E. A. D. Eldridge versus J. G. Parry Thomas.
A THRILLING DUEL AT BROOKLANDS.
THE much-discussed duel between E. A. D. Eldridge and J. G. Parry Thomas was included in the
programme of the West Kent Motor Club’s meeting at Brooklands on July 11th, but the spectacle failed to attract public attention, though one would have imagined that events of this character should stimulate track racing interest in this country.
Whether it is true or not that Brooklands requires livening, Eldridge and Thomas certainly crowded a tremendous amount of sensational driving into the short space of time in which they occupied the track. Even the most blasé of spectators were aroused to enthusiasm, and among keen habituees of the track the race will be engraved upon their memories for many a day.
After an inordinately long wait, the spectators at last heard the starting bell, and from the distance it could be seen that Eldridge got away at a terrific speed, gaining a lead of at least 200 yards before the Byfleet banking was reached.
This, however, did not appear to upset the redoubtable Thomas, who gave the impression of watching his rival to weigh up his performance. The big Fiat, travelling at a most impressive pace, was somewhat unsteady on the track, and, from his constant backward glances, one could see that Eldridge was far from thinking he had an easy journey, despite the substantial lead. Thundering past the Fork, the Fiat skidded badly,
and must have lost at least ten miles an hour in so doing, though possibly the average spectator could not detect this serious diminution in velocity. This skidding resulted in Thomas improving his position by about 100 yards, and when it became obvious that his rival could not maintain the great speed and hold the track at the same time, Thomas began to put into practice the plan of campaign he had intended. On the second lap Eldridge was still leading, but Thomas was gradually creeping up, though the issue was still in doubt. Spectators, who at first imagined the event was going to turn out a kind of high speed procession, became wildly enthusiastic, and the cheers as the cars passed were more spontaneous than any that have been heard on the track for years. People began to wonder if Eldridge would be able to hold the monster Fiat on the track, and anxiously gauged the
distance between his outside wheels and the edge of the concrete ; but, with fine sportsmanship, he forced his car down the track in order to allow Thomas to pass, if he were able to do so.
By this time the race resolved into a contrast of styles, Eldridge hurtling along, propelled by his huge engine, hanging on to his wheel and correcting almost continuous skids ; whilst Thomas, with his wonderful Leyland-Thomas, kept to his course with mathematical precision. No man in this world has a more intimate knowledge of the Brooklands track than Parry Thomas, and his race with Eldridge showed that speed alone will not give the fastest lap times.
Thomas had been watching and waiting, then, when ‘he saw his opportunity, down went his foot, and, just when he was travelling at exactly the right pace, at exactly the right spot, he shot past Eldridge and kept the lead unchallenged to the finish.
The maximum speed of both cars over the distance was reduced to some extent by the loss of tyre treads, Eldridge losing a rear tyre tread, and Thomas one from a front tyre ; but, nevertheless, the race was won at an average speed of 123.23 miles per hour, the fastest lap being covered by Thomas at 129.70 miles per hour. As far as could be observed as a result of this race, the Fiat car is the faster of the two, having an engine capacity three times that of the Leyland-Thomas, and it is chiefly due to the marvellous steadiness of the latter, together with its designer’s uncanny knowledge of the track, that the Leyland-Thomas proved victorious.
While acknowledging the fine performance of the Leyland-Thomas, that of the Fiat should not pass without comment, for Eldridge’s Fiat is, indeed, a most remarkable machine. Readers of this journal will remember Capt. Duff’s article describing its vicissitudes from the time when it first appeared in this country, since when it has undergone so many alterations and improvements that one wonders if, by this time, any of the original chassis remains.
At all events, sporting motorists will join in thanking Eldridge and Thomas for putting up the most exciting contest which has ever been staged at Brooldands, and, in the hope that in the future more of these interesting matches may take the place of some of the humdrum events that have been rather monotonous in the past.