SUCCESSFUL FIRST SEASON
Some Notes on the 1950 Racing Successes of the H.W.M. Team Gleaned During an Interview with John Heath and George Abecassis,
IN Moron SPORT of April this year we described the 2-litre Alta engine(‘ H.W.M. ears, of which John Heath was building .a team of three in his racing shop at II. W. Motors, for Formula II and sport-car races. The ears were duly completed, and rated at nineteen British and Continental meetings during the 1950 season. The results achieved by this private enterprise team of decidedly limited resources in racing where foreign competition is exceedingly keen were so entirely creditable as to Merit greater attention than they have so far received.
When completed the cam were substantially as described in Mo-ron Scorn!, -although, as batteries and starters had to be carried in sports-Car races, the total weight, ready for action, was probably just in excess of 13 cwt. Their first engagement was Goodwoo.d on Easter Monday, with an eye to the Madgwick Cup. Two cars were entered, to be driven in various races by Heath, Abeeassis, Moss and Baring. Unfortunately, leaks developed in the S.U. carburetter floats at the last minute, but Stirling got a second place.
The cars were then packed up for the ” Continental Circus.” Two went in a V8 Fordeon van, another, plus tools and ruts, in a Mercury-engiived Fordson van towing a trailer in which more parts, and three 50-gallon drums of racing fuel, were stoWed. The first objective was Paris, for the race at Montlhery on April 30th ; 4.2 to 1 back axle ratios had been employed at Goodwood, but these were now changed to 4.0 to 1. It may be mentioned that Heath, who sponsored and managed the team, planned to take alternative axle ratios of 3.7, 4.0, 4.2, 4.5 and 5.0 to 1 for each car, but that until the end of the season not all these were available. New nose pieces were taken to obviate changing crown wheels and pinions and, as the mechanics gained in experience, a change of ratio ‘Wilk’ be effected in approximately 2 hours per car.
Four c,arburaters Were fitted on Abecassis* tar, but this made starting on the starter difficult and much time was lost on the starting line at Montlliery. Alveassis later retired with a split exhaust manifold and Moss with a broken I ?il-pipe, his exhaust manifold also being broken. The ears went on to Bouhaix for the Cinomintenaire G.P. the next week-end. Johnnie -Claes., whose LugoTalbot had team stabled at H. W. Motors during the winter, had expressed a desire to try for the Belgian Fortin& II .Championship, so he borrowed one of the two cars entered and Abecassis took the other, Baring joining in with his privatelyowned H.W.M.-of the saint type, which he had purchased as a chassis. Clara finished fourth, A beeassis sixth, but Baring got off with such a Nish that his car literally mounted a Maserati that was in its way and was so badly damaged that
Heath only managed, by frantic work, to patch it up sufficiently for it to run a lap and collect its starting money. At the finish George pushed his car over the line because an axle shaft had sheared.
The following week-end saw the H.W.M. contingent at Mons, where all three team ears and Baring’s were to run. Two had the 4.0 axles used since Paris, the others 3.7 axles, which made them rather overgeared up the long hill on the circuit –but no more 4.0 ratios were available at that time. Although unable to catch the better Ferraris and Oseas, the somewhat heavier H.W.M.s lett up a very eonvincing show, finishing in line-ahead order in sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth places—respectively, atm Moss, Heath and Baring.
Only a fortnight remained before two separate meetings were undertaken. Indeed, all work had to be done away from England throughout the season, such parts as might be required being flown out where possible, Abecassis looking after this side of things if he happened to be at home and not with the leant. Under Such circumstances, it will be appreciated that a high standard of reliability in the ears, foresight on the part of the team-manager, and absolute 0-operation from the mechanics, was a major factor in Achieving success. In due Course one car, still with 4.0 axle ratio, left with a mechanic for Chirnay, the other two going to Aix-le13ain. At Chimay Clae.s scored the first
victory for the team, in this lone H.WA., winning the G.P. des Frontieres at 86.05 m.p.h., a record, from a Veritas and a Jicey. Incidentally, Claes fitted Englebert tyres as a personal fad for this race, otherwise Dunlops were always employed. At Aix-le-Bain fortune didn’t smile, Moss felt so ill that Stan Coldham was put in to take his place. However, Stirling turned up in time,.but retired after 20 laps with drive-shaft failures. Heath finished sixth in his heat, but, as it was now wet, he wasn’t able to go fast enough to qualify for the Final, the first heat having been run in the dry. In this race, moreover, although Moss had a 4.5 axle, Heath had to make do with a 4.2, for supplies were Still not adequate. Still with only a week’s ” breather,” the ears appeared at Berne for the Formula II Swiss G.P. on June 4th. Raymond Sommer tried one of them in practice and, without having so much as seen an H.W.M. before, after only five laps or so he made fastest time, until Stuck arrived with the A.F.M. 1 Heath hoped Sommer would .drive the H.W.M. in the race, but his Ferrari arrived in time—it was destined to win—so that was that. Fischer accordingly took over this car, as no other British driver was available, and the organisers preferred a Swiss anyway. This, and Abeeassis’ car, had 4.0 axles, Heath’s a 4.2 .A return of the leaking-float trouble lost Abecassis most of his chance of learning the course. At first it was thought the fuel might be
