The fastest road car challenge

In these 1990s there are some very fast road cars available to those who can afford them. Back in the pre-war era the question of who had the fastest road car arose, as I mentioned last month. Before it was more or less resolved at Brooklands, we used to think of Forrest Lycett’s great 8-litre Bentley as ripe for the honour.

The others included Hugh Hunter’s 2.9 s/c Alfa Romeo, winner of the 1938 Mille Miglia, Craig’s 4.9 s/c Type 50 Bugatti, an SSK 28/250 Mercedes-Benz, Ian Connell’s 4-litre Darracq, Whitney Straight’s roadconverted Maserati, and Torin’s 2.9 GP Maserati of which I wrote of last month and had timed to equal on a wet track the Lycett Bentley’s standing start 14-mile time in the dry. John Dugdale of The Autocar questioned which was the fastest, and I suggested in Motor Sport in 1938 that the sooner a race was held the better. Challenges came in from Connell, Torin, and R G Lewis with a 2.3 Alfa.

In the end two Brooklands races at the 1939 Whitsun Meeting were agreed on: three laps of the Campbell circuit, then five laps of the ‘Mountain’ course, all to start together in road trim but sans full windscreens. It was scarcely conclusive, because Lycett decided his big Bentley was never intended for circuit racing, and Torin’s Maserati had blown up. So the runners comprised Arthur Dobson in Rob Walker’s Type 135 Delahaye, the Hon Peter Aitken driving a 3-litre Delage, Hunter’s Alfa Romeo, Connell’s Darracq and Guy Templer’s 2.5 Alfa, backed up unrealistically by Cowell’s 2-litre Alta and Baroness Domdorf in Miss Patten’s sports 1991cc Peugeot.

It rested between Hunter, Connell and Dobson, and the first race saw the Alfa win from the Delahaye by 0.8sec, at 65.94mph, the Darracq third. Over the ‘Mountain’ circuit, alter Dobson had coped with an engine fire, the Delahaye’s just superior acceleration got him ahead, the Hunter Alfa out with a broken gearbox. So the Delahaye won by 14sec from the Darracq, at 71.15mph, a 10.4sec victory on combined times, both doing best laps at 73.13mph. On the subject of the Maseratis, last month a slip gave Oats two of them but he actually raced a 2.9 four-seater.