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A New Racing Class ?
CLASS I—cars up to 500 c.c.—has formerly existed only in the sphere of record-breaking. Kenneth Neve visualises its introduction in sprint events and possibly in racing, after the war. We have to confess that we are distinctly intrigued by the idea. Our opinions on cycle-car type 500 c.c. road fourwheelers were given in a footnote to Lowrey’s letter in the July issue, and because we think theireally smallengined road car should be on three wheels, it would be nice to contemplate a sprint class for 500 c.c. tricycles and four-wheelers combined. However, that seems unlikely to happen, so let us confine our remarks to four-wheelers only. In the first place, let us emphasise here and now that we can see little hope of Class I, assuming it ever becomes a reality, remaining the unmolested playground of the impecunious amateur for more than one or two seasons. New fields of endeavour soon attract the specialist with ways and means to realise his ideals, and by spending sufficient money 500 c.c. sprint cars of real potency, with a maximum of better than 90 m.p.h., will be possible. We should expect that money to be spent. And when it is, the amateur-builder of Class I ” Specials ” will no longer be able to absorb the limelight. Howevei, Neve makes a big point when he outlines the comparative inexpensiveness of the 500 c.c. class car, and this should ensure sufficient entries to keep up the competitive element, even if a few trade, semi-trade and richamateur entrants invariably scoop “fastest time.” We have always deplored racing which is both feeble and lacking in the tradition that “racing of to-day is to-morrow’s touring car designers’ homework.” If Class I racing merely constitutes a sort of American midget or British C.A.P.A. circus transplanted to such classic venues as Lewes, Brighton, Shelsley Walsh and Prescott, better that it never comes into being. It can be argued that larger-engined ” Shelsley Specials” do not line-up with these ideals, but at least they have sufficient performance to require extreme skill in handling at speeds that would be dangerous in ordinary hands, they equal and sometimes beat racing cars possessing many more cylinders, quite different transmission, and things called blowers under metal covers known as bonnets. Moreover, they do this without costing quite what an E.R.A. would absorb. So, even if far removed from the modern conception of a utility car, the ” Shelsley Special,” as we have known it up to now, is a real racing job, has a dignity of its own in consequence, and a fascination which in the opinion of the John Bolsters, Rupert Instones and E. J. Moors of this world makes it worth while spending considerable sums of money on its development. Neve is rather unjust, we feel, in suggesting that but for the war the” special” would have died a natural death on account of the superior performance of conventional racing machinery. In any case, there is always the ” Shelsley Special” Shelsley Walsh Cup to contest. So far as Class I is concerned, doubtless the potency of existing 1,100 c.c. ” twins ” could almost be equalled by ultra-light dirt-track-engined cars or by multicylinder, supercharged flitre cars carrying on from where Austin and M.G. (using / of a litre) left off. Such cars are not for the amateur, and before we advocate the universal introduction of a Class I category it must be considered of what quality the bulk of the entry is likely to be. The” Shelsley Special “Cup and the Veteran’s Class were instituted because entries do not show up poorly in relation to those in normal racing and sports car categories. Organisers are unlikely to encourage 500 c.c. cars if they perform indifferently and represent both a poor spectacle and second-rate engineering, especially as big entries would be likely. If it can be ensured that even quite inexpensive examples can be endowed with reasonable potency, and if it can be proved that half-a-litre can go very nicely on the road in the ordinary way (albeit always at a disadvantage in cycle-car form to the three-wheeler for reasons we have given before), then we are all for universal inclusion of this new class in sprint events ; and we think Mr. Leslie Wilson might not look unkindly on the idea. It is even possible to visualise, especially if good road-performance 500 c.c. cars come amongst us, these vehicles (fostered by Continued at foot of page 400 enthusiasts) interesting manufacturers, when fourcylinder, conventional transmission 6-h.p. models would emerge, to be publicised and developed, one would hope, by the extension of Class I to races of Le Mans and T.T. calibre, or even by a 200-mile Class race on its own, put over, obviously, by the Junior Car Club. That, however, is outside the province of the pre.sent discussion. If we agree that the prospect of building and functioning Class I sprint cars is interesting technically, and because the comparative low cost should keep competition healthy even when specialised ears are taking all the plums—if we agree
on that score, it merely remains to be seen whether 500 c.c. “specials” can be made sufficiently potent to lift them out of the cinder-shifting-midget or C.A.P.A.-fun-car category, and so make them worthy of the attention of enthusiasts and organisers alike. Perhaps readers may care to submit possible designs and say what performance they would expect from them, which should prove a most interesting technical study. Should sufficient material come to hand, we will review the Class I outlook again in a single article, for consumption when the evenings draw in and there is even less petrol about than is the case now.