Mention of the smoke-making propensities of the 1914 T.T. Minerva cars, in your review of “The Racing Car Pocketbook,” January issue of Motor Sport, brings back some personal recollections of this characteristic.
Under power, these cars were not significantly different from a number of others. It was when the driver removed his foot from the accelerator pedal to brake at a corner that the trouble occurred, particularly if that corner had been preceded by a flat-out stretch. Oil was then sucked past the sleeves into the combustion chamber and discharged into a red-hot exhaust manifold, producing a smoke screen through which it was quite impossible to see.
As can be imagined, this was extremely dangerous and, after a number of overtaking car drivers had frightened themselves into fits, an official protest was made. Presumably because it added to the fun and games, it was disallowed.
My real sympathy went to the Vauxhall mechanics. The engines of these cars had large fore and aft ventilating cowls, projecting through the near-side top panel of the bonnet, for the purpose of crankcase cooling. At speed, a large portion of the practically pure castor engine oil, well dosed with colloidal graphite, went either into or over the mechanic.
The smoke business, however, did have its lighter moments. For a fortnight before the race, early morning practice was allowed, the course being allegedly closed between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. One well-known driver, making his first visit to the island, was late in getting over and, without having an opportunity to speak to any other driver, shot off early the next morning on his first practice lap.
All went well until, just before reaching Sulby Bridge at the end of the long Sulby straight, he came up on the tail of a Minerva. The latter cut out for the right-angled corner over the bridge, with the inevitable result. Our driver stood on everything and, when the dust and smoke had cleared away, greatly to his surprise found himself in the middle of a not particularly wide, high-walled stone bridge. When his normal perception returned, he also noted that he was facing the direction from which he had come.
Hard on this came the roar of an approaching car, which skidded to a halt in front of him, the irate driver of which demanded to know what he thought he was blankety well doing driving around the blankety course in the wrong blankety direction. With two cars blocking the bridge there was no time for explanations.
Foregathered in the hotel bar that evening, our driver was relating this incident to a number of people and went on to say that something should be done about these Minerva cars; they ought not to be allowed to run and they were an absolute menace, particularly to drivers who did not know the course. This elicited the tart retort from a Minerva enthusiast, “Look here, old boy, you are never likely to know the damn course if you keep on going round it backwards.”
W. W. MARSH.
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