Matters Of Moment, August 1957



Britain Can Make It

The Jaguar “grand-slam” at Le Mans and the splendid “Index” victory by the thought-to-be-experimental 744-c.c. Lotus-Climax proved that Britain makes some of the best sports cars in the World. The impact of these convincing victories will he remembered for at least a decade and the firms who supplied components for the winning Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar which enabled it to average more than 113 m.p.h. for a distance exceeding 2,732 miles, inclusive of refuelling pauses, deserve a share of the praise.

Thus we can place on record, while scorning the practice of sandwiching editorial pages in a thick wad of advertisement matter, that the 1957 Jaguar victory at Le Mans, which reflects such tremendous credit on David Murray and W. E. Wilkinson of Ecurie Ecosse, and on the gallant drivers Flockhart, Bueb, Sanderson and Lawrence, was attained on Esso fuel, Dunlop tyres, Mintex-lined Dunlop disc brakes using Darcast disc-castings, Vandervell bearings lubricated with Esso Extra, Lucas electrical equipment and petrol injection, Birfield con.-rod forgings, Hardy Spicer propeller-shafts, Salisbury back axles, Terry valve springs, Lodge plugs, Rists wires and cables, Abbey panels for the wind-defeating bodies, West Yorkshire engine castings, Alford and Alder front suspension, Tecalemit oil filtration, Marston radiators, Langley Hidurel five valve-seat inserts, tappets and valve guides, Metalastik vibration-dampers, Coopers gaskets, Borg and Beck clutches and Smiths instruments, Both Jubilee and Cheney claim to have supplied hose clips, which is confusing until you realise that one presumably looked after water, the other petrol or oil sealing. Congratulations, all!

Bravo, Vanwall; Bravo, Moss!

By winning the British Grand Prix at Aintree Stirling Moss achieved one of his dearest motor-racing ambitions, that of winning the first great road race in a British car since the Segrave Sunbeam suceesses of 1923/4. He had to drive hard for this historic victory, repeatedly breaking the lap record for the Aintree circuit, leaving it at 90.6 m.p.h., before Behra’s Maserati retired and the race was his, against the full might of the Ferrari and Maserati teams. We offer heartfelt congratulations to Tony Vandervell on having at last built a G.P.-winning British racing car and on having a first-class team of drivers to handle his imposing stable of Vanwalls, to Moss on so ably driving one of these green cars into first place in this British Grand Prix race, and to Charlie Atkins and his fellow mechanics on preparing a car worthy of this talented British driver. Bravo, Vanwall; bravo, Moss!

Amateur Record Breakers

Very creditable was the record attack at Montlhery by a team of Cambridge undergraduates, driving an Austin A35 saloon. Messrs. Horrocks, Simpson, Threlfall, Riviere and Taylor, aided by Marcus Chambers, drove for seven days and nights, and broke seven International Class G records, from four days to 20,000 kms., on the way. This is an outstanding demonstration of high-speed reliability, the more so as only one of the team has had racing experience and the pit-work was mainly in the hands of more undergraduates, while the Austin was virtually standard, apart from a higher axle ratio, long-range tank, 30-mm. carburetter instead of 26 mm., and oil-cooler and some additional instruments. In all, the Austin covered over 12,580 miles at nearly 75 m.p.h. inclusive of stops; a fine achievement by a British baby car, especially as heatwave conditions were experienced. The records were established on B.P. petrol, Castrol oil, Dunlop tyres and Champion plugs. We only wish those A35s we encounter on the road were driven with similar enthusiasm!

Farewell, Brooklands

Elsewhere in this issue we report on the excellent party which Vickers-Armstrongs Limited laid on to ensure that the 50th Anniversary of Brooklands Track should not pass unnoticed. Today, Italy has the fast banked circuit at Monza, France has preserved the usefulness of Montlhery, and the value of high-speed banked tracks for test and research purposes is emphasised by those at the M.I.R.A. establishment at Lindley and the F.V.R.D.E. at Chertsey and those constructed by Chrysler and Ford in America. There is also the semi-banked circuit of Indianapolis. In this country we have lost Brooklartds and consequently have no high-speed circuit on which racing cars can be tested and track races held.

For the benefit of those who were not invited to the Brooklands ceremony we publish below the speech made by Lord Brabazon of Tara, G.B.E., M.C., P.C., on the sad but historic occasion when he unveiled the Vickers-Armstrongs memorial to the memory of the old Motor Course: —

“The labels on your cars have inscribed on them the words ‘Golden Jubilee of Brooklands.’ That is a macabre sense of humour that I do not appreciate. We come here with little joy in our hearts — we are attending, in fact, a burial service of something that was to me, and to many that are around me, one of the joys of life, and I am here to unveil a tombstone. We look round and see the rotting skeleton of one of the most imaginative products of the age. It seems incredible that one man alone, Locke King, in 1907, should have made such a vast arena, for it was undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world. Old age grants one some privileges and many duties, and here I am haltingly, inadequately, but, I assure you, sincerely, trying to voice the feelings of the many friends of Brooklands I see around me.

