A DAY OF FAST MOTORING TWO ENTHUSIASTS SHOW THAT THE DAY OF THE AMATEUR RACE-DRIVER IS NOT YET PAST.
MOTOR racing with an inexpensive car can be made to pay for itself, provided one is prepared to , tackle the job in the right way. That is a statement which should bring fresh hope to those who only have sufficient money to go in for the game in a small way. We had it last month on the authority of two enthusiasts, Miss Eileen Ellison and Mr. T. P. Cholmondeley Tapper, whose white If litre Bugatti has been seen frequently at Donington, Brooklands and other meetings in England and abroad during last season.
Miss Ellison bought the car originally with the idea of using it for fast touring, and covered some thousands of miles three up, the third member of the party having a thin time balanced on a cushion on the edge of the body. Tapper drove it in a Cambridge speed trial at Kirnbolton, while the pair of them had a chilly but enjoyable run in the first R.A.C. Rally. Tapper, by then, had started to learn the mysteries which govern the performance of the Bugatti engine, and in the intervals of indulging in his other great enthusiasm, that of skiring, worked on the car and brought it tip to racing pitch ready for the 1933 season. This was the year that the Donington circuit opened, and the car made its first appearance in ” serious ” racing at the opening meeting. During the winter the dipper oil-feed to the big-ends had been scrapped in favour of the pressure system,
and this extra supply of oil gave some trouble the first time out, but at the second meeting the car was in much better fettle, and Tapper scored a second place in one race after a fine tussle with Aidington on a Frazer Nash. At the Whithun Brooklands meeting that year ladies were allowed to drive in Outer Circuit races for the first time, and Miss Ellison came second in a” Short,” and Tapper repeated
was planned, and the ” Scuderia ” invested in a £15 Lancia for towing purposes. Tapper had put in some more tuning during the winter, and captured another second place in a Brooklands Mountain meeting, two seconds at the second Donington meeting, the 25 mile handicap being run at a speed of 59.6 m.p.h. ; and two third places at the third meeting, his speed for the 3-litre race being 60.83 m.p.h. this in a subsequent. race. In the August meeting Tapper ma.de his first acquaintance with the -Mountain Circuit, and won Between these events two trips to the Continent were Made, one to the Kesselburg hill-climb in Bavaria, and a second
the Senior Handicap in a well-contested race at 63.44 m.p.h. For 1934 a more extensive programme
in August, when the Bugatti was entered in the Grosser Bergpreis at Freiburg, the Klausen hill-climb, and the 1,500 c.c. class in the Swiss Grand Prix. The Bugatti was towed all the way out to Central Europe and back, Miss Ellison, her brother, and Mr. Tapper taking turns at absorbing the grit and mud thrown up by the back wheels of the Lancia, while the unit made itself to some extent independent of hotels by carrying a tent on beard.
The same procedure was adopted at tho hill-climbs, the two drivers taking turns as to who should take up the racing car. At the Klausen climb Miss Ellison drove the Bugatti and finished third in the 1/litre-racing class, and also the ladies’ prize ; while Tapper was a little embarrassed by having to drive up the Laneia in the sports category surrounded by 2.3 AlfaRomeos. The climb is in all 14 miles in length, and the cars are started at halfminute intervals, so the drivers of the slower ears have to keep a close look-out in their driving mirrors or they are likely to get bumped into -from behind. Tapper drove the car in the German hillclimb Grand Prix at Freiburg, and considers this the most difficult of the three courses he attempted, for the road is just succession of corners with a treacherous surface in many places, while to qualify one had to get within 20 seconds of the class record, which stood at about 10 minutes; The only ” flat ” race in which the car appeared was the Swiss Grand Prix, where it came in eighth, three minutes behind Seaman On the Magnette, a highly creditable performance, considering that all the other cars were supercharged, while nearly a lap was lost at the beginning of the race through the car conking out on the starting line. The car had a final fling in more than one sense at the October Mountain meeting at Brooklands, when one of the clutch bolts gave way as Miss Ellison was
lying third in the ladies’ race. This is the only mechanical trouble which has occurred since the car has been raced, a state of affairs rather different from the experience of other drivers of the earlier models, so when we received an invitation to see the car in its new guise as a supercharged racer the offer was readily accepted.