causing the float centre-ltd./Cs to Nviwk loose, lint eventually a Itigh-frequeney vibration was dise(wered to lie the cause, whereupon Heath made up Ids own re/Uacentents. In the race Fiselwr finished sixth. Heath eighth. Alweassis ninth. another consistent and convincieg show. Next. the COI1V0y, IL(‘alled by heath’s faithful ” Light. Fifteen Citroitt. moved off to Italy, for the G.P. of Rome ; 5.0 axle ratios would have been best uIil il to the circuit, but were not available, so 4.2 alai
4.5 axles had to be used Ann!. her handicap was shortage of racing f al. and Heath had to start on :anti a makeshift -over-rich mixture Bud_ he !tad no 01,t11)11 but to retire. The other ears laid no greater hiek. Moss losing a NvItrel when lying third, because fatigue had cracked the lath, after breaking the lap. record, and Fischer breaking a drive-shaft. Fortunately, there were three weeks before the Cuupe des Petit Cylindres at Rheims. The hard-worked 111VeltalliCS turned to with a will and all was ready by July 2nd ; 3.7 axle ratios were fitted, and Moss, Macklin and Heath duly faced the starter. Moss came home third, behind Aseari’s Ferrari 811(1 Simon’s fast Simea, Heath fourth and Macklin fifth, Baring retiring beeause for some inexplicable reason his differential housing cracked. ‘flte men from far away Walt onon-Thames justifiably felt that they were “
getting somewhere ” !
In cheerful mood the 1,600-mile journey to Bari was undertaken. Here, a week later, Moss repeated his Rheims performance, finishieg third, bni this time in a Formula 1 race and one in which the 158 Alfa-Romeos of Farina and Fangio were first and second ! The II.W.M. beat the two-stage Maseratis aint all the Ferraris ! A 4.2 axle was used for this circuit. Fischer retired -with a return of the aforenwationed float trouble and Maeklin for a very odd reason. In the garage the night before ri short Iii all electrical circuit. had resulted III a bad fire and ill the excitement of exthiguishing it and re/miring the danatge, it was overlooked that. his back-axle had not; been filled after its ratio had been changed, and naturally it resented start lug nearly dry in a 200-mile race.
After Moss’ very -significant sueeess, Which profoundly impressed all Wit° were present and was a very fine thing for England, the 11.W.M.s set off for Naples, to contest the Circuit of Posillipo on July 23rd. This called for low aNte Eating, a 4.2 being used in Fiselter’s uutd Mack lin’a cars, a 4.5 in Moss’. Moss won his heat and was leading in the Final, having passed Cortese’s Ferrari and the ()seas, when he attempted to T>ass l’araski.s TaraskiSimea on a full-throttle corner. Taraski felt it prudent, to pull in, did so rather stun/Ay. and Itis car’s tail slid. Its rear hub.cap burst Moss’ near-side front tyre, the H.W.M. spun, and went into a tree ; it will be recalled that Stirling had a lucky escape. The hub-trouble beset. Fischer and he lost, a wheel, but Macklin finished next to Cortese, beating the great Fagioli’s °sea to second place. Another very line II AV.M. achievement thus chalked-up, two cars were taken to Switzerland for the G.P. of Geneva. They Nvere again to meet strong Ferrari and Simeti opposition. Ilere a rather amusing, though unfortunate, thing happened ; 4.5 axles were required, but customs’ diflieulties had delayed the spare 4.5 axle flown out front England. so it. was derided to fit. a 4.0 axle to Maeklin’s car. Alas, the garage was lit but primitively and Heath inadvertently handed the mechanics, not a 4..0 but a
3.5 nose-piece Ill the race law Macklin had to Ain the clutch to get round Sulfae of the corners and it is to his credit that he finished sixth. Abecassis retired with a gearbox &feet. The first week-end in August saw the
it Freiburg, for the famous hill-elimb, when Fischer 10:0 le second fastest Formula II time. and Macklin. his engine misfiring, was seventh. For t he German G. P. at Nurburg Ring, Fergie: Anderson had his baptism in car racing. Ills II.W.M. was given a 4.2 axle, which suited the ” Ring,” but a drive shaft sheared, causing his retirement. Macklin. using a 4.0 axle, was sixth. At the Daily Express Silverstone Meeting Anderson tried again, cornering so fast as to spin round. But the real cause of his retirement was a gearbox defect, not, as stated in some reports, selection of two gears at once. Moss atoned by finishing sixth, behind the G. P. ears.
Moss and Muteklin then took two cars abroad again and at Met tet. on September 10th put tip one oftheir best performances of all, Stirling finishing second to Manzon, tile French Formula. 11 champion, and his Moss used a 3.7 axle and Macklin, in a car that proved rather slower, in spite of a 4.0 axle, was third.
