Sunbeam Rapier Series II wins very difficult R.A.C Rally

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Fiat 1,100 vanquishes small Fords : Standard Pennants secure Team Award, Pat Moss (Morris Minor 1000) wins Ladies’ Prize

This year’s R.A.C. International Rally, counting towards the Rally Championship, was described as the Rally of the Tests. It was hoped that continental entrants, intimidated by the difficult map-reading involved in the 1956 rally, would be attracted, and Le Touquet was named as a starting point. In fact, only one continental entry was received, the Le Touquet start being abandoned, which was probably just as well, for winter weather returned to render much of the route hazardous and some passes were so blocked with snow that rapidly-organised map-reading had to be laid on to discover alternative routes to controls. Indeed, in the Lake District we came upon many lost rally cars, motoring about the lanes and emerging from every side turning with blinding lights ablaze and even dazzling us with unextinguished reversing lamps as we overtook them in the comfort, sure-footed security and well-warmed interior of a Citroën DS19.

Starting from Hastings and Blackpool, the competitors, who numbered the usual works teams and well-known names, converged on Prescott Hill and after a hill-climb there took a manoeuvring test at Chateau Impney, went to Eppnt, where sheet ice on the approach put Tommy Sopwith’s 3.4 Jaguar off the road and caused delay, for another hill-climb, thereafter taking tests or racing round circuits at Lydstep, Oulton Park, Aintree, Blackpool, Tow Top, Ulpha, Charterhall, Otterburn (three tests), Croft, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Chapel-en-le-Frith (hospitality, too, from Ferodo), Snetterton, Mallory Park, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Hastings. Great sport for the drivers and no mean test of a motor car, this 1,800-mile rally of the tests.

Driving up through the night we arrived to find Aintree in the grip of a biting wind that eventually turned to a blizzard. After three breakdown trucks, a huge fire-engine, an ambulance and Major-General Loughborough had arrived the 3-lap speed test commenced, taken by cars dispatched in groups after one practice sortie. Many had lost their competition numbers, so quite how the General timed them we don’t know. Already many cars bore the customary signs of impact with solid objects and we heard that Wallwork had pranged his Alfa-Romeo and was out. Later, Nancy Mitchell shot through a stone wall and down a ravine on Bowes Moor, completely wrecking her works 1.5 Riley, she and Joan Johns being lucky to escape death.

One of the highspots at Aintree was the fine driving of Scott’s Ford Zephyr, which disposed of a TR Triumph, a Morgan and an M.G. Taylor’s Ford Zephyr arrived with severe damage on the near side, a “Stanpart” carton in use in lieu of a side window. A fine duel was fought between Rorke’s Jaguar and E. Harrison’s Ford, the Ford being steadier and out-accelerating the Jaguar, although later in the Rally it had trouble. Bolton’s A.C. Ace lapped Aintree very fast but John Patten had considerably altered the pattern of his A.C.! Newsham spun his Triumph and Fursden’s Skoda couldn’t catch Kelsall’s Ford.

Leaving Aintree before the test was concluded, we lunched very satisfactorily in Blackpool, where we heard that Rudd’s A.C. Ace was in trouble, losing much oil from a hole in its sump, before spending a snowy night at Ulpha watching those cars which found a way to the control with Wrynose Pass blocked, undertaking a tame and rather unnecessary downhill brake test.

