CHRISTMAS FAIRY STORY
We have seldom published fiction in MOTOR SPORT. Readers sometimes ask why. The answer is because it is so very bad. Just how bad you can judge from this Christmas Fairy Story by a reader IT was Friday morning, and very was ten-tenths at nought feet,
when the telephone bell rang . and, ever seeking opportunities for promotion, I dived to answer it. Seizing the receiver and muttering into the wrong end sweet nothings calculated to give an impression of efficiency to any bigwig who had got my wire by mistake, I was greeted by the voice of the Press, speaking thus : ” Hey, you, I’ve just read the treatise on lefthand screw threads in ‘ The Comicar,’ and I’ve decided to have a fairy story in the Christmas number of Moron SPORT. Let me have it soon.” Well, I pleaded and I argued, and before I finally hung up there was a long queue (one bloke, anyway) wanting to get at the ‘phone, preferably over my dead body ; but the great Editor still wanted his fairy story and still persisted in blaming me for the screwy letters in the weekly Pr( ss, so here I am wasting a perfectly foul evening trying ta appease the . Not that I propose to write a fairy story ; as a strong supporter of George Washington, the guy who was never caught telling a lie, I refuse to associate myself with any such questionable literature. Instead I propose to delve into the wide, open
spaces of my memory and relate once more the true history of the first and only Tourist Prize Race organised some years ago by the British Automobile Sporting Society. As many of my readers (perhaps even both of them) will recall, the International Tourist Prize Race was organised by the British Automobile Sporting Society (B.A.S.S. to you) and was intended to demonstrate the supremacy of the British baby car to an incredulous world. It was held on a special course in the Isle of Dogs and was stated to be for touring cars only. However, in view of the wellknow n spertsmanship and honesty of all racing drivers, it was decided to waive the tedious formality of sertatineering ; instead, each competitor was required to
swear blindfold that his car was utterly standard, that it was rather slower than a hearse or even a London taxicab, and that he didn’t want to win the race anyway, this oath being taken in the presence of Capt. Egg-Flipp, secretary of the B.A.S.S., and two ” juages of facts,” who had to report if the driver had his tongue crossed or his fingers in his cheek. In view of the very reasonable .conditions, the modest entry fee of 19/11t per car, the generous starting money always paid by British organisers, and the grand prize list, which was headed by the Barns ley Trophy and a cash prize of 6d., a magnificent entry was anticipated, and these expectations were amply fulfilled. For the benefit of the younger of my readers I will reproduce the complete list herewith :— ENTRY LIST FOR 13.A.S.S. INTERNATIONAL TOURIST PRIZE RACE. Driver Humfrey Baker Prince Charming Willy Wool … Teddy Nixon Car
••• A.R.E. • -• A.R.E. ••• A.R.E. b•• . D’Oyley Driver Dr. 1). J. Lendahand H. Westminster-Less Sally Davidson • • • Hans Seeeotine General Von Techni ealiteh Prince Zu Now an then George Hasachassis… Luigi Villamarina Louis Hamburger … Rudolf Seratsch Herman Seramm Spike Mulligatawny George Williams Charlie Had son Capt. Geoffrey ” Great ” Western N.B.G. Field-Marshal
Tellum N.B.G. Rene Drypuss … Balm) i Needless to say, with such E n entry list the practice period was the centre of great interest, and even the journalists describing it for the weekly motoring journals came for a look-see. To the Uninitiated the ears did not look quite as standard as the advance publicity had suggested they would he, but perhaps it was only the presence of racing numbers that gave this impression ; the foreign competitors assured the officials that the blow ii
singleseaters they had brought were definitely best-sellers back at home and that wings had gone right oi. t of fashion. The (lay of the great race dawned clear
and bright, and for quite five minutes before the start a surging crowd of three ice-cream men, a small boy, two corporation dustmen and a spectator wended its way towards the course ; an Aberdonian who was spending his summer holiday cruising on the Woolwich Free Ferry was even reported to have made a -complaint about overcrowding to the purser. Opposite the grand stand, where four
programme sellers were playing solo to decide which of them should serve the spectator, the 21 cars were lined up with their backs to the road, while Opposite them stood 20 drivers (Teddy Nixon had gone to get A cup of cold tea). Cn the stroke of noon the driver had to dash to their cars, insert the rotors, reverse into the road and depart on lap one. As the time for the start approached a deep silence fell on the crowd, until as the starter dropped his flag accidentally and eoula not reach to pick it up again, the assembleddrivers dashed across the road to their cars, the rear being brought up by Nixon carrying a spare bottle ca cold tea. First man away was Westminster-Less, slim manager of the Crookedley team, and the rest of the field went off down the road in a jostling, roaring bunch. When the dust cleared it was seen that Illy Wool, popularly known as “the racing plumber,” was still standing by his car feverishly searching through his pockets, and he finally had
to retire as he had left his rotor at home. So the first car went to the dead car park, and the Crookedley team was lett as Britain’s sole contender for the team prize. • •• Car Creokedley Crookedley Crookedley Moto-Combination Moto-Combination Moto-Conibination Tenor Mastieati Me= Merz Merz .Sria.pezy Tab Washer Special Setae Hotsin Very soon, it seemed, a white speck appeared far away up the. road, and in the spaae Of seconds Herman Seramm streaked past in his Merz, closely followed by Tcctmicdith, Westminster-Less, Charm
ing :1.11(1 Luigi Villamarina. At short intervals the rest of the competitors came past, but Hans Seecotine was seen to lie missing, aim as the rear Of the ears faded, Mr. la. F. Jamjar (” Pox ” a the B.B.C.) =rammed over the loudspeakers that this veteran Continental ace had gone oft the road at Snakeys Corner and was firmly stuck in the mud.
