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The Scribe Muses about the Meaning of Life...Part 2

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#1 Don Capps

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 18:37

An informant suggested I look on the RC at a particular thread. Initially I refused since I have decided that the RC and I are from different solar systems. However, I relented and decided to take a look. Here is what I was specifically directed towards:

Topic: Driver or car - what's the most important?

The days of winning in totally inferior equipment went out with the 70's. The last time I feel that a car won that was totally outclassed was at the Glen in 1966 with Jim Clark in the Lotus BRM H16.

And this:

It is and always has been 95%+ the car. Even in the "golden era" of the 50s and 60s, one or two cars (or makes of cars) would dominate races lapping other cars 2-4 times in a race, the points system then (removing the best top scores of the season and having only 9 points for a win) would make the championships look closer but in reality it was the same as today.

The major difference is drivers. They are much, much better now than the drivers of old. Where as half the field was made up with gentleman drivers and the like in the past - the nearest we have to that today is Pedro Diniz, who has been in motor racing as a professional for years and is actually a good driver and would have beaten 90% of the golden era drivers hands down.

So it was easier to be a legendary driver in the past as the overall quality of race drivers was much worse.

Every driver in F1 today could perform well in the best car - the same couldn't be said of the 50s and 60s.

Interesting opinions from some of those on the RC Forum and perhaps shared by the vast, vast majority of those fans of F1 today.

I don't intend -- nor do I want or I will tolerate -- the discussion to become one that takes on a "we" versus "they" sort of thing, but about the perception itself. Most of the modern fans truly believe, in my opinion, what is quoted. How would Nuvolari have fared in the current Ferrari? Denny Hulme in the current McLaren? David Coulthard in a BRM P25 during the 1958 & 1959 seasons? Mika Hakinnen in an Alfa Tipo B at Pescara or Jacques Villeneuve in a Bugatti 39 at Montlhery?

I think there are perhaps a few other examples besides Clark at Watkins Glen in 1966 to look at as far as "out-classed" cars making the race stand on its ear. That Shadow has a victory and Arrows doesn't is always an interesting item to me. Or that the current McLaren operation could just as easily been labeled the "Dennis" or the "Project 4" or whatever.

Just food for thought.


#2 luisfelipetrigo

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 22:05

I started following F1 (and motor sports for that matter) in 1960. Mainly because a couple of young brothers from Mexico (where I am from) were doing good things in Europe. Unfortunately one only died in an accident the very next year.

I did read about(every race) and did see (every now and then) those names (drivers and cars) that made this a wonderful sport during the 60's and 70's and 80's and 90's.

I am one that feels that comparisons between different times are a useless exercise (for F1 and most other human endeavor) where usually no one can convince the other. To each its own: each driver, each car and each era.

I recall enjoying each and every race in the 60s and 70s and most races in the 80s and 90s. But it could be because I have changes as much as it could be because F1 has changed; but either way ... who cares? ... does it matter?

This is why I spend less and less time in the RC forum. So many threads are dedicated to 'power fights' where people want every one else to take/respect/admire their opinion but rarely take/respect other's opinions. And do this in a way (which they have the right to do) that I do not need, that I choose to ignore.

I love to read/hear about the 'good old times' and I love to read/hear/see the 'good new times'

#3 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 22:52

Peter Hopwood once said to me: "They don't run a four minute mile any more, and they're still men."
You might not think this applies, but I will explain.
Do you think Archille Varzi spent time in the gym? Do you think Sommer spent all his waking hours testing or preparing for a race?
These were great drivers, these were drivers who won repeatedly, whose absorption into their sport was probably as great as it got in those days.
Move on to Moss, a man who did do some of these things, and he rose above others. He still had to contend with Fangio, another who wasn't often in the gym, but one who did little else but racing for many years.
Today, however, just as Olympic competition, and in many other fields of human endeavour, only those who are so totally dedicated (and often, as we know, cart their personal trainer with them) float to the top.
They bob up there and they do some winning. Anyone with lesser application (as distinct from dedication) falls by the wayside.
So what would Nuvolari be like if he'd been born in 1970? The fact is that he would have been in the gym, would have better life prospects (ie. wouldn't smoke), he'd be at the head of the queue for testing, and he would have been on the top. At times, at least.
But... would Schumacher have succeeded without the gym and the regime?
Now that's a good question!

