Wheatcroft family and Tom in particular. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone at Donington Park; you’ve been such a big part of my life.

Mark Bowley, Coalville, Leicestershire 

Officers’ mess (literally) 

Your recent article on Donington Park reminded me of mooching around the mess that was the old Donington before its resurrection, old army lorries and junk everywhere. I went with the late Richard de la Rue and we both later competed at the first 1977 meeting in the Clubmans event. Ours became the main race, after a proposed Libre fixture was cancelled. Richard won and received £500, I spun at Redgate.

Richard Hood, West Dorset 

Tour de France 

Thank you for the July edition and bringing back some memories of a bygone trip to Le Mans. The finest
Le Mans? You bet, 1967 was truly the greatest, great variety of cars and top-rank drivers

Our group of seven young enthusiasts aged 20 or so had planned our 1967 road trip around the Paris air show and Le Mans. After the former we headed to Provence, where we had a minor accident when the door hinge on our exuberantly driven – i e sideways – minibus somehow hooked itself under the corrugated wing of a parked Citroën 2CV van and ripped it open. Our driver, who I will not name (but whose initials are CA and is I believe still active in historic Formula Ford and as a track day instructor as Silverstone), decided not to stop.

After being corralled by a group of angry French motorists, we were taken back under police escort to St Tropez where ‘les flics’ seemed to be threatening to lock us up. Eventually everything was sorted, with much hand waving on both sides. 

At Le Mans we overnighted in our sleeping bags above the Lola pits in support of Big John. Then dismay – as DSJ reported, the Surtees/Hobbs Lola-Aston Martin was out after three laps. What DSJ could not report was the strong language from Surtees that floated up from the pits below; it made your ears curl even above the noise of passing sports cars.

Thereafter we cheered on the Austin- Healey, Marcos and Lotus.

Barry Williams, Shalford, Guildford

Fruitless expense 

The pitiful performances of the LMP1 cars at Le Mans this year must surely be an opportunity for the engine regulations to be revised. To construct an engine and drivetrain that cannot be reliable in all weather conditions is insanity, especially if Toyota has spent the reported 500 million euros reported.

I doubt that the technology developed in these hybrid engines will ever find its way into production cars, so what is the point of such vast expenditure?

Why would manufacturers invest such enormous sums of money in order to produce a car that has little or no connection to its road-going range?

The LMP2, GT and GTE cars with traditional engine/drive train packages did not succumb to the high ambient temperatures. David Richards made the point that the technology developed by the racing division of Aston Martin did feed into its range of road cars.

I hope that Ross Brawn will look hard at the F1 engine situation and set new regulations that do not require such large engine investments. That would assist the smaller teams and, who knows, might attract new teams into Formula 1.

Del Bennett, Cheshunt, Herts

It ain’t heavy, it’s a Lola 

In July’s article about Tamiya models, Marcus Nichols stated that the Honda RA273 featured won the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. This is not so; the Mexican race in 1965 was won by Richie Ginther in RA 272, the rear-mounted, transverse 1½-litre V12 car.

RA 273 was the first Honda 3-litre car, built in Japan for the 1967 series. This car was too heavy and was uncompetitive, which led to the ‘Hondola’ being built in six weeks and going on to win in its first race, the Italian Grand Prix.

I can vouch for the weight of the tub as it took four of us to carry it out of the workshop, whereas I could lift the Lola tub by myself.

Bill Granger, Nuthall, Nottingham

Ferguson Down Under 

It was very good to see Rob Walker featured in a recent Data Trace. I’m sure it was lack of space that prevented you mentioning Walker’s running of the only 4WD car ever to win a Formula 1 race, the Ferguson-Climax, aka P99.

Walker ran the car during the 1961 season, when Stirling Moss took a historic victory in the 1961 Oulton Park Gold Cup. Less well known is ‘Operation ANZAC’, where Walker took P99 (fitted with a 2.7-litre Climax engine) to Australia and New Zealand in November 1962, for a sequence of races that would become the Tasman Series. Other UK-based participants included Jack Brabham, CT Tommy Atkins, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees and Tony Maggs.

Walker organised the whole trip, taking drivers Graham Hill, who had played a part in testing P99 after the 1961 European season, and Innes Ireland. Moss had been lined up to drive but had been involved in the crash at Goodwood that forced him to retire from top-class racing.

P99 acquitted itself well, with two third places, one sixth and two DNFs. Bill Munro, Redhill, Surrey

Life at 1:32 scale 

Following your article on slot-car racing, our small group from the Hove area started slot racing around 1969 with one hand-built track. Today we are still at it – we are all 60-plus – and have eight tracks, all completely different and authentic. You’re never too old to indulge. Keep up the good work – I’ve been a reader for more than 50 years.

Tim Cox. Hove, East Sussex 

McLaren history note 

A quick point on your story about McLaren road car CEO Mike Flewitt owning the first McLaren single-seater (McLaren F2 back on track, August 2017). This ignores the M2A and B and the M3, which were built in 1965 and ’66. The M2B scored the marque’s first world championship points. The M2A was the tyre test vehicle fitted with a 4.5-litre Traco Oldsmobile and the M3A was the spaceframe hillclimb car driven by Patsy Burt and Harry Zweifel.

Nigel Urwin, Camberwell, London