OXFORD’S LOST CAUSE
CAMBRIDGE SCORE SIXTH SUCCESSIVE VICTORY IN INTER-VARSITY SPEED TRIALS AT SYSTON PARE CAMBRIDGE. who have not been beaten in the Speed Trials by Oxford since 1933, continued their run of victories at Syston Park, near Grantham, on March 18th, winning “The Motor”
Trophy by nine events to three. Quite a large crowd watched the racing, which was spoilt by some miserable weather. Only those classes in which both Universities were represented counted
in the result, and, with the powerful Cambridge entry, this meant in fact that the scoring classes were those in which Oxford had at least one representative. Without this concession, Cambridge would have had a further three events to their credit.
It is said that Oxford is the home of lost causes, but in recent years they have had. such a weak car entry that they have not given themselves a chance. University regulations handicap the resident members, but this year even Kenneth Evans, one of the most consistent supporters of the Dark Blues, and Gerald Sumner, both among the veterans— those who have gone down—were absent from the entry. Sumner has just bought a very fast Magnette, and he was present to lend moral support, but the car could not be prepared in time.
As it was, Oxford won only one of the eleven car classes, that for 1,300 c.c. sports-cars, and their remaining two successes were among the motor-cycles. In this category the Dark Blues had a much stronger entry, but in the two classes for racing motor-cycles Cambridge riders just got the better of their Oxford rivals. Frank Kennington had a great tussle with the Oxford secretary, E. N. Bunting, both riding very rapid T.T. Nortons, and by some determined ” dicing,” just kept
ahead in the 500 c.c. class. In the unlimited class Bunting had a big twin Vincent-H.R.D., but he had against him the redoubtable M. N. Mavrogordato for Cambridge, riding a Brough Superior which once held the world’s record. ” Mavro ” was fortunate in getting his first run over just before the rain had made the surface slippery, whereas Bunting did not turn out till later.
The Cambridge rider’s 26.85 secs., on a course which was already a little damp, was a remarkable achievement, and was actually the fastest run of the day, coming very close to the late Eric Fernihough’s motor-cycle record of 26.30 secs., set up with his famous Brough Superior in 1936.
The car record for the half-mile course, set up by Ian Connell in 25.07 sees, with his E.R.A. last year, was not broken, for in the afternoon the rain set in properly, and the racing-cars had a treacherous surface with which to contend. Getting off the mark on the wet tarmac became a matter of very close judgment. The course slopes uphill with an appreciable gradient at the start, then flattens out, passes round several fast curves, which were very tricky in the conditions, and finally rises again to the finish. Competitors were able to carry straight on and return to the paddock, making use of the back leg which once completed
a nice little circuit for motor-cycle racing, though too narrow for cars to pass one another.
All honour goes to R. P. R. Habershon, a Cambridge undergraduate, for his splendid handling of A. B. Hyde’s 3litre single-seater Maserati on the slippery course. This car was once raced by Earl Howe and then by T. P. ChohnondeleyTapper, while Hyde himself drove it in the German Grand Prix last year. Habershon had little previous experience of fast cars, and had only driven the Maserati for the first time on the day before the event. On his first nth he put his foot down at the start, the wheels spun, and the car slewed on to the grass. Habershon
corrected the skids, and continued, but when he returned to the paddock was somewhat shaken, and expressed the opinion that with his limited experience he could not do justice to the car on such a day. Roused from this despair by the urgings of a chief marshal, he tried
again. Benefiting from his previous experience, he now got away splendidly, and on successive runs recorded 27.08 secs., 27.51 secs., and finally 26.99 secs.
On this last run he made a masterly start which few drivers even of much greater experience could have bettered. The starting marshal gave him the ” 0.K” and placed the portable electric timing strip in front of his wheel. Habershon sat quite calmly for a few secs., concentrating on the task, and then got away smoothly with practically no spin at all, only giving the engine the gas when well wider way, after which his acceleration was terrific. Somehow he held the car on the course round the slippery curves and set up a new class record, making best car time of the day. Scarcely less courageous was the display given by D. A. Hampshire, who has
just gone down from Cambridge. He was driving R. Parnell’s formidable B.H.W. which basically is the supercharged 4.9-litre Bugatti. raced by Kaye Don, but which now has independent front suspension. Hampshire, too, had a slow first run, as was only to be expected, but thereafter steadily improved his times with 29.84 secs., 29.75 secs., and 28.79secs.
Other incidents in the racing classes were the frightening series of skids suffered by R. M. W. Arbuthnot in his Monza-type Alfa-Romeo, the car proceeding at great speed with all four wheels on the grass half way up the course, and the fine driving of G. E. Lind-Walker in his supercharged Bugatti, which won the 14-litre class.
As there were so few racing machines in the Oxford ranks, several of the Dark Blues drove the same car in the 1,100 c.c. class, an unsupercharged M.G. Amongst the drivers was Reggie Tongue, who was also down to ride a B.M.W. motor-cycle. This would assuredly have been a great event, and Tongue’s friends were wandering all over the paddock looking for the machine. Tongue, however, refrained from ” dicing ” on the two-wheeler owing to doctor’s orders. In the end P. R. Monkhouse, of Cambridge, defeated the combined Oxford efforts with a blown Magnette. A six-cylinder Amilcar was running in this class, but it was a shadow of its former self. In the morning the sports-cars had a dry course, though the weather was bitterly
cold. A tremendous battle went on for fastest time, and indeed this section usually overshadowed by the racing-cars, provided a great spectacle, with many of the fastest sports-cars in England running. Oxford scored their solitary car win through L. S. Dixon’s fine work with his M.G., beating four Cambridge drivers in the newly instituted 1,300 c.c. class. The first competitor to set up a really fast time was Michael May, handling one of the new lir-litre H.R.G.s, with the latest
type of engine. The car had snappy acceleration, and held the road well.
