Sports Car Owners Meet the B.A.R.C.

On July 8th the Events Committee of the British Automobile Racing Club invited members to meet at the R.A.C. for the purpose of a discussion on sports car racing. The meeting was ill-timed. Had it taken place some months earlier the B.A.R.C. could have appeased those of its members who are incensed by its all-racing-car policy by announcing the Members’ Meeting scheduled for August 18th, and amicable discussion could have followed about the fare to be provided thereat. As it was, those members who were not at Rest and Be Thankful for the hill-climb, at Spa for the 24-Hour Race, at Brighton for the rally or merely on holiday, attended with the knowledge that a meeting of sports car races is being arranged for them and, as no one on the committee seemed anxious to tell them precisely what they were being offered on August 13th, discussion not unnaturally concerned the future.

Remembering the sports cars they so ardently wish to race, and the excellent events for such cars which the J.C.C. organised before the war, members took the B. A.R.C. to task for the lack of such events in its present programme. Mr. Aldington went further and expressed the view that it was disgraceful that no long-distance British sports-car race had been organised since the war, so that we lagged behind other countries. He looked to the B.A.R.C., which had built up its reputation and the prestige of this country with such races, for support in this direction. Other members queried the B.A.R.C.’s policy of ignoring sports-car racing until Goodwood is working on a smooth “professional” basis, of banning over-3-litre sports cars at the first Goodwood meeting, and of accepting certain sports cars at Easter providing they were in racing trim. The first accusation John Morgan denied, apparently having forgotten the written statement to this effect, which he made to Motor Sport last February and to which reference was made in a leading article in our March issue. The Chairman, Col. D. H. Austin, explained that Goodwood was a new circuit, the safety factor of which had had to be discovered, and that large sports cars were deemed undesirable on that score — which, as cars like Poore’s 3.8-litre Alfa-Romeo, Formula Maseratis, and E.R.A.s were unleashed thereon, is plainly ludicrous. Sports cars were accepted in racing trim in order to permit the maximum number of people to compete — we are still pondering that one!

At this juncture the Chairman emphasised that we are still suffering from the loss of Brooklands, that Goodwood is not so conveniently laid out as was Brooklands, and that it takes time to get a new circuit going, cautious development being essential — here we cannot resist the observation that Edge’s ambitious 24-hour run was put on at Brooklands eleven days after the Track had been opened.

Mr. Morgan said that, whereas the R.A.C. merely has Silverstone on a year’s lease, Goodwood will be developed as a permanent circuit, with stands, safety banks, cloakrooms, etc., and that its development is absorbing much energy and money. It offers a fresh circuit for drivers who, Mr. Morgan imagined, must get tired of racing at Silverstone every week-end, and already practice facilities are available at Goodwood free to members on two Saturdays each month, whereas Brooklands “charged you 10s.” and Silverstone costs “a fantastic sum to hire” — members are fully appreciative of such facilities, providing they are going to be given suitable races at the Goodwood circuit; incidentally, the old B.A.R.C. did not charge its members 10s. for the use of Brooklands. Later, someone brightly remarked: “Let us have a Silverstone B.A.R.C. meeting now, while the circuit is still there!”

The Chairman said his club had its members’ interests very much at heart and had had the Members’ Meeting under consideration “for some months” — the fact remains that only very recently did the club issue an announcement concerning this meeting. Motor-racing at Goodwood was only possible if a good financial return was made by the Goodwood Road Racing Co., Ltd., and this called for racing-car events which would attract the public in large numbers, but in time it was hoped to bring back the traditional J.C.C. members’ events. However, when Goodwood was examined in this light, It was found that certain shortcomings existed. Mr. Morgan explained that too many meetings during the first season might have brought trouble with local residents In respect of noise, etc., and that the R.A.C. limits races to 15 starters, which means that a long programme is necessary to accommodate a big members’-entry. No one seemed to know whether this limit would be enforced for relay, staggered-start or high-speed trial events, but obviously the R.A.C.’s intention was to limit the number of cars on the course. A member thereupon made the bright suggestion that all these difficulties could be overcome by going to Silverstone!

The meeting now took a surprising trend. The Chairman said he didn’t know what it would cost to hire Silverstone, but he was certain the B.A.R.C. could not afford to run a meeting there. Mr. Morgan said again that surely members didn’t want to spend all their time racing over the Silverstone manufacturers’ circuit when Goodwood offered a fresh course.

