Matters Of Moment, April 1954

The month of April presages the coming of spring and a welcome return of motor-racing. This year there is plenty of racing activity in the month of showers and sunshine.

Already we have had the first Club Race Meeting of the B.A.R.C. for sports cars at Goodwood, on March 27th. at which the first points were scored in the 1954 Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest, won last season by Cliff Davis. The second round for 1954 takes place on May 1st.

On April 3rd the Bristol M.C. & L.C.C. will hold a race meeting for sports cars and 500-c.c. Formula III machinery at that excellent West-Country circuit at Castle Combe, adjacent to the very picturesque village of that name near Chippenham in Wiltshire.

These Bristol M.C. & L.C.C. meetings are well run and enjoyable, with an informal yet efficient atmosphere backed up by decent spectator facilities. The racing commences at 2 p.m. over a circuit of 1.84 miles which incorporates some interesting corners, at one of which, you will recall, Stirling Moss upset last autumn.

On the Sunday, April 4th, the West Essex Car Club has a National Speed Trial at the Wetherfield United States Air Fore base at Braintree, in Essex, with all the excellent facilities which “U.S.A.F.” implies. Commencing at 11.30 a.m., this meeting has an imposing list of awards and selection of classes, the latter embracing sports cars, saloon cars and racing cars from under 1,100 c.c. to over 3,001 c.c. The course is a straight kilometre, electrically timed, and the faster cars run in the afternoon. Note that admission is by pass only, obtainable by members of the club and friends from G. E. Matthews, 48, Gaynes Hill Road, Woodford Bridge, Essex.

The following weekend, on April 10th, we have the National British Empire Trophy Race of the B.R.D.C. at the new Oulton Park circuit hard by Chester, and adjacent to Tarporley. Entries have been received from Stirling Moss, George Abecassis; Roy Salvadori, Bob Gerard, Ron Flockhart, Lance Macklin, Alan Brown and Duncan Hamilton, etc. This is a national sports-car race which will be contested in classes for cars up to 1,500 c.c., 1,501-2,700 c.c. and over 2,700 c.c., as two 30-minute heats culminating in a final of about an hour’s duration. This is a classic race and should enable you to have your first sight of the many interesting new sports cars which have been in course of preparation during the winter. As Motor Sport told you last month, this is a real road circuit of 2.4 miles abounding in varied corners and where every endeavour will be made to provide good spectator amenities. Racing commences at 1 p.m. and you should make every effort to be there. Tickets can be booked from Cheshire Car Circuit, Ltd., 29, Eastgate Row North, Chester.

Easter occupies the next April weekend and you have a big choice of sporting events. On Good Friday evening at New Cross Stadium Stock-Car Racing gets going under the aegis of J. W. Pugh. On the Saturday there is a hill-climb at Lydstep in Wales, a sprint in Staffordshire and 7-lap heats and a 10-lap final for 500-c.c. cars in the programme of motor-cycle ratting put on at Brough airfield by the Blackburn Welfare M.C.

On Easter Monday comes the first International Meeting of the 1954 season in this country, the B.A.R.C.’s popular Easter Meeting at Goodwood. Besides handicap races over five laps for sports and racing cars in the good old Brooklands style, the B.A.R.C. has four important races on the card. These are the 5-lap Earl of March Trophy race for Formula Ill racing cars, the 7-lap race for the new Formula I Grand Prix cars, for the Lavant Cup, the Richmond Formale Libre race, the 21-lap 50-mile race — very interesting, this! — for Formula Libre racing cars, and the 5-lap Chichester Cup Race, also for Formula Libre cars, It is too early to tell you of likely runners but it is probable that the new short-chassis V16 B.R.M. will he there and that Stirling Moss will be trying out his new 2 1/2-litre F.1 Maserati, rumoured to have had fuel-injection and disc brakes added in this country, if he is not racing it at Pau.

