From our June 2020 Letters Section, From Nick Atkins

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Dear Carol

Thank you for producing a very enjoyable magazine at a time when there is nothing substantial to report.

John Hopwood’s article in the May issue on technical developments in historic motorsport is very well balanced and in my opinion the directions that he proposes and the questions that he asks are all the right ones.

At club level, the CSCC for instance, operates loosely Appendix K events, as well as a number of other nostalgias such as Modsports and Supersaloons that are very enjoyable, but for National and International competitions a set of clear regulations is essential.

As I perceive it the current position of the FIA is back to basics, back to the homologation papers and any other hard information from period, and I’m personally happy with that since it means that it should not be necessary to invest in lighter and shorter lifed parts not used in period.

As we all know there are always opportunities to improve performance that are invisible to the kind of cursory inspection that time allows for scrutineering at competitions.  Right now the easiest things to check are most rigorously inspected, the labels on seat belts and fire systems dates, seat homologation, gloves, boots, suits.

Is it conceivable that the same sort of FIA “labelling” could be applied to dampers?  Any intending supplier would need to convince an FIA inspector that the correct item is built to original design concept (maybe made a bit better with better material) but with the same dimensions and capacities and weights, and would undertake to accept random inspection by the FIA to maintain its licence to supply.  There could be more than one supplier.  Other components, new castings, especially blocks and heads, which have become essential for the top quality engine builders, could also come from FIA registered foundries.  Clearly, labels are not going to be a practical marker here but there are chemical marking systems for metals that are difficult to alter and impossible to forge.  Progressively this plan could be extended to other pieces.

There will be the problem of introduction which will have the biggest impact on the less wealthy competitor who by a certain date – perhaps the expiry of the HTP might be forced to replace perfectly “legal” components with replacements showing the FIA imprint.  This could be avoided if a structure comes into existence as a response, which inspects the existing part, and if it is found legal, applies the FIA imprint.  Renewing an HTP is already onerous, this should not add significantly more to the process.

It is clear that the thinking of the Historic Commission is uncompromising at present, and John illustrates this with the example of electronic ignition, sold as being purely to improve reliability but actually yielding more spark, more revolutions, and so more power.  However in the face of this I would seek for the Commission to permit the use of adjustable spring platforms and two-way adjustable dampers, working on period principles and as a cost saving measure.  The amount of fettling required by fixed spring platforms to achieve correct ride is immense and costly in time.  Likewise a short period on track with adjustable dampers can optimise their condition without constant damper revalving.  After that first set up, the adjusters will probably never move again.

Best regards, hoping that you are all able to remain well.

Nick Atkins

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