Matters of Moment, August 1997
Belt up: As soon as the Election is over the busy-bodies will resume the campaign…
VICTORY FOR ROLT-AND DIXON!
E.R.A. DRIVER RUNS AWAY WITH BRITISH EMPIRE TROPHY RACE AT 75.91 m.p.h. FREDDIE DIXON’S MASTERLY PREPARATION OF THE WINNING CAR
THE British road-racing season opened on April 1st at Donington with the B.R.D.C. British. Empire Trophy Race. The result was a resounding victory for a new and formidable combination namely A. P. R. Rolt’s E.R.A. prepared and tuned by the famous Freddie Dixon. We have long considered that Rolt, given a car in really good trim, would reveal himself to be in the very front rank of British drivers, and at Donington this belief was justified up to the hilt. Figures speak better than words, especially when they are based on deeds, so let us reduce Rolt’s performance to its simplest terms. His average speed for the 200 miles was 75.91 m.p.h., including a quick Stop for fuel, and yet his fastest lap (the fastest recorded in the race, incidentally) was 77.59 m.p.h.. There’s consistency for you I The practising period before race-day was chiefly remarkable for Billy Cotton’s terrific adventure on the Straight. He had got up to about 120 m.p.h., and was just passing the Paddock gates, when the crankshaft of his E.R.A. broke in two . . . The resulting confusion inside the crankshaft had the effect of locking the transmission solid, and the car promptly started to gyrate. Three complete circles did it make before it could be finally steered in a forward direction once more and brought to rest with as little
delay as possible. Afterwards it was found that the removal of two bolts was sufficient to cause the remains of the engine to fall into the road. So violent was the disintegration of the reciprocating parts that pieces were picked up for sonic distance.
Of the other non-starters, Kenneth Evans had the misfortune to break the back axle of his 2.9-litre Alfa-Romeo ; A. B. Hyde’s Riley was not ready ; and. Mathieson’s Maserati (a 3-litre raced several years ago by Villapadierna on the Continent, and unused since then) bad not yet arrived in England from Morocco. Charles Dodson was nearly runner. His His 1,100 c.c. Maserati—the one raced at the Crystal Palace by Lurani • and Everitt last year—developed a
cracked cylinder block, but by dint of much ingenuity and hard work on the part of a famous Derby firm, it was patched up in time for Dodson to put in a few practise laps on the morning of the race. Some of the E.R.A. drivers, too, had their troubles, generally in connection with gearboxes.
However, nineteen of the twenty-three entries came to the line, with Wilkinson doing sonic frantic work on the ex-Dobbs 2-litre Riley right up to the ” Off,” which was given by George (Fastest Man on Earth) Eyston. The first lap was quite one of the most extraordinary we have seen for a long time. Rolt, Hyde (8-litre Maserati), Reg. Parnell (B.H.W.) and Arthur Dobson (wOrks E.R.A.) scrapped for the pole position at Red Gate, Rolt getting there first. So far, exciting, but orthodox. Then a roar approached over the top of Starkey Hill, It was Rolt, going like the proverbial bomb. He swept down behind the pits, over the crest of the hill and down to Melbourne before Hyde came into view, chased by Dobson,
Parnell, Aitken (E.R.A.), Abecassis (Alta), Ansell (E.R.A.), Wilson (E.R.A.), Nickols (M.G.), Hanson (E.R.A.), Dodson (Maserati), Maclure (Riley), Hadley (Austin), Gee (Riley), Pollock (E.R.A.), Brooke (Riley-Brooke), Gerard (Riley), and Wilkinson (Riley). Wakefield had driven directly into the dead-car park via the link road and retired with lack of oil pressure without completing a single lap.
On the next lap Dobson passed Hyde and set about reducing Rolt’s 15 secs.
