VSCC Pembrey Races

On June 25 a representative turn-out of VSCC racing members presented themselves at the 1.456-mile circuit on the South Wales coast for a nine-race Parry Thomas Memorial confrontation. Many vintage racing-car drivers like this little course, with its varied corners and no Armco, the safety barriers being piles of deceased tyres. There is a respectable restaurant with seating without, but you need to stand to see anything lower than passing crash-helmets. The centre concrete Paddock has no bridge or tunnel access and the approach roads to the place constitute a fine test of suspension, unless taken at a crawl. I must say, too, that the BARC shows no co-operation for anyone who lacks the right pass, no matter how well-known or what efforts have been made to obtain one… And it seemed not to know whether this was a BARC or VSCC meeting, although the latter was prominently named on the programme cover…

For starters, on this day of summer sunshine, we had a six-lap scratch race. It produced a fine battle between Tony Seber’s quick s/c 1750cc Wolseley, in spite of a broken valve rocker having to be welded-up in the Paddock beforehand, Keith Knight’s Riley, now with a 2-litre s/c ERA engine, and Mac Hulbert’s beefy blown Silver Eagle Alvis Special. It was the wonderful Wolseley that triumphed by 0.8sec from the single-seater ERA/Riley and the hard-driven Alvis. Les Leston’s son Nick was going well in the 3½-litre Lovell-Elkhart, now with twin SUs replacing the original Winfield carburettor.

Next, what was intended to be a seven-lapper for the Frazer Nash/GN fraternity; only the chequered-flag came out after six laps — could a driver who had planned to take the lead on the last lap have put in a protest? — not that any VSCC competitor would do so… For a time Club President Barry Clarke led in his nice little FN/GN with Ruby engine (“No dear, not like the one in your Ruby A7”) but the faster stuff swamped him, and the race became a great dice between Mark Walker in the 6-litre Cirrusaero-engined Parker-GN and Weston Mitchell in the AC-powered GN Special. It was Mark who won, after making the fastest lap at 67.89mph. Paul Smeeth, driving the s/c MG-engined Richard Bolster Special, deserved his third place and it was good to see the Chawner-GN out again.

Not easy to follow, the next race was a six-lap handicap with some runners required to do only five laps. Sir Aubrey Brocklebank (Lagonda Rapier) who is I think related to C G Brocklebank who raced a 1913 GP Peugeot at Brooklands, as a “limit” starter (although the handicaps were not divulged in the programme) was just able to stay ahead of Anne Templeton’s s/c MG Special, and James Crocker, another Lagonda Rapier driver, behind a 2-litre AC six engine, had gone well to net third place. The fastest lap was made by the wonderful Wolseley, at 70.35mph.

It was then intended to get more serious, with the 12-lap Shuttleworth & Nuffield Trophies race, but this was decimated by non-starters, leaving only six runners. Some enjoyment resulted when son Mark Gillies in the 2-litre s/c Brooke Special passed father Gillies driving a Treen-Riley and Mark then had a great tussle with the ERA/Riley. But after the latter had lost time with an “off” it was Ted Dunn’s Riley, although only a 1½-litre s/c car, which took up the challenge, to come home in second place, and first in the poorly-supported Nuffield Trophy division, beating Stephens in ERA R12C.

A second six-lap Handicap was next on the agenda, and it proved a great triumph for the team of five handicappers, Messrs Ayle, Rolfe, Millham, Guest and Ballard, who produced a truly exciting finish, Alan Mills’ A7 Ulster just, but only just, finished ahead of Bill Roberts’ Frazer Nash, winning by 0.3sec. Third was the flying A7 Chummy, well whipped along by Simon Diffey. To add to the interest, a special seat had been installed, F1 fashion, in the Treen Riley for Wendy Gillies, as she is more petite than Dad. Williams’ Rapier was blacked-flagged for something or other. A rare runner was the Salmson-engined Rally, back after a mechanical disaster at Mallory Park last year.

The 12-lap vintage-car John Holland Memorial Trophy race promised much. Two aero-engined cars were against the field — Roger Collings’s well-known 19-litre Mercedes-Maybach on which he had substituted “Shelsley Walsh” sprockets between practice and the race, and the almost invincible Parker-GN of Mark Walker, Another interesting runner was John Densham’s Lea-Francis with 3-litre AM30 s/c Hotchkiss engine, which only lasted one lap. But it did not work out for the aero-cars. Walker harried Hulbert’s Alvis something awful, Mac sliding into the corners. But just as it looked good for Mark, the ding-dong duel perhaps over, a back-axle tie-rod in the GN chassis broke and Mark had to retire, with transmission problems. And although Roger said he had enjoyed his Pembrey lappery, he found the big Maybach a handful, finishing last, with no brakes left, so had waved on Robert Towell’s 1929 JAP Super Aero Morgan that had been tailing him. So it was Alvis, Lovell-Elkhart and GN/AC, but Walker lapped the quickest.

There followed a 12-tapper for post-war racers, in which the two Kiefts and lone Cooper 500 looked very smart and may have recalled for somehow Stirling Moss, who was at Goodwood that very afternoon giving Jenks a ride up the Goodwood hill in the victorious 1955 Mille Miglia 300SLR Mercedes Benz, had commenced his career. The Brooke Special won again, from two Cooper-Bristols. Two more races completed this busy Pembrey afternoon. And for me, a “first”, when I was stopped at the entrance of a race track for the only time in some 60 years (loud cheers from the readership?), giving me the impression that the BARC is somewhat indifferent to Press support.

6-lap race:
A J Seber (Wolseley), 69.9mph.
Frazer Nash/GN Handicap: M Walker (Parker-GN), 65.3mph.
First 6-lap Handicap: Sir A Brocklebank (Lagonda Rapier), 67.0mph.
Pre-War 12-lap Shuttleworth & Nuffield Scratch race: M A Gillies (Brooke Special), 70.0mph.
6-lap Handicap: A E Mills (Ulster A7), 58.6mph.
Vintage 12-lap John Holland race: J Hulbert (Alvis). 68.7mph.
Vintage Post-War 12-lap races: M A Gillies (Brooke Special), 71.3mph.
Sports Cars 8-lap race: S R Stretton (Frazer Nash), 64.2mph.
6-lap Scratch race: P E Smeeth (Richard Bolster Spl), 65.7mph.
Fastest Lap of the Day: Mark Gillies (Brooke Special): 73.0mph,