Veteran to Classic Miscellany, April 1990

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The Brooklands Society now has 1,700 members. It is to hold its annual Brooklands Reunion on July 1st.

The VSCC is including a Racing Drivers’ Championship in its 1990 activities, divided into three sections, for drivers of vintage, pre-war and pre-1960 racing cars, at races on the Silverstone, Donington and Oulton Park circuits etc. A trophy and prize money totalling 8250 gns. (prizes in guineas are in the old Brooklands’ tradition!) will be awarded. In addition, this year MOTOR SPORT is increasing substantially its prize money in the Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest. The club’s first race meeting of 1990 takes place at Silverstone on April 21st. Last season’s list of prizes is too long to include in full but the Lycett Memorial Trophy was won by Lou Wickham in his vintage 12/50 Alvis, President Roger Collings the runner-up, who also took the Edwardian Trophy. A J S Mayman took the Historic Racing Trophy, and was also the winner of the Phipps and ERA Trophies. The Ladies’ Award went to Jane Arnold-Forster with Di Threlfall the runner-up. Fourteen of the prizes out of a total of 66 were presented at the AGM on March 7th. WB

Eoin Young, having reminded us recently that back in 1949 at the US Pikes Peak hill-climb Louis Unser, in breaking the course record in the ex-Villoresi 8CTF Maserati, skidded out of the final bend and went over the finish line backwards “to take the chequered flag”, I suppose it is up to me, if Doug Nye or someone does not beat me to it, to remark that there was nothing new 61 years ago about crossing a finishing line in the reverse of the intended direction. After a very arduous Targa Florio in 1919 Andre Boillot had a big lead when he came to the end of this 226½ mile race. Finding spectators obstructing the finish line he slammed on the brakes, skidded round and round, and ran into the wooden grandstand. He and his mechanic were lifted back into their seats and Boillot reversed over the line. They were then told that they might be disqualified for finishing in reverse, so Boillot was again lifted into his seat and he drove 30 yards or so down the course in the wrong direction, turned the Peugeot round, and crossed the line correctly. After which, legend has it, he collapsed, murmuring C’est pour la France… (Boillot had changed his nonskid Pirellis on the Peugeot’s back wheels for smooth-treaded ones when the rain stopped, so of all his wild skids, perhaps this one was excusable!)

Another car that finished a race, if not in reverse, then upside down, was Count Conelli’s Darracq, in the GP d’Ouverture at Montlhery in 1925. George Duller won but pulled out when Conelli was trying to overtake, causing the Count to slide into the retaining wall, cannon off it and cross the line in second place, upside down. (He was not badly injured, apart from grazed skin.) Segrave, delayed by tyre troubles, was third, a lap behind.

Incidentally, reverting to Eoin’s story, I am intrigued that a chequered flag is used in the USA at a speed hill-climb, a thing we do not see at Shelsley Walsh or Prescott. WB

The Sunbeam STD Register team has won the 1989 Inter-Register Contest, a series of trials or driving tests for selected one-make Clubs, suggested originally in MOTOR SPORT, by six points from the Humber Register, third place going to the 12/50 Alves Register, with the Riley Register tying with a team of Crossley Register and Jowett OC cars for fourth place. The STD’s Wolverhampton Rally will take place June 30th/July 1st.

The 7½-litre 1907 Renault “Agatha”, now owned by David Harrison, is well known in VSCC circles and was described in MOTOR SPORT in 1985. It is one of the “half size” replicas of the 1906 French GP winner driven by Szisz in that race, made by Renault Freres to commemorate that victory. Others went to America and we hear that Ledyard Pfund of New Jersey has saved one of these Type A1 Series C Renaults that was in danger of salt corrosion at Austin Clarke’s storage place on Long Island. The car is just about in running order again, and mostly original except for a replica tail based on a factory photograph and, for road use, mudguards made up from 0.125″ aluminium. Mr Pfund tells us that there are at least three more of these “little” GP-type 1907 Renaults in America. One is a beautiful example in the Indianapolis Speedway Museum, another is owned by Mr Kirkland Gibson in Rhode Island and there is the Harrah car which was formerly owned by George Waterman. WB

More Bentley Records

We are pleased to learn that confirmation has been received from the RAC of further British Class A records attempted by Stanley Mann at Millbrook last October, to which we referred briefly last year. We have the greatest admiration, allied to a few pangs of anti-nostalgia when old Brooklands’ records are broken, for Mann and his colleagues who go in for this very specialised high-speed aspect of vintage motoring.

What Mann set out to do was to break the British Class A records held by John Cobb and the 10½-litre V12 Delage for 5km, 5 miles and 10 km, set up in 1930. He used his well-known 3½-litre Bentley, its speeds over the flying start distances being 135.60,135.36 and 135.11 mph. He beat Cobb’s records by close to six mph. The driver found Millbrook with its 100 mph “natural” lap speed a tiring course on which to establish even these short distance records and his skill and bravery is to be greatly commended, especially as the Bentley was airborne more than once. But no doubt Cobb had similar moments in coming off and onto the Brooklands’ bankings. Mann wisely did not go for the 10 mile record, which remains Cobb’s at 129.2 mph.

So warm congratulations to Mann, and to John Guppy, who tuned the Bentley. Tim Houlding, the Bentley historian, has observed that “it is doubtful if any other vintage Bentley will ever exceed this remarkable performance on British soil”. No-one is likely to argue with that, for although Forrest Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley crossed the finish line at some 135 mph at Brooklands in 1939 when breaking Parry Thomas’ International Class B standingstart mile record at 92.9 mph and I was driven in this car at around that speed over the half mile, that was different from sustaining over 135 mph for more than five miles. (The reason Mann’s Bentley ran in Class A, Lycett’s in Class B, is because Stanley’s engine has been bored out to 8.3-litres.) It appears that Stanley Mann’s Bentley has also set the fastest ever time for the British fs 10 km record, formerly held by Kaye Don’s 4-litre V12 Sunbeam, at 130.1 mph, set up in 1929 at Brooklands.

At the same time as Mann was triumphant in Class A, Vaughan Davis with the 6½-litre Bentley-Jackson he has rebuilt, in company with Phil Greenwood and Stanley Mann, tried for the British Class B 200 mile, 500 km, 500 mile and three hour records respectively. These were set up in 1988 by Mann himself with a Speed Six Bentley and by the late Parry Thomas with his Leyland Thomas. The last three records were established at Brooklands in 1926, at speeds of from 110.04 to 111.28 mph, Thomas’ 500 km record standing as the fastest ever British record for that distance, irrespective of engine size.

Unfortunately, the Bentley-Jackson succumbed to a split fuel tank and top gear kept jumping out of mesh, a dangerous happening on such a high speed run on a banked track. So the car was withdrawn.

All praise to those who uphold the now almost neglected field of record-breaking on a banked track. If I dare say it again, the revival goes to the credit of Tom Plowman’s 30/98 Vauxhall and its successful 106.9 mph hour record at Montlhery in 1953, which BDC exponents decided they had to have a crack at, not at first with very happy results. WB

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