While a great many people were at Brands Hatch watching drivers reclining on their backs in modern racing cars, as they fought the British G.P. for professional gain, I was enjoying seeing around 40 different makes of the older cars being raced for fun at Silverstone, by amateur drivers who sit up to drive, just as they used to do at Brooklands, Donington and suchlike venues before the war. As the Hawthorn and Boulogne Trophy races were contested Brands Hatch seemed very far away, almost another world. . . .
Practice passed off uneventfully, the main items on Friday being Lindsay driving Sir Ralph Millais’ Sunbeam “Tiger”, recently over-hauled, which he did to such good effect, although keeping down to about 5,000 r.p.m., that brake pedal travel increased to an extent which precluded effective “heeling-and-toeing”, and the Napier-Sunbeam, which has the sister chassis, being started up. Even hardened V.S.C.C. marshals back well away as 24-volts are put through the starter and the 24-litre marine engine erupts into explosive motion. The subsequent acceleration is something to behold and the brakes are aided by an enormous vintage vacuum-servo. The power unit will run all day at 2,600 r.p.m., and at present pulls a 3.0-to-1 axle-ratio, with 7.00 x 19 Dunlop Racing rear tyres. The wise decision was made not to race the car again until some water leaks have been cured.
The meeting began with a demonstration of how not to drive a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, which spun at Copse. The opening races were 5-lap handicaps, Batho’s Amilcar-Riley taking the lead in the first after two laps, to win from Smith’s Brooklands Riley and Mrs. Pilkington’s twin-cam 1750 Zagato Alfa Romeo. The next race saw Shoosmith’s 6½-litre Bentley take the lead, again after two laps, and just keep it, although Glydon’s Le Mans Aston Martin LM9 was only 0.4 sec. behind it as the line was reached. Eaton’s Frazer Nash-A.C. was third. Haynes drove an ex-Fane 328 B.M.W. and a Railton with wind-up side windows, bodied originally for the Shuttleworth family, competed.
In the third race Mrs. Pilkington took the lead on lap 3 but was swamped by the fast back-markers before the finish, Barr’s 4.3 Alvis Special scraping in 0.2 sec. ahead of Symondson’s Corsica-bodied Type 57S Bugatti. Woolstenholmes’ 4.3 Alvis started from the same mark as Blight’s “hot” Talbot 110 and beat it to third place by 0.4 sec.—close racing. Barr lapped at 75.37 m.p.h., faster than scratch-man Clinkard in his E-type E.R.A.-bodied 4.3 Alvis Special, with Shorrock blower from a Gardner M.G., said to give 225 b.h.p. and to weigh 17 cwt. In the last of the short races before the longer events Holden’s 4½-litre Lagonda won from scratch, unlike Alexander’s 4½-litre Lagonda, which boiled. The places were filled by the Amilcar-Riley and Young’s 1937 H.R.G. Lord Montagu’s Prince Henry Vauxhall looked sedate with its hood-bag, and fast cornering did not avail Hornby’s Grasshopper Austin 7.
The 10-lap Boulogne Trophy Race for vintage racing cars should have been a great Sunbeam/Bugatti battle, if Corner had not tried to start with his fuel turned off, giving Lindsay in the V12 Sunbeam a fine run-away win. Corner, after a dangerous push-start, was 13th on lap 1, eighth on lap 2, fifth on lap 3, behind the Sunbeam, Kain’s Bugatti, Moffatt in Wall’s single-seater Bugatti, and the big V12 Delage. He took the Delage during the following lap, and Moffatt on lap 7, by which time Lindsay was out on his own, far ahead. A lap from the finish Corner passed Kain, finishing second, 44 sec. in arrears. The unanswered question was whether the Sunbeam’s brakes would have held out, had the 2.3 Bugatti pressed it. As it was, Lindsay averaged 77.95 m.p.h. and made fastest lap, at 79.08 m.p.h. The other class winners were Boyce (Frazer Nash) and Farquhar (Riley). Sant didn’t complete a lap in Davenport’s G.N., the 1922 Godfrey 200-Mile Race car; the official results say the “crown wheel and pinion went” but we don’t believe this!
The 15-lap Hawthorn Trophy Race for Historic Racing Cars was not nearly so satisfying. The luckless Wilks led Boorer for six laps, then retired through overheating (Lotus, not driver), giving Boorer possession of the race, which he won at 82.38 m.p.h. Lindsay lost a drive in his Maserati, as transmission trouble struck, and after holding second place to lap 8 Lord Clydesdale came in, his 250F Maserati being replaced by Cameron Millar’s. Millar looked certain to get second place but on the run-in he allowed the wily Cottam (Connaught) to take him on the inside at Woodcote, by so fine a margin that both were given equal race times. Murray brought his E.R.A. in fifth, best of the pre-war cars. The race was marred by a crash in which Balmer was thrown from his Cooper-Bristol at Copse corner and badly injured; in the second race Stoyel’s Frazer Nash got no farther than the first corner before crashing, breaking his ribs.
A parade of varied Lancias preceded the 8-lap Pre-War All-Comers’ Race. In the absence of the monoposto Alfa Romeos of Corner and Lindsay and Miller’s CTF Maserati, the field was not of top quality, but interest was lent by Crabbe’s 1934 2.9 8CM Maserati. It came in third, no match for Merrick, who led all the way in Murray’s E.R.A., to win at 79.71 m.p.h., with Brown’s E.R.A. second. Although the V.S.C.C. does not take kindly to non-original Riles, the handicappers generously permitted Knight’s tail-less 1930/5 version to win the fifth 5-lap handicap by a margin of 22.6 sec. from Milner, who had forsaken his 30/98 to conduct Barry Clarke’s Ulster Austin. The winning Riley had a 4-Amal 12/4 engine with big sump, Wilson gearbox, hydraulic brakes and not much bodywork. To be fair, it made fastest lap, at 68.43 m.p.h. Cobb’s British Salmson engine propelled his Frazer Nash into third place. Before a packed stand, and running well ahead of schedule, the meeting concluded with another 5-lap handicap. Merrett, driving the 10½-litre V12 Delage, got away magnificently and held off the rest of the field, winning by an adequate distance but in an exciting finish from Symondson’s Bugatti, presumably without exceeding the allotted 2,500 r.p.m. Again Woolstenholmes’ Alvis beat Blight’s Talbot to third place, this time by 0.2 sec., and Barr again made fastest lap, in his cut-and-shut, i.f.s., 4.3 Alvis, at exactly the same speed as he had done in die third race.—W. B.
Among interesting competitors were Lock’s 1933 M.G. Magna, which was a works team car, driven by Tommy Wisdom in an Alpine Trial, and raced at Brooklands; Mrs. Cherrett with yet another Alfa Romeo, an ex-Benjafield 1928 blown twin-cam 1½-litre, one of ten converted by the works to Mille Miglia specification; and Roberts’ Type 57S Bugatti Vanvooren drophead.
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Densham’s 30/98 Vauxhall, driven by Mrs. Missen, had its head off in the Paddock before racing started and Clifford’s Alta was tow-started by a dignified Daimler. A Type 55 Bugatti in the Paddock apparently had two gear levers but this was not so startling as a vee-twin Morgan 3-wheeler with van body!—see picture below.