Two more Continental engagements remained. In the Circuit of Perigueux, for which the long-awaited 5.0 axles were available, Moss came in third behind the Simeas of Nlanzon and Simon. The old shaft failure eliminated Macklin. At Garda Moss lost a wheel due to the old failure and, Macklin crashing in practice and sustaining facial injuries, Ids car was patched up to enable It note to do a few laps in the rztee and so collect the verynecessary starting money. Moss’ car had the 4.2 axle. The season hadta finished, however, for at Castle Combe Moss took over Abeeassis’ car that happened to be present, because his own suffered loss of oil before the start, and WOO the Formula 11 race at 78.54 III .p.h. He then putt. up a splendid run in the Formula Libre event, finishing third to Ilrian Shawe-l’aylor and A. G. Whitehead, after classing their E.R.A.s gaol and proper and dosing with the latter oil the corners. A 4.5 axle ratio was deemed best for this promising new English circuit. That is a bare statement of ‘how the H.W.M. team perfbrined dining its first season’s racing. Jolin Heath can well feel proud. Ilk ears Itave limited financial backieg, raced away from home for weeks on end, yet were good enough to finish third in a Formula I race and to be placed in t_lte first three on ten other occasi(ms, winning at Chimay. Moreover, the team was able to meet all its financial liabilities. The excitement occasioned by the B.R.NI, has perhaps overshadowed this very gallant. British series of achievenwnts. A few detail aspects of this HAV.M. success-story deserve mention. Heath enjoyed Hie greatest possible co-operatiim with Geoffrey Taylor, de
sigiter and mannfaeturer of the Alta engines. his mechanics–Alfonso Kowalewski (who has since taken out British naturalisation papers), Tom O’llara, Rex NVoodgate mid Frank Nagel -stood by him magnificently. They worked tltree at a time, leaving one off-duty. When lap-eltart s were deemed utdvisable Mrs. Claes and Tony Hume were :dways willing to keep them.
T1lC work ill VOIVCd WIIS altogether incredible, yet so ehhicittu I lv was this team a run that the ears never (awe failed to start unless ” pranged ” lieforelanal. The Fordson transports played their p trt. covering over 16,000 miles, but the highu cost or petrol aliroad has collVince,d Heath that he must use diesels next year.
There was obviously no time between races to do anything other than routine adjustments and repairs and change axle-ratios. Dunlop racing lyres (5.25-10 frOnt., 6.00-1); rear) were adhered to, although wear was rapid, put iii d:!stroying 0111: set, each race another, SOthat at least 24 spares laud to be lucid in reserve. In general, reliability was of a high order. In some 7,001) racing miles put in by each ‘H.W.M. no major overhaul was required and not, a single main or big-end bearing failed. When stripped at the•end of the season, the Alta engines displayed only very small traces of wear. So far as performance is concerned, a Rheims 135 m.p.h. was. attained, equal to well over 5,000 r.p.m. on the 3.7 to 1 axle ratio. For cars qualifying for sports-car races, and whiell would have been run at Le Mans had there been time to spare, this should occasion no grumbles 1 Some of the components and supplies deserve credit.. Esso 3 fuel and Esso castor oil were used, although supplies were 110t always readily available abroad, in Rome for example. lAalge RI, 47 plugs stood tip splendidly to both warming-up and racing and the Lucas vertical raeing nutg.teto gave not a moment’s trouble, although loose dogs were pinned before the ears left England. Heath praised the Ferodo brake linings and said that the Alibi light-alloy drums absolutely made the Girling brakes. Girling shock-absorbers likewise had a
trotible-free season. Incidentally. the brakes on each car were re-lined after eight races, more or less as It routine job. Finally. it is indeed good to know that all the lessons learned will not be Wasted, for Heath don’t iittend to rest (Ill his laurels. Il(,! is building a team of four new I I.W.M.s with the intention of upltolding British prestige even more eilectively next year. The new ears will be Formula 11 single-seaters with de Dion III place of transverse-spring rear suspension, lighter tubular chassis, improvell front. sitspension, bigger and better brakes, Salisbury transmission gears, and probably slightly more power from the Alta eugines. These ears will obviously be lighter than the present HAV.M.s. Coil springs will replace the transverse leaf spring at the front, i-elliptie springs the transverse spring at the rear. NVIten WI called in mid-November the new cars were more advanced than their forebears had been at the same time last year. Incidentally, two of the 1950 tetunwars have been sold, one of them to Nleyer, who has the all-enveloping 1948 11.W. Alta, but the thini is retained. Meanwhile, work 4.?11 the IteW sittgkSC)tt(l’5 is progressing. 11.W.M. participation in Continental racing adds greatly to British prestige, and good wishes go out deservedly ut Heath on his determination to achieve even greater successes next year. Ile and his businesspartner George Abeeassis raee for it but they have to make their racing pay its ‘ivay• It is to be hoped sinciaely that they will not. be hampered next season in the niat ter of sttort supplies or lack of finance, after the splendid showing of their
I.W.M. team in this year’s leading niees.—-W. B.