IT’S great news that Charlie Dodson is being given a trial by Auto-Union, with a view to a place being made for him in the Grand Prix team. Of course, everyone would like to see a driver of Dodson’s calibre at the wheel of a car produced by his own country, but an artist’s style should never be cramped, and one rather expects an Auto-Union to be more rapid than anything we can offer. That Dodson has been recognised by Auto-Union in spite of the maximum speed of the cars he has been driving not exceeding about 140 m.p.h., indicates that it is his corner-artistry and general bearing as a racing-driver that are outstanding. In offering Charles Dodson, ex-racing motor-cyclist, our very heartiest congratulations we should spare a thought for Lord Austin, whose racing participation has given Dodson an opportunity of showing his worth, and for Murray Jamieson, now with E.R.A., who designed the astonishing little racing Austin which Dodson has driven of recent years. Nor should we forget Dick Seaman–not that anyone is likely to— who was the first, and is still the only other British driver, in a German G.P. team. With Dick and Charles as members of rival Continental teams we have one more interest-factor to look forward to this coming season. And we can also congratulate ourselves that if Britain does not build 170 m.p.h. racing cars, at least we have two drivers capable of handling such healthy bolides.
The M.G. Car Co. Ltd. will continue to take active participation in trials this year. The T-type M.G. Midget ” Musketeer” team of rather special cars has been pensioned off, and in future Macdermid, Langley and Bastock will drive supercharged T-models, while Toulmin, Jones, Crawford and Imhof will handle T-type cars having 1-litre power-units. They will he up against the ” Grasshopper ” Austin Seven team, composed of Buckley, Langley, Scriven, Hadley and Goodacre, whose cars have the ex-racing blown s.v. engines. Other strong teams are the Allard-Specials of Allard, Hutchison and Warburton, and the” Jabber
wock ” Ford V8 team of Norton, Loader and Koppenbagen, the latter 1933 drop-head coupes with 1938 30 h.p. motors. When will a manufacturer have the courage to enter a team of standard cars ? I believe the Ford teams, of Tens and 22 h.p. V8s, are more or less “off the line ” jobs, although they run mainly in M.C.C. events.
A Grand Season Ahead
Soon the 1 9:38 season will be in full swing and we shall be driving with some definite objective, up the Great North Road, or down to Cheltenham, or along the Kingston By-Pass . . . Once again strange lorries and trailers containing exciting racing machinery will journey about the British Isles and car-loads of enthusiastic, curiously-garbed young men and beautifully appointed young ladies will invade our racing venues. The fixtures, except for the clashing of dates, are very nicely balanced. Brooklands will stage the traditional. meetings of short and long handicap races, productive of a fascinating collection of entries, this year rounded off by the International Dunlop jubilee meeting in September. Then, also at Weybridge, we shall have the J.C.C. “200,” over part or all of the road circuit, which attracts all sizes of cars, and is a scratch event with additional interest by reason of special 1i-litre prizes. Then there is the J.C.C. International Trophy Race, over about 250 miles, attracting a similar entry to the ” 200 ” and akin to a scratch race from the spectators’ point of view, yet with the small cars on an equality with the big fellows by reason of the handicap formula. A mass start is a novelty in this race and the lap is the longest used at Brooklands. The B.R.D.C. ” 500 ” will probably continue as a 300 mile outer-circuit race run at very high speed indeed. In addition, we have the J.C.C. Rally, the J.C.C. Members’ Day when amateur speed-kings can drive over a course with corners in the highly instructive high-speed trials, and the M.C.C. Members’ Day will include the outer-circuit high-speed trials, a sister series of events to those of the J.C.C., but especially appreciated by drivers whose motors dislike corners, and, to spectators, equally informative. Besides these fixtures, the Light Car Club has a date in July, ‘when we believe a sixhour event for standard ‘sports-cars is to be run over the entire Campbell road circuit. This should attract the more ambitious sports-car owner, and. probably excellent manufacturers’ entries, as a first prize in a race is more compensation than a gold medal, for hammering your motor forhalf a day. The M.C.C. also has a mystery date in June, when they may run the Relay Race, which ” Jackie ” Masters organised for the L.C.C. last year. If a sports-car event is contemplated they will doubtless confer with the L.C.C. to avoid a clash. Which reminds us that there is scope for a series of outer-circuit races for club-men having greater status than those at J.C.C. and M.C.C. Members’ Days, yet with lower entry fees than prevail for B.A.R.C. meetings. ” Ebby ” should do the handi
capping. Moreover, Brooklands starts its year on March 12th, with a B.A.R.C. meeting.
