VSCC Silverstone

Run earlier this year because of the British GP, the Vintage SCC’s second Silverstone Meeting of 1982, on July 2nd, enjoyed hot sunshine and some good racing, but the attendance (perhaps depleted by the Henley Regatta and Wimbledon tennis, just as the 1926 Summer Meeting at Brooklands had been affected by these counter-attractions and the Hendon Air Display) if smaller than expected, was described as satisfactory. Moreover, the VSCC had put on a very full programme for this Mike Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Meeting.

As Mike was the first British driver to win the World Championship, 25 years ago, a grand party was put on — just as Mike would have wished — to commemorate this, the hospitality to his old mechanics, fellow drivers, and associates going on all day, and during the afternoon a parade of appropriate cars carried the memories to the spectators. The highlight was a fast demonstration lap by the Ferrari Thinwall Special, brought by GKN Vandervell Ltd, (themselves with a 50th anniversary to celebrate), a car that made the first full Silverstone circuit lap at over 100 mph in 1953. It was driven quickly enough for one to wish that GKN would allow it to be raced at VSCC events. In addition GKN had a Vanwall on show in the Paddock, and the parade included Ferrari, Maserati, Cooper-Bristol, Jaguar, Connaught and Riley, to keep happy memories of the “Farnham Flier” flowing.

Besides this the VSCC had remembered that in 1923 Segrave’s Sunbeam had been the first British car (with Fiat overtones) to win the French GP, so another Parade was staged to commemorate that, consisting of Corner’s 1914 TT car, with his wife riding with him, Shoosmith’s straight-eight 3-litre Sunbeam with which Segrave made fastest lap in the 1922 IoM TT before the magneto packed up, and Geer’s seldom-seen 1922 GP Sunbeam, recalling the articles about these controversial Sunbeams that appeared in Motor Sport in 1979/80. Nor was this all, because to recall the first British win in an International race (Edge in a Napier in the 1902 Gordon Bennett) Bob Chamberlain showed off his reconstituted 1904 15-litre Napier “Samson”, along with Ron Barker’s genuine 1908 Napier Sixty which had the charming Judy Collings as passenger. SF Edge’s daughter was also present.

Coming to the mere racing, this opened with a six-lap Scratch Race, in which Summerfield’s Avon-Bentley had a fine duel with Schellenberg’s 3/41/2-litre Bentley four-seater, the weight of which is down to 191/4 cwt, 1.2 sec separating them at the finish, with Schellenberg lapping 0.2 sec quicker than his supercharged rival. Woodley’s Alvis Firefly, into which he had inserted a 4.3-litre Alvis engine, hung on for third place, emitting plenty of exhaust noise. The presence of these Alvis Specials draws attention to the fact that more of the 4.3-litre breed must have been about before the war than is sometimes recognised. . . .  The Bill Phillips Trophy was won by Taylor’s Le Mans Aston Martin.

A five-lap Handicap came next, Walker’s Alvis Speed-20 looking to have plenty in hand but being out-classed after three laps by Dods’ AC Special, a car with a long VSCC record of success. The AC was comfortably ahead of Gunn’s Q-Type MG Midget replica as the chequered flag came out, third place going to Rickets Riley 12/4, with Dunn’s Riley 12/4 fourth. The scratch man had been Heimann in Martin Dean’s Type 51 Bugatti and of fresh specials there was Slack’s Lancia with 11/2-litres of Salmson power, presumably from a British Salmson. This led on to the first big race, the 10-lap Boulogne Trophy Scratch Race for vintage racing cars. Inevitably the indomitable Ron Footitt took it, and comfortably, in his AC/GN, pursued by the Bentley-Napier in which a new clutch had had to be installed overnight, so that Morley had to make clutchless gear shifts because the thrust race was suspect, although with 24-litres he does not make that many. Russell’s neat 8-litre Bentley was third, with Schellenberg’s Bentley next, ahead of the Howell 16-cylinder, hi-block, twin-blower Bugatti Special, which held off the Presidential McDowell-Ford device. The Bentley-Napier lapped at 79.41 mph, to the AC/GN’s 79.85 mph, and the class winners were Footitt, Morley, Goodman’s Brooklands-Riley and Odell in the Sandracer side-valve Riley. Tim Llewellyn, who has won the Boulogne Trophy for the past two years, never got the 41/2-litre Bentley wound up, being outdone by Majzub in his Type 35B Bugatti.

We were then allowed to cool off, by watching a five-lap Handicap, in which the vintage light-cars made their sedate performances. Mrs Firth earned applause for electing to circulate very sedately indeed, in her husband’s interesting flat-twin MV2 Sima-Violet cyclecar, but, alas, it only lasted for three of its required four laps. It was in company with Mrs Park’s C4 Amilcar, Santa Clyno Royal and an Austin 7, which also retired. The credit laps made lazy lap scorers like WB confused, but in the end it transpired that Barker had scored a popular victory, crouched over the wheel of his mighty (and very original) 60 hp Napier, which lapped at 62.31 mph, winning from Walker’s Austin 7, and Emmerson’s blown F-type MG, which had circulated on its best lap only 1.44 mph faster than the Napier which, of course, took the Edwardian Trophy. The Light Car Award was won by Mrs Livesey in her C4 Amilcar, which involved lapping at 42.56 mph. Collings’ 1903 60 hp Mercedes, with a credit lap, was fourth.

