Sun and Games at Cornbury

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The Benjafield Racing Club claimed to be the smallest of the motor clubs, held its fifth speed-trial at Cornbury Park on June 18. It was the place to be, if you were not riding your aged motorcycle in the Banbury Run along the pleasant country roads without, watching the close of Le Mans, rushing your vintage light car round the markers at Pewsey, or whatever…

Cornbury Park, the seat of the Hon Robin Cayzer, is the epitome of what an English gentleman’s country estate should be, a sort of de luxe Madresfield, which in many ways the sprint location resembles. The day was warm, peaceful — guests only as onlookers with a big grass field serving for Paddock and car-park. Vintage racing motorcycles added to the variety, the aero-engined monsters were an additional attraction, and I noted that, unlike the VSCC, the BRC does not object to plastic-bodied cars and even had a “Freshmen’s Cup” for raw recruits to the art of sprinting.

The 880-yard-long course with a smooth surface starts on a very slight incline and the long straight enables high speeds to be reached before the 90 degree right-hand corner before Cornbury House, which is followed by the left and right hand “Benjys” and “Dunfee” corners. The scene is reminiscent of those pre-war speed-trials, such as the Inter-Varsity events of long ago, but more spacious.

So it was a good afternoon’s sport. One minor accident in practice when the front wheel of a solo Cotton fell out and catapulted the rider off, a Talbot-Darracq T150C that caught fire, and in the event, a modern concept of a sidecar-outfit leaving the road without harm and Mr Rudder failing to steer his Kougar-Jaguar — one of nine entered — as intended and damaging its n/s front wing, were the only mishaps. The Kougars, Reliant Scimiitars, Morgans Plus-8s etc mixed it with the older cars. The Threlfalls ran their vintage 4½-litre Bentley, Iliffe the unusual 1919 4DA Diatto, Mrs Wigg went well in a s/c L-type MG Magna, housewife Mrs Stott drove an Ulster A7, Temple his nice s/c Amilcar, and Mrs Isobel Teague was one of the star performers, in the Hardy Special.

Jon Giles had the FN “Beetle” and Vaughan Davies, as expected, conducted the Bentley-Jackson “Mother Gun”, missing a change-up on his second appearance. Burrell’s V12 Bentley-Royce was a class-winner but the programme did not divulge whether he was running his atmospherically-charged or his forced-induction car. In contrast, the various standard vintage Bentleys displayed very pedestrian initial acceleration. But not Stanley Mann’s special 8-litre. Flack’s recently-successful 8-litre was a non-starter, so there could be no comparison…

Several aero-cars ran of which Roger Collings’s Mercedes-Maybach was the fastest. Mark Walker to whom I had that lunchtime presented the AECC Annual Trophy, so well deserved, had elected to drive his 8-litre Curtiss-powered Monarch instead of the 6-litre Cirrus-engined Parker-GN. The Mett-Maybach was absent. The Liberty-La France 4 seater, which I feel sure Mr Toad would have liked, the Maybach-Delage and Hartley’s splendid R-R Merlin which started sedately, then roared off (one wonders what the makers of normally silent R-R motor-carriages would have thought?) entertained the onlookers. Biggins put up a very commendable show with his Vauxhall 30/98 with a 12-litre V8 Hispano-Suiza engine now propelling it — “I felt as I had a spare 30/98 I might as well have some extra performance”, he explained… He had completed the conversion, including a step-up gear behind the engine, only three days beforehand, so his time of 59.02 was excellent. It was accompanied by a wail from the fan, and there was no oil in the gearbox, overlooked in the flurry of the rebuild — so Biggins did only the practice and the one timed run. It was good to see the airscrew-driven Leyat going better than it had gone before. Hamish Moffat added to the aero-motor interest by driving the Liberty-engined MAB to the venue, but did not compete in it. A static “exhibit” which I hope to see running soon was a Shelsley Special-like GN chassis with air-cooled JAP V4 aero-power. As the giants cause so much interest: here are their times: Mercedes-Maybach: 54.67sec; Rolls-Royce Merlin dh coupe: 55.03sec; Monarch: 56.36sec; Vauxhall-Hisso: 59.02sec; Liberty La France: 60.64sec

Results: Benjafield Trophy: G Dunn (Morgan + 8). Dunfee Memorial Trophy: P Reece (Lotus Elan). Freshmen’s Cup: H Pickering (Kougar-Jaguar). Ladies’ Cup: Mrs Teague (Hardy Special). Class Winners: M Thompson (Reliant Scimitar GT), 44.24sec; G Dunn (Morgan + 8), 41.69s; J Giles (FN “Beetle”), 49.56s; R Burrell (Bentley-Royce), 46.12s; J Lewis (Morgan + 4), 43.04s; R Bradley (Bentley MkIV), 48.33sec; R Barbour (Kougar-Jaguar) 45.01sec; Mrs Teague (Hardy Special), 50.22sec; R Birrell (Brabham BT21B), 41.84sec; R Collings (19-litre Mercedes Maybach), 54.67sec.

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