EYSPONT’S OWN STORY
WORLD’S FASTEST DRIVER GIVES PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF HIS RECORDS AT THE SALT FLATS
SINCE; his return to England in triumph from the U.S.A., the penalties of the successful record-breaker have fallen upon George Eyston. A whirl of social activity has occupied his time, for all kinds of bodies throughout the country have been anxious to do honour to the fastest man on earth. George has certainly shown himself fully competent in this side of the record breaker’s activities, which in modern times has become scarcely less important than skill at the wheel. One of the fun.ctions at which he must have felt most at home was the dinner at the Savoy Hotel, London, given in his honour by the British Racing Drivers’ Club. At this dinner Eyston gave a most interesting account of his recent experiences at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and in his speech many hitherto unrecorded in
cidents were brought to light. The difficulties met with may well have been even greater than those mentioned in this personal account, for George is never one to make the most of his own exploits.
The chair was taken by Sir Malcolm Campbell, owing to the absence of the B.R.D.C. President, Earl Howe, in South Africa, and he and other speakers paid tribute to Capt. Eyston’s career, in which he has already crammed so many successes. Eyston is only forty years of age, and the hope was expressed that he had at least another twenty years of record-breaking in front of him! After going down from Cambridge, Eyston started his motoring career in
1923 with various hill-climbs. Lionel Martin, who was present at the recent B.R.D.C. dinner, sold him his first car, an Aston-Martin, which recalls the fact that the name of this famous make is derived from the Aston Clinton hillclimbs, which were prominent at the time, and from Lionel Martin’s own surname.
Not long after this Eyston was married, and gave up racing for a time. In 1926, however, he could no longer be restrained, and, returning to racing, won the Boulogne Grand Prix in a Bugatti supplied to him by Malcolm Campbell. He continued with various other successes until in 1931 he turned seriously to record-breaking, a sphere of activity in which he has proved himself more proficient that anyone else in the world. having taken since that time approximately 250 records over distances ranging from one kilometre to 5,000 miles.
In 1931 Eyston was the first man to reach 100 m.p.h. in a 750 c.c. car, and later in the same year covered 100 miles in one hour with the same type. He has naturally had many thrilling experiences, but his only serious accident was also in 1931, when at Montlhery his car caught fire and crashed. Eyston’s forethought probably saved his life on this occasion, for he was wearing asbestos overalls. His famous car, “Speed of the Wind,” was constructed in 1935, and embodied many interesting features to his own design, such as front wheel drive and independent suspension. It was with this car, “Speed of the Wind,” that Eyston arrived at the Salt
Flats during the first week in September, 1937., The ” Thunderbolt ” was not yet quite ready and followed a month later. Ab Jenkins, the American, was already there, with his Mormon Meteor Special, in order to attack the 24 and 48-hour records.
Usually a twelve-mile circle has been used for these long distance records at the Salt Flats, but this course was in bad condition, for there was a kind of morass at one end of the lake. An elevenmile circle was therefore marked out, and Jenkins had “first whack,” putting up the 12-hour figure to just over 160 m.p.h., and the 24-hour to 157.27 m.p.h. On the very day that Jenkins finished his 24-hour record, it rained in torrents, and quite soon the entire surface of the lake was three or four inches under water. A fortnight’s wait ensued, to let the water evaporate. Eyston’s luck appeared to be out, for when the surface had dried sufficiently, he took out “Speed of the Wind” and promptly seized up the front drive. Meanwhile ” Thunderbolt ” had arrived, and after a test run at 309 m.p.h., the clutch gave trouble on this machine as well I
However, “Speed of the Wind” was soon put right again, and at midnight George Eyston set off once more to attack the 24-hour record. The reason for starting at this peculiar time was that the prophets had promised fine., weather, and no opportunity could be* lost. But as dawn broke ominous clouds obscured the sky, and then a violent storm burst and swamped the lake again.
Eyston was prepared for this emergency, and changed over to a ten-mile circle, which had been marked out in readiness, and which was in better condition. Driving at 167 m.p.h., there was a considerable difference between the twelve and the eleven-mile circles, owing to centrifugal force, and even greater difficulty on the ten-mile circle, especially with the surface as slippery as it was. It was then that the vane on the front of the car, a device designed by Reid Railton, was of the utmost service, and Eyston was able to keep going at a speed above the record. When only half-an-hour of the 12-hour period was left, a further storm broke over
the lake, and it became imperative’ tO slow a little. As a result, Eyston failed to get the 12-hour record by a decimal
point. He went on for the 24-hour figure, and also during the run made an attempt on the hour record, lapping at 180 m.p.h.
After another wait for the water to evaporate, Eyston set out once more, and this time, lapping at 170 m.p.h., was more favoured by the weather, and got the 12-Hour record at 163.68 m.p.h. Then the supplies for “Speed of the Wind” which he had brought from England ran out, and for this reason only he had to abandon a further attempt on the 24-hour figure, which thus remained in the hands of Jenkins. Another test run on “Thunderbolt “had been sandwiched in between the longdistance attempts, but the clutch again
proved defective. Eyston paid a big tribute to his mechanics, who had to strip the complicated mechanism of the big car three times in all.
At last on November 19th ” Thunderbolt ” was ready, and the party were up at 2 a.m. It got light by about 7 a.m., and it was evident that there was no time to lose, for black clouds hung over the mountains. The great car was taken out to the record stretch, but then, to show how a hitch can occureven in the best laid plans, it was found that the special fairing to prevent fumes entering the cockpit had been forgotten !
While this was being fetched and fixed in position, Eyston chafed and fumed, for the clouds were becoming more threatening, and the oil was getting cold.
It took sixteen minutes to change all the wheels and refuel, and Eyston set .off in the southward direction, a course that he had not previously traversed on either of his test runs. He said that the first indication he had that the speed was up quite a lot was a rag, which had somehow got lodged in the cockpit, dashing past his face, and immediately afterwards his goggles lifted, and he had to haul them back again.
The timed stretch for the kilometre was at the end of the mile, and for the former distance the speed was now 319.11 m.p.h., and for the mile 317.74 m.p.h. Thus it is seen that the car was accelerating right through the distance, and indeed Eyston said he was so exhilarated that he kept on accelerating long past the final mark post. Eventually he got back to the garage at Wendover, and was just lifting a drink to his lips when someone told hint there was a telephone call, and he was asked to broadcast to England, nearly 6,000 miles away. By this time it was raining cats and dogs, and an aeroplane arrived to take him to Ogden
to the broadcasting station. He was pushed into the plane, still in his overalls, and at the other end got his talk over.
He thought that ” Thunderbolt ” still had speed in hand, but a mean speed of 312 m.p.h. was enough to be going on with. If anybody thought it was not real’ motoring, he recommended, “You go and try it ! “