After a night’s sleep we left early for Silverstone. Here another 3-lap high-speed dice was staged, cars taking it in varied groups, with Eason-Gibson in command. We heard there had been a big prang at Mallory Park, where the circuit had been lapped in the reverse of the usual direction. This had been suggested at Silverstone but Gibson would have none of it, pointing out that the safer direction is the clockwise one and this is the direction for which the circuit is licensed. So, although there was some heart-stopping dicing, only A. P. Grant’s M.G.-A fell into the Woodcote ditch, without damage. By now the team of Berkeleys had fallen out, a Skoda had landed on its roof and Gold’s Standard Pennant bad lost overdrive, and top and second gears were jumping out when 5,000 r.p.m. were reached. One “race” was led by two 1.5 Rileys, the Michelin X-shod car noticeably faster than the other, which was on Dunlops. The Ford works team had their tyres changed by squads of mechanics before every test—which private entrants cannot do. James’ Riley had carried a “Help Stamp Out Sports Cars” notice, as if we aren’t Americanised sufficiently as it. is, Tommy Sopwith’s 3.4 Jaguar arrived as if just out of the showroom and he simply hurled it round the circuit, in a group led by Lewis’ battered Lotus and Patsy Burt’s Alfa-Romeo Giulietta S.V., which was Michelin-X shod. Many competitors were X-shod, of course.

Lord Avebury’s little Standard merely toured, whereas Hopkirk (Standard) really turned on the power through Woodcote. The two VWs were running reliably, one with S.U. carburetter and antiroll bar. Day’s Ford wallowed slowly round and, though very fast, the new Sunbeam Rapiers rolled considerably and a Singer Gazelle lifted its inner front wheel on the corners. The Renault Dauphines were slow, Gradwell (Morris) used lots of road at Woodcote, whereas Fishwick’s Austin A35 was excellent.

Leston, disguised in a space helmet featuring a Union Jack, easily led his contingent in a 1.5 Riley, Pat Moss drove her Morris really fast and Whitmore (Austin A35) was simply terrific, just avoiding the Woodcote ditch each time. Sopwith’s Jaguar had broken radius-arms and seemed about to lose its back axle. One Goggomobile was still running but there was no Fairthorpe. Very courageous was Baldet, whose Isetta bubble-car was still in the running, although so slow round Silverstone that it came in after two laps and had to be shoved off again to complete its third. Anyone who watched Mather’s Fiat 1,100 wasn’t surprised to hear that it had vanquished its Ford rivals. It left them and a Morris completely, rolling very little at Woodcote. Kilden’s Saab was truly impressive, using the full width of the track for cornering, tyres protesting, but far faster than the Standards of Mabbs and Westwood. Incidentally, the Saab had three spare gaskets taped to the lid of its luggage boot.

So the 1958 R.A.C. Rally ran to its conclusion, after weather conditions of Monte Carlo Rally severity had engulfed much of the route.

That Harper won outright is excellent, because he has tried for so long and the new Sunbeam Rapier deserves its success, too, being a car developed by the Rootes Group through competition work of this sort. It is significant that the more spacious Rapier beat the 1.5 Rileys. The excellent showing of the modified Standard Pennants, which took the Team Prize, will boost sales of this interesting little car, and Pat Moss fully deserves her victory in the Ladies’ Class in the well-established Morris Minor. The Morgans proved themselves to be good sports cars still, and the all-round excellence of the 1,100-c.c. Fiat was demonstrated convincingly, while the Jaguars did what has now become expected of them.—W. B.

Results:
1st: Harper/Deane (Sunbeam Rapier), 652.8 marks lost

2nd: Gouldbourn/Turner (Standard Pennant,) 1,179.3 marks lost

3rd: Gold/Cave (Standard Pennant), 1,231.4 marks lost

Ladies’ Prize: Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom (Morris Minor 1000), 1,424.5 marks lost

Team Prize: Standard Pennant team.

Best Foreign Entry: Hopkirk/Scott (Standard Pennant), Ireland.

Class Winners:
Standard and Modified Touring Cars:
1,000 c.c.: Miss Moss (Morris Minor 1000).

1,300 c.c.: D. A. Smith (Fiat 1,100).

1,600 c.c.: P. Harper (Sunbeam Rapier).

2,600 c.c.: B. Waddilove (Jaguar).

Over 2,600 c.c.: E. Brinkman (Jaguar).

Special Touring Cars, Standard and Modified Grand Touring Cars
1,300 c.c.: R. Gouldbourn (Standard Pennant).

2,000 c.c.: A. Yarranton (Morgan Plus Four).

Over 2,000 c.c.: D. Pulley (Jaguar).

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