ON THE E.R.A. OUTLOOK
ALTHOUGH English Racing Apathy has been painfully apparent in the degree of support -afforded to the E.R.A. Club in its endeavours to financially help the E.R.A. team, I am convinced that the majority of racing enthusiasts in this country do feel a real debt of gratitude to E.R.A. Ltd., for the very splendid way they have upheld British raving prestige during the last three years. Run as a hobby by lifelong enthusiasts, reared and maintained in a quite humble engineering shop at Bourne, and possible only because Humphrey Cook—that genial driver of a T.T. Vauxhall in the early nineteen twenties—dipped very deeply into his private resources—to the tune of some thousands in 5 years—to enable it to come into being at all, the E.R.A. team has put up a show in 1 i-litre racing of which no genuine enthusiast can be anything but proud. I have written this and I mean it. Yet, back in 1934 when the Bourne plan had just hatched out, I had as open. a mind as anyone about the project. Quite frankly I was not very happy about the idea of a team Of Cats having no association with any manufacturer and called English Racing Automobiles ; I had been brought up on inter-marque struggles, wherein considerable business interests were at stake and, in 1935, the very urgent need to nationally uphold British. racing prestige was not nearly so evident as it is today. When the E.R.A. Club came into being I did not look very kindly on the idea of people giving away money to assist wealthy men with their hobby. But the very excellent showing of the E.R.A.
• team has entirely changed this ” anti ” outlook of mine. Fred Craner gave us all a considerable jolt when he got the Germans over to show us real racing and their association of National Prestige with racing victories, at Donington Park in 1937. From then on, one realised how very necessary it was for Britain to muster as much racing prestige as possible and one saw clearly what a magnificent gesture was that of the E.R.A. Club, existing solely to raise money to assist our only 100 per cent. active British racing team and offering the very minimum to members in return for subscriptions. That the first annual donation handed by the Club to E.R.A. probably just about bought a set of plugs for one of the cars, and that subsequent annual donations may just have defrayed the expenses of transport for the team to one race abroad, or enabled it to enter an extra car for One such contest, in no way detracts from the enthusiasm and right-minded ideas which lie behind the scheme. That the amount has not been bigger is the fault of our enthusiasts, who are so apathetic about a British team. That the donations have been appreciated is evident to everyone who has seen how deeply moved Humphrey Cook is when the cheque is handed to him at the E.R.A. Club’s annual dinner. Some weeks ago the whole matter of the efforts of the E.R.A. Club to obtain that support which the E.R.A. team deserves, but which is denied it by the Government, was brought very much into the limelight, when certain daily newspapers announced that Humphrey Cook had spent some 00,000 on the E.R.A. team and that he had decided that he did not wish to spend another penny—some papers said right now, others that he would withdraw at the close of the 1939 season. To return to the E.R.A. bombshell, .apparently the true state of affairs is that Cook has very generously maintained the E.R.A. team out of his own pocket for five seasons, Spending some 00,000. Be now feels that he may, at some future date, desire to withdraw his support— he certainly cannot feel encouraged by the complete disinterest shown in his efforts by a Government which once subsidised the Schneider Trophy seaplane races (though it left it to the late Lady Houston to carry on when complete
Show signs of wanting to help the project to the tune of £10,000 a year, then -Cook will gladly find the balance necessary to run the team. In this connection, two very important points arise. The first is that no one would be justified in accusing Humphrey Cook of being entirely absorbed in the fortunes (using the word in the sense of victories, not finance, for there is no financial return) of E.R.A. Ltd. and of the engineers and drivers constituting his team. I believe I am not over-estimating his broad-minded outlook when I say that if the Government suddenly woke up and decided to subsi(lise, let us say, Rolls-Royce Ltd. to construct and operate a British G.P. team, or if one of our motor magnates decided he must put up a good team, and a Morris or Austin or Standard team of cars com
victory was in sight), by motor manufacturers who once used to race, and by enthusiasts who could easily join the E.R.A. Club and have not done so. But Cook has not yet disbanded the E.R.A. team as one paper seems to think. The paper stories went on to say that the team could only go on if 1:5,000 a year could be raised by public subscription. This has led. people to ask how this sum could maintain a concern which has apparently cost some ;!:20,000 a year to run up to the present. Even allowing that the formation of the organisation would absorb more than sabsegitent maintenance, Z5,000 SCOW; all too small a sum. I believe the true position to be that Cook, quite understandably, feels rather ” fed up ” with the lack of enthusiasm shown for British racing prestige and he believes the time has come when something should be done to stir up what is, after all, a reasonably motor-conscious nation. If this something can be done, if people menced to carry British colours in big races, or if, by some magical means, a body of enthusiasts raised money to assist a new star in the British racing firmament, then Humphrey Cook would lend his support to any one of these schemes and be as glad as anyone that something was at last happening in a bigger way than ever before to raise our racing prestige. The second important point is that the E.R.A. Club is not, and never was, an E.R.A. fan-club. It attempts to help E.R.A. Ltd. because the E.R.A. team is the only all-British non-commercial racing team that is doing anything to maintain and uplift British racing prestige. But it is quite ready to lend aid to any concern which could do equally good work for British prestige and it would be amongst the first to applaud anything the British Government might do for British racing. I know that the Club has noticed Geoffrey Taylor’s good work with the Alta and I am sure that if this marque begins to beat Continental opposition in classic races abroad, then the Club would be most pleased to offer a donation to Taylor to assist him with his good work, if he would accept it. So do please destroy any notions you may have that the E R A Club only wants E.R.A. victories or that it holds any particular brief for Humphrey Cook, Peter Berton, Raymond. Mays or Lord Howe as individuals, or, for that matter, for the design of the cars or the manner in which the team is conducted. What it does do is to try and gain support for a worthy cause—that of representing this country with a team of British cars in International motor-racing. This Club is really rather unique. It was formed by Sam Green, who is a man who thoroughly enjoys spectating at motorraces and whose own motor is an old
