A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
The VSCC at Shelsley Walsh (July 8th)
:Shelsley-Walsh, near Worcester, is the most historic hill-climb in this country and an excellent course, where the seats for spectators, the prompt issue of times and the audible commentary provide good value for those who attend. The VSCC had the major entry at the June MAC Meeting. It was a Basil Davenport celebration, and the Spider went faster in practice than it has ever done. It was supported by a fine turn-out of GNs and Shelsley Specials. Of these, Freddie Giles on a very safe-looking and polished ascent in his GN powered with a series-A Vincent-HRD engine did 47.85 sec., Barton Hall’s Hardy Special 49.16, Davenport in the original 1923 Spider 49.47, Sant in the same car 49.68, and Harry Bowler’s push-rod engined GNAT 55.08, while Pam Arnold-Forster’s French touring GN clocked 71.06, heating Riddle’s Vitesse GN by 0.09 sec. All this in torrential rain.
Seventy-year-old Ashley-Cleve with his 1,086 c.c. Morris “bitser”, all the way from Cornwall, won the pre-1940 1,100 c.c. Sports-Car Class (52.65) in a car dated as 1927 but looking more like a vintage non-thoroughbred. Highly creditable, nevertheless, and it beat Ely’s Riley Ulster Sprite (53.53). The ArniIcar-Riley won on handicap. Knight’s Riley Special took the 1 1/2-litre Sports-Car Class (50.66) from Tony Jones in the Frazer Nash “Patience” (52.92). Wilson’s Lancia Aprilia, of which he has ten more at home in Norfolk, won on handicap, normal Michelins being better than the Beach Buggy-size back tyres used on his first run. Srephenson’s 328 BMW-engined Frazer Nash, very bravely driven, did 45.34 sec. to win the big Sports-Car Class from C. A. Mann’s Monza Alfa Romeo, and Oddie in Hinching’s 328 BMW was third, Jenkinson, in Robbie Hewitt’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda team car, pulling off the handicap. Blight in Talbot BGH 23 was 4th, 0.15 sec. quicker than Marsh’s self-confessed ugly Alvis Special.
Among a big entry of racing cars up to 1 1/2-litres Moffat was quickest in the ERA R3A, with a splendid 42.94 sec., second place going to Marsh, who drove ERA R1B on another brave ascent (45.05), Kergon being third in the ERA “Hanuman”, aero screen folded flat (45.19). Giles’ GN deservedly took the handicap prize. It is a measure of ever-young Davenport’s prowess that Spider beat the Lightweight Special which has suspension to cope with wet roads, which a GN hasn’t, Moores’ blown Austin, and Williamson in the rebuilt ERA R10B, etc.
Of the big racers, Smith’s Alvis-powered ex-Norris Special Frazer Nash was fastest (45.15), followed by Richards’ Type 51 Bugatti (47.74). Arnold-Forster bagged the handicap in Delage 11, which not long ago returned to Mont Ventoux and beat Réne Thomas’ pre-war best time. The so-called Edwardian class was won by Mann’s ex-Brooklands Straker Squire, which climbed quickly and quietly, vanquishing Rowley’s very smart “new” 1913 5.6-litre Thomas Schneider. Pam Arnold-Forster’s GN collared the handicap. Finally Wilks’ Lotus 16 took the Historic class by 0.15 sec. from Cottam’s Connaught, his time being 43.03 sec. Walton’s older Connaught won on handicap. Note that the wily Moffat, by making one of the last runs, when the modern cars had wiped some of the water from the road, and by changing his road racing back tyres for some Avon Turbospeed road tyres borrowed from Abson’s Lagonda Rapier, made best VSCC time, even faster than Wilks’ Lotus.
Apart front the rain it was the greatest fun, even if, to provide a sense of proportion, FTD was made by Tony Griffiths’ Brabham BT35X, in 37.36 sec.
Shelsley squelchings (but there is hard-standing in the Paddock and, unlike at Silverstone, covered bays for the cars).—Of GNs and Shelsley Specials, Davenport was driven up the hill in a smart aluminium touring GN, the Wasp was present but a non-runner, the Vauxhall-Villiers an absentee. The flat-twin HM Special wasn’t timed on its first run and had trouble on its second run. Harry Bowler was awarded the special Shelsky Special prize for GNAT, a car reminescent of his Cambridge days with a Waverley-GN. Sharp, who built it originally, was present. The evening before I had read my Bolster, to get the atmosphere, but on the day Bloody Mary wasn’t there, being, as the commentator said, in moth balls and heated security in the NMM at Beaulieu. There were no accidents but in practise Wall hit the bank, so his Bugatti was a non-runner. Nutter’s 6 1/2-litre Bentley had a new body, Black was using his replica-bodied blown 2.3 Alfa Romeo, which looked absolutely original to us, and Allen’s Alvis Speed-25 had a neat Brooklands’-like body, by Gunn of the Q-type MG. Moores did an under-50 sec. run in his s.v. Austin with eight plugs and 32-stud head but at the opposite extreme Williamson found the 10 1/2-litre De!age a handful (55.83). Shelsley-Walsh with its car parks in the meadows, the back drive leading to a 12-century church, the informal atmosphere but efficient organisation, and the crackle of racing vcc-twins, has not changed much over the years, thank goodness. Next VSCC Hill-Climb, Prescott, August 13th. — W. B.