When A. F. P. Pane brought out his 2-litre Frazer-Nash-B.M.W., also of the latest type, the fun began in earnest. Pane’s first time was 28.43 secs., which handsomely beat all previous sports-car records for the course, supercharged or unsupercharged. The previous best was 28.78 secs. by a Mercedes-Benz last year.
However, the record stood for only a short time, for when the big sports-cars appeared, I. F. Connell took his Darracq up the course in 28.20 secs., and even so, only just beat R. R. C. Walker with the Delahaye raced last season by ” B. Bira.” R. R. Jackson did well to secure third place with a 3i-litre Hotchkiss saloon, beating two more Delahayes and a fast two-seater S.S.
In this event a car is eligible to take part only in its own class, with two runs and not in those for machines with bigger engine capacity, an arrangement which prevents a fast small car from running away with all the awards. However, those who desire a further two runs can enter in an ” all-corners ” class run without handicap for cars of any capacity. In the All-Comers class Connell improved the sports-car record still further with a well-judged run in 27.53 secs., which was actually second best car time of the day and thus now holds both the racing and the sports-car records. The Monaco stable did well on the day, for Connell secured two firsts and also, in the racing classes, two thirds, while his partner, Peter Monkhouse, also won two classes, and, running among the all-comers, put up a new record for supercharged sports-cars with a time of 29.14
secs. on his 1,100 c.c. M.G. Between them Connell and Monkhouse now hold five of the Syston records.
Pane came into the picture again with his Frazer-Nash-B.M.W., with runs of 28.32 secs., and 27.78 secs. and Walker with the Delahaye also improved, showing fine consistency with 28.20 secs., and 28.16 secs., and being thus beaten only by Corxnell and Pane on their last runs. Piquant interest attached to the demonstration runs by Forrest Lycett with his 8-litre Bentley, and Hugh Hunter with his supercharged 2.9-litre AlfaRomeo, for there was keen rivalry between these two drivers, together with Connell and Pane, for the honour of owning the fastest sports-car. Lt. Torin had also been invited to drive his Maserati, but following a fire at Brooklands this
car was still out of commission. The demonstrators were not actually competing, as not belonging to either University, but their times were tollowed with keen interest. Lycett led off with 28.30 secs., and then improved this to 27.83 secs., and was thus fractionally slower than both Connell and Pane on their best runs. Obviously he could not use the full power of the big Bentley on the narrow course, and had
to keep cutting his engine in and out. Hunter on the Alfa was travelling at a great speed over the finish, and did well to record 28.83 secs. and 28.21 secs. without any previous practice. Connell, Pane, Lycett, Walker and Hunter had all made better times than the previous Sports-car record, and the battle was thus worth seeing.
Sports-Cars 1,100 c.o.: 1, A. J. Kilpatrick (C) (Singer), 41.078.;
2, R. E. A. Mason (C) (Singer) 41.668.; 3, J. M. A. Edmondson (0) (M.G.), 43.32s.
1,300 0.0.: 1, L. S. Dixon (0) (M.G.), 38.528.
2, I. St,. L. Morris (C) (M.G.), 40.628.; 3, P. B. F. Deneys (C) (Wolseley), 40.708. 1,500 c.c. :1, M. W. B. May (C) (H R.G.), 34.40s.; 2, G. Kinsey-Morgan (C) (Frazer-Nash), 36.438.;
3, M. Swithinbank (C) (Aston-Martin), 40.408. 2,000 c.c. : 1, A. F. P. Fame (C) (Frazer-NashB.M.W.), 28.33s.; 2, Hon. R. de Y. Bateson (C) (A.C.) 35.138.; 3, K. N. Smith (C) (Frazer-Nash
3&.30a. Over 2,000 e.e. : 1, I. F. Connell (C) (Darmcq), 28.20s.; 2, R. R. C. Walker (C) (Delabaye), 28.65s. ;
3, R. R. Jackson (C) (Hotchkiss), 34.04s.
Supercharged : 1, P. R. Monkhouse (C) (M.G.), 29.738.; 2, M. C. Crowley-Milling (C) (Alfa-Romeo), 29.99s. ; 3, B. Dyke-Aciand (0) (M.G.), 33.05s. All-Comers : 1, I. F. Connell (C) (Darraeq), 27.58s.; 2, A. F. P. Pane (C) (Frazer-Nash-B.M.W.), 27.788.;
3, R. R. C. Walker (C) (Delahaye), 28.16s.
1,100 0.0. : 1, P. R. Monkhouse (C) (M.G.), 81.21B.;
2, A. H. B. Hurst (0) (M.G.), 35.17s. ; 3, R. E. Tongue (0) (M.G.), 35.65s. 1,500 e.o. : 1, G. E. Lind-Wallcer (C) (Bugatti), 31.24s.’ 2, J. E. Clowes (0) (McEvoy), 33.66e.;
3, M. W. B. May (C) (H.R.G.) 36.13s.
Over 1,500 e.e. : 1, R.. P. It. Habershon (C) (Maserati), 27.088.; 2, 1). A. Hampshire (C)(B.H.W.), 29.84s.; 3, I. F. Connell (C) (Darracq), 30.24s. All Comers :1, R. P. R. Habershon (C) (Maseratl), 26.99s.; 2, D. A. Hampshire (C) (13.H.W.), 28.79L;
3, I. F. Connell (C) (Darracq), 29.15s.