school 3-litre Bentley. He is advised by a keen friend who runs a 2-litre Lagonda and by his Committee, which is composed mostly of enthusiastic young men. These gentlemen are not personal friends of Cook or Mays; they are not associated with E.R.A. Ltd. The Club offers nothing to members, ‘apart from a humble magazine and occasional social runs. It spends a minimum in maintaining itself and gives all that remains to the only existing British racing team. It is tragic that it has less than 300 members, when at least 15,000 enthusiasts must have been at Donington for the last Grand Prix, calculating that the remaining crowd of 45,000 was composed of wives, girl-friends, and, casual spectators. The only connection between the Club and the team is that if any big scheme is going to be promoted to raise the L5,000 annually in future, the Club believes that Humphrey Cook deserves to be associated with it, and Cook him
self has said that he would like any schemes that might be started to be ministered to by the E.R.A. Club, as a sign of his appreciation of their past interest and assistance. But I believe I am right in saying that so broad Although Cook has not yet definitely withdrawn his support, all those who have this interest at heart will agree that we should look to the future now. As there is no immediate prospect of a Governmentsubsidised team, or of a motor-magnates’ minded and so keen to do the right thing by British racing are both Humphrey Cook and Sam Green that, for his part, Cook would be as delighted as anyone if he were invited to participate in any new scheme, whether aimed at supporting team of G.P. cars, our concern must be to raise the £5,000 annually which Cook is reported to have said he would like to encourage him to carry on the ERA. team. 1,5,000 is not much to raise in a country of four and three-quarter million
E.R.A. or a fresh team entirely, while if any good scheme to help British racing or the E.R.A. team is started and seems likely to kill the E.R.A. Club it will meet with no opposition at all from the Club. driving-licence holders, whether you regard it in relation to the vast sums our Government spends on armaments and sugar-beet or the amount of publiclyraised money for assisting things like immigrants and hospitals for unlucky Ladies of the Streets. The question is, how best to raise it ? I have discussed the matter with Sam Green, as Secretary of the E.R.A. Club, and am sorry to find that in many ways the Club finds its hands badly tied. The Government will not look at a motor-racing subsidy. Our big motor manufacturers will not help the only team capable of carrying honourably the British colours abroad, even though this team is a rich man’s hobby and has no commercial basis—the company concerned with the Raymond Mays sports-car is entirely separate from E.R.A. Ltd., and in any case would hardly be likely to even recover the expenditure of that company on racing for a long time to come. British race promoters are loth to assist with publicity drives, presumably because they are afraid of offending those who pay to watch their meetings—often mainly because they want to see E.R.A. cars in action. Finally, individuals who could help by joining up stay out on account of personal prejudices against individuals or methods, disregarding the splendid showing of E.R.A., viewed in a broader way. The Club, as I have said, spends a minimum of money, and it is not anxious to promote schemes which might absorb its resources (which go to E.R.A.) without resulting in any very substantial return. It is fully alive to the need for newspaper publicity, publicity in the technical Press, lectures to schools, the sale of mementos, etc. (the pin-badge has brought in about 05, to date), but it is not anxious to rush into any big money collecting scheme until it is certain such a scheme is sound. In particular, the Club wishes to emphasise that no one of its officials gets any financial gain from the Club’s existence and everything possible is done to prevent the members using the Club to further any ulterior aims, such as a rise in social prestige, or some more names in the family autograph hook. It might be possible to start a British Race Fund, aided by the patronage of society’s high lights, asking members of the general public to sign a banker’s order for, shall we say, spread over a period of three years, in return for which they could be given something such as a badge, or a bulletin of their team’s activities or reduced admission to races. That might be a very good scheme or it might be a most poisonous scheme. Any suggestion that it had been promoted by a person, or persons, seeking to gain anything beyond money wherewith the E.R.A. team could continue its good work would be highly detrimental, Or, should insufficient money be collected, any other schemes, along different lines, would then stand in danger of failure also. Consequently, I can state definitely that the E.R.A. Club has no intention of working on this scale at present, nor is it associated with any scheme of this nature—at least, that was the position when I met Mr. Green recently to discuss the outlook. Mr. Green emphasised that the Club would not associate itself with any such scheme until it was absolutely certain that no motives were embraced other than enthusiasm for British racing prestige and a genuine desire to collect money for E.R.A. Ltd., or any Other concern building the necessary racing-cars. Nor could the Club be satisfied that such a scheme would succeed unless it had closely examined matters of financial, social and administrative foundations. For the present the Club will continue as it has done in the past and endeavour to enrol new members out of our tens of thousands Of enthusiasts—I am glad to learn that any reference to the Club in the papers, MOTOR SPORT amongst them, still draws fresh inquiries. 1 reen has a few schemes of his own in mind but these have yet to go before his Com mittee, so my lips are sealed. So far as these schemes to raise more funds are concerned, it would welcome your ideas, Incidentally, the Club does not advocate any particular Formula in future, and When this paper quoted it as voting against
1 Pitre Formula, last month, we unfortunately quoted a member’s views and not the official views of the Club. I do not propose to give here a history of E.R.A. Continental successes ; to do so would be an insult to our National team, the good showing of which is prominent in the mind of everyone who has British prestige at heart. But, if you meet anyone who wants to know if E.R.A. stands for very much anyway, as a letter writer to one of the weeklies wanted to know a short time ago, I hope you will make him wade through your back issues of MOTOR SPORT, or, better still, take him to see Paul Bird, who keeps a wonderful scrap-book of
activities, wherein you can read what Continental papers think of our English Racing Automobiles.