ROUND THE RALLY ROUT WITH THE NEW ” 65 ” TALBOT
/F any of the entrants in the R.A.C. Rally believed at the start that the event would
prove to be rather dull, rather slow and a little uninteresting, it is safe to say that their views were changed very considerably by the time the all air had drawn to a close, and they were wending their way homewards from the finish at Torquay.
In the first place the organisation was excellent. And with so wide an itinerary as was arranged, and with an entry list containing no less than 341 cars, any little mismanagement or lack of foresight could have reduced the Rally to a fiasco. As it was, things went off at the start, the intermediate controls and the finish without a hitch.
Moreover, the event being a rally and not a reliability trial, the rule regarding average speed allowed of plenty of latitude ; one was only called upon to maintain for the total distance not less than 25 m.p.h. or 22 m.p.h., according to one’s class, and to report at the intermediate controls during the hours when these were open. Thus, drivers could please themselves whether they disposed of the 1,000 odd miles at a fairly sedate pace or made the event a prolonged blind. Judging by what one saw and heard, the latter method was the more popular. For one thing by “hitting it up” between controls, drivers and passengers accumulated sufficient time to comfortably partake of meals and a little sleep. On the other hand, a good number preferred to dispense with such luxuries and complete the run without indulging in any high m.p.h. But whichever way one took it, by the time Torquay had been reached, sleep—real sleep in a bed became the primary need.
As one of the crew of J. E. Scott’s “
65″ sports saloon Talbot, we left the London starting control (Rootes’ service station at St. John’s Wood) on Tuesday, 1st March, at 6.40 p.m. Conditions, save for a fairly strong wind, were very nearly ideal for a
long night drive clear air, and with no moon to make confusing shadows.
The ” 65 ” which is a new addition to the Talbot range, soon induced a feeling of restfulness, and one felt at once that the long journey would prove to be no ordeal.
With an eye to possible heavygoing with this erratic weather of ours, and also with hopes of awards in the coachwork competition on the Saturday, the car had been well and sensibly equipped. In addition to the standard equipment we had, for example, a powerful spotlight mounted on the roof, and two fog lamps fitted low in front ; one of these was ingeniously fitted on an extensible arm so that it could be projected forward several feet ahead of the car. We had interior sun visors, Parsons chains, Jackall jacks, a complete tool kit arranged most accessibly in the lid of the rear locker, and—we reveal it with blushes of shame—an electric foot warmer! It was Scott’s intention to take things fairly quietly at first, but to progressively increase our average on our northward journey so that we could have a few hours sleep at Rdinburgh. On the Great North Road we found ourselves in a straggling formation of rallyists, and it was pleasing to see that the event was by no means a 100 per cent, closedcar affair, and that there were plenty of sportsmen who were prepared to face whatever weather was in store
for them in open sports machines.
The 94 miles to Stamford passed incredibly quickly, and we appeared to have hardly settled in our seats, when we swung into the yard of “The George” at the entrance to the town. In point of fact we had averaged 40 m.p.h. Here with one or two other competitors we partook of a little refreshment, purchased a stock of cigarettes and a bottle of Scotch, and sped off again for Harrogate. Scott now gave the ” 65 ” a shade more throttle, and with good visibility, good headlights and good roads we completed the next step to the first control—” The Majestic” at Harrogate—in effortless style. Without, the night was made lively with arriving and departing cars, and within, the hotel was agog with animated conversation. One heard such remarks as “How are you guarding against falling asleep ? ” and the answer—” The acute discomfort of our vehicle will see to that.” There seemed to be few adventures or misadventures during the 209 miles between London and Harrogate, though one or two cars had inadvertently and strangely deviated from the normal route. For ourselves, our average from Stamford worked out at 50.75 m.p.h. A post-midnight supper of bacon and eggs, a wash, and we were on our way again. As we emerged from the warm interior of “The Majes
tic,” Brigadier-General SadlierJackson set off in his Bugatti, with the inimitable, snarling exhaust note of that marque reverberating through the deserted streets of the spa. Ten miles further on we passed him and his muffled companions, going great guns. At this distance competitors were spacing out considerably, and the Talbot went for miles passing few other cars, and passed by none. The miles swept by. One grew drowsy, eyelids drooped. The perfect smoothness of the engine, and the warm comfort of the ” 65 ” induced, against one’s will, a natural languor. One sank gradually into an easy half-sleep to awake suddenly and startled. Road, trees, posts, telegraph poles, walls and wayside dwellings flashed by in streaking, endless procession. Conversation lagged ; only the motor’s drone and the rush of wind were heard. One’s eyes rested dully on the driver’s alert silhouetted figure, his glowing cigarette, the gleaming facia board.