“I drove in the first parade, headed by Lord Lonsdale in a yellow car. Once on the Track no one could restrain themselves from indulging in speed and the end of that inaugural lap was extremely untidy! A great supporter was the Hon. Scott-Montagu, who drove one of the biggest Daimler cars I have ever seen in my life. It looks smaller now compared with American cars occupying an acre or two, but at that time it interested me enormously. He gave the great cup for the biggest race of the day on the first racing day, and consequently it is to remember him that today I drive his son with me in the racing car I am about to take round the Track. On that first day’s driving, I remember so well how weaknesses were found out by Brooklands, so quickly, too, that you either overheated or you seized up. Everything that could break down did break down. I know myself it was just along the Track on my right here that I broke down with an inlet valve gone which made the car catch fire, when, indeed, I was leading by a street, certainly by over half a mile. I could not finish, nor could I compete in a later race which was practically in my pocket had I started. I must say at the time I thought this was terrible because the prizes were very big, nearly £1,000 per race, and to have these so nearly in my pocket and yet to get nothing was a great blow to me. However, I had compensations for the reason that, on July 25th fifty years ago, very few days ahead, I won the Circuit des Ardennes, which I should never have won had it not been for faults being found out at Brooklands.

“I wonder how many of you remember the first Clerk of the Course, Rodakowski? What a lot of new problems he had to face, and how nobly he did it: but I suppose most remember Colonel Lindsay Lloyd. He was what we may describe, I think, as a benevolent martinet. Everyone was terrified of him, but I think we all loved him. The character who always rests in my mind most vividly was Ebblewhite, ‘our Ebby,’ who looked like a Christmas tree surrounded by watches and flags, who, if you remember, always started us, for many years.

“Some of you, no doubt, will remember the great cars that made names for themselves. I know they are inanimate things, cars, and are simply made of metals; but, once started, don’t tell me that they are not live entities with their peculiarities and their foibles, like prima donnas that have to be coaxed, and they even had an affection for one driver against another. We lived with those cars and we loved them as a rider loves his horse — even more so. This may all sound silly to people who don’t understand this love for the inanimate — but to us these cars pulsated with life, vigour, individuality, and with these companions we were happy. What household words were the names of the many great drivers who distinguished themselves on this Track, but I am not going to mention any for the reason that I really could not on a public platform. They recall too many poignant memories for me to speak of them. We were a band of brothers, and we loved the place and the cars.

“I had a favourite car, I must say, although I never drove it. It was the Leyland-Thomas. It used to go round the Track with a peculiarly satisfactory and enduring note, and it bounded along rather like a kangaroo; a very live, wonderful car.

“I will not deal with Brooklands as an aerodrome, although it was a pioneer home, and a great centre, for the reason that I did my early aviation at Sheppey and I knew little of it. Nor will I deal with the motor-cycle side, although that was remarkable; but here, indeed, I can’t help saying that they are happy, the motor-cyclists, for the reason that they still have their sacred Isle of Man, which to them is the “Mecca” of racing. I can’t help mentioning that in the years 1907 and 1908, Sir Alliot Roe and myself brought what were so-called aeroplanes of the day here, thinking we might find it convenient to try them on the straights. We were very unwelcome, but what a freak of fate that the despised and rejected aeroplane eventually killed Brooklands. Was there ever a sadder case of fratricide? How did it all happen?

“The production of aircraft during the war was certainly the most essential thing to our salvation, and it was understandable that the firm of Vickers and the Government expanded in every way they could, but I always question whether it was quite necessary to expand over the Motor Course — could that not have been done the other side of the road, on a golf-course? There are many golf courses — we could have lost one but we couldn’t afford to lose dear Brooklands. A prophet is not without honour save in his own country, and I think it was forgotten what a priceless heritage we had as we struggled to victory. The expansion of Vickers crept over everything like uncontrolled ivy until, at the end, from the Treasury point of view, it was cheaper to buy than to restore. What a shameful story! Why did we not rise in our wrath at the iconoclast? Some of us did — some did not help us as indeed they should have, but you should remember we were lethargic and busy licking the wounds of war. Conscience is a human characteristic. Can a great company feel a twinge of it? I regard this Memorial as the concrete evidence in every sense of the word of a great company’s twinge of conscience. We don’t entirely acquit you and the Government of blame, for you have deprived our sons of a joy in this place that we experienced and that can never again be imitated. All we can do is to bow our heads in sorrow, thanking you for getting us together and for putting up this great Memorial to the great days of the past, which I have the greatest sorrow in unveiling.”