The annual VSCC Shelsley Walsh speed hill-climb was a rather special occasion this year, because Audi Sport UK had asked Neil Corner to open the course with his recently-rebuilt pre-war Auto Union GP car, to commemorate the bringing of a V16 Auto-Union to Shelsley in 1936 so that Hans von Stuck could compete in that round of the European Hill Climb Championship. It was as exciting an occasion then as seeing Corner’s car in action was last month, even if in 1936 rain had ruined Stuck’s ascents and the 5.3-litre German hill-climb car was 2.6 seconds slower than Baurner s blown A7.
It would have been nore appropriate if the sole surviving V16 Auto-Union in running order had been used, perhaps with Stuck, son of the pre-war Auto-Union exponent, to drive it, but the Deutsches Museum to which it belongs does not lightly release it. Corner’s car was discovered in 1957 and is a D-type 3-litre, thought to be the last GP A-U built. It was at the Berlin Show at one time with no engine internals Colin Crabbe acquired it and a 1939 engine with two-stage supercharging was found for it somewhere behind the Iron Curtain but when Phil Hill was driving it at Doninglon, for a Road & Track story, a piston broke. Corner took it over with the damaged engine and since then Dick Crossthwaite has had a fine old time rebuilding it, trying to keep water, compression and gases in the right places.
An A-U gearbox is available, but a Hewland is still used at present, bottom gear good for 80 mph, so not very suitable for Shelsley. In spite of the two-stage blowing the c.r. is as high as 10 to 1. The tachometer reads from 1,000 to 8,000 rpm and Neil used only 1st and 2nd gears as Stuck would have done had it been dry in 1936 – in the wet of 1936 2nd apparently was a better starting-gear. Corner’s car has 6 00 x 19 front and 7.00 x 19 back tyres Neil made three fine runs, spinning the wheels away from the start, and the car was surrounded by camera-enthusiasts all day. On the last ascent there seemed to be slight mis-firing and I believe new cylinder heads are to be made for it.
Although this was primarily a VSCC day, Audi Sport UK had also entered Hannu Mikkola in the Audi Ouattro Sport rally car, which was exciting, especially as the change in rally rules may make this 530 bhp car redundant (interesting that both the pre-war A-U and this Audi produce about the same power!). Hannu’s ascents were meteoric. He dropped in the clutch at high revs, powered away with all wheels spinning, left-foot-braked for the S-bend, and on his lastest run beat the Skoda’s Special Saloon Car record by 0.67 second, although this remains an unofficial record as the Ouattro is not eligable for the class. Audi had hosted a fine party to celebrate the appearance of the tee cars arid one will long remember the sensational acceleration of the Audi Ouattro, nose-up as it surged forward, a tribute to 4WD, which we endorse, even it we arrived for the party with this endowed by Ford and not Audi.
Turning to vintage affairs. Dunn’s Riley Falcon Special took the 1 1/2-litre Sports Car class from Derek Edwards’ Ulster Aston Martin and Judy Hogg used the same Aston to win on Handicap. Burrell’s Bentley-Royce was impressive in winning the big Sports Car class, but failed to complete its second ascent, and there was noticeably more trouble than usual, on this hot afternoon. For example, Summers’ blown MG KN Magnette Special got the 1 1/2-Iitre Racing Car class but failed on its second appearance, but was just 0.04s quicker than Grey in the JAP-powered Hardy Special and here third place went to Stephens in ERA R12C with Stretton’s Frazer Nash “Terror Ill” taking the Vintage Award, as had Beebee’s Hyper Lea-Francis in the previous class. Here, by the way, Walker’s GN-Ford posed as a sporls-car and beat Spollon’s Riley Blue Streak into second place by a more 0.02 s.
Felton’s 3.2-litre monoposto Alfa Romeo had the big Racing Car class well buttoned-up, beating even Guy Smith’s Frazer Nash-Alvis, by 1.11s. Footill being third in the AC-GN (37.08s) Cardy’s Type 35B Bugatti was best vintage car and the Sunbeam “Tiger” its Silverstone transmission trouble cured, gave Bob Roberts the handicap award (40.33s). I was glad that Gordon’s odd Grannie-JAP. with A7 chassis, had done this in the previous class, as it had to do extra runs when the timing-apparatus failed and it is in the Shelsley tradition, even if its best time was only 57.63.
Of the Edwardians, Harrison’s 1907 Renault was sick on bad French fuel, McEwen was in dire bother with Craddock’s GN Akela (77.06s), but the 1908 GP Panhard made a line ascent in 49.5s. Neve’s 1914 TT Humber won on handicap and climbed in 55.49s, and not to be outdone the Napier Sixty took the Edwardian Trophy after ascending in 58.37s. An HMW-Alta-Jaguar took the Classic Car class in 39.37s.. and only Fell’s Alvis ran off the course, mildly. The GN Wasp, with Jaguar chains now driving its oh-camshafts, was very smart in new paint, doing 56.16s for Mitchell, and Brooke in the venerable Vauxhall-Villiers clocked a fine 42 29s. Arnold-Forster did a consistent 40.45s on both his runs in the aero-engined Hispano-powered Delage, and Dutton got the ex-Bira 8CM Maserati up in 41 93s., after early bothers. And the Riley Register celebrated their Shelsley Diamond Jubilee with a good display of Coventry Rileys by the side of the course. A pleasant day! – W.B.