The Autocar thought of it first
WHAT WAS IT THAT THIS LEADING
weeldy magazine thought of first? The answer is a round-Britain RAC Rally, the RAC having agreed to organise it. In 1932 the idea of a 1000-mile competition to be completed in 24 hours appealed alike to novice and expert drivers. Tame compared to the Monte Carlo Rally and the Alpine Trials, it was to provide a mild adventure, the time limit including any stops made for food, fuel, repairs and rests.
The finish was staged at Torquay, England’s Monte Carlo, but to obviate entrants having to cover extra mileage, various starting-points were used, with routes of equal distance. It proved a great success. Entries numbered 367; leading newspapers gave prizes, and well-known drivers such as Earl Howe (Humber), Sir Henry Birkin, (Humber), the Earl of March (Hillman), Lord de Clifford (Lagonda), Lord Waleran (Hillman), Powys Lybbe (Alvis), Oliver Bertram (Packard), and Malcolm Campbell (Bugatti) entered, as well as 49 ladies. Among them were racing drivers Joan Richmond, Margaret Allan, Barbara Marshall and Miss Ellison.
The top brass from the RAC gave support, the Mayor and notables of Torquay were all enthusiastic, and ‘Ebby’ did the timekeeping. There were only 25 non-starters and, in spite of some March fog, only 31 retired. For failing to keep to the schedule, 38 crews lost marks and 47 cars were penalised for defects at the finish.
After this came the final tests. The RAC was perhaps unwise in having a 100-yard slow-running section (use of the clutch disallowed) before acceleration and braking, as this favoured cars with fluid-flywheels or Salemi torque-convertors. Thus the top 11 places were won by cars so equipped, the outright winner being Col Loughborough’s 15/18 Lanchester, followed by a Daimler Double-Six, a Riley, an Armstrong Siddeley, Donald Healey’s Invicta with Clayton-Dewandre servo clutch control, another Armstrong Siddeley, Basil Monk’s Trojan, the class-winning Riley, another Daimler, an Armstrong and a Rover, the lastnamed presumably using a freewheel. An Essex with normal transmission did well, but no-one could beat Col Loughborough’s 5min 7.8sec. The under-1100cc class was won by Victor Leverett’s Riley with Salemi help, Healey had removed his floorboards to watch the clutch rotating, the Invicta clocking 2min 59.4sec, then 7.6sec on acceleration, but his foot slipped in the braking test. The best stopping distance was lft 5%in by a
lady in a slow Morris van.
In the coachwork classes, Paddy Naismith’s Avon Standard carried a washbasin with primrose soap and a green towel to match the bodywork — but forgive her, she did the race at Brooldands.
All very different from later RAC Rallies; but that’s how it started.