Over the Border.
Sweeping along the sombre, bleak route towards the Scottish capital, countless small animals scurried from our path. Time passed, and presently Scott, who’ knows every yard of the course, announced that Edinburgh was half-an-hotr’s run away. Actually, in less than that time we entered the city, traversing the inevitable tramlines, to arrive, a little stiff, a little sleepy, but warm
and well pleased with life at the North British Hotel, having averaged from Harrogate 44 m.p.h.
We had no sooner disembarked outside the control, than we were met by several members of the staff of Messrs. Hutchinson, the Edinburgh Talbot agents, and our car was whisked off to their service garage, while we ourselves lost no time in going to bed to enjoy four splendid hours of slumber.
With 613 miles to go, we turned southward at mid-day, and were soon sailing back over the winding roads through the mountains, now cloaked in a clammy mist. At Lockerbie a brief halt was made for a snack, and we continued without incident via Carlisle, Kendal, Warrington and Macclesfield up the long twirling climb, and down the equally lengthy and winding descent to Buxton. Here oirtside the ” Palace ” hotel, our third intermediate control, we found a great assembly of cars, many of which had started from Norwich. As at the other controls, the work of checking and signing our “road books” was carried out in a few moments by the officials, and having taken on a further supply of fuel, we were soon off again, heading for Cambridge.
All this time the ” 65 ” had been pursuing her effortless, unobtrusive way, and it was hard to believe that we had covered some 760 miles. In the early hours of Thursday, there was a distinct nip in the air, which must have been felt keenly
by the open car contingent. But those we passed after leaving Cambridge had apparently lost none of the enthusiasm which had been noticeable in the earlier stages of the event. After a brief conference, we had decided to go via Royston, Hatfield, Stanmore, Uxbridge, and Staines to the south, rather than follow the official route through Aylesbury and Oxford.
We must confess here that the crew of the ” 65 ” were at this juncture feeling a shade off colour, and the road to Torquay even in the Talbot seemed a long, long trek. Nevertheless Scott made the most of the long stretches of highway, and the car sang along at fifty-five, sixty-five, and seventy for many a mile. At Hartford Flats we ran suddenly into a patch of dense fog, but with the aid of our various extra lamps we groped along to emerge again in clear air. Then on to Salisbury and Shaftesbury. Hereabouts we got somewhat off our course, which entailed a stop, a fumbling with the map, much scrutiny of same with sleepy eyes, and finally the retracing of our tracks.
A little later, in our headlight beams we saw an owl. Struggling frantically to gain height, it tried to clear us, but as it held a rabbit in its claws its rate of climb was poor, and with a shower of feathers both hunter and hunted were demolished by our front bumper at 60 m.p.h.
Dawn came, and with it a general revival of spirits. And then a few miles from Exeter we saw Miss D. Champney’s Riley pressed well and truly against a telegraph pole.
With several hours to spare before passing our final check, we ran into Messrs. Maude’s garage at Exeter, where in a rest room we were most thoroughly revived with breakfast.
When we finally passed ” Ebby ” on the tick of 10.40 a.m. rain was falling fitfully—for the first time in six whole weeks, so the Torquay inhabitants assured us. But rain, snow, sleet or what you will, it was all the same to us. Through the flag-bedecked streets we went our way to Timpson’s Garage, where the Talbot was quickly parked. Brief intermittent conversations with numerous friends, a lift to our hotel, a penning of a letter or two, an early lunch. And so to bed— at two-thirty in the afternoon.
"They must have been crazy"
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