Racing and the Industry

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In Reading on January 21st, Col. Waite, managing director of the Austin Export Corporation, addressed the I.M.I. on “Motor Racing as viewed by the Manufacturer.” James Allday introduced him and Claude Wallis took the chair.

Col. Waite traced the racing history of Austin [Motor Sport covered the Seven’s career in March-April, 1947] starting with the Twenty, which did 50-55 m.p.h. but, given a new camshaft, lighter parts, etc., achieved 95 m.p.h. in 1921-22. Waite said he would much rather do 150 m.p.h. in a modern racing car! He made the important point that racing was decided on expressly to stimulate sales of the Twenty. A one-model policy proved wrong, so the Twelve was introduced, but did not lend itself to racing. When the Seven was introduced, racing It was considered essential. After winning the 1923 Italian G.P. des Cyclecars the publicity broadcast from 2L0 was invaluable. In a 400-mile French race the 15-gallon scuttle fuel tank broke loose after two miles, but Waite’s mechanic jammed it with his fist for the rest of the race! After the Italian victory, a keen schoolboy was given a ride — he was Johnnie Lurani, referred to by Waite as “to-day, one of Italy’s most famous drivers.” Waite claimed to be the first to supercharge an engine in this country when, in 1925, he applied a works built Roots blower to the Seven — it blew at 7/ lb./sq. in. as the crankshaft wouldn’t stand more. In the 1926 Geneva G.P.Waite’s clutch broke up with four miles to go, but he won the Australian G.P., using fresh water when other competitors suffered boiling due to the chalky local water. When appointed to the Board, Austin made him give up racing. His last race was the 1931 T.T., when he overturned, swallowing his tongue, a doctor using a pair of pliers to pull it out of his throat before he suffocated! Be referred to Jamieson as killed by a flying tyre [actually, by a burning car].

Waite said racing has much value in respect of experience and prestige, but you must be successful. Private owners cannot race properly and he would ask them not to do so at all. Individual makers cannot afford £100,000 to build a team and £50,000 a year to maintain it. A team sponsored by a group of manufacturers Waite thought fatal, as those who contributed most would dictate policy. The only way we can have a British team is by Government subsidy, selecting a good firm and letting it set up a separate racing section. British tax-payers should demand it. The Export Drive precludes active stock-car racing. Waite emphasised how to-day Italy makes us look stupid in International motor-racing. He suggested that those intending to race should bear in mind that in 1952 we may see a 2-litre Formula, rendering 1 1/2 litre cars obsolete. The twin-cam Austins Waite regards as museum-pieces in cotton wool; he will never let them race again for fear of crystalisation. The Mayor of Reading was most enthusiastic about this lecture, and gave an excellent speech saying that visiting the U.S.A., he realised although America is proud of her production and streamline, she fully appreciates British quality; he Confessed to knowing something about cars, as he runs a 1932 Morris! Loud applause greeted Waite’s statement that only that day he had received Austin’s 1948 car-production figure – 71,500.