Mardi Gras in Oxfordshire!
Driving to Enstone Airfield, I pondered on why anyone should have started this form of contest. Given that maximum satisfaction is obtained by extending a car as closely as possible to its top-speed potential, only a venue too restricted for such enjoyment can have resulted in the first driving tests, you might think.
In fact, such surmise is blown sky-high when you discover that DTs were held on the wide expanse of Brooklands Track as long ago as 1909, with drivers having to avoid such obstacles as dummy nursemaids with prams. So at least age gives such frolics a bit of status! And judging by the number of trailers at Enstone, the thing has since become highly competitive!
Ten tests had to be tackled on this occasion, named after famous coachbuilders: hence Vanden Plus Mardi Gras, Carlton Cavorting, Offord Offering, Cross & Ellis Pen Nib, Tickford Treble, Charlesworth Challenge, Carbodies Capers, Bertelli Bends, Gill Gamble and Hooper Hoops. See what you miss by not joining the VSCC!
Detail reporting is impossible with 78 entries and things happening simultaneously, so random notes must suffice. I admired the neat sports body on Taylor’s 12/70 Alvis and the cylindrical fuel-tank on Hutchings’ A7 “The Infuriator”, and noted that Jane A-F was back in the Wooden-Wonder A7. Five Morris Cowleys were having a go, one of which thought it was an Edwardian and carried an umbrella-basket; Batchelor was back in his favourite 1921 tourer, and there were two sports Oxfords as back-up. Interest was increased by Farquharson’s 21/2-litre Hotchkiss saloon, Sanders’ 1932 International Aston Martin, and a non-competing boat-tailed Chenard-Walcker with enormous windscreens.
Greening was busy under the bonnet of his two-carb Riley Monaco, Bond’s 1926 Cowley shed a fan-blade in Test Eight (he deemed it wise to stop, but resumed later) and in this test Kate Hutchings braked to a stop when her 1929 A7 saloon caught fire, causing the timekeeper to let the watch run on. The flames were soon out and she did another run. Blake’s Frazer Nash Boulogne stopped in mid-test, seemingly to read the directions, and Hall’s A7 had handbrake trouble. Many drivers were flinging their cars around, on mud in one test, none better than Ann Shoosmith in her slab-tank 3/41/2 Bentley. Two short-chassis 7hp Jowetts were pottering round, and Edmonds as usual drove his smart 1923 Morgan Runabout, just like something out of an early copy of The Light Car & Cyclecar. Binns in the “Marathon” HRG was going well regardless of the mud: several drivers slid over the Test Eight finish-line, but Wheatland’s Singer stopped just on the line and Hamish Moffat in the Type 13 Bugatti had the whole test very well judged. WB