lead. By sheer masterly cornering, at which procedure there is no better driver in this country, he managed to clip off a second or so a lap, sometimes, but it shows how extremely quick Rolt’s car was that the latter did not have to hurry nearly so much on the bends. This went on for 10 laps, and the gap between them had narrowed considerably, when Dobson failed to appear to schedule. The news soon came through. Approaching Coppice Corner the pale blue-green works E.R.A. suffered a violent breaking up of its vital engine-parts, strewing pieces of metal and quantities of oil on the road. At the same time flames began to lick round the bonnet, and with great presence of mind Dobson drove on round the corner and into the farmyard, where he knew there were some officials with fire-extinguishers. So ended the run of the only ” works ” E.R.A. in the race, which thus left Rolt without a serious competitor for speed, irrespective of engine size or handicap. He was informed of this fact by his pit staff, who displayed a notice bearing the message “Dab Gone.” Now it remained to be seen whether the leaders in the other classes, Nickols in group ” A ” and Hyde in group “C,” would be able to make any effect on Rolt on handicap as the race wore on. In spite of their best efforts, however, the position was reversed ; Rolt steadily
gaining on his scheduled speed and they just as steadily losing. Much had been expected of Hadley, even though his engine was so small, but he was being led by both Nickols and Dodson in his class. It transpired that during the first part of the race he suffered agonies from cramp, and it was not until halfway through that he was able to get going properly. But for this, Rolt might have been challenged, instead of dominating the field so irresistibly. Hadley worried his friends, too, by having the belt of his overalls trailing outside the car, where it looked as though it might get entangled with the back wheel at any moment. Eventually he hauled it in, and made it fast—which
somehow sounds as though he was driving a yacht instead of a car. There were quite a few retirements, which was not to be wondered at considering the cracking pace set by Rolt. Wilkinson went out with a broken selector rod, Brooke with a slipping clutch. Abecassis, after stopping to correct wrong mixture and regulate the oil pressure, found that the latter refused to respond to quick treatment and retired. Hanson
pulled up at Melbourne Corner with irreparable gearbox trouble. And so we came to half-distance with Rolt way ahead of the field, Dodson about half a minute ahead of Nickols, who in turn led Hyde by a similar amount. This order did not last long, however, for Nickols lost a rear wheel at Maclean’s. He pulled up safely, but the wheel
crashed into the wires of the public address system. Rolt at this time had averaged over 76 m.p.h. ! The 1,100 c.c. Maserati stopped for a “quick one.” and Dodson got away again with grim determination written all over him. He, Rolt and Hadley were now the star performers on the circuit, each being delightful to watch as they slithered
their cars round the curves. At half-past four, two hours after the start, Rolt pulled in for a few gallons of fuel and was away again in 30 seconds. A few minutes later Dodson came in again, and his supporters groaned. Water was pouring out of the exhaust pipe, and the block was well and truly cracked once more. Bad luck after a very stout drive, Rolt continued on his own supreme way, and at a few minutes past five he crossed the line—one of the easiest winners of a big race for a long time. Behind him, Bert Hadley had profited by the disappearance of Nickols and Dodson-to say nothing of losing his attack of cramp—to get into second place, with Hyde an extremely good third. The latter had handled the 3-litre Maserati remarkably well, the calmness of his driving being matched by the deceptive
quietness of his car. Gee brought his. Riley home fourth.
1. A. P. R. Rolt (1,488 e.e. E.R.A.) (rec. 1 lap), 64 laps in 2h. 35m. 378., speed 75.91 m.p.h.
2. 11. L. Hadley (747 c.c. Austin) (rec. 4 laps) 62 laps in 211. 36m. 19s., speed 69.57 m.p.h.
3. A. B. Hyde (2,992 c.c. Maserati) (scratch), 61 laps in 2b. 36m. 31s., speed 73.08 m.p.h.
4. J. F. Gee (1,496 c.c. Riley) (rec. 4 laps) 61 laps in 2h. 38m. 14s., speed 67.54 m.p.h.
5. A. C. Pollock (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) (rec. 1 lap), 58 laps in 2b. 36m. 29s., speed 68.30 m.p.h.
6. R. Parnell (4,975 c.c. B.H.W.) (scratch), 66 laps in 2h. 36m. 268.
7. Hon. P. Aitken (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) (rec. 1 lap), 55 laps in 2h. 37m. 4s.
Also Ran : I. H. Nickols (1,087 c.c. M.G.), 31 lap% C. Dodson (1,096 c.c. Maserati), 55 laps ; N. G. Wilson (1,090 c.c. E.R.A.), laps ; F. R. Gerard (1,486 c.c. Riley), 46 laps ; P. W. Macture (1,487 c.c. Riley), 14 laps ; H. L. Brooke (1,486 c.c. RileyBrooke-Special); G. E. Abecassis (1,485 c.c. Alta), 15 laps ; it. E. Ansell (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) , 51 laps ; R. Hanson (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.), 24 laps ; A. C. Dobson (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) 10 laps ; J. P. Wakefield (1.488. c.c. E.R.A.) on his first lap ; and W. E. Wilkinson (1,988 c.c. Riley), 3 laps.
Belt up: As soon as the Election is over the busy-bodies will resume the campaign…
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