So the race continued for the first four laps, Herman Seramm leading by some 20 yards from General Von Teehnicalitch in the Moto-Combination. The leading Merz, like the rest of the team, was a sleek white straight-twelve, with “toots” blew er shrieking like an urgently departing soul, while the Moto-Combinations were neat, well-knit looking rear-engined jobs, whose Leon-Bollee rear axles gave tnem remarkable road-holding powers—as the advertisements said, ” Moto-Combinations cling like leeches.” The Crookedleys were putting up a very -fine show, especially considering the fact that whereas the foreign entrants were using their blown single-seater ears, the British team was complying strictly with the spirit of the rules by using their ordinary 3-litre 4-seaters, modified only by the fitting of 8-litre engines, while the A.R.E.’s (entered by Humfrey Baker on behalf of Auto Racing Engineers, Ltd.) were also showing an unexpected turn of speed.
Among the individual entrants trouble was rife even at this early stage of the race. Teddy Nixon was in great difficulty with his D’Oyley (reputed to be so called because of the number of lightening bales drilled in it), since, in spite of frequent doses of cold tea, he was still suffering from the effects of a hard night’s work and found difficulty in deciding which of the two reads he saw was the real one. George Hasachaasis was driving his blown quadruple o.h.c. two-stroke V16 Tenor with great verve, showing singularly little concern about frequent disagreements as to route between the two ends of his car, but he lacked speed, and designer Gerry Teller said they only ran this car as the ” hush-hush ” new car was not ready yet, only the power curve being complete. Luigi Villamarina was going really fast and cornering with true Italian verve, but was eventually stopped by the marshals and warned that it was contrary to the regulations to travel more than one mile at a time in a backward or sideways direction and that, anyway, he was frightening Capt. Egg-Flipp. it was on lap five that the first real sensation occurred, for on this lap Dr. 1). J. Lendahand„ opening his Crookedley up to the limit, came down the straight on the pavement, dodging in and out of lamp-posts, and shot past the astounded Seramm and Teehniealitch into the lead ; roaring round the twisty course at breakneck speed, he led the Germans on an epoch-making ” dice ” with death, rnd finally at Coppers Corner he led them
right up the garden path into the “Sow and Mouth .Organ,” where they all agreed to retire and have a few for the road they had skidded Off. This remarkable piece of driving by Lendahand, who strenuously denied that it was attributable to his throttle having stuck wide open, meant that with only six laps completed no team remained intact, while WestminsterLess was now in the lead.
All this while the pits were a scene of’ feverish activity, as the less fortunate competitors sought to re-harness runaway horse-power, and Field-Marshal Tellum poured buckets of water over the almost incandescent rev.-counter of his N.B.G. The colourful Spike Mulligatawny, who modestly described himself as “America’s gift to the Allies,” was given an ironic cheer as he skidded the Snapezy TabWasher Special to rest after completing only one lap, and the mechanics set to work to replace countless lost nuts and replace the Snapezys with locking wire. At the same time Matson arrived with a distinctly shop-soiled looking Hotsin, and it was afterwards learned that he was dazzled by the sports jacket worn by a flag marshal and went off the road at Caruso Corner in consequence.