The journey up to Shelford, near Cambridge, wai quickly accomplished in a Lagonda Rapide, about which more later on. We were soon at the shed in which the Bugatti lived, and on the way there we put some questions to Mr. Tapper as to the reliability of the four-cylinder G.P. type, and the alterations required in changing it into a ” 37a,” as the supercharged version is officially termed.
“Except for the oiling trouble at the beginning, and the pulled clutch bolt, we have never had a moment of mechanical trouble,” was the reply. ” One of the most important things to my mind is to warm the car thoroughly before it is driven hard, and I always give it a full hour’s running before the start of a race. Another essential matter is to keep down to the rev, limit of 4,500 r.p.m., and in a strenuous race such as the Swiss Grand Prix I found 4,200 quite enough. If you take it above the limit you are liable to have expensive noises.” Our own memories of Shelsley confirmed this. ” We do all the work on the car ourselves, and last season we found the starting and prize money we received on the Continent just balanced our expenses. This year there are many more If litre races, and now we’ve got the supercharger fitted, we should stand a much better chance. Maximum speed ? Oh, I never like to drive cars fiat out ; I feel it is being rather unkind to them, but keeping to the safe rev, limit it should be about 115
The Bugatti factory wanted about 2250 for a new blower, a state of affairs which at first seemed to make the conversion out of the question, but one day, visiting the experimental department of a motor factory, Tapper came across the very thing he was after, an almost new Type 37a, which had been taken to pieces and put together again so unsuccessfully that it would not even run. He purchased the whole outfit for a small sum, and working all through the winter has completely rebuilt the white car, which now, by the way, has been painted the well-known shade of blue, and is ready for the new season’s racing. A type 40 Bugatti has been bought to replace the Lancia as the towing car, and at the time of our visit the engine was being stripped down and overhauled. The cylinder-block, the beautifully made five-bearing disc crankshaft and other parts are interchangeable with the racing car, which is a considerable asset, while the car is a good deal livelier than the Lancia. “This year we mean to tow the racing car on a trailer, which will make travelling a good deal more comfortable, while the old Type 40 will be quite amusing to drive in hill-climbs for whichever of us is not handling the racing car. We plan
fast stretches of the Great North Road, with no sound other than that of the wind whistling by. Fortunately the run took place before the 30 m.p.h. limit came into operation, but driving with due discretion when the built up areas of London were reached, we found that without any attempt at fast driving we had covered the 56 miles from Shelford to Marble Arch in just the hour. Mr. Cholmondely Tapper’s profession and hobby is that of ski-racing, ad before we left we were interested to have his comparison of the snow sport and that of the road. “There is nothing to corn
to run at the Kesselberg, Freiburg, Zugerberg and La Turbie Hill Climbs, and at the Eifel, Avus, Picardie, Albi and Swiss Grands Prix.”
“What about the Rapide ? “we asked. “That we are going to drive in the Mille Miglia, the Belgian 10 hour race, and possibly in the Targa Abruzzo. We have been trying it on long journeys all round England, and it covers the ground in the most amazing fashion, and is yet so highgeared that we can’t conceive of it giving any trouble.” When the time came to return home, we took particular notice of the road and engine speeds, and found that at 2,000 r.p.m. the speeds in third and top were respectively 45 and 60 m.p.h., and since the maximum is 4,000 r.p.m. there is not much cause for complaint in this direction. The car sailed along effortlessly at between 80 and 90 m.p.h. on the
pare with shooting down a steep slope on ski. You must be doing close on 80 sometimes, with nothing to preserve you from disaster but your own sense of balance. Still we have two excellent cars this season in the Bugatti and the Lagonda and though touring the roads of England on an ordinary car seems pretty dull after the fortnight we just spent in Switzerland, we should get all the excitement we want when the season opens.”
This seemed a fitting close to a day’s fast motoring, so we withdrew pondering thoughts of whether to raid Junior’s money box, or perhaps to stage a little snatch and grab raid to finance our entry into motor racing. Certainly if the initial capital is there, and the skill to make the best of one’s car, racing can be had for small expense. We shall have to look round and see what can be done about it.