THE LE MANS LAG ONDA
THE7prestige that comes to a country as a result of winning the Le Mans 24-Hour Sports-Car Race—the world’s greatest sports-car race—is incalculable and consequently great interest attaches to the two V12 Lagondas which will uphold British prestige at Le Mans
next June. Everyone in this country hopes that the sequence of French victories may be broken. We visited the works of Lagonda, Ltd., at Staines at the end of last month and were shown over the racing department by S. M. Iverrnee, formerly of the Bentley team. We found one Le Mans engine complete and on the bench and the other in process of erection. Of the cars, only a bare chassis frame, with gearbox Installed, was visible at this stage. The body drawings bad also been completed. Ivermee said he had hoped to get started on the Le Mans cars on January 1st, as six months is all too short. a period in which to prepare—amateur racing-car builders should take heed. As it is, the cars will probably leave one week before the event, which starts on June 17th. The works car will be driven by Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury, as Seaman will not be released by MercedesBenz and this car will be backed by Lord Waleran’s second car, which he has now purchased. His co-driver will be Lord Selsdon. The Le Mans engine has been hotted-up along quite normal lines and standard components are for the most part retained. Four S.U. downdraught carburetters are used, with horizontal piston-bodies and separate float-chambers. It is anticipated that at least 240 b.h.p. will be developed. The engine will peak at rather more than 6,000 r.p.m., against 5,500 r.p.m. of the standard unit, and at 5,500 r.p.m. the road speed in top gear will be 130.7 m.p.h. Actually, it is believed that the cars will be capable of 142 m.p.h. and Ivermee sees no reason why they should not reach this speed on the course—Le Mans to-day is no mean dice. Aluminium alloy heads will not be employed, partly because there Is little time in which to experiment and partly because such heads are not favoured for the production jobs. It was emphasised that Lagonda Ltd. races to learn lessons useful in improving the production cars, rather than as an advertising medium.. No large-scale racing programme is planned, but the cars may run in the T.T. and one or two other sports car races. The bodies will be built in the works and are to have long streamline tails, slightly offset to the driver’s side. The tank, holding some 35 gallons, will be in the tail, the cockpit drops down on the passenger’s side, and the whole shell is a very slight affair. It has been rumoured that the cars will weigh as little as 26 cwt. but at the moment the exact figure is not known, which makes it difficult to determine the loading line, or to plan the rear springing. The override suspension control will be retained. Incidentally, recent experiments have resulted in improved front springing of the production V12 cars, and only the rear suspension is now damped. Improved braking has been evolved, hut for Le Mans only minor modifications, which include narrower shoes, can be made under the regulations, which British entrants are made to observe very strictly. The body will be rather under 40′ in height. The top gear ratio Is likely to be 4.09 to 1, in conjunction with 19″ x 7″ covers. The short stroke of the V12 Lagonda enables it to run at high crankshaft speed, as is well known. Although the racing engines will be kept down to about 6,800 r.p.m., Ivermee told us he can see no reason why this 4jlitre unit should not run up to 8,000 r.p.m. with modification of the connecting
rods. Recent research has resulted in an improvement in fuel consumption of some 14 per cent. Incidentally, in spite of its great performance, the V12 Lagonda is remarkably smooth and pulls very well on top gear, which is an excellent omen in an engine about to be developed for racing. Already the Le Mans engine has proved capable of 100 m.p.h. on about half-throttle very happily at Brooklands. Talking of the one-hour run undertaken at Brooklands last year, when Earl Howe did over 101 miles in a V12 Lagonda saloon in spite of a tyre-burst, Ivermee said he thought the Brookland’s surface far worse than that of any road where speeds about 95 m.p.h. would normally be attempted, and he considers that Montlhery is 2 m.p.b. a lap faster, apart from being kinder to springs and tyres. Given a streamline saloon body he estimates that a normal V12 Lagonda could put 118 miles into an hour’s lappery of the Paris track and do 180 m.p.h. on the road. Referring to the remarkable run made on a German autobahn recently by Laurence Pomeroy and Gordon Wilkins, when with a standard, privately owned V12 Lagonda they averaged 95.26 m.p.h. for 2 hours and did 97 miles in one hour, Ivermee said he felt sure it would be possible to exceed 100 miles in the hour
on the road, given favourable conditions. Indeed, on August 12th last year an expedition was due to the the autobahn for some motoring of this kind, but the political situation decided them against it—not that the man-in-the-street only heard of the crisis at the end of September. We hope Lagondas steady work on the Le Mans cars may be taken as an omen of a peaceful summer. The cars are being assembled in a separate works behind the new office buildings which now grace the Lagonda frontage at Staines. The complete engine occupied the test-bench in solitary state in a special room and the instruments used for research purposes were accommodated in a neat panel at the front of the bed. A big rotary blower has been used to create a depression over the carburetter intakes—just one example of the thorough testing which Lagondas are putting in on these engines. Jubilee hose-clips were noted on each intake, and enquiry revealed that it had been found desirable to extend the mouths of the intakes, which was the purpose for which the clips were used. When you see the careful preparation of such cars and reflect on their cost in terms of material, power, man-hours and drawing-office labour, you understand something of the responsibility of the drivers appointed to handle them. Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury are fully capable of the task before them, and. we wish them a good race. Lagonda, Ltd. deserve to reap just reward for thus planning to uphold British sports-car
prestige at Le Mans. Actually, their works are working at full capacity turning out the six-cylinder 4+-litre and V12 44-litre cars, and we should be very proud that we can hold our own in the world’s most exclusive markets. Lagonda prestige is firmly established, and will remain unchanged whatever the outcome of Le Mans, where every British enthusiast will hope for another victory by a Bentley-designed product. Incidentally. Trescillian, who shows some of the credit for the V12 design with W. 0. Bentley, has left Lagonda Ltd., to join High Duty Alloys, Ltd. Incidentally, the Lagonda concern has representatives in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland and on April 1st, R. G. Watney sailed on the “Queen Mary ” for the purpose of establishing new contacts in the U.S.A. So many eyes, other than British, will follow Arthur Dobson’s fortunes at Le Mans, next June.