A section devoted to old-car matters
The VSCC Oulton Park Meeting
Held too late for a report to appear in the July Motor Sport, this was far too good a day’s sport to ignore, although by the time this appears the second VSCC Silverstone race will have been contested, to be reported next month.
Chief excitement at Oulton Park was what would be the outcome of the 10-lap Richard Seaman Memorial Historic Trophy Race—would Martin Morris’ ERA R11B win for the third time in succession by out-cornering Corner, whose ERA R4D is somewhat faster even if perhaps not on an ideal axle-ratio, or would Crabbes’ 1937 W125 5.6-litre Mercedes-Benz, a fabulous car appearing for the first time in a race since the war, swallow up both the 2-litre cars?
Morris led away, pursued by Corner, with Crabbe right on his tail. A lap later there was more space between this leading trio, the order unchanged, both ERAs on the absolute limit and Morris using all the road at Lodge Corner—great stuff! By lap three they had out-distanced the next group, in which the Hon. Patrick Lindsay’s ERA “Remus”, feeling very vintage and hard-sprung, he said, after his Multi-Union, was ahead of a spectacular Waller in the P3 Alfa Romeo, Merrick’s ERA and Venables-Llewelyn’s ERA, Bill Morris’ ERA already out.
The fourth lap was a surprise—no Corner! He had, he says, got his feet tangled in the pedals, causing him to spin off and return to the course and stall, in the path of Colin “Caracciola” Crabbe. This lost Crabbe some 500 yards as he braked to avoid the errant ERA and gave the impression to those who hadn’t seen the incident or heard the commentary, that either Crabbe had decided he couldn’t close on Morris or that the still very “new” Mercedes was ailing. Not a bit of it! Although Crabbe remained well behind until almost the end, on the ninth lap he began to close up and, with superior performance, stormed past Morris on the final round, to a popular victory, in spite of newspaper placards which greeted one upon arrival telling us “Crabbe cuts back on power”—which meant he lifted his right foot a little when practising in the wet!
A smiling Martin Morris was a truly courageous second, Waller, now looking somewhat ill at ease with the Alfa Romeo, third, ahead of Lindsay and Merrick, Venables-Llewelyn having retired on lap four. Grange’s MG NE Magnette cornered fast to win the handicap section of this race.
The Seaman Vintage race was another fine event. They diced in close groups, Hine in Llewelyn’s 8.3-litre blue Bentley two-seater doing his utmost to hold off Moffatt in the Wall monoposto 2.3 Bugatti, Hamish crouched like a little demon over the wheel. He got by on lap three and pulled out a bit of a lead and on lap seven the Bentley was obliged to return to the Paddock. At just over half-distance—it was a 10-lap race—the two duellists had pulled away from Schellenberg’s 8-litre Barnato-Hassan, which he hurled through the corners with evident concentration, until, by lap seven, the closely-tied St. John (2.3 Bugatti) and Morris, in Morton’s (4 1/2-litre Bentley), went past the big track car. Lap nine saw the Bentley pass the Bugatti, and thus they finished, Peterkin fourth in Lord Doune’s 2 1/2-litre Maserati after a slide close to the Lodge wall. Rippon, who had been seen to be beating his mis-firing yellow Bugatti, was amongst the retirements. Edwards kept his 1925 16-valve Aston-Martin ahead of Crabbe in his “new” sister car and Glass, in full fire-protective clothing and face-mask, to the delight of at least one marshal, understeered round in a beautiful 6 1/2-litre Bentley which looked very “Le Mans” or “Double Twelve”. The Pacey-Hassan boiled furiously.
In the 12-lap Historic Racing Car event Corner got his revenge, being back on unassailable winning form in his 1959 3-litre GP Aston Martin, although Wilks’ Lotus 16 led for the first three laps and momentarily gained the lead for a while after being overtaken by Corner. Cottam, in his 2-litre Connaught, drove calmly, with not much wheel twirling, in third place and the gallant Martin Morris led the pre-war cars in fourth position, ahead of Bergel’s 250F Maserati. Corner naturally made fastest lap of the day, at 88.43 m.p.h., well under his 1970 record, however.
The rest of the programme consisted of the traditional Cheshire Life Concours d’Elegance and Concours de Maintenance, in which, respectively, Blight scored another Talbot laurel leaf and Morris won with his ERA, and some four-lap handicaps. In the first of the latter Mrs. Arnold-Forster had a lap start in her GN but was caught on the final circuit by Whittaker’s Chrysler, its driver making unexpectedly good use of its 3-speed gearbox. Waine’s “imitation Imp” Riley 9 was second, Marsh’s replica Morris Sports with Oxford engine third. In the next handicap Alexander’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda was successful, staving off the FN/GN opposition, with Joseland’s “Terror II”, second, Trainer’s 1934 Nash third, Smith’s Alvis-Nash being very quick but unable to catch these, or the other Smith’s Nash, from scratch.
