Letters, August 1991

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Opinions expressed are those of correspondents and not necessarily those of Motor Sport

***

Connaught B Series

Sir,

May I make one or two comments on that most interesting article (The First to Succeed, Motor Sport ) concerning the B Type Connaught.

Factory claims of 240 bhp, even on alcohol fuels, out of the Alta 4-cylinder engine should surely be taken with a large pinch of salt. Geoffrey Richardson, who is mentioned and who in fact bought B5, never achieved more than 209 genuine horses on his brake. In beating the works Maseratis by nearly a minute at Syracuse, Tony Brooks was probably giving away at least 30 bhp which emphasises the good road holding the car possessed.

I do not think Ken Flint ever did much with his car, but Geoffrey Richardson had a fair amount of success with his as a private entrant. He was never headed by any other Connaught after the factory withdrawal from racing. He ought to have had an entry in the Grand Prix in preference to the two Ecclestone cars, neither of which came anywhere near Geoffrey’s lap times in practice or the race.

In other hands B5 was involved in a nasty accident at a vintage Oulton Park meeting in the mid Sixties and more recently it was displayed in the National Motor Museum for a while.

Paul H Shaw,

Stourport on Severn, Worcs.

***

Sir,

The article First to Succeed is very interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the illustrations of the streamlined car. I should point out that we designed the aerodynamic body without the aid of a wind tunnel. Our wind tunnel at Connaught Engineering was built long after we designed the B series, and its purpose was to enable us to investigate ground effect; the tunnel was to have a “rolling road” to assist us in this work. As far as I know the wind tunnel was never used. The first time we ran it there were complaints about the noise from the houses behind us.

In designing the streamlined Connaught B series, I had formulae to calculate the NACA intakes, the radiator air intake and the fin area. Everything else was done by eye and hand waving. A wind tunnel model was made and put in the tunnel at Kingston Tech, at about the same time that we were testing B1 at Silverstone. The wind tunnel results matched the observations made on the track, and the only change to the car was to cut one inch off the windscreen to enable the driver to breathe at speed.

All Connaught A and B series cars were fitted with Wilson epicyclic pre-selector gearboxes as originally designed for the ERA, and they do not have clutches. (“McAlpine retired the works streamliner when its clutch went on lap 31,” from page 685). Connaughts had all sorts of reasons for retiring from many races, but never did they have clutch trouble!

CE Johnson,

Woking,Surrey

***

“No Substitute for Litres”

Sir,

I am always delighted to see anything about the 200 hp V8 Darracq in print. As Bill Boddy pointed out in his article, this engine is in my possession. There are, however, many myths written about it.

When I first began to search for information about the car, so that I might reconstruct it exactly as it was, I soon realised that virtually everything written about the car in its time was incorrect. Sir Algernon Lee Guinness, who owned the car from July 1906, furthered the confusion by saying: “I don’t know why you all call it the 200, as it only has two 80hp engines.” I can only assume that this was to confuse his opponents. I found, in fact that the 200 has the later style of larger cylinder block of 170 x 140. This I calculate out at 25,432 cc. It is, incidentally, a very efficient design for its time. The majority of Edwardian cars are long stroke but not the 200, and thus it has less friction. It also has semi-hemispherical combustion chambers, massive valves taking the full width across the head, virtually down-draught carburation and higher compression ratio than most of a similar age. I drew a graph, computing all factors on known information, and came up with the figure of 235 bhp at 1500 rpm.

On its first time out, in December 1905, two days after its completion, the 200 only added two miles an hour to the speed which had been achieved by the 100hp Darracq. The 200 did become progressively faster as things like ignition, carburation etc were “sorted out”.

I believe that Kenelm Lee Guinness first began by making plugs for the 200, as it was one of the first engines that had a high tension magneto and consequently plug mis-firing.

I would like to point out that when Sir Algernon Lee Guinness equalled the Stanley Steamer record at Saltburn in July 1909 he did not apply for official recognition in the necessary seven days. This, I feel, was because the 200 had not actually beaten the Stanley Steamer, but only equalled it. Sir Algernon, however, was awarded the British and European record.

I have always understood that the Fiat “Mephistopheles” began with 38 litres, but immediately blew up! Not really surprising. I believe that the 200 Darracq is the largest strictly car engine in existence and it is BIG by any standard and quite impressive in every way. You might be interested to know that the moving parts of the engine, including the flywheel, weigh a total of 371 lbs. The water header-tank is in brass and the rear combined oil/petrol tank is in copper. The re-building of the 200 engine has been slow, but I naturally want to ensure that it is 100% correct. There is so much history attached to the car.

Gerald D Firkins,

Harrow, Middlesex

***

Alvis Advice

Sir,

I see in your VSCC Silverstone report that my old single-seater Alvis has been converted to Monza Alfa lookalike. I fear this is not so — the single-seater is still in America as far as I know and unaltered.

Mr Jamieson’s car is almost certainly the Alvis-Riley that I built for Richard Loveday many years ago! It had a 4.3-litre Alvis engine, a Riley 12 chassis, Alvis Firefly front axle, Alvis 12/70 rear axle and a Silver Crest gearbox. As allowed by the VSCC it had post-war Alvis hydraulic brakes. The Riley chassis was much lighter than any Alvis chassis so the car was quite a nimble device. Richard had a monumental accident with it in some Continental race and I have a recollection that David Duffy used it to good effect while he owned it. Glad to see that it is still going well — but it isn’t the single-seater!

BH Clinkard, Lt Cdr (Ret’d),

Assington, Colchester

***

Unnecessary Dangers

Sir,

With reference to your report on the Patrick Lindsay Pre-War Scratch Race at the VSCC Silverstone meeting (June 1991), specifically the penalty of 10 seconds and the start from the back of the grid applied to Messrs Hannen and Lindsay, if disqualification had been applied as suggested, the race would have been equally spoilt. As reported, the race proved very interesting due to the progress through the field by Hannen. It would appear that had he started from the front row the race would have been somewhat processional as he would have won with a clear margin.

The main purpose of my letter, however, is to comment on the need for penalties. The report mentions failure to observe a flag signal in practice, but does not elaborate. A likely reason was that the drivers were guilty of ignoring a yellow flag signal. If so, this rightly should be regarded as a serious matter as there has been concern for some time that drivers have not paid sufficient notice to such danger signals. It is of particular concern to those who act as volunteer marshals and have to rely on the protection of yellow flags when dealing with an incident on the track itself during practice or a race. As such I do not regard the penalty excessive as it still allows the driver to race and the spectators to see him in action, but it should deter him from trying to obtain an advantage whilst putting marshals at unnecessary risk.

M Pritchard,

Nantwich, Cheshire

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