Then as now…
Browsing through Autosports from 50 years ago, as you do when the talk in the UK turns to the elections, I came across these three gems. The first is a letter written by my friend, Sheridan Thynne, (future director of Williams Grand Prix Engineering, below, centre, chatting to Nigel and Rosanne Mansell) about the standards of driving in Mini racing at the time:
“Three or four years ago a racing Mini cost little more than half what it does today. Racing was close and very exciting, but accidents were rare. Drivers like Sir John Whitmore, Christabel Carlisle, John Aley and Mick Clare could, to put it bluntly, drive. Lesser lights” (and I think here that Sheridan is bashfully thinking of his own efforts) “considered themselves lucky to be in the same race as they, trying to learn something as they flashed past at impossible angles but in total control.
“Nowadays it seems that, until one has caused the odd pile-up, been pictured regularly out of control and set a deplorable example of lack of skill to the spectators, one cannot be considered a Mini driver.”
Right: Sheridan Thynne, in his later Williams days, confers with Nigel and Rosanne Mansell
The second was the perfunctory way Autosport previewed the upcoming F2 meeting at Snetterton. By today’s standards, it amounts to a motor race of staggering depth and power. Back then, it was just the Autocar Trophy meeting, meriting but half a column in the Pit and Paddock section of the magazine…
“Britain’s second F2 international, the Autocar Trophy meeting, is to be held at Snetterton tomorrow (Saturday). A first-class line-up is assured, with entries from Brabham, Lotus, Cooper, Merlyn and Lola and Honda, Cosworth and BRM engines. The entry includes:
Jack Brabham (Brabham-Honda); Denis Hulme (Brabham-Honda); Graham Hill (Brabham-BRM); Trevor Taylor (Brabham-Cosworth); Alan Rees (Brabham-Cosworth); Jochen Rindt (Brabham-Cosworth); Jo Schlesser (Brabham-Cosworth); David Prophet (Brabham-Cosworth); Bill Bradley (Brabham-Cosworth); Mike Beckwith (Brabham-Cosworth); Tony Hegbourne (Lola-Cosworth); Jim Clark (Lotus-Cosworth); Brian Hart (Lotus-Cosworth); Peter Revson (Lotus-BRM); Jackie Stewart (Cooper-BRM); John Taylor (Cooper-Ford); Chris Irwin (Merlyn-Cosworth); Richard Attwood (Lola-Cosworth); Mike Spence (Lotus-BRM); Tony Maggs (Lola-BRM); David Hobbs (Lotus-BRM).
Would any sane-minded person have missed this race back in 1965? I can picture it now: early departure from wherever, Cortina boot packed with the picnic basket; and then that long, tension-filled traffic jam on the A11 as Snetterton draws near. White-coated officials. Race programmes fresh from the printing press. Fluttering flags. Crisp PA announcements. And the thought that anyone who mattered in the motor racing world was there, in Norfolk, racing gorgeous little F2 cars…
Finally, I think Gregor Grant might well have been seeing the future when he wrote about Jack’s new Brabham-Honda:
“Jack Brabham had little joy with the Brabham-Honda, the engine of which the Japanese mechanics couldn’t get going properly at all. It sounded fine but seemed to lack poke and was the slowest of the 20 cars which turned up. However, knowing the Brabham set-up, it will not be long before it is sorted.”
Including six world champions!
“Lesser lights” – a classic!
Old style race meeting without smartphones & stuff like that is an excellent proposition. Can’t be done now as Lewis or Fernando probably won’t appreciate racing in lower categories. Would be fun though!
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