As being in keeping with this Mike Hawthorn day and to provide a race for the somewhat neglected sports cars made after the war but pre-1961, a 10-lap Scratch contest for them was the next item on the programme. We tipped Martin Morris to pull it off in his D-type Jaguar, only to learn that it had apparently been run inadvertently on the wrong fuel and had tried to consume a piston. That left the D-types of Duffy, Drake and Pearson and the C-type of Grist to do battle before many celebrities from Hawthorn’s great Jaguar days, such as Lofty England, Duncan Hamilton, Innes Ireland, John Bolster, etc. Although the event was a walk-over for the three D-types, in the order Drake, who lapped at 84.38 mph, Duffy and Pearson, it was a fine sight to see these 1955/56 Jaguars storm through “the traffic” on their way to a 1-2-3 victory. Behind, Richard Pilkington made a good job of hanging on to them in his Talbot-Lago, which was giving away years, if not engine capacity, to the Coventry opposition, while Keen had his Morgan Plus-4, with high roll-over cage, well and truly wound-up, to net fifth place ahead of AC Ace and Lister Bristol. If processional, it was all very nice to see, especially Duffy’s nicely-calculated wheel-spinning start, before Drake gobbled him up, to finish 2.1 sec ahead, with Pearson a mere 0.3 sec behind Duffy. One can see the VSCC considering putting on such a race, once a year maybe, as it does for another lost cause, the single-barrel 500 cc racers. An interesting runner was Jones’ 21/2-litre Alfa-Romeo-engined 1947/39 Nardi-Danese which, however, retired after six laps.

So to the Shuttleworth and Nuffield Trophies scratch 10-lapper. For a while it was a great dice between the Hon Patrick Lindsay in ERA R5B “Remus” and Willie Green in Anthony Bamford’s ex-Mays’ ERA R4D. Willie led lap one, then at Woodcote on the next lap Patrick took him on the inside, to lead lap three. Lap four saw them again side-by-side at Woodcote, Willie just ahead but Patrick out-accelerating him. It was obvious that the course was slippery, so the sliding was exciting to behold, as Lindsay stayed just in the lead for the next two laps, and Donald Day spun and slid off in ERA R14B on lap two, followed by Bill Morris in ERA R12B on lap four. By lap seven Green had got the race in hand and he won by 0.3 sec from Lindsay, at 83.89 mph, in spite of the ERA’s differential lock being out of action. Lindsay had lapped fastest, at 86.79 mph. Amid all the skidding and waving of oil-flags, David Black had cornered his Tipo B Alfa Romeo as if on rails, to a well-deserved third place, 2.8 sec behind “Remus”. By coming home fourth, Nick Mason took the Nuffield Trophy for 11/2-litre cars, at 78.25 mph, in ERA R10B, after a best lap of exactly 82 mph. Mann in R9B and Wildbolz in R1A had stalled at the off, after which Mann retired but the other ERA came home 10th behind Margulies’ Maserati 4CL, Smith’s Alvis-‘Nash, St John’s Type 51 Bugatti, Bill Norris, who recovered from his spin whereas Day gave up, and Millar’s 8CTF Maserati, a fine cross-section of VSCC racing. Unfortunately, Griswold’s rare V8 R1 Maserati non-started.

Reece’s 1929 Riley 9 then won a five-lap Handicap from Poynter’s Ulster Lea Francis that elects to race with its screen up, and Bailey’s AC Ace. Barry Clarke’s son was having a go, like many other sons of VSCC fathers, in the Austin 7, but he retired, along with Zeuner whose Bugatti lost its sparks when the battery went flat.

The Hawthorn 15-lap Scratch Race for historic racing cars promised excitement, nor were we disappointed. It seemed to lie between the Dino Ferraris of Neil Corner and Willie Green, and it was Green who led for the first two laps, before Corner got past Lindsay in “Remus” and swept to the front, driving beautifully. He drew well away, with Halford’s Lotus 16 second and Harper in the all-enveloping, Jaguar-powered B-type Connaught third. That is, until Ha/ford retired on lap 11, leaving Lindsay (who can almost always be guaranteed to get a place) third, the 1936 ERA having outpaced the Maserati 250Fs of Cottam and Mason, and at least seven other post-war cars, with Day 10th in ERA R14B. Corner should be well pleased with his performance — winner by 3.2 sec at 88.61 mph, after a lap at 92.92 mph, best of the day. This genuine Tasman car had magneto trouble on the Friday, so Crossthwaite and Gardner converted it to coil ignition and it has never gone better. In contrast, Harper’s best lap was 88.38 mph. And where was Willie Green? After dropping to third place on lap three and to fourth place on lap five, he retired because the Dino was pumping oil into all the wrong places, including onto the rear tyres, which is not conducive to the way Willie likes to go about his motor racing. . .  Williams’ Lotus 16, Margulies’ Maserati and Clifford’s Cooper-Bristol also failed to finish.