At Donington we have the B.R.D.C. Empire Trophy Race of about 200 miles, attracting all sizes of cars by reason of class handicapping, which at least encourages a comprehensive entry and stirs slide-rule wallahs. Then there is the Nuffield Trophy scratch race over 200 miles for 1I-litre cars, which, now that the R.A.C. race is dead, will be our leading 11-litre contest. The 12-Hour Sports-Car Race has something of Le Mans status about it and should attract a most imposing entry, especially if some acceptable way of deciding an outright winner is introduced. If the T.T. is abandoned this will constitute our premier sportscar fixture. The Donington Grand Prix, with Continental support promised, is likely to be the greatest British race of the year, run from scratch for all sizes of cars. Apart from these classics we shall have six club meetings at Donington, when lesser lights in sports-pattern cars indulge in real racing, handicap and otherwise, as well as the more important Derby and District M.C. series of races. The Donington circuit has been improved in detail. As already announced, the Crystal Palace will strike a note of its own, with five International fixtures, comprising short heats culminating in a final, also over a short distance, races in which corner-work plays a very big part and pitwork none at all. No small meetings are scheduled at this venue. Sand-racing will continue at Southport and over in Ireland we have extremely important races at Ulster, Plicenix Park, Limerick and Leinster, headed by the Grand Prix at Cork. Of the sprint events, it can be said that they will flourish as last year, with the addition of Prescott’s Sunday fixtures, and the Brighton Speed Trials moved to July, when they may enjoy better weather. The Bugatti meeting at Lewes has been dropped, but the Vintage S.C.C. will run a meeting additional to the three organised at this pleasant spot by the local club. I see no reason why Prescott should affect Shelsley, or vice versa. In the olden days there was a sprint meeting every weekend, and, even if gate-money just wasn’t, the attendances then realised suggest a place in the world for both Leslie Wilson and the brothers Giles. Those pessimists who mutter “Too Many Races” must surely agree that the location and variety of the 1938 fixtures could not be bettered. Certainly our
big races rather attract all the same entries and are run. over identical distances, but the mass of fixtures forces an organiser to play for every car he can attract and to obtain the essential public support it is desirable to start a race about 2.30 p.m. and end it before the audience is bored, or fidgeting about leaving for home, hence the universal duration of 200-250 miles for road races. Taken all round, we who find joy in attending races and analysing results are in for a most enthralling summer, commencing in less than a month and not concluding until Mr. Bradley rings down the curtain on October 15th.
Enough motors ? Well, the Austins and Rileys will be running, there are quite a lot of private E.R.A.s, even when the works cars are abroad, and Masers. and Alfa-Romeos will lend support. Arthur Baron may give a new lease of life to the 3.3 Bugatti, PowysLybbe’s ” monkey-gland ” 11-litre Talbot-Darracq will definitely be in the field, and Charles Martin’s air-cooled job should be ready. And there are the Continentals . . .
I n Retirement
I called on Vernon Balls last month, and discovered that his racing interests have been largely swallowed up by business calls and that, like many other drivers of his day, he feels that in many ways racing isn’t
quite what it was. Balls had the Amilcar agency for this country since that little sports-car first became known over here. He started racing one of the four-cylinder jobs, complete with flaired wings, in the very dark ages, and by 1927 that car, supercharged, but still with side valve engine, was lapping Brooklands at 96 m.p.h., Balls tells me. Then he turned his attention to the twin o.h.c. Amilcar Six—” an extremely fine little car “—and with one of these he finished third in the 1927 200 Mile Race, being beaten by Malcolm Campbell’s Bugatti and Morel’s Amilcar Six, and had he not been hampered at the turns by loose sand displaced by a very famous driver he was tailing, V. B. thinks he would probably have been higher up still. One of his sons still runs an Amilcar, a 1929 saloon chassis with two-seater bodywork. About the last model to come to this country was the straight-eight, of which, I was told, eleven were imported. Nowadays Vernon Balls, dapper, bald-headed and dreaming of his racing days, occupies his time running a super-garage in High Holborn. He claims that his car-valeting plant is amongst the most modern in the land, with high-pressure cleaning appliances and air-pressure internal cleaning apparatus, the whole grouped about a grilled floor wash with a car-hoist, having drained runways, in the centre. At the other end of the garage is a car-lubrication bay with mirrors set in the walls, and spotlessly clean Wakefield cabinets grouped round the sides, operatives working in a fullsize pit and all feeds being below ground level to obviate oil and grease straying over the coachwork. The equipment includes new apparatus from America, whereby oil is visibly pumped into the sump and the old lubricant that is flushed out can also be seen flowing away through glass tubing. Cars are continually being groomed while their owners toil in offices nearby.