#4 Wolf

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 23:16

Recently, I endulged myself in a (maiden) RC-post, having occasional look there and seeing someone compare 'looser' DC to 'winner' MH, using analogy of Moss and Fangio. Being a Moss' fan I went berserk, and sent a post. I took liberty of reffering to FORIX data, 'looser' Moss having more WDC points (championships being scored as races are) than MH (33 to 20, or something), and having 16 wins in 66 races, whereas 'winner' MH currently has 18 out of 120+ races. Enough of dreary statistics.
I think that old drivers did what they deemed neccessary to stay on top (they'd go as far as to refrain from - you know what, in order to get and stay fit), as today's drivers do the same. There's also the point of stakes being played. I can drive very fast in a PC based game :), but I wouldn't like to pull those stunts on road. You get my point.;) With today's 'perfumed princes' (thread, as I recall), that question remains unanswered (personally, I belive that were the circumstances different they would do what they do anyway- although I won't be the one raising the matter of how close would they get to limit).
But, also I recall of Moss' reference to Taruffi and size of his forearms, and that they were all aware that their wellbeing (in greater and far more grave way) depended upon their physical abilities and condition.

#5 fines

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 23:23

These days certainly not, but back in the old days probably yes. I think it all boils down to the desire for competition. Every person has that, and (don't call me a chauvinist) apparently men more than women. Some men even more than others, and if these pick an occupation that fits their talent they will stand out. The thing I always found most attractive about Nuvolari was his mental force that seemed to triumph over physics. The same could be said about that Argentinian on that August afternoon, 1957. Well, there are countless other examples.

Today the differences between the drivers are more minute. But that is not to say a Pedro Diniz would've been a competent driver in the fifties. Maybe a little bit more than today because today there are undoubtly more racing drivers around, if only for the fact that not so many die in racing! But the qualities required have remained the same: namely determination and desire. And not a little bit of courage!

#6 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 23:56

Don, this opinion - to the effect that today's drivers are head and shoulders above drivers from the past - seems to pop up fairly frequently. It was dealt with in some depth back in June I believe. My overall reaction to that sort of comment is to simply consider the source. Many people involved in racing today just can't believe that anything that happened outside of their personal frame of reference could be of much significance. Not to repeat entirely my comments from June, but I have always subscribed to the theory that a fast driver is a fast driver is a fast driver. By this I mean that from experience and observation I have come to believe that a driver who is fast in any given category will tend to rise to the same level of competitiveness in whatever he may have the opportunity to drive. This theory assumes the right opportunity with all that suggests, i.e. appropriate time to adjust, testing,the right setup (car,team) etc. Taking this personal belief to the next level I conclude that the same applies to different eras. I have no doubt in my mind that the greats of any given era would sort themselves out pretty quickly in today's equipment - and vice versa. If you're fast - you're fast. That's it.

#7 Dennis David

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 01:58


#8 Darren

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 03:34

Or just to throw another ball into play, what about the designers of yore against the technicians of today? How would Carlo Chiti go in a CAD environment? Vittorio Jano? Would Mario Ilien have designed the world's best 1.5l alloy block v6?

