Brooklands reunion

The Brooklands Society held its annual Reunion in torrid heat on June 18. The theme of the day was the last racing season at the Track, so I wore a 1939 members’ badge; Peter Hampton, who arrived in his 36/220 Mercedes-Benz, wore a 1933 badge to remember the first year he attended.

Invited VIPs included Sir Peter Masefield, Ian Connell, Mrs Hess, Neil Eason-Gibson of the RAC, John Morgan, Wally Hassan, Harry Clayton, Tim Carson, Cholmondeley-Tapper, Leslie Ballamy, “Wilkie” Wilkinson, Charles Mortimer, George Abecassis and an Elmbridge Borough Councillor.

Amongst Brooklands cars which had run in 1039 were Flood’s Kerr-Bate Special, Rob Walker’s ex-Bira Delahaye, Dunham’s 12/70 Alvis (which took the Outer Circuit Aggregate Award that year) and the Bentley-Jackson, whose cockpit Harvey-Noble tried again, fifty years after taking the very last 130 mph badge with it at the last BARC meeting.

These were joined by the ERA R4D, the Straker-Squire, a 200-Mile Race Bugatti, Delaney’s Lea-Francis, Stafford-East’s 200-Mile Race GN, Skillen’s Marendaz Special, the ex-Marriage Ulster A7, the WB May Alvis, the Follett Alvis, the ex-Lones Morgan, Rees’ Montlhery MG Midget, the Straight/Seaman K3 MG and the Dobbs and Gillies Rileys –all Brooklands cars. I was give my customary high-up ride along what is left of the Members’ Banking in Dudley Gahagan’s T37 Bugatti.

Some nostalgic-sounding and very welcome racing motorcycles were there again, including a 7R AJS which ran in 1939, as were veteran cars commemorating the races “round the Mountain” held for them that year. There was the 1903 Dennis which lapped at 8.42 mph, and Pittuck’s 1896 Leon-Bollee (like the one driven by Sammy Davis); applause greeted the latter’s long push up the Test Hill, which the veterans had not had to tackle in 1939!

Spectators arrive in far bigger numbers than for a similar pre-war meeting, and the Test Hill and banking runs were attempted by lots of others cars, such as a fine early Austin 20 tourer, a 1913 Straker-Squire, the Brooke Special (going up very quickly) and a 4½-litre Bentley which leapt away.  

A splendid day proved once again that the Society is very much alive. Meeting Cyril Posthumous and Rupert Prior, one was also reminded that it has an equally enjoyable magazine, named after the forerunner of Motor Sport the original Brooklands Gazette. WB


The better part of valour?

Alain Prost attracted criticism for pulling out of last year’s British Grand Prix because he thought the wet conditions dangerous. However, there have been other examples of famous drivers retiring, or driving below their capabilities, in races they regarded either as too hazardous or too boring.

In the 1927 Essex MC Six-Hour Race at Brooklands, Segrave abandoned the sports 3-litre twin-cam Sunbeam (it was alleged to have run out of petrol) on the far side of the track, and went off with his wife for some motorboating at Hamble long before the event ended.

In the 1956 Mille Miglia, Fangio stopped to check that Moss and Jenkinson were alright after they slid off the road in their 3½ -litre Maserati and crashed down a hillside into a tree. Told not to bother about them, as he was losing time, he explained that he was just touring to finish; as DSJ said, he was too old and wise to hurry in impossible conditions.

A more direct comparison with Prost’s action was that of John Cobb in the 1934 BRDC 500-Mile Race at Brooklands. This was an event for which the Napier Railton was well suited – indeed, it won at 121.28 mph in 1935 and the 500km race 127.05 mph in 1937 – but Cobb considered the rain too difficult and dangerous in 1934, and he retired. Unlike Prost, he received praise for being prudent . . . WB