A Personal Interview with Raymond Mays about the British Grand Prix and the future of the B.R.M.
THE B.R.M.s retrieved their situation, some of us think just in time, by finishing fifth and seventh in the British Grand Prix.
Feeling that our readers would like to learn a little more of B.R.M. matters and of how the cars fared during the Silverstone race we motored ourselves, swiftly, effortlessly and in notable comfort to Bourne, in a 2½-litre Lagonda, to interview Raymond Mays.
He took us to Folkinghain, B.R.M.’s 2.7-mile test circuit, where we took the accompanying photograph.
We know that Mays would wish us to commence with a warm tribute to the tremendously hard work of the mechanics preceding the Grand Prix, only a few of whom are seen in the picture. Had it not been for the devotion to duty of these lads no B.R.M. would have come to the start. After working 18-hour days for some weeks to prepare for Rheims, they buckled to for 20 out of every 24 hours to get the ears ready for Silverstone. Peter Berthon, too, worked himself to a standstill, aided by S. Tresilian. and Mays likewise.
The sad story of B.R.M. unreadiness goes back to last year, when distribution trouble, split liners and ignition faults combined to set back a programme hampered by slow supplies of essential parts.
Lucas gave every help in curing an obscure ignition difficulty, traced eventually to the too-close proximity of the h.t. leads and the liner trouble seemed to be cured.
A B.R.M. won two short races at Goodwood without trouble, but it was apparent that more power at low r.p.m. was essential, after the Barcelona fiasco.
This was achieved last winter by raising the maximum blower speed to 40,000-45,000 r.p.m., using larger rotors and making minor engine changes. Unfortunately this led to a return of the distribution troubles, a V16 engine designed for direct petrol injection proving exceedingly difficult to carburate, although S.U. gave every possible assistance and many induction systems were tried.
At this juncture, with the increased boost came a return of the liner breakages. It was impossible to ascertain whether this was caused by hydraulic-log of petrol or water in the cylinders, or because the liners were of inadequate thickness. But, with fluid entering cylinders of only 93 c.c. capacity con.-rods would snap without warning, although they had been stressed as adequate up to some 24,000 r.p.m.
Two engins, about all B.R.M. possessed, were wrecked thus a few weeks before the British G.P. and, prior to this, the cars had had to be scratched from Rheims.
Mays put it to us that an engine with cylinders so small, running at 12,000 r.p.m., was to a high degree experimental, and thus such troubles had to be overcome with no previous data to work on. Brico, whose cast-iron liners were used, worked day and night and the liner thickness was again increased by another 0:040 in. on the eve of the British G.P. One engine, partly re-assembled following liner splitting, was stripped for these new liners and they were also fitted to the second engine.
Even now the effect was unknown, for the thicker liners might cause a new form of overheating or, if petrol-hydraulic-ing was breaking them, the pipe which now by-passed liquid fuel back from the inlet manifold to the blower might not prove adequate.
In this situation the mechanics toiled desperately to get two cars ready for Silverstone. Parnell’s engine was assembled on the Thursday night, Walker’s during the Friday night. On that fatal Friday, Reg flew to Bourne, Peter motored there in his X K 120 Jaguar, so that some practice, at Folkingham, was possible. Indeed, Ken Richardson drove some 50 laps in the dark running the engines in. After which the two Austin vans, recently equipped with dual axles, conveyed the B.R.M,s to Silverstone between 4.30 and 6.30 a.m. The Commer workshop lorry went with them.
Readers will appreciate that we are not excusing the unprepared state in which the B.R.M.s found themselves after nearly three years’ effort. We do think, however, that you-will like to have these facts, readily given by Raymond Mays.
As to the race, the B.R.M.s. ran on racing fuel rather softer than that used by E.R.A. pre-war, and Viggol oils were in engine, gearbox and back axle. In case the new liners had not effected a cure the drivers were told to use discretion about revs., and kept to around 10,500 r.p.m. They were to be told when to come in to mind, but Walker mistook Parnell’s signal for his on one occasion and almost stopped unnecessarily. Both cars stopped twice for fuel but the Dunlop tyres lasted the entire race. Although the mechanics were ready to drop, they handled the re-fuelling well; 20 gallons went in at each stop, the Thomson “Silverstone” equipment, in which a Norton motor-cycle engine drives a Farley pressure pump, functioning splendidly. The reason tor two fuel stops was in case the air line between front and rear tank had not cleared itself of fuel, in which case the addition of 40 gallons at once could have flooded one tank. Two B.R.M.A. members, Evans and Cutler, Mays said, did very useful voluntary work before and during the race. The drivers were burned because the firewalls are not adequate. Parnell started without gloves and his hands suffered in consequence. Incidentally, both cars differed in various ways from last year’s, the steering, for example, having been modified. Both were technically identical
Everyone was naturally elated that both finished, but Mays admits more speed is now an urgent necessity. He thinks this will be found before Formula 1 changes, although he hopes Alfa, Ferrari, Mercedes and B.R.M. may persuade the authorities not to alter it.
What of the future? The two cars are in good fettle and will be run another 100 miles at least before being stripped, this with 150 practice miles and the Silverstone race equalling one full-length G.P. Then it is hoped to get, them to two more classic races this year.” Perhaps Monza and Barcelona?” we queried hopefully, and Mays said, “It depends.” Be also hopes a third car may be ready.
Moss has driven the car at Folkingham and rumour credits him with driving very well indeed and faster than anyone else. Mays was very warm in his praise of Stirling’s B.R.M. form.
That, then, is the story of a race which has, temporarily at any rate, softened criticism of the B.R.M., and given all of us who want to see a green car first past the chequered flag, a little more confidence. Now we must hope that soon a B.R.M. will justify itself by adding real speed to its new-found reliability.