Matters of moment, August 1989


The sprint scene in this country began at Mucklow Hill in Halesowen in 1900 (with a Mors making FTD), the first speed trial following in the Duke of Portland’s Welbeck Park (where the Hon CS Rolls’ Panhard clocked 37.63 mph). It is still in a healthy state, and might be recommended to spectators needing a break from circuit racing, perhaps jaded after the razzamatazz of the British Grand Prix.

With no closed circuit existing in Britain until HF Locke King built Brooklands Track in 1906-07 at a personal cost equivalent to more than £7,000,000, and a governmental ban on racing on public roads in force, it was inevitable that sprints would flourish, even though they themselves broke the law when held over normal highways and byways.

This came to a full stop in 1925, after a mild collision at Kop Hill between a competing Bugatti and a stubborn spectator. The very popularity of these events, which attracted top drivers and famous racing cars, involved uncontrollable crowds, and that April an alarmed RAC called a halt to all public-road speed contests (news must have travelled slowly in those days, because two more took place after the official ban, at Hereford and Tavistock, with FTDs by Taylor’s Bugatti and Joyce’s AC respectively).

Thereafter the scene shifted to private courses, and this specialised branch of the sport has flourished ever since.

Today’s sprint cars follow Formula One design trends, with high power-to-weight ratios and downforce aerofoils, and are honed for maximum traction and controllability. In brief accelerative runs drivers need total concentration; a dedicated race, they can spend two days at a venue in return for perhaps a couple of competitive runs lasting maybe less than half a minute each.

The potency of the cars is shown by the Shelsley Walsh record coming down from 77.6 sec (Instone, Daimler) in 1905, to 42.8 sec (von Stuck, Austro-Daimler) by 1930, and standing today at 26.08 sec (Alistair Douglas Osborn, Pilbeam MP4).

This month there will be 13 speed hill-climbs and 11 speed-trials in Britain, with National Championship rounds at Kirkstone in Ireland on August 4, on Craigantlet Hill in Belfast on August 5, over the 1000-yard Shelsley Walsh course (little changed since 1905) on August 12-13, and at Colerne on August 25. If you prefer to watch pre-war cars, the VSCC will be using the original 890-yard course at picturesque Prescott on August 5-6.

Sprint courses are well spread around the country – Harewood, Gurston Down, Bouley Bay, Loton Park, Curborough and many more – and speed trials have returned to Blackpool where racing cars ran in 1924 as part of the Corporation’s Carnival. The record for the new course is 15.96 sec by Edwards’ Pilbeam MP5B-Cosworth.

Spectating at one or more of these locations could make a pleasant change from watching circuit racing.

Club news

Club Alpine Renault, which caters for owners of everything from the early A106 to the present-day GTA, will be launched at the Regie’s parts department and showroom in Swindon on July 30, where it is hoped the largest collection of Alpines ever seen in Britain will be on display. Anyone is welcome to attend, and benefits for members include technical information and parts availability, sporting and social events, and regular newsletters. For further information contact Ted Walker on 0453-46255.

Vanden Plas Owners Club caters for all models built by the company and post-1923 cars featuring its coachwork. Interested owners are invited to send an sae to club secretary A Blake at 18 Oakcroft, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Lancashire PR6 7UH.

All the Lotus clubs in Britain have joined forces to bring about Lotus ’89, a two-day meeting ad Donington Park on August 12-13 which will include fast driving course on the circuit, concours, exhibitions, trade stands and auctions. Details are available from the organisers at 14 Rose Farm Rise, Foxholes Lane, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorkshire WF6 2PL.

The Austin Seven Clubs Association has launched an appeal fund for the protection of Lickey Grange the home of Sir Herbert Austin and birthplace of the A7, which had a six-month preservation order placed on it in February following public concern over its threatened demolition. A7CA Secretary is R Olive, Lorien, The Ridge, Cold Ash, Newbury, Berkshire RG16 9HZ.

BMW Car Club holds its Annual Rally and Concours at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire on August 26-27, and has organised a Munich weekend and factory visit for September 21-24. For more information on the club’s activities, ring 01-847 0629.

More than 20,000 people are expected to attend this year’s biggest-ever National Component Car Show at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey on August 12-13, where there will be about 130 exhibiting manufacturers and clubs plus car sales and concours. Admissions costs £4, with reductions for children and pensioners, and the organiser Tony Dakeyne can be contacted on 0428-712180.

Established in 1932, the Scottish Sporting Car Club organises navigational road rallies, autotests, production car trials, sprints and rallycross meetings as well as regular social events. Membership secretary is Jenny Barnes, 4 Tofthill Gardens, Bishop-briggs, Glasgow G64 3PD.