There is a practice session on Easter Saturday, and on Easter Monday all roads will lead to Goodwood, that happy 2.4-mile circuit near Chichester in sunny Sussex. Racing starts at 1.30 p.m. and if you decide to do the wife or girl-friend proud and put her in a grandstand seat, book now with the B.A.R.C., 55, Park Lane; London, W.1.

Also on Easter Monday the Half-Litre Car Club has a National Formula Ill Meeting at the Kent circuit at Brands Hatch, now extended, with a new loop, to 1.24 miles. Racing at this near-to-London course starts at 2 p.m. There is a race meeting scheduled at Davidstow in Scotland and a Trengwainton speed hill-climb in Cornwall, so the Easter weekend should ring to the music of racing-car exhausts.

On the last weekend in April we are promised the Aston Martin Owners’ Club National Race Meeting at Snetterton in Norfolk, always well supported and run on one of our better small circuits, followed on the Sunday by speed trials in the pre-war tradition at Gosport in Hampshire and Tempsford near Cambridge.

There is plenty to dispel winter gloom and provide a change from trials, rallies and autocross, not forgetting the Veteran Car Rally to Biggleswade on April 11th, where the old cars arrive by noon and commence a series of driving tests at 1.30 p.m. The Shuttleworth collection of old cars and aeroplanes will be on view to V.C.C. members. The full list of April fixtures of all kinds will be found on page 193.

We can recommend all the foregoing fixtures and it only remains to check over the car, load it with fellow enthusiasts, cameras, binoculars, picnic-basket, sun-glasses, sun-tops, duffle coats, umbrellas and blankets and set forth for the races. Health and the hazards of the road permitting, we shall be, successively, at Castle Combe, Oulton Park, Goodwood and Snetterton — and we expect you, too, to support these excellent race, meetings!

Good Friday’s “Stockers”
Whether you like it or not, Stock-Car Racing looks like breaking out in London at Easter.

A contemporary dislikes those who call this new racing “a circus” and states that it should be encouraged by those who have inexpensive racing at heart. Yet there can be no denying that there is a “circus” element about a contest in which cars roll over, crash into one another and sometimes block the fairway; moreover, we feel that inexpensive racing is well catered for by the 750 and 1,172 Formulae and by Edwardian racing-car events such as those organised by the V,S.C.C.

Nevertheless, in view of the great popularity, indeed status, of Stock-Car Racing in the United States, it behoves us to give the English “stockers,” in races promoted by J. W. Pugh, a fair deal, not criticising or interfering before we have seen this new sport, which is the sage line the R.A.C. Competitions Department is taking.

The first taste of Stock-Car Racing in England, whence it has spread from Europe, will be at New Cross Stadium on Good Friday. It may be that this comparatively narrow track will curb the speed of the aged American cars which will race over it, thereby reducing the crashes and other “thrills” which are essential, it seems, for public enjoyment of this sort of racing. On the other hand, this need not necessarily be the case, for America manages with 1/4-mile tracks, although 1/2-mile speedways able to accommodate about four cars abreast seem better suited to the game, and some of their tracks are considerably longer.

Stock-Car Racing has a big following in the States, where races of 50, 100, even 150 miles are usual, with lap speeds of better than 50 m.p.h. in the smaller events and race averages as high as 87 m.p.h. in the N.A.S.C.A.R. “Grand Nationals.” Last year the Hudson Hornet was the top car in this form of contest, but Oldsmobile wasn’t far behind and Packard and Nash were well in the running.

It should be explained that considerable “souping” is indulged in which late-model “stocks” are being raced and the rules do not specify standard cars.

One Nash Ambassador had a Le Mans camshaft, twin carburetters, 8 to 1 compression ratio, double shock-absorbers all round and a 4.1 to 1 back axle. Dodge introduced a “hot-rod” kit especially for Stock-Car Racing, which includes dual carburetters on a special inlet manifold, with dual exhausts. Lincolns raced with the manufacturer’s “speed kit” conversions, and Hudsons went to the start endowed with the special “police car” engine. The Ford Six is considered a better power unit than the Ford V8, because the latter is prone to overheat. The all-conquering Hudson Hornet had axle failure at first, cured by the use of heavy-duty components. Punctures are being combated with puncture-proof tubes.