But to return to the real leaders of the race, Westminster-Less had a lead of fully half-a-mile over the next car, this being the A.R.E. driven by the “Rhapsody in Blue” Charming. These two cars were followed by Hamburger, Zu Nowanthen, ” Great ” Western, Drypuss and Scratsch. The unfortunate George Williams was just trying to do something worthy of the ream of praise accorded to him by one of the Press when the Sefac, at the wheel of which he was appearing for the first time, liberated a connecting rod which was suffering from claustrophobia and, before you could say Cholmondely-Featherstonhaugh, there were bits of Seine all over the road. It was on lap twelve that the first refuelling stop occurred, and WestminsterLess took on about a year’s basic rations in two flicks of a gnat’s whiskers and a brace of shakes, Hamburger in the first of the German cars coming in to do likewise, just as Westminster-Less pulled away from the pits. After that the pits became a seething mass of ears, a veritable land flowing in oil and 100 octane, outstanding incidents being the comments of Zu Nowanthen when he found the Moto-Combination team had used the last of their special pure Aryan Ersatz-Essenz
and the skill with which Charming brought his A.R.E. to rest in front of the only Press photographer still awake, despite the feverish signals of designer Peter Bedoff, who wanted him to stop at her own pit.
When the turmoil died down it was seen that three cars had become closely bunched in the lead, Westminster-Less being hotly pursued by Drypuss and Hamburger—the former apparently had driven gently at the outset to save fuel and tyres so that he need not stop to refuel. These three were followed by Western, Scratsch and Sally Davidson. Unfortunately for the wily Drypuss, however, le Patron had been a thought economical in laying out the lubrication system of the Type 109 Bolini, and on lap fourteen he retired with plug trouble ; an inquisitive journalist who enquired the cause of a rather large hole in the side of the crankcase was politely informed that this had nothing to do with the car’s retirement, being solely attributable to mice.
At this point a remarkable turmoil was seen in the Crookedley pits, centred around a burly but worried-looking police sergeant ; it appeared that, despite most forcible encouragement from the whole &pipe, he was intent upon hanging out a stop signal for the leading car. On lap fifteen a puzzled Westminster Less obediently brought his Crookedley into the pits, where the conscientious copper, still in uniform from the waist up and from the ankles down, proceeded to serve upon the speechless driver a summons for driving at 21 m.p.h. in Hyde Park As a result of this quite unique affair, Hamburger passed into the lead, but with three laps still to go a truly epoch-making ” dice ” began.
At the beginning of lap eighteen Hamburger in the Merz led by some 20 sees. from Western, closely followed by Sally Davidson’s Crookedley, Scratsch in the second Merz and George Havachassis in the V16 Tenor. All these cars had speeded up considerably, Sally Davidson because she was afraid she would be late for her appointment at the hairdresser’s and Havachassis because he was at last getting thoroughly frightened at the tricks the Tenor was playing, so he wanted to finish quickly before he had an accident.
For two laps this quintet continued their meteoric progress, cornering, like the bullets beloved of the dailies, on two wheels or less, and, by dint of a shattering display of sideways motoring that made even the swarthy Laigi Villamarina pale, Havachassis got past Seratsch and “Streamline Sally” in braking for Snakeys Corner ; so the desperate last lap began.
But sensational as the race had been hitherto, in the words of the announcer “Pox,” “You ain’t seen nothing yet, folks.” Round Coppers Corner came the roaring, jostling bunch of cars, and five abreast they headed into the narrowing straight. As the stone walls on either side of the road came closer together, the cars closed in hub-cap to hub-cap, and Scratsch and Western on the edges of the bunch nicked large lumps out of the stonework, and finally the inevitable truth of “five into one won’t go” was forced upon the intrepid “dicers.” Relentlessly refusing to give way to one another, the five cars became firmly locked together and finally came to rest within sight of the finishing line, jammed solid between the sturdy stone walls bordering the road. . . . Maybe one day the B.A.S.S. will settle the thorny question of who is to have the Barnsley Trophy and the attendant prize money, and maybe Dr. Goebbels will speak the truth one day, but hitherto the committee have not even dared to emerge from the fortress in Pall Mall to which they retreated before the furious mob of entrants and drivers ; they have certainly never organised another Tourist Prize Race since, and I doubt if they ever will. Meanwhile, I can reveal that each of the five leading competitors used ” Codliver ” oil, ” Pyrene ” fuel, ” Goodgad ” tyres, ” Lockjaw ” brakes,
” Montlhary ” flexible rev.-counter needles and self-control by ” Spirella.” There, then, is the story of the greatest race that never happened. I think it’s a lousy story personally, but if you really want a laugh, MOTOR SPORT is the wrong paper for you. Since it seems usual for writers in the motoring Press to use a nom-de-plume taken from some inoffensive and irrelevant part of their bolide’s innards, I will wish you a merry Christmas
and sign myself “BILGE PUMP.”