MY FAVOURITE VENUE
By RAYMOND MAYS Some Shelsley Walsh Memories by the Present Record Holder, who has broken it nine times and made fastest time on fourteen occasions
F all the events in which I have competed, either in this country
or abroad, Shelsley Walsh is my favourite. Apart from having run at Shelsley more times than anywhere else, my great ambition, long before I started motor racing’ was to obtain the She’sley Walsh record. At this event I have driven all the different makes of racing cars which I have raced during my career. Shelsley, and its surroundings, have changed considerably during the 18 years since I first
started, and throughout that period I have only missed competing at two events, once because the car was not ready and the second time because I was racing elsewhere. The first time I entered for Shelsley I made my headquarters at the Abbey Hotel, Great Malvern, and this hotel and picturesque town, beneath the Malvern Hills, attracted me so much that I have stayed there on every occasion -since. I
have also had the some lock-up at Woodyates Garage ever since they were built. Many a time during those 18 years we have worked all through the night in preparation for She’sley the following day, and each time the same faithful garage assistants have worked with us. In fact, the atmosphrre of Malvern and Shelsley
are one and the same to me, and leaving my home at Bourne to go there is just like going to a second home.
All my friends made their headquarters at the Abbey Hotel, and on many occasions ” fantastic ” parties have tvlen place on the Saturday night. after S helsky. In those ctrly days the racing cars were assemble:I in the picturesque paddock at the foot of the hill. This paddock had a mass of trees in it, and various racing cars stood about beneath those trees, all looking very peaceful, until the time came for the engines to be warmed up. When it rained the whole paddock NN. s a quagmire of mud, and competitors had the greatest difficulty
in” push-starting “their cars owing to the wheels not biting on the slippery surface. Then, when leaving the paddock to go to the starting line, mud was deposited everywhere, and many times I remember arranging for buckets of water and scrub bing brushes to be available to free the tyres of all this mud before the actual start. This orchard paddock at Shelsley continued until quite recently, and it is only a few years ago that proper paddock
stalls, similar to those at Brooklands, were incorporated, with a gravel surface instead of the. grass of the old orchard. In those early days the surface of the hill itself was rough and was covered by a loose dusty surface ; as each car ascended
clouds of dust followed in its -wake and the spectators on the banks were covered in dust from head to foot. Many years ago this surface was entirely altered, and to-day fast cars seem to be able to ascend with hardly a speck of dust following them.
I first ran a Speed-model 1A-litre Hillman at Shelsley, and on this occasion I was so excited to read my name in the programme, and to find myself in the paddock amongst all the star drivers, that I almost forgot that I had come there to run I Although the Hillman was a fine little car for her day, she was, naturally, nothing like fast enough to compete against all the cars which had entered. However, she put up a good show and I managed to rea It the summit safely. Bird, on the “works ” 4.9-litre Sunbeam, held the record with a time of 521 seconds. The next year I ran my 1i-litre Brescia Bugatti, a fast machine, the light weight and short wheelln se making it eminently suitable for this type of event. Unfortunately, in those nays no practice was allowed and sometimes only one ascent on the actual day. This meant that if you made a mistake during the climb you had to wait to try your luck a mailer year ! On the day of the event my Bugatti was in good form and took the lower slopes of the hill very fast. Safely round the first half o. the S-bend, when I pat my foot hard down on the throttle for acceleration out of the S nothing happened and the
engine stopped. I was bitterly dis
appointed, turned round on the hill and had to come down into the paddock again. On examination I found that the petrol supply had been blocked up by a large blue-bottle fly, which had deposited itself in the main jet Another year to wait to try my luck. . . .
In the meantime, Amherst Villiers helped me with the Bugatti, and months of hard work was done on engine modifications. The day of the event came and the Bugatti was in magnificent form. No incidents en route, and I seemed to reach the finish in an incredibly short time. Just after I heard loud applause from the spectators, and found that I had broken the record for the hill with a time of 51.9 seconds, beating all the ” works” drivers and racing ears of all sizes. Also, it WaS the first. time a car of lies than 11-litrc capacity had ever held the!thelsley record. This was one of the happiest days I have ever had.
