From Our July 2020 Letters Section, From Louis Quiniou

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Dear Carol, 

Thanks for the link of the May issue of HMRN, very funny article about the Reykjavik GP, a good read.

About Peter Collins’ article entitled The Time and Space Continuum, if of any interest to you, I started a lap time analysis back in the days I was working for Peter Auto that I continued up to 2016.  I feel the article is of interest but misses quite a few things.  Goodwood is probably the only place where one can compare lap times, given the circuit has not changed since its heyday, but of course it has been resurfaced.  Anyway, the interesting fact is if you look at those values:

2006, Pre-66 Whitsun Trophy and best time by Frank Sytner in a Lola T70 Spyder is 1:22:513 and which was also the last year I believe that the T70s were allowed to run the front high downforce spoiler, which is now only possible if you run a McLaren M1 like Chris Godwin.  Then comes the T70 times of 2012 (Pearson 1:19.703) and 2014 (Hart at 1:19.985), but what about 2016 and Padmore, who did a 1:17.079?  All competent drivers, just like Hadfield.  Both Pearson and Goodwin are even faster than the reference taken in HMRN but Padmore, another very competent driver, was really a break in terms of performance.  Ever since 2016 it seems that the previous level of drivers chosen for the race has changed back to a more capable but enthusiast type, maybe a way for Goodwood to hide the fact that it was getting out of control.  You may also remember the crash of Michiel Smits from the Netherlands and I guess things had to be calmed down.

If you compare all of the above with period times, it’s true that Hadfield, Pearson and Goodwin are all close to Clark’s inferior Lotus 30 although my reference time shows a 1:23:200 as fastest time for Bruce McLaren in his Zerex Special that year and Clark in close second with a 1:23:800, a clear gap. 

The other one to look at is the Tourist Trophy, not far off from the best times of period today either if comparing the 1964 Tourist Trophy and the high-level drivers in today’s race.

What appears more disturbing today is the fact that back in the days, all the best times were achieved by a bunch of World Champion level drivers, all of whom – Moss, Hill, Clark, Gurney, etc. – would go on to achieve the best one could achieve at professional level and today are recognised as some of the best there ever were.  And they were young and benefitted from full factory backing and development, the highest level back then.  Today’s drivers are good, but pardon me, Simon Hadfield, Gary Pearson, Chris Goodwin were all in their 50s when achieving those times, on engines probably sourced from the same place with Tim Adams, all Chevy work but nothing special.   The Tourist Trophy is a “feature” race with skilled ex or active professionals in cars prepared by competent teams, but nothing like the Cobra/Ford effort of 1964, proving that the performance has grown. 

The fact is that today, average pros or competent amateurs are able to lap at a pace that in period was only accessible to the best of the best.  The thing that sits between the seat and wheel is a big part of the equation but historic motor sport and associated development has succeeded in narrowing that parameter and its importance.  Imagine what Dan Gurney would achieve in a Lanzante run Cobra Daytona Coupe today if he was still alive and in his late 20s or early 30s?  I bet Kenny Brack could go home. 

Take care.

Best, Louis Quiniou

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