These objections were rightly disposed of by observations from various members to the effect that the comparatively small Maidstone & Mid-Kent M.C. had held a very enjoyable club meeting at Silverstone, so had the V.S.C.C., including a one-hour high-speed trial, and so had the B.O.C. The B.A.R.C., with its vastly greater membership and the admitted financial success of its “open” Goodwood meetings, could obviously afford to organise similar meetings. The Chairman said he wasn’t in a position to disclose what profit was made at Goodwood, nor could he commit the Council to next car’s programme (here Capt. Frazer-Nash, who had kept an excellent grip on things throughout, observed: “It may not even be the same council!”), but he doubted very much whether the R.A.C. would sanction a B.A.R.C. Silverstone fixture this year because all dates had to be in the Calendrier by January or before, nor did he know whether Silverstone would be available, say, during next October. As the Goodwood “date” for August 13th doesn’t appear in the Calendrier, and as a glance at the British fixture list shows no race meetings scheduled for October, these objections haven’t the slightest foundation. Indeed, members, who had come to discuss sports-car racing, refused to be overruled and it was proposed that another B.A.R.C. Members’ Meeting be held in October if at all possible, either at Goodwood or Silverstone, a proposal which was seconded by the entire meeting. Further, it was proposed and unanimously carried, that four Members’ Meetings be organised in 1950, three to consist of short races and the nature of the remaining fixture to be decided at a later date. Suggestions for the last-named event covered a one-hour race for T.T.-type cars, a relay race, revival of the High-Speed Trial, a sports-car race of at least three hours’ duration and resumption of the ” Double-Twelve ” at Silverstone — the Chairman seemed especially pleased with the “Double-Twelve” idea, but that didn’t prevent him from pouring on more cold water, this time of the “no petrol” variety.

Referring to the proposed Members’ Meeting in October of this year, the Chairman doubted if this would be possible in the short time available or whether the R.A.C. would sanction a date, but he and his Committee would do all in their power to arrange such a meeting, and doubtless an announcement would be made in the J.C.C. Gazette in due course. We suggest that the W. Hants & Dorset C.C., which is organising a National Race Meeting for sports and racing cars at Blandford, an entirely new car-circuit, on August 27th — a meeting not decided on until a few months ago — might be able to help the B.A.R.C. over its difficulties!

Clearly many B.A.R.C. members, most of whom paid their subscriptions loyally throughout the quiescent war-years, want more events for sports cars and are not to be put off by references to the Eastbourne Rally and such-like, which one member was heard to describe as a disgrace for a club of the B.A.R.C.’s standing to organise. The fact remains that this somewhat stormy gathering tended to overlook the fact that a Members’ Meeting has been arranged for August 13th — this meeting must receive the fullest support so that it will prove to the B.A.R.C. the big demand that exists for racing of this sort. The few points relating to this event which did emerge were:— Benzole will be permitted, “because it comes from the pump,” proffered Mr. Morgan, but methanol will not. Races will be limited to two and three-lap handicaps so that one race can be run approximately every ten minutes. Preference seemed to be for five-lap races, but Mr. Morgan said some sports cars find five laps too far, and the Chairman explained, in respect of the objection to grid-starting in short races, that individual handicapping will “adjust this little matter.” [We have since seen the Regulations, and the races will be over three and five laps! — Ed.] Someone asked whether road-equipped “specials” would be permitted and the Chairman said obviously not, if the rules called for standard sports cars, although earlier in the discussion he had cracked the “chestnut” about what constitutes a standard sports car! The situation was retrieved when it was discovered that the regulations make no reference to standard sports cars! Road equipment will have to be carried and 700-c.c. to 4,500-c.c. cars will be eligible. Apparently the scratch races referred to in the J.C.C. Gazette, published a few days before the meeting, have been deleted.

On matters of (general policy, a new member asked if a hill-climb could be organised, and he was told to first find the club a suitable hill. To the retort, “Prescott,” Mr. Morgan said the V.S.C.C. had been approached but had refused — he meant the B.O.C. Just after the war a Shelsley Walsh meeting had been contemplated, but it was thought that too few racing cars were available and the club didn’t wish members to break their ordinary cars, the gear-ratios of which would have been unsuitable to the hill.

The great work which the B.A.R.C. is doing, in conjunction with the Goodwood Road Racing Co., Ltd., in catering for the leading racing car drivers and popularising motor racing at the permanent circuit at Goodwood is deserving of the highest praise. It is sincerely to be hoped that, additionally, it will be able to organise further Members’ Meetings, either at Goodwood or Silverstone, so that its sports-car-owning members can enjoy events such as those for which the J.C.C. was famous, including the One Hour High Speed Trial. If this can be done the B.A.R.C. will indeed be a power in the land. We shall watch its future announcements with great interest.