The. 1921 Shelsley arrived and I ran two Brescia Bugattis, ” Cordon Bleu ” and “Cordon Rouge.” I broke my own record for the hill on both these cars, with times of 30.8 seconds and 30.9 seconds respectively, but was eventually beaten by Cyril Paul on the Beardmore, who clocked 50.5 seconds. In 1925 I entered an experimental supercharged 11-litre A.C. This was an entirely new car and Shelsley was to be her first appearance. Night after night we worked continuoasly, with no sleep at all, in an endeavour to be ready. We arrived on the morning of the event with the car only half completed. The A.C. ran well up the lower slopes, but. on accelerating out of the S-bend the ignition suddenly retarded itself and I only just managed to struggle over the finishing line. On this occasion Segrave on the 2-litre supercharged Sunbeam mode the fastest tone of the day, but did not succeed in beating the times of Paul’s_ Beardmore and my two Thigattis the
previous year. Segrave’s time was 53.8 seconds. In 1926 two Shelsley Meetings per year were started and during 1926, 1927 and 1928 B. H. Davenport, on his famous single-seater V-twin ” Speeial,” ” The Spider,” dominated Shelshsy Walsh and created new records, with times of 48,8 seconds, 47.8 seconds and 46.2 seconds
respectively. During these three years I drove an Isle of Man 3-litre T.T. Vauxhall, a 2-litre supercharged Nlereedes and, lastly, an experhnental 3-litre Vauxhall, fitted with a supercharger. Each year became faster and broke Davenport s record of the previous year, but he always managed to heat me by that split part of a second. which is so important at Shefsky WE
Davenport’s terrific sueeess spurred me On to greater efforts, and in 1929 I again entered the Vauxhall Villiers, but this time with a well-tested engine, and also fitted with twin rear wheels— the tirst time that any car had competed at any hill climb so equipped. The Vauxhall was in terrific form and made a lightning ascent, with the twin rear wheels churning Up the road. I turned the tables on Davenport and made the fastest I ime of the day and a new record, for the bill, With a time of 45.6 seconds. Again I held the Shelsley record And was very thrilled. During 19:30 the Shelsley surface was entirely remade and greatly improved. This year Hans_ Stuck, the European hill
climb champion, had entered ii is 31-litre Austro-Daimler. This car had swept the board in all European hill climbs. In the meantime vast experimental work had been carried out on the Vaoxhall-Villiers, but unfortunately the car was only completed on the actual Saturday of the event. In it desperate effort to reach Shelsley in time I started off from Bourne driving the car by road. On reaching Shelsley I found the proceedings were over and that I had lost my record to Hans Stuck, who had made a terrific climb in 42.8 seconds. This was a shattering blow to me, as a reduction of nc,i Hy 3 semorts off my Own record looked almost unbeatable. However, I found that in addition to Stuck all the other competitors’ times were considerably faster than in 1929, owing to the greatly improved surface, and
therefore I had great hopes that I could regain this record.
In addition to Stuck’s marvellous climb, Caracciola had brought over from Germany a special supercharged shortchassis Mercedes-Benz and created anew sports7car record for the hill with a time of 46.8 seconds.
The second 1930 Shelsley came along, but all hopeS of beating Stuck’s record were shattered, as a torrential downpour of rain greeted us on the day of the event. Nevertheless. I managed to make fastest time of the day with a run of 40.2 seconds. R. G. .1. Nash, on his special sprint 1 I-litre Frazer-Nash, was second to me with a time of .1.8.8 seconds. During 1931 further experimental work continued •nu the Vauxhall-Villiers, and, in addition to this, I prepared a light. 4-seater in vieta, with a view to obtaining the Sports Car I fecord, held by Caracciolit. I am afraid space does not permit mention of all the Sports Car Records, but later Lord 1 klwe, on his MercedesBenz, equalled Caraceiola’s time. Eventually I obtained the record with my .Invieta,
with a time of 45.6 seconds, in 1932. Later on the regulations altered considerably and new Sports Car Records were made nearly every year.
At the first meeting in 1931 R. G. .1. Nash, driving his special I ?,-litre
Fraa.er-Nash, which had done so well ill SI)Fiti t events, made the fastest time in 43.4 seconds, just beating my Villiers Supercharge, which took 43.a seconds, neither of us equalling Stuak’s record. At the second 1931 Shelsloy came another down pour of rain, and once More
I made fastest time of the day on the Vauxhall wit it a time of 46 seconds, this time heating Nash, who was second in 47.6 seconds.
