THE EARL OF MARCH ON RACING TEAMS
POINTS OF VIEW.THE EARL OF MARCH ON RACING TEAMS
IT were better to have raced in any guise than not at all, but he who has never performed as part of a team will have missed a whole chapter of the sport.
A most entertaining chapter is this one ! And brim full of impressions that last an age, alarums, excursions, and laughter by the yard.
Albeit I know distinguished drivers who have seldom been seen in teams, their reasons for the most part being sufficient and good ; but there are drivers who boast of a dislike of the team idea. They fail to conceal a decided preference for the wheel of a single entry wherein they are their own masters and servants—to win or (more often) to "blow up" just as they please. There are quite a few like this who openly object to the authority of a team manager, dispute his orders and put their goggles to the blind eye should they perchance be slowed down in a race—all according to plan, but so allowing another of their team to increase his lead.
Yet in daily life these people pretend to be good enough, and it seems that motor racing, only, brings out this bad strain. I have never actually seen such folk at a game of bridge, tennis or on the football field —but can it be they curse their partners, play both up to the net and back poaching every shot, or would they never pass the ball across ? I wonder !
We will attach not one word of truth to their long winded criticisms of the principle of teams—knowing all the time they never had their streamline properly kicked at school nor learnt that " offish " is not a thing you pick up on the beach.
An Old Idea.
Team racing is nothing new, but dates back as far as motor racing itself.
Oh! for a race of that sort just once again !—A Grand Prix in England with factory-entered three-car teams of, say, Alvis, Austin, Bentley, right through the alphabet to Rolls Royce, Sunbeam and Wolseley, foreigners included of course.
But times have changed and with a few commendable exceptions we seldom see an official " works " team now. Funds prevent no doubt, but it seems that many manufacturers look for advertisement in the back pages of spurious feminine periodicals rather than giving consideration to this better source—racing—which simultaneously improves their cars. During this time, and while offices full of fat-headed directors have been kidding themselves that racing serves no useful purpose (than which no air was ever hotter) a few have indeed stuck to guns. Austin, Riley, Aston Martin, to name but three, have come out with three car teams of official style ; while a few independents such as friends Fox & Nicholl of Talbot fame and (blushingly) even the little equippe with which the writer's name has sometimes been coupled, have essayed to reproduce the same effect.
Then there has been another species of team more accurately described as a syndicate in which three entrants of the same make have combined saying, "Let's have a team, chaps, odd man out to be entrant."
These too, have succeeded in at least one case, but regulations should insist that all cars of such a team should be the same colour. Otherwise it is scarcely a team in the eyes of the spectators, who are, after all, very important.
A Wonderful Dream.
The official works team is the most attractive— bar none—but scarcely exists as more than a story with the port. We will do without them, and dream as to what greater moment could happen than that of awaking, in all sobriety, a Crcesus to the command, "here is the where-with-all my son, take unto yourself three cars and a spare, mechanics to suit, even the factory itself if necessary, drivers, and anything else you like. Enter for every classic you can fit into the season and if you can't win—take care to put up a show ! "
With those words the ghost pulled down his visor and disappeared to an eerie whining noise like that of a blower—blowing him away.
It would be advisable to wipe the eyes and think, before the inevitable scream, because it won't be all beer and skittles by any means.
What cars to choose ? That's fairly easy, so we must go to the works, and explain our mission to the boss. According to the weather he will either say they cannot help, and express no enthusiasm whatever, or there is a faint chance of securing his blessing straight away. At all events, sheer wealth and beer work wonders, and we are soon daring to touch upon a detail or two. Countless things must be done to these cars, large tanks, special bodies, duplicated pipe lines and other departures from " standard " which will cause a small war when the scrutineer sees them.
Here again the boss, fearing much disorganisation of the production routine, is probably slow to respond— but you point out how easy it all is. Alternatively he jumps to it, "That's easy, we'll do all that," in which case you reply that it's not half so easy as he seems to think.
The first race is on May 1st. He promises the cars six weeks before, and we are certain to get them in time for the " 500 " in October. Things are going entirely to schedule.
And now to drivers. Who shall we get, who can we get ? Thousands ! Only whisper the news that you want drivers and wait for the result ! You will become the most popular man alive, receiving convincing proof that the ranks of the unemployed consist mainly of racing drivers. There will be letters, telephone calls, and lavish hospitality from those you believed mean.
Young Plash Alec, the steward's nightmare, Bertie Bangfoot of big end fame, and poor old Crasham, whose gearbox has never yet survived two hours they will all be pleased to meet you.
But there's more in it than sheer driving ability if you want any peace. These chaps have got to train together, feed, and often stay together, and you must select them with considerable care. One is a nice fellow but too large for the car, this one is grand but drinks too much beer, that one doesn't drink enough, and so on. It's a great game getting drivers. Now the team is fixed, the works are busy on the cars which are going to be late, the drivers are complaining that they " haven't seen, one yet," the mechanics are doing all they know but are held up for the tanks— practise starts soon—two drivers won't remember to get competition licences, another accidentally sat on a stove and isn't sure he can turn up to drive, distraction nearly gets the upper hand, but in due course the probl€ ms are dispersed, and practise begins. Three spotless cars all seemingly perfect, all the same. Three drivers (or six) argue whether goggles are better than visors— the man arrives about the tyres, he wants you to run on a newer type—the plug man wants to know how many plugs you will want—reply, "Thousands." Two of the
cars have a 3.9 axle, the third a 4.1—you want to compare. The course is open and serious business starts.
It is after this preliminary canter that the drivers try to take charge. Each declares his car to he slower than another. They argue about those ratios, the fuel, and ask for the shock absorbers to be tightened. For all the world we have Clapham, Dwyer, and Potter.
Meantime, the mechanics have formed their opinion and start pulling everything to bits.
Tomorrow is the race and you may be sure something desperate will happen when the cars are tried out tonight. If so, it's all night for some poor mechanic, and you try to get the feverish driver to go to bed.
But we win, through, and the great day arrives. No one feels like joking in the pits until someone says it's going to rain, when there's an ugly rush for glycerine, mackintoshes, and spare goggles, which some fool left behind.
They're off ! And now to see the results. The pit manager is in. charge of all. The timekeeper clicks his watch, the petrol chap starts filling churns. No one dare speak till—now—they've all come round once anyway.
In character this team business is the nearest:approach to a boat race crew that I have ever found. Each individual can either win or lose the game, and make or mar the fun of it for the others. A well formed and jovial team is like a crew which will retain, its rhythm under the most exasperating conditions,land barring mechanical trouble or wicked luck it can.Perooked to, to pat up a stout performance.