Sunbeams at Silverstone

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In memory of the victory in the 1923 French Grand Prix at Tours, when Segrave’s two-litre Sunbeam which Louis Coatalen had got the former Fiat engineer Bertarione to, as the Silverstone programme rather nicely expressed it, pen for him (so that they resembled the victorious 1922 GP Fiats) led home Divo’s Sunbeam and a Bugatti, the STD Register arranged a Parade of Sunbeams of all kinds during the Hawthorn Memorial race meeting in June.

This was well supported, on what turned out to be a miserably wet day. During a lull in the heavy showers seven racing Sunbeams went round the circuit, led by Harold Smith’s 1916 Indianapolis 4.9-litre. It was followed by Julian Majzub in one of the 1912/22 straight-eight TT cars, its bolster tail a contrast to the long pointed (detachable) tail of the bigger Indy car. Next were the 1914 IT 3.3-litre cars. It is excellent that all these team-cars, one of which won the IoM race for K Lee Guinness, have survived. We have seen them together on rare occasions, and here they were, lined up again, but while Nick Ridley (in the Dario Resta car) and Bill Lake exercised theirs, Nigel Corner was too occupied with racing his Dino/Testa Rossa Ferrari to drive his on this occasion. But two Coupe de L’Auto 1912 3-litre Sunbeams ran, Michael Ware having the NMM car, compensation for their famous 350 hp V12 being indisposed, and Richard Baddiley the other. And Vijay Mallya, fresh from the Boulogne Trophy race and spinning at Luffield, produced the immortal Sunbeam “Tiger”, to our great delight.

Behind these, for two flying or sedate laps according to type, came a host of Wolverhampton Sunbeams of all kinds. Oldest was the yellow 1903 10/12 hp belonging to NI Marston Ltd, next in antiquity the 1919/21 Sixteen tourer of Peter KenyonSmith. Then came the lofty 1922/23 24/60 hp landaulette with wicker hamper on its stern, conducted by Trevor Jones and the neat little 1923 alloy-block Fourteen tourer, hood up, driven by Jane Walker so that her husband could do the commentary. I had a most comfortable ride with Jane, at up to 40 mph; Ian reminded me that AH Pass’ Sports Fourteen Sunbeam was first on Formula and second in its class at the Essex MC Kop speed hill-climb, in the same year in which Segrave was winning that 1923 French Grand Prix. Behind us ranged Sunbeams of every description, 14/40s, 16.9 hp and larger-engined Sixteens, Twenties, 20/60s and twin-cam 3-litres including Sunbeam historian Anthony Heal’s well-used car, recently back from its outing to — Tours. They all circulated proudly, tourers, saloons, coupes, aged from 59 to 90 years, only Majzub’s car showing any sign of its age, smoking and coming in after a lap, perhaps with oiled plugs. Bruce Dowell marshalled us all and many long-standing STD members were there, including Roger Carter, John Coomes and Winifred Boddy. Another fun occasion . . .

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