#9 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 04:27

I must make one additional comment and that is regarding Jim Clark winning the '66 USGP at Watkins Glen in the H-16 BRM powered Lotus. It has been cited above as an example of winning in a car that was "totally outclassed" by the rest of the field. I just do not believe this holds water. Yes this was a great feat of creative engineering - the engine was borrowed from BRM and fitted the day before the race. And Clark was magnificent in the race (wasn't he always!?). But what I saw that day certainly didn't indicate a car that was "outclassed" by the rest of the field. In fact, Clark's drive - fine as it was - was not even close to being the greatest drive of the day. Although I have detailed records of this race - none of them are available to me tonight - so I am doing this from memory. But I am fairly confident that these comments will withstand closer scrutiny. In the early laps of the race Brabham, Bandini, Clark, and Surtees broke away from the rest of the field (Hulme had pole position but he wasn't in this lead group - I have forgotten why). Those four put on a terrific race until they came up to lap Peter Arundell in the second works Lotus. Arundell let the first cars through on the approach to the esses but moved over on Surtees. They both had huge "offs" and both called at the pits to check for damage. Surtees stormed in to the Cooper pits in a not quite controlled rage. As the mechanics checked the car over John remonstrated loudly about people not checking their mirrors. He was just about ready to return to the fray when poor Arundell pulled past him on his way to his pit - which I recall being one or two down from Cooper. Surtees leaped from the Cooper-Maserati and approached Arundell (still in the car), and remonstrated is hardly the word for what he had to say. Roy Salvadori, Cooper Team Manager, literally pulled Surtees away and got him back in the race car. At this point John somehow managed to reach deep in to his enormous stores of professionalism and seemingly "flipped a switch." He transferred his red rage of a moment before in to what I can only describe as a cold, controlled fury. His face and entire body language underwent a complete and immediate transformation. Returning to the track in 13th position and 3 laps down he repeatedly broke the lap record as he unlapped himself (at least once) and finished a brilliant 3rd place (his teammate Jochen Rindt finished 2nd despite running out of gas on the last lap and coasting home). John Surtees performance that day stands as one of the greatest driving feats I have ever witnessed. So that was the great drive of the day. The performance of the Lotus-BRM meanwhile, never gave any indication of a car that was outclassed. It had plenty of power - although I give Jim huge credit for adjusting to what was likely not the best handling car on the track - but it was hardly inferior equipment as was stated above. The miracle of the day was that the engine lasted and of course it has great historical significance in being the only time that engine won a GP. A fine drive for Jim - yes. But hardly one of his greatest.

#10 Don Capps

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 15:50

I tend to think along the same lines as Mike, that it pretty much a matter of time and place and Racers can & will Race and do well. The broad brush stroke painting the drivers of yesteryear as lesser than those of today isn't quite fair nor is it fair to discount modern drivers -- on this one I always recall the example of Jim Clark in the ERA at Rouen: in a car he had never driven before with a pre-selector type gearbox he was unfamiliar with, Clark was faster than the car owner & by a very large margin on his initial laps and got faster. Probably not a very different story today.

The guys at the top of any series at any time are Good. But, as it is usually discovered, a talented driver in a good car goes faster for some reason than a talented driver in a poor car....

Ah, Surtees at the 1966 USGP! Mike, I always wondered about the real reason why Arundell retired from racing & now I know: John Surtees! Also, didn't Surtees get that, er, ah, "interesting" trophy for the fastest lap that year?

#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 17:55

Mike... I'm delighted you chimed in with that detail. I was tempted to throw in a line or two to say that I didn't think the Lotus BRM was all that bad, and you don't explore the possibility that I would... that it may actually have been quite good. I don't really think that the model between the 33 and the 49 could have been all bad, even though the H16 element had few friends.
I also hope certain FJ fans around here see your post on his rage.. I can picture that in its entirety.
Recall that Jenks once wrote that if a driver goes off through no fault of his own, then he may well come back with real inspiration and demolish the barriers that may have been between him and success previously. But if it's his fault, he'll usually wind up cruising around and doing nothing special.
The colour you put into the telling about the personal rage is another angle on this one... and I find it hard to accept that he would take time out to do that in the middle of the race... no wonder Salvadori dragged him back...
Got the tape, by the way... now to get it onto the right video to have a look.