Next on the agenda on this packed afternoon was the eight-lap Fox & Nicholl Trophy Race for the larger, road-equipped pre-war sports cars. In recent times those with genuine cars of this kind have, in some cases, been reluctant to compete, on finding that specials had crept in, as was the case this year, with entries of the blown Bentley-engined Avon Standard, the prototype S1 Lancia, the Bentley-Royce and the V8 Riley Clifford, etc. Quartermaine’s old 30/98 Vauxhall led the big field away, the order again confusing because of credit laps. It was a kind of poetic justice that Davies’s 1931 Talbot 90 came through to win, except that it doesn’t qualify as an F&N car. Fack’s Railton Light Sports, which does, was second, the flying Bentley-Royce third, keeping Di Threlfall’s Lancia at bay. So the Felton Alfa Romeo failed to emulate its win of 1981/82, in spite of fastest race-lap at 74.89 mph. Middleton retired after checking the king-pins of his 1929 41/2-litre Bentley on the grid. It was good to see Cameron Millar driving his road-equipped Maserati 8C, even if it only made 13th place. The Trophy? It went to the Railton.

The day closed with a five-lap Handicap in which, however, Day’s ERA was asked to do six laps, so that the winner was Colin Goon’s replica of a Q-type MG, which cornered very fast at Woodcote to outdo Rickett’s Riley 12/4, Sankey’s Maserati 250F being third after a lap at 82.46 mph. Guy Smith failed to get his 31/2-litre ‘Nash round for a lap and the Clarke A7 again retired, while 14 non-starters suggested that the pace and/or the heat was beginning to take its toll. Oliver Bertram’s widow and her son were present, and Keith Schellenberg presented Jane with a con-rod from the Bentley Hassan which Oliver raced at Brooklands, which will, suitably mounted, become a VSCC trophy.

Silverstone sunspots: Rodney Felton’s rebuilt ex-Reggie Tongue single-blower Maserati 4CL which beat all the ERAs at Donington the week before should have made its VSCC debut but it ran its bearings in practice. Rodney’s son drove his Alfa Romeo in the Fox & Nicholl race, which suggests that a VSCC “Juniors Race” is now due . . .

The very quick demo of the Thinwall Ferrari was done by Tony Merrick, who looks after it for GKN. He later did an unofficial run in Vanwall VW10, to make sure it was right for Moss to demonstrate at the British GP.

The three D-type Jaguars “made” the pre-’61 Sports Car Race, but how original are they? The four Frazer Nashes and the Spa HRG were authentic though. Sir Venables-Llewelyn only got his ERA R4A round for one lap in race 6 before a half-shaft broke.

Julian Ghosh conducted his own brand of light-hearted commentary, describing an imaginary GP between Mercs and Auto-Unions during one dull handicap — not every one was amused!

Of the many guests at the Hawthorn Memorial luncheon, largely brought together by his old racing mechanic Brit Pearce, “Lofty” England, Pearce himself, John Bolster and Mrs Bette Hill later gave race-winners their laurel-wreaths and Duncan Hamilton’s Jaguar D-type took part in the Parade.

A local Stamford paper recently published a picture of a 12/16 h.p. Pick two-seater on which a local retired farmer learned to drive in 1913, his father being a friend of the manufacturer, Jack Pick of Stamford. The car was converted into a four-seater and a 16 h.p. racing-model Pick was later acquired, which was used for holidays as far afield as Cheltenham, and was reputed to be able to cover the 20 miles between Grantham and Stamford in 20 minutes. Recently a New Pick name-plate was discovered, from a 1910 chassis which is still in use as a farm trailer. The father of the reader who sent us the cutting used to own a variety of vehicles while up at Cambridge and later had a 16/60 Lagonda, an open Speed-20 Alvis and a Riley Lynx.

A reader wants to know what has become of the Bugatti chassis in which he installed a 1925 blown 11/2-litre twin-cam Sunbeam motor-boat engine in the 1930s and which went to Australia during the war.

The Yorkshire HCC announces its Hebden Bridge Rally of August 21st, open to all vehicles made before 1955, entry and admission free; details from Mrs M Rushworth, 78, Windmill Drive, Northowram, Halifax, W. Yorks.

Lambrook Tyres can now supply 4.50 in x 19 in Firestone tyres, among other vintage sizes.

The ex-Hamilton 1914 racing Sunbeam is being restored in time to take part in next January’s round-the-houses race at the Dunedin Festival. — WB.