The third handicap saw Fowler’s Aston Martin go ahead on the last lap, disposing of the lead held until then by Fletcher-Jones’ GP-tailed Lagonda Rapier, Johnstone’s blown Lea-Francis third. The two final four-lap races went to Christopher Mann’s Targa Florio Alfa Romeo, from a trio of Rileys, and to Pat Marsh, whose crisp ex-Seaman ERA went splendidly, winning from Alexander’s big Lagonda and Stewart’s 1922/26 4 1/2-litre Bentley.
Richard Seaman Historic Trophy:
1st: C. B. Crabbe (Mercedes-Benz) .. 82.20 m.p.h.
2nd: M. E. Morris (ERA)
3rd: P. Waller (Alfa Romeo)
Richard Seaman Vintage Trophy:
1st: H. F. Moffatt (Bugatti) .. 76.05 m.p.h.
2nd: M. H. Morris (Bentley)
3rd: G. S. St. John (Bugatti)
Historic Racing Cars:
1st: E. N. Corner (Aston Martin) .. 85.92 m.p.h.
2nd: W. E. Wilks (Lotus)
3rd: A. Cottam (Connaught)
First 4-lap Handicap: D. Whittaker (Chrysler) .. 62.05 m.p.h.
Second 4-lap Handicap: W. R. Alexander (Lagonda) .. 67.07 m.p.h.
Third 4-lap Handicap: W. B. Fowler (Aston Martin) .. 63.35 m.p.h.
Fourth 4-lap Handicap: C. A. Mann (Alfa Romeo) .. 61.55 m.p.h.
Fifth 4-lap Handicap: C. P. Marsh (ERA) .. 76.31 m.p.h.
Cohn Crabbe’s ex-Brauchitsch W125 Mercedes-Benz averaged 82.20 m.p.h. in winning the Seaman Historic Race. It may be futile to compare a 10-lap race round Oulton Park with a 306-mile race at Donington Park, which included pit-stops. But one can’t resist the comparison that in 1937 Rosemeyer’s Auto-Union, which beat the W125s in the Grand Prix, won at 82.85 m.p.h. That Crabbe had a moderately easy win is shown by the fact that Corner’s ERA lapped faster at 85.25 m.p.h.
His Mercedes rebuild is extremely creditable, the whole ensemble very much 1937 W125 as we remember it. The blower is not original, and an SU carburetter is used, the boost being, Crabbe says, at 8 to 10 lb./sq. in. (originally 12 lb./sq.in.). Otherwise, the straight-eight engine is correct and uses the special M-B fuel brew, prepared by Shell. The tyres are special 20-in. Firestones, which arrived just in time. Naturally Crabbe was treating the car with circumspection, not exceeding about 5,300 r.p.m. with an engine designed to run at 5,800 r.p.m. The car was found in E. Germany in 1968 in very poor condition. Those who have assisted in its reconstruction include Mercedes-Benz Ltd., Pollard bearings, Dawson & Shanaghan, etc. The brakes are from a W163 Mercedes-Benz.
Two interesting cars were Scott’s Beckenham Special and Harpley’s Avon-Alvis. The former is a Special made by the Beckenham Motor Company in 1927 with Lancia Lambda i.f.s., a 12/50 Alvis engine and gearbox, and a Silver Hawk radiator. The latter is not, as might be expected, just a 12/50-Alvis-powered Avon Standard, but one of the latter chassis endowed with very slim single-seater body made by the owner, with cowled radiator—very “Brooklands”!
The parade of “beauty-show” cars included a couple of Crossleys, an enormous 1927 5.7-litre Daimler chauffeur-driven carriage, an interesting 1939 short-chassis 3-litre Delage which afterwards raced, one of those ugly but endearing box-bodied 907 c.c. Jowett saloons, Linsdell’s sportive OM, a sporty Railton, a 9/15 Renault two-seater, etc., etc. The Bullnose Morris chaps had a special assembly all to themselves.
After finishing a race in his BGH Talbot, Anthony Blight did the slowing down lap in a flat cap, as if to prove that this is truly a touring car.
The Hon. Patrick Lindsay practised in the Multi-Union but a nasty sound from its blower caused him to withdraw it, although the sound was actually caused by a split manifold. Waller was enjoying the monoposto Alfa Romeo, but its exposed magneto disliked the damp track. Glass drove ERA R2A, bought from Barry Swann in Singapore, a Techanto i.f.s. car, as well as that magnificent Bentley. The unlucky Peter Moores had the engine of his effectively rebuilt Alfa eliminate itself on the starting line when, as he got in, the throttle control went over Centre and took the revs. to an astronomical figure, doubling-up the valves and doing other serious meyhem.
These who watched the racing included George Monkhouse, delighted with the Mercedes-Benz performance, and a member of the Gore-Brown family, relation of the Locke Kings who built Brooklands, who perhaps preferred the Bentleys, as he has his own vintage 4 1/2-litre back home in Zambia.