Some newcomers to the Sport and their achievements to date
One of the most encouraging factors about the post-war resumption of racing has been the number of drivers entirely new to the game and the skill which, almost without exception, they have displayed, often at the wheel of really tricky and potent cars. Before the war organisers, quite rightly, regarded with suspicion newcomers who entered fast cars with little or no experience of driving them and, at Brooklands. such entries were often refused on safety grounds. So that it is especially satisfactory to find that novice drivers have displayed considerable skill in what racing we have had since the war. Certainly sprint events do not call for the same qualities, particularly stamina and the ability to drive safely while looking for pit-signals and in close proximity to lots of faster and slower cars, as do long-distance races, but inexperience can result in quite a lot of bother even in these events. So it is very pleasing that not only have there been no serious accidents at post-war sprint meetings, but also that at Gransden, with new drivers and drivers rusty after six years’ inactivity. racing over a course the corners of which were none too easy to pick out, and mostly in the wet, not a single serious incident occurred.
Of the new drivers who have already come right to the forefront there is A. Roy Parnell, young nephew of Reg. Parnell, who at the beginning of the season brought the 1 1/2-litre, straight-eight Delage to Elstree to drive it in competition for the first time. It is now a matter of history and congratulation that he made second fastest time of the day, in 15.8 sec., being 0.6 sec. slower than Peter Monkhouse’s Type 51 Bugatti. The committee of the V.S.C.C. awarded Parnell a special prize for this performance and he certainly deserved it, for the old Delage had a bare 1/4-mile in which to make or mar its showing, and it undoubtedly crossed the line at over 100 m.p.h. It actually beat the more experienced Reg. Parnell, whose 16-valve Maserati took 16.0 sec.
Roy had his longest drive in the Delage, prior to making his runs, in the Elstree paddock. Nor can he be said to have had much experience of driving fast cars on the road, his personal transport being provided by a Ford “Anglia,” although he admits he sometimes coasts pretty rapidly down the Derbyshire hills. Twenty-three years of age, Roy emphasises that he owes an immense debt to his uncle for loaning him the Delage, helping him with it, and giving him facilities for driving it. Roy actually built up the car himself, aided by his 18-year-old brother, Ken Parnell. A week before Elstree it was in many pieces and work was finally completed at 9 p.m. on the Sunday before the event. Roy is employed by the Standard Transport Company, of Derby, of which his father and uncle are directors, and he devotes 95 per cent. of his spare time in his uncle’s racing stable — and fully acknowledges his good fortune in being allowed to do so. He was as surprised as anyone by his excellent showing in his first event and very ready to attribute it to his uncle’s help and guidance — Roy Parnell has managed to avoid the swollen-headedness he could well be excused for assuming.
At the Open Prescott meeting Roy drove the Delage well but not very rapidly, but he showed considerable improvement at Shelsley Walsh, his first run occupying 52.42 sec., but his second being accomplished in 47.26 sec., putting him 26th out. of 65 competitors. By Motor Sport timing through the “S,” while Roy was by no means amongst the fastest, he took only 0.1 sec. longer than Reg. Parnell with the Maserati. At Gransden, if it wasn’t “in the money,” the Delage was driven sensibly, and, with a new large S.U. carburetter, still started on the handle, first pull-up.
Another notable newcomer is E. Newton, who has been driving the ex-Baillie-Hill 1 1/2-litre Meadows H.R.G. quite unlike a novice. At the Open Prescott he won his class and established fastest sports-car time, in 55.3 sec., and at Shelsley, by our timing, he was beaten only by Vaughan through the “S” and clocked a very good overall time.
Then there is John Heath, Abecassis’s partner at H.W. Motors, Ltd., of Walton-on-Thames. Heath drove a great variety of cars before the war and his own cars may be said to have ranged from Fiat “Mouse” to 4 1/4-litre Bentley. But until Elstree his experience of racing machinery was confined to one or two unofficial “flips” in George’s Alta and an E.R.A. when these were being tuned. However, at Elstree Heath equalled Abecassis’s sports Alta time of 17.4 sec. in feeling his way with the E.R.A., which was the No. 1 car as rebuilt by Humphries. At Prescott John shared the 2-litre sports Alta with George — result, Abecassis won the 1 1/2-3-litre sports class in 56.25 sec. and Heath was second, in 56.9 sec. Gransden found Abecassis fully occupied with the racing Alta and “3.3” G.P. Bugatti, so Heath drove the sports Alta and soundly thrashed two S.S.s in the 2-3-litre sports-car race, establishing a huge lead, to win at 66.8 m.p.h. Scorning racing kit, he drove in lounge suit and cap, and no one would have judged him to be new to this kind of motoring, for the Alta was beautifully handled throughout. This success he topped by driving the car to the Club Prescott meeting and winning both his sports and racing classes, unofficially breaking Sidney Allard’s sports-car record by .03 sec., his best time being 51.3 sec. — records are not observed by the B.O.C. at club meetings. This Alta was built late in 1938 and is one of the last of its kind to be produced. H.W. Motors acquired it when the previous owner found himself in the Middle East and, as it did 0-100 m.p.h. in 17 sec., it seemed just the thing for sports-car racing. It is, however, perfectly docile, starts from cold on the starter, and Heath uses it as his normal business hack, when he feels so disposed. Incidentally, he served part of his apprenticeship at Lagonda’s and was later with Packard’s. He now supervises the preparation of George’s racing cars and was due to accompany him to Geneva last month as spare driver. His personal car is a 15-h.p. F.W.D. Citroen drop-head coupé, which he considers the best proposition in its class.