In the States not only are manufacturers showing interest in getting victories in Stock-Car Races, but the spectators, numbering well over 10.000 at small circuits, take a delight in noting how their favourite makes perform.

Such a state of affairs seems unlikely to develop in England because the kind of car suited to this sort of racing is not manufactured here, and most of the cars which compete are likely to be “£10 plots” from the used-car lots. This being the case, and maintenance of the vehicles being in the hands of their drivers, the mind boggles at the thought of what we are going to see, after reading accounts of well-organised American Stock-Car Races in which “tie-rod broke,”” fan through radiator,” “rolled over,” “crashed.” “wheels broken,” “steering failed” and “engine overheated” accounted for retirements amongst cars not one of which was more than two years old!

Already in America the I.M.C.A. and the West Coast Racing Association have banned “souping” from their races and it might be a useful ruling here, on small speedways with well-worn “stockers,” although so far Pugh says “no holds barred.”

Whatever the problems, no doubt plenty of people will be willing to try this new “circus.” Unless the noise proves too great or a spectator is killed it is unlikely that local authorities, the police or the R.A.C. will try to stop Stock-Car Racing. What would kill it stone dead would be lack of public support. If you like the idea you will flock to New Cross Speedway on Good Friday; if you don’t, you will stay away.

Motor Sport hopes to attend, rather than condemn beforehand – after all, there will be real motor-racing at Goodwood on Easter Monday to offset a surfeit of sliding sedans!

America has its Jack McGrath, Art Laney, Don O’Dell, Bob Christie, Norm Nelson, Red Hamilton and Marshall Teague, and it looks as if we are going to get our Audrey (“I’m a bit mad”) Field, Tanya (“I don’t care if I get killed”) Crouch, Tony Rumfitt and John Bolster.

Drivers who win are promised £60 a week. But the future of English Stock-Car Racing is in your hands.

Road Test

In this issue we publish a long road-test report on the remarkable 375-c.c., air-cooled, flat-twin, front-drive 2-c.v. Citroën.

Eyebrows will he raised at so much space in Motor Sport being devoted to such a vehicle. Consequently, we wish to emphasise that this little car represents one of the most brilliant designs since the model-T Ford burst upon a transport-eager world in 1909, and the Trojan followed much the same recipe in 1922, and as such deserves the close attention of all students of design.

In any case, we have always held the view that any car, no matter how small or how slow, ranks as a sports car providing it possesses to the required degree such qualities as road-holding safe braking and pleasant handling. These the clever little £398 Citroën has in good measure.

Moss Wins At Sebring
Stirling Moss starts the 1954 season well. He won the Sebring 12-hour sports-car race in America, driving Briggs Cunningham’s 1,450-c.c. O.S.C.A., with Bill Lloyd as his co-driver.

Lancia put in a strong team of Ascari, Villoresi, Tarufli and Fangio, etc. Spear’s Ferrari led the Lancias until it lost its oil-pressure. A convincing 3.3-litre Lancia victory then seemed assured, but this was not to be. Ascari had clutch trouble; Fangio’s back axle failed. Taruffi, backed up by Manzon, led at half-distance, harried by the Ferrari of Walters and Fitch, until this Ferrari, too, retired, with lack of brakes.

This made the order Lancia — O.S.C.A. — Lancia, the Lancia driven by Valenzano and Rubirosa holding third place. Then, with only an hour to go, Taruffi stopped out on the course, with engine trouble. So Moss won, at 78.6 m.p.h., from the other Lancia, the Austin-Healey driven by Lance Macklin and George Huntoon being placed third, but first in the 3-litre class, a splendid British achievement.

Unfortunately, all three DB3 Aston Martins retired, Peter Collins’ with brake failure, Parnell’s with engine trouble, while the third car likewise failed to finish, but thanks to Stirling Moss and Austin-Healey Britain did not come out of it too badly at Sebring, a race watched critically by a major proportion of America’s sports-car buyers.