• Ask Steven

Great Scots

Steven Lynch June 21, 2013
Dario Franchitti has enjoyed success in the USA but will not be a contender for a Red Bull drive © Associated Press

Amid all the talk about who will replace Mark Webber, I'm surprised no one has mentioned one of the most successful of current British drivers - Dario Franchitti. What are his chances? asked Ken McDonald

Dario Franchitti is indeed one of the most successful British drivers around - he's won the Indianapolis 500 three times (more than any other Brit), and has also carried off the prestigious American Indycar series championship on four occasions since 2007. But I think it's very unlikely that Franchitti will return to driving on this side of the Atlantic: for a start he's now 40, four years senior to the outgoing Mark Webber, who was already comfortably the oldest driver on the current F1 grid. Franchitti did do some test-driving for the new Jaguar F1 team back in 2000, but it didn't lead to a regular seat. (Webber did race for Jaguar in 2003-04.) A more serious contender for the coveted spare Red Bull seat is another Scot, in Paul di Resta, who's currently with Force India ...and is Dario Franchitti's cousin.

Allan McNish has just won at Le Mans again - has he won it more often than any other British driver? asked Paul Johnstone

The under-rated Allan McNish's victory in an Audi last week was his third success in the Le Mans 24-hour race, following wins in 1998 (in a Porsche) and 2008 (Audi). One of McNish's co-drivers this time (and in 2008) was Denmark's Tom Kristensen, who completed an astonishing ninth victory at Le Mans, easily the overall record. Jacky Ickx of Belgium comes next, with six wins between 1969 and 1982, while Britain's Derek Bell is one of three drivers who have won there five times. Bell won in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987 (his first three wins were alongside Ickx), while Germany's Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro shared the winning Audi in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007, alongside Kristensen on the first three occasions. It will be interesting to see how Mark Webber goes in his new venture: Porsche haven't competed in the top prototype category at Le Mans since McNish's victory there in 1998.

I was surprised to read in the obituary of Jose Froilan Gonzalez that he was the first to win a Grand Prix for Ferrari. Didn't Farina and Ascari win before him? asked Neil Parker

No, that statement about Gonzalez is correct. Nino Farina won the first official world championship in 1950 in an Alfa-Romeo, and didn't drive for Ferrari until 1952. And while Alberto Ascari did pilot a Ferrari in that inaugural season of 1950, he didn't actually win a race until the German GP the following year - a fortnight after Gonzalez had triumphed in the British GP. In that race at Silverstone Gonzalez had a battle with his fellow Argentine, Juan Manuel Fangio, whose Alfa-Romeo proved a little quicker - but the Ferrari's fuel consumption was lighter. Fangio had to make two long pit-stops for fuel, and in the end Gonzalez - who only stopped once - won by about a minute, with Fangio second, Farina third and Ascari fourth. Gonzalez's only other win also came at Silverstone - three years later in 1954, when he led home a Ferrari 1-2 ahead of Mike Hawthorn.

Juan Manuel Fangio in action at Dundrod in 1952 © Getty Images

I recently drove through the tiny village of Dundrod, in Northern Ireland, and was told there used to be a motor-racing circuit there. Is it still in existence? asked Brian Willis

The circuit at Dundrod, north-west of Belfast, is still used for motor-cycling events: the Ulster GP (part of the motor-cycling world championship from 1949 to 1971) has long been staged there - this year's event is in mid-August. It's a circuit amounting to about 7½ miles over public roads: it was first used in 1922, and remains frighteningly fast. If you were driving around the area you probably travelled over part of the circuit! It was originally a popular venue for car races, too - I seem to remember Mike Hawthorn writing about how handy it was that a bar serving jolly good Guinness was right behind the pits - but its popularity dwindled after three fatalities there during the prestigious Tourist Trophy race of 1955, not long after the Le Mans disaster in which more than 80 spectators were killed when a car flew into the stands.

Just wondering ... how many British drivers have won the British Grand Prix? asked Harry Goddard

The British GP has been won by home drivers on 21 occasions since the world championship started in 1950. Jim Clark leads the way with five wins in the 1960s, while Nigel Mansell won it four times between 1986 and 1992 (Mansell also won another world championship race in Britain - the European GP at Brands Hatch in 1985, his first win). Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard won it twice, while Stirling Moss won outright in 1955 and shared the winning car in 1957 with another Briton, Tony Brooks. Six other British drivers have won their home Grand Prix once: Peter Collins (1958), James Hunt (1977), John Watson (1981), Damon Hill (1994), Johnny Herbert (1995) and Lewis Hamilton (2008).

On which Grand Prix circuit are the Craner Curves? asked Max Brightwell

The Craner Curves can be found at Donington Park, in Leicestershire, whose only world championship event was the European GP of 1993, a rain-affected race won in great style by Ayrton Senna. The Craner Curves are about halfway round the two-mile circuit, and are a sort of wriggle before the Old Hairpin, which then leads to Starkey's Bridge. They are named after Fred Craner, an early motor-cycle racer who had the original idea of turning some of the roads on the extensive Donington Hall estate into a racetrack. The first motor races were held there in 1933.