LETTERS from READERS, August 1944
Sir. My interest in the Sport—purely as a spectator—goes back to just after the last war. I followed the Sport in the weekly journals very closely, but was only able to get to Brooklands to see races, except in a few eases which provided some high lights : notably the last hill climb at Kop in 1920, when G i ve(:11 ‘s Bugatti (ex-Mays) ran amok and did some damage. At this meeting Freddie Dixon on a Douglas motor-bike made some sensational climbs, with some colossal leaps on the poor surface, returning an average of over 8() m.p.h.. and easily the best time of the day. With the sidecar outfit, his head swept perilously near the spectators as he took the inside of the bend, leaning over to assist balance. After his amazing climbs a special warning was broadcast up and down the hill for spectators to stand well back from the road–the car classes were about to begin. All set for something super, we
all waited in great expectation. lip came a little Royer Nine tourer at a snail’s pace, and stopped on the hill ! The anti-climax was a huge joke. However, Giveen’s accident later on showed the wisdom of the warning. At this particular climb also were Segrave, Frazer-Nash and Parry Thomas. Altogether it was quite a day, though the intense cold was responsible for many of the spectators sloping off before the end.
At my first visit to Brooklands, racing was cancelled owing to rain (it was an Essex Club meeting), but some people put in some good laps for praetice. * The old Lorraine, now belonging to R. G. J. Nash, which for many years subsequently was to provide grand entertainment in the hands of W. D. tlawkes and others, was then a Campbell ” Bluebird,” and was a joy to watch. Harry Hawker had a fine-looking aluminium tourer which lapped silently and impressively around the 90 mark. At subsequent meetings I saw Segrave with the 41-litre Opel, Birkin driving Ilsistently but unspectacularly on the
little D.F.P., the big Aida (was it A. G. Miller driving ?—I forget), Kaye Don on the Viper, etc. Then there were those fine racers, the 4-litre Vauxhalls (designed for the 1922 T.T., and it’ they had only been able to give the performance then that they developed later, would no doubt have won it). J. C. Park, Barclay and H. W. Cook were the principal drivers, though I believe there were others whose names escape me. The ad vent of the’ 18-litre 12-cylinder Sunbeam was of great interest, but it was dogged by misfortune from start to finish. As you know, Hawker crashed it in practice,
many minor troubles prevented it giving Of its best., notably on one occasion with Hornsted up, when gearbox trouble arose soon after the start ; this prompted an indignant spectator to ask why “amateurs ” should be put down to drive such a car. (The records list at the back of the programme would have provided a sidlicient answer.) Then the arrival of ” Chitty-Bang-Bang I ” was a high spot in Brooklands history. I was there for its first race, and with its big drainpipe exhaust and big body (no streamlining), it thundered round in a really sensational Manner. It was always a real attraction and just opposite to the big Sunbeam— in more ways than one, of course.
Bedford’s Hillman was a consistent, and successful competitor in these early post-war years, and it had many interesting duels PC it it Frazer-MIA s G.N. ” Kim.” It was during one of these that I saw the only crash I ever Saw at Brooklands, though I was present when several others took place, out of my sight. No doubt you remember the incident. when ” Kim,” following in the Hillman’s slipstream, corning off the banking on to the Railway Straight, suddenly spun round like a top and crashed into the fence. There was an awe-inspiring moment of absolute silence from the crowd, but soon Frazer-Nash was seen cheerfully waving to the crowd, a broken collar-bone being his only serious injury. Geach was then driving a (I-cylinder Indianapolis Sunbeam of about 5 litrcs, and lapping around 120. The car disappeared from my view behind the
aeroplane sheds and I never saw it again. It skidded at that moment, overturned, and crashed into the sewage farm. Geadh Suffered a few broken ribs. Then there was the fitmous BlitzenBenz, the huge 4-cylinder of how many litres ‘1 Cyril Paul drove this amongst others whose names I cannot recollect. What a sight that car was ! Other car personalities were the Berliet ” Whistling Rufus,” Tommy llann’s 1911 Lanchester, ” Softly Catch Monkey,” Sanderson’s silent Rolls, Rapson’s Lanehester Forty, Eldridge’s huge Fiat, and the smaller Fiat of about 10 litres that J. F. Duff used to drive so well. That was a fine match race between Parry Thomas and Eldridge, when the crowd showed its appreciation of the former by backing him almost exclusively, despite the fact that Eldridge’s car had achieved 147 m.p.h., a speed never credited to Thomas’s car. It looked at the start as if Eldridge’s car would do the trick, because he left Thomas almost standing in the early stages, relatively speaking. But gradually Thomas crept up, and Eldridge’s efforts to hold the huge Fiat on the
banking were most spectacular, particularly when he tried to keep it low enough for Thomas to pass in the later stages. Thomas got by to win a really fine race.
The 1920 British Grand Prix was interesting. vlien the 1,500-e.e. Delages swept the board, despite nearly burning their drivers feet to cinders the fiery Senechal among them. .Bugattis tried hard to hold them, but had not the speed. Campbell drove his own Bugatti quietly and consistently to conic in fifth. I was able to get to Le Mans in 1930 to see Barnato’s last race.” The
impressive re Mereedi,s, with ” Carratsch ” up, the fine Big Six Bentleys, and the supercharged ” 4its ” headed by Birkirt which kept. throwing tyre treads and crumpling their little: mudguards, all made a spectacular race and fine entertainment.
I also saw the Belgian Grand Prix in the same year, if I remember rightly—a clean sweep for Bugatti, :Chiron as polished and capable as ever. Some special Fords (I forget. their designation) put up a fast demonstration run. Then the tit-bit of the lot—to Donington for the 1938 Grand Prix. Rosemeyer and the second string drivers against the cream of the Mercedes team—and he pipped them beautifully—a grand piece of driving. The utter astonishment of the crowd as Lang’s Mercedes burst into view, along the straight at 170 (that’s Shell that was) —the marvellous view from the bottom of the winding hill from _ the woods—” s” impeccable driving (surely a second Chiron !)—Johnny Wakefield’s fine driving of the fast little Maserati—Dobson’s white E.R.A. driven with great dash and determinationCarratsch polished and efficient as ever (did he misjudge the speed which was necessary to win ?)—these are amongst my recollections of this magnificent race— though I almost. forgot to mention von Branehitscli, whose spectacular performance I shall never forget. Seaman
was fine until his car was rammed. Many others contributed to this racing epic.
The whole cavalcade of motor racing has always been of intense interest to me, and in Moron. SPORT I have always found the very spirit of the enthusiast, and so it has prompted this bit of reminiscing.
As far as participating in anything of the kind, much as I would delight in the opportunity, finance and other circumstances keep me to family cars. True, I had one short flip on a Rolls-Bentley to show me what real motoring could be like, and a fine long-distance run on a Humber Snipe, but on something really hot—the opportunity has yet to come my way, though I never fancied myself as likely to become anything of a racing driver, as many might. I have only thought I could get some grand fun, excitement and sport out of it. Added to this the fact that I am the most absolute duffer at things technical, have no hint of the dare-devil attitude often present in the budding racing driver ; I just get a real kick out of “safety fast” —and you will see why I am merely a spectator, and likely to remain one.
Well, I think that will do for now. More power to your elbow, and the very best of luck. I am, Yours, etc.,
T. G. COCK (Dvr., R,A.S.C.). Home Forces.