During the following months still further experimental work was carried out on the Villiers Supercharge, and, in addition to raising the boost pressure, an inter-cooler was incorporated, with a view to cooling the mixture before it entered the cylinders.. All these experiments took months of hard work, and when the first 1932 Shelsley arrived the car was once more in the experimental stage and not complete. Lord Howe, driving a 2.3-litre supercharged Bugatti, Made the fastest ascent of the day, with a time of 44 seconds, beating my time, on the Vauxhall, of 44.6 seconds. In between the two Shelsleys of 1932 oliflieult work was continued in connection with inter-cooling and supercharge pres
sures. Eventually this combination worked well and the old Vauxhall gave more power than ever before. On the day of practice (which had been
allowed for the last fCW y ) for the second 1932 Shelsley all went. well until my last run, when there was a shattering noise and the crankshaft of the Vauxhall broke. Naturally this prevented the car from running, and R. G. 3. Nash again made fastest time of the day, with a time of 43.2 seconds ; this time was the nearest to Stuck’s record of anybody’s so far.
I realised that to beat Stuck was by no means easy, and, although we had developed the Villiers Supercharge to a high degree of efficiency, we were greatly handicapped by the weight of the car. From time to time various parts had required strengthening and, by the time the chassis was made strong enough for the increased power, the weight had crept up to 30 cwt. I then wondered if it was possible to obtain that extra power so necessary to give me a better powerweight ratio than Stuck’s Anstro-Daimler. I decided to continue the experimental work on the Vauxhall engine, as I realised that We were collecting valuable data in connection with supercharging and all that goes with it. However. I thought it would be good, from every point of view, if the Sheisley record could once more be regained by a I ‘rlitre car. I had closely followed the success of the
cylinder Riley, which had been running in sports car events, anti, in conjunct ion with my friend Peter I3erthon, Who was now working with me. we discussed the possibility of using this H iley engine as a bask. NVe formulated a plan and then paid a visit to Victor Riley, whom I knew well. I told hint of our ideas of regaining the
Shefsky record on a 11-litre car of British manufacture, and asked if we could examine the ” inside ” of his six-cylinder racing engine.
Peter Berthon derided that the possibilities looked good and I then asked Victor Riley for his co-operation and support in this project. He agreed, and his magnificent support and enthusiasm not only made this experiment possible, but also the birth of the E.R.A., which followed later.
It was arranged to use the standard ruing Riley chassis and for Peter Berthon to carry out the modifications to the engine. He designed an entirely new cylinder head and rated a supercharger.
My friend, the late Murray Jamieson, was approached about the superaarger, and he also helped Peter Berthon with the new crankshaft, which was a necessity.
After a few months of continuous day and night work this new engine matured. It was bench tested with success, and then fitted into the chassis for trials only a very short time before the last Shelsley Walsh meeting of 1933.
In the meantime the first Shelsley had taken place, once more in heavy rain, and again I made the fastest time of the day with the old Villiers Supercharge, with a time of 44.8 seconds, this being, up to then, the fastest ever ascent on a wet day. It. G. J. Nash was second fastest, in 45.6 seconds. Now came the last meeting of the year and the appearance of my superet urged
Riley, known as the White Riley. The engine running magnificently, I made a climb in 42.2 seconds, the Riley being the first car to beat Stuck ‘s long-standing record of 1930. Later in the day, however, Whitney Straight, driving 4 2.5-litre supercharged Maserati, beat my time and made fastest time of the day, creating a new record for the bill in 41.2 seconds. I also ran the Villiers Supercharge and clocked 42.4 seconds. Thus all three fastest cars of the day beat. Stork’s record. TLe year 1934 arrived, and in the meantime tie’ E.R.A. concern had started building racing ears, based on the successful experituent:il work carried out on my
White l ili’. t t he first Si Hey meeting this year t u l 1: . was itot reads. and in the rush of work the White Riley had been rather neglected, but made second fastest time of the day to Whitney Straight’s 3-litre Maserati, which now clocked 40 seconds—another new record.
Later in the year the E. R.A. was ready and was scheduled to appear at the second Shelsley meeting. I very much wanted to regain the record at the E.R.A.’s first appearance, but as luck would ht, Ve it another downpour of rain came. The 2-litre E. lt A. was in grand form, heying been driven by road from Bourne to Shefsky, to ” run-in ” the brand new engine. Although there was no hope of any records, I made fastest time or the day in 44 seconds, just beating whit ney Straight’s Maserati, which was second. In 1935 both the 2-litre and the I Hare
E.R.A.s were entered. On both cars I broke Whitney Straight’s record with times of 39.0 seconds and 39.8 seconds, respectively, this being the first time of under 40 seconds ever clocked at Shefsky Walsh.
