I know it’s been some time since I last put up a post and, as John said in one of his posts, I found it all very difficult to cope with as that period of my life still had painful memories. A couple of years ago , I had a serious illness and finished up in hospital and whilst there it gave me time to reflect on the things that I once thought were important and now realise that everyone has ups and downs in life. It was just that my down was fairly dramatic. I started with all good intentions but found it more difficult than I thought it would be, so my original draft post just sat there. Then of course, the big Covid hit us and, once again, I was tempted but to no avail. Finally, towards the end of last year, three members of my family died (not Covid) all of whom were younger than me which was a bit of a shocker, so I looked again at the thread and was staggered to see it is still generating interest as well as posing more questions to answer.
So, what I will try to do now is correct some of the misconceptions and gossip that flew around at the time. I will go into details later on some of the major problems, but I think on reflection, part of the reason for the failure of the whole project was down to incredible naivety and a certain degree of shyness that I have (although some of you might find this difficult to believe). When I am under pressure or in stressful situations I tend to gabble and make jokes, and, looking back, I said some incredibly stupid things which in some cases caused problems. I would like to thank everyone who has maintained an interest in my activities – I think I have said this before – but, most of all, I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to the team especially Mel and Johnny Whit who put in many long hours in the workshop and of whom I have seen and heard nothing (my fault). The others also have my thanks but I have had some contact with them.
If this is still being followed, I will start with the crash
Pendine Sands and tyres
Having read back through some of the posts, I see that Mike H has covered part of this topic. Goodyear supplied all the tyres for the car having been given all the information that they requested on the proposed use. The wheels, supplied by Minilite, were designed around those tyres, width and bead seat height (this is where I first had contact with Mike Huggins, who later joined the team). The front tyres were Formula Super V. We had been using the tyres without any problems in all our tests and the runs at the Pod. When we started to receive publicity, someone in the Goodyear management, realising that we were using their tyres, began to panic and I was informed that they were going to carry out further tests on a set of tyres. As we got closer to the date, I realised that Goodyear were not going to come up with the information, so I decided to change the front tyres to M and H racemaster. The first thing I knew about “The Warning” was when we were at Pendine and I was approached by a journalist who asked for my comments on the statement that Goodyear had issued. I told him that I had had no communications from Goodyear and that we weren’t using their tyres on the front anyway. As I walked away, I heard the journalist comment to someone else “this guy’s got to be stupid, he doesn’t even know what tyres he’s got on the car”. The statement from Goodyear (which I never did receive) cost me two major sponsors – both of whom said that I showed a lack of judgement when I had been advised by Goodyear about the unsuitability of the tyres. I took all the paperwork and letters to a solicitor who read all of it and agreed that Goodyear were lying and he then asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that I wanted a retraction printed in the newspapers from Goodyear and some compensation for the loss of sponsorship. He agreed that this seemed fair but I hadn’t got a ‘cat in hell’s chance’ of succeeding for two reasons: (1) that Goodyear would bring their legal team in and stretch any court case knowing that I wouldn’t have the money to continue and (2) none of the newspapers would be prepared to give major space to a retraction, as Goodyear spend many millions in advertising. So, at best, it would be ‘a small piece at the bottom of page 13’!
The cause of the crash was nothing to do with the tyres. The BBC gave me footage of the crash which I took to Irvine, the shute people, who had the facilities to analyse film and then to the Aeronautical College at Cranfield, One of the professors there, whose name escapes me, had worked with Donald Campbell so was very experienced in running high-speed vehicles on loose surfaces. The analysis showed little puffs of sand coming from underneath the rear wheel making the car bounce from side to side until finally losing traction on the back wheels; the rest is history. The reason for this hopping was rotational vacuum. With the wheels close to the body, the spokes of the wheels acted like the rotor in a vacuum cleaner, sucking sand into the wheels causing massive imbalance. I was told that Donald Campbell had suffered from the same problem.
Part One over. If any of you are interested in picking up this thread, I will continue on some of the other rumours and try to clarify some of the recent posts.