A South African Speed Hill-Climb

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34

The second Leeuwkop Hill-Climb, held by the Sports Car Club of South Africa — about 10 miles from Johannesburg — on February 21st, is dubbed the Shelsley Walsh of South Africa, and was an interesting event, even if a little different from Shelsley itself.

The climb, approximately 900-1,000 yds. in length, consisted of a gradual bend to the right just after the start followed by a short stretch with a sweeping curve to the left then an acute right angle bend, another to the left and a third to the right leading into the finishing straight and the finishing line. The track is just a dirt road concreted at the starting grid and at the first two right angle bends which are also slightly banked. The programme consisted of three events. One for cars up to 1 1/2-litres, one for cars over 1 1/2-litres, and the third for midget dirt-track cars. There was to have been an event for dirt track motor-bikes, but due to an argument about licences they could not appear. An event for stock cars was also abandoned. The Perry-Emery 747 Austin Special, driven by R. G. Hauptfleisch, opened the proceedings with a climb of 59.9 sec. Each car was allowed two runs per driver, and at its second attempt managed 61.8 sec.; driven by Emery it returned 69.8 sec.

The next car driven by R. W. Lee was a Talbot Special. This vehicle has the straight-eight, all roller-bearing Talbot engine out of the car once raced with great success at the Earl Howe circuit by “Mario.” The rear end of the power unit was damaged, so it was cut in half making it a four-cylinder 750-c.c. supercharged job (retaining original blower and carburetter) which revs at plus 7,500. Earlier in the year it ran in the Fairfield Handicap at Durban, but suffered from carburetter trouble. This problem was still audibly present and it took 82.5 and 84.0 sec. for its two ascents.

These were followed by a F.I A T. “Topolino” with D.K.W. engine (72.0 and 71.7) and a couple of TC M.G.s. The best M.G. time was made by Latham at 55.9 sec. — sufficient to win the class. The 1,100-e.c. Amilcar-Austin Special, built by Hugh Lister and driven by Bill Ritchie, managed 58.6 sec. and 57.6 sec. This car consists of a “Grand Sport” Amilcar s.v. engine in a modified Austin Seven chassis. Its unladen weight is about 700 lb. and it develops 47 b.h.p. at 3,800 r.p.m.

The 500-c.c. Cavanagh Special ran, but had a lot of trouble (it is the first “500” to be built in South Africa, I believe). Its owner, builder, entrant mid driver has put a Sunbeam “90” motor-cycle engine in a F.I.A.T. 500 chassis with i.f.s. Interesting features are the engine placed behind the driver (the only one of this type at the meeting) and its very narrow track rear axle. Unfortunately, no times were recorded for this interesting vehicle. In this instance and also in the case of a few others, I believe the electrical timing apparatus was at fault. A pity as it would have afforded a comparison with larger cars, particularly in view of the interest this class has aroused in England. Though perhaps because of its stubbornness it is just as well its times went unrecorded!

The other interesting motor in this class was a Riley Special, driven by C. N. Rex, an immigrant from England, this being his first appearance in competition motoring in South Africa. This car has just been completed and is a Riley chassis “altered to E.R.A. specifications” (quotation from programme) fitted with a 1,086-c.c. four-cylinder o.h.v. Riley engine. Perhaps all the bugs have not been eliminated yet, as it took 58.8 and 59.7 sec. In event 2, Dr. Charles Theron (pronounced Tay-ron) had a standard blown 2.3 Alfa-Romeo. In two polished ascents of 50.6 and 50.0 sec. he won not only his class, but recotded f.t.d. for standing start machines. The old 4-litre Sunbeam, driven by O. R. Truby, provided an anti-climax, and took 74.4 and 72.9 sec. for his two climbs.

We were next treated to three 4 1/2-litre Bentleys of the Old Brigade, one supercharged. This latter, driven by Jack Patterson of Pretoria, is an “ex Brooklands model” (quote programme again). He took 57.8 and 58.3 sec. This car, and that of J. G. Watson, ran in full road trim, whilst that of Mike Morelli was stripped. Morelli’s machine has its 4 1/2-litre engine installed in a shortened chassis belonging to a 3-litre. Watson returned 57.1 and 57.6 sec. and Morelli 52.0 and 51.9 sec. A beautifully pre-. pared 2 1/2-litre Jaguar 100, driven by G. A. V. Lawrence, was the only car using twin rear wheels. This car was raced pre-war by Fred Allen and has an aluminium body. Running stripped his twin rear wheels must have helped to combat wheelspin on a loose surface and indeed his times of 51.3 and 51.0 sec. were good enough to give him 2nd f.t.d. from a standing start. And who would argue with 2.3 blown Alfa?

A stripped Railton Sports — painted bright red in contrast to the grey of the Jaguar and black of the Alfa and Maserati — managed 56.7 and 56.2 sec. This was followed by a 4 1/2-litre Lagonda saloon in standard road trim, which took, surprisingly, only 59.0 and 57.2 see. Then a 3.6 Ford V8 Special, driven by A. F. R. Griffiths — 54.5 and 53.5 sec.

Finally, the titbit of the day as far as the cars were concerned, the 2.7 s/c Maserati, driven by I. J. Fraser-Jones. It is a 1936 ex-Campari works team car, and was brought to the Union by “Mario” who raced it in the East London G.P., after which it was converted for road use. Its present owner has replaced the supercharger and reconverted it for racing. Disappointingly it could only manage 52.1 and 52.5 sec. The third event consisted entirely of American midget dirt track cars. They all had 2.2-litre clutchless Chev-Miller engines, and whereas the previous drivers appeared safe and smooth in their actions, these midgets were just the reverse. In fact their pilots had to wrestle with the tiller all the way up and rarely were their front wheels pointing in the direction of motion! Their times were the best of the day, all eight cars returning under 50 sec. with the exception of one ascent. Though it must be borne in mind that having no clutch they have the advantage of a flying start. Etberg provided the only accident of the afternoon when he ran out of road at the first right angled bend. The car was undamaged, though Etberg cut his neck on the wire fence. Otherwise he seemed all right, though I daresay a little shaken. In this class Murray Pohl was the fastest at 43.6 sec., closely followed by K. R. Robinson with 43.9 and Hilton Gray at 44.4 sec. “Sparky” Davidson came next with 44.7 sec. — he recently won the Transvaal championship for midgets.

The final entertainment — as indeed it was — provided us with a veteran challenge match between a 1906 Flanders and a 1913 Metz. The third competitor in this event was a man — in full cowboy rig — on a horse. The Flanders won in 103.6 sec, overtaking the Metz on the last bend. The horseman, let it be stated, was only a few yards behind the cars at the finish!

It is interesting to note that, as at the first climb last year, a midget had again returned f.t.d. (out and out fastest for standing and flying starts). This meeting’s f.t.d. was also 1 sec. faster than at the last, when Hilton Gray returned 44.6 sec. in his midget, just beating the ex-Howe 3.3 Bugatti owned by Pierre Kelfkens. The Bug holds the standing start record for the hill at 44 sec. (made in practice), but at this meeting it was unable to compete, as Kelfkens had broken the crankshaft at a hill climb in Cape Town.-J. R. L.