The second 1935 Shefsky came along, and, on the 2-litre E.R.A., I equalled my own record and again made fastest time of the. day. On the 1 i-litre E.R.A. I clocked 40.4 seconds, and Martin’s 2.3-litre 13ugatti was third fastest, in 42 seconds. For the first 1930 Shefsky, Stuck’s .1-litre, special short-chassis, hill-climb supercharged Auto Union had been sent over front Germany. The day of the event came with an overcast sky—rain fell, then ceased, and then came more rain. This time my 2-litre E.R.A. had “blown up ” in practice owing to one of the needles sticking in one of the carburetters. This meant that I had only the
litre to defend my record against Stuck. Fortunately my time to run came along just previous to a heavy downpour and, although the condition of the. hill was by no means perfect, I clocked 41 .6 seconds, which turned wit to be the fastest ascent of the day. Stuck ran in the pouring rain and had a most unpleasant time on the Auto I.Trtion. Second fastest time of the day was made by A. F. P. Vane on his Hitre supercharged Frazer-Nash, with a time of 42.6 seconds, which was ((111e lied by the German driver Balmier, on Lord
Austin’s new racing car designed by Murray Jamieson.
Again in heavy rain at the second 1930 Shelsley I made the two fastest ascents of the day on the 2-litre and the 13-litre E.R.A.s, with times of 43.3 seconds and 43.9 seconds, respectively. These times were the fastest ever at Shelsley under wet conditions. Scribbans, driving his 13-litre E.R.A., was third.
In 1937 it was questionable if it was possible for me to run at the first meeting, ing to the Isle of Man race taking place on the .Thursday, with Shelsley the following Saturday. However, it was arranged to ship the car by boat immediately after the Isle of Man race, take her to Shelsley, change the rear axle ratio in the paddock, and try to be ready for practice on the Friday.
The Isle of Man race was run, and this time the E.R.A. was fitted with a Zoller blower, in place of the previous Rootestype Jamieson blower. The car ran beautifully in the Isle of Man, but unfortunately experimental brakes bad been fitted, which, owing to the laLlc of time, hardly worked at all I The race was run under appalling weather conditions, but I managed to make the record lap and finished second to ” Bira.” We travelled by boat through the night, unloaded at Liverpool, and the car was taken on a van to hhelsley On the Saturday a fine day greeted us,
and the 11-litre E.R.A. made fastest time of the day, and a new record for the bill, in 39.09 seconds. Hadley, that brilliant driver, on the overhead valve Austin, was second in 40.83 seconds, and A. F. P. nine on the Frazer-Nash third, with 40.89 seconds.
The second Shelsley Walsh of 1937 clashed with the E.R.A. entry for the Phoenix Park Grand Prix at Dublin, this being the first time that I had ever ” intentionally ” missed the; Shelsley Walsh meeting since I first started to run there. I managed to win the Phcenix Park Grand Prix on the 13-litre E.R.A., but when I read the evening papers in Ireland, to find that A. F. P. loam on his Frazer-Nash had beaten my record for Shelsley it was a great blow to me. Fane clocked 38.77 seconds—a magnificent effort. Now once more I had to wait until the following year for the chance to regain my record. This time only one E.R.A. was entered and, although making fastest time in 38.9 seconds, I just missed beating Fane’s record. On this occasion Hadley again finished second, in 40.09 seconds, and A. F. P. ‘Pane, on his record-holding. Frazer Nash, was third, with 40.13 seconds, For the Iasi Shelsley in 1938 I was determined to regain the record, and the 2-litre E.R.A. only was entered. The Saturday cattle, and it was a lovely sunny
day. The E.R.A. was in good form, and I broke Fane’s record by nearly a second, clocking 37.86 seconds. Hadley was again second on the Austin, and this time a regular Shelsley competitor, Barry Goodwin, driving his Frazer-Nash, put up an excellent show to make third fastest time of the day.
Between now and the Shelsley of 1939 I had “parted company” with the E.R.A. firm, but had purchased the car I had been driving for them. Shelsley was to be my first event driving as an independent once again, and I was most anxious to beat my own record on this occasion. At home my faithful mechanics, Ken Richardson and Dorr, who remained with me after the E.R.A. “break-up,” worked hard on the car. Both were just as keen as I was to do well.
Tests and trials at Donington, then once more we loaded the car on to a lorry and set out for Great Malvern. We arrived there on the Thursday evening, the Malvern hills and the town beneath a pleasant sight, and one which I now knew so well. A fine day for Friday’s practice and another for the event on the Saturday.
The E.R.A. was in terrific form. I made two runs, breaking my own record on both. So ended the last Shelsley before the war, the new record standing at 37.37 seconds.