There are two really outstanding newcomers in Mrs. Mortimer and Mrs. Gerard. Mrs. Mortimer, wife of the redoubtable Charles, had never driven his racing 1 1/2-litre Alta until the practice session at Shelsley Walsh. Yet, in the climb proper, she drove like a driver of many years’ experience, clocking 50.69 sec.under fearful weather conditions. It seems she acquired some of her skill from driving the firm’s low-chassis, 100 m.p.h. Invicta, with which she was certainly most spirited at the B.O.C. Treasure Hunt. Mrs. Gerard, starting at the Cockfosters Rally, where she drove her Riley “Sprite” with complete confidence, both car and driver immaculate, is a real credit, to her Riley and E.R.A.enthusiast husband. She won the handicap class and made fastest time of the ladies at the Open Prescott meeting, and at Gransden she handled the Riley beautifully, finishing second in the 1,101-1,500-c.c. sports-car race behind Peter Clark’s “Le Mans” H.R.G. Never making a mistake, never giving the onlookers the slightest hint that she is a beginner, Mrs. Gerard is also notable for doing much to dispel the impression that a woman who drives a racing car has to resemble something out of a haystack. We look forward to seeing her at the wheel of a faster car.
J. Northway, one of Bristol’s test, pilots, has made an excellent job of putting a Mercury engine into the old “Spook” and drives the car with real verve, making fastest unblown time at the Open Prescott meeting, and winning the 5-litre class at Shelsley Walsh. P. A. T. Garland is a novice with real continental racing to his credit; his Delage was sixth in the Belgium sportscar race.
We have heard that R. Wallington drove in a few mile sprints, or something of the sort, at Southport before the war and, if this is so, strictly he should not be mentioned here. However, his showing at Gransden with the difficult Alfa-Aitken, which car we unexpectedly encountered at a Leatherhead garage during the war, was most meritorious. He not only beat three Type 51 Bugattis in the 2-3-litre racing-car event, but also Abecassis’s “3.3” Bugatti which was put in to make up the weight. Wallington averaged 75.7 m.p.h. over a course none too easy in a fast car. This permitted him to drive in the 5-lap race and after a great drive he finished second, being beaten only by Abecassis, and the Bugatti, whom he had beaten in the previous race. If he ran out of road on one lap, so did the far-more-experienced Abecassis, at exactly the same moment, and his recovery thereafter was truly inspired. Previous to this Wallington drove the same car more cautiously at Prescott, but he certainly showed consistency, both runs being made in identical time.
G. Alexander, new driver and in the ex-McKenzie 4 1/2-litre Bentley newly-acquired from Even-Cook, went quite nicely at Elstree and very well indeed to beat the moderns at Gransden, where his driving was of a high order.
Dr. Gerard Ewen deserves inclusion in this study of form, for he appeared in his initial event with the 1908 Itala, at Shelsley — not a car for a novice — and did Very well. He had spent many nights beforehand, with Clutton, repairing the car.
That seems to conclude the outstanding performances by the new blood. However, it is indeed good to be able to list others new to the Sport since the war who show great promise. The names of Capt. Yates, the young Davenports, G. Watson, Cmdr. MacGregor, G. Bainbridge, Jason-Henry, Mrs. Jason-Henry, Holland Birkett, J. H. Williams, Mrs. Billy Clarke and J. James come to mind at once, and there have been others, no less keen. Ere this article appears another big Prescott meeting will have been held, and we have not the slightest doubt that many of the newcomers mentioned here will add further to their experience and, in many cases, will prove so successful as to no longer deserve the distinction of being “novices.” It is indeed an excellent portent for future racing that I his state of affairs should prevail.