A JCC innovation

The long-since-defunct Junior Car Club (it is now the BARC) was nothing if not innovative. Having shaken off the limitations of the enthusiastic Cyclecar Club after WWI it ran the very first long-distance race at Brooklands, the 200-Mile Race, from 1921 — that is, if we discount two long touring-car events held in the Edwardian days and the once-only 500 Mile motorcycle grind, also in 1921.

The JCC went on to introduce artificial corners on Brooklands’ wide expanse of track for the 200-Mile Race by 1925, organised the Le Mans-imitation “Double-Twelve” sports car contests from 1929 to 1931, a 1000-Mile event at the Track in 1932 (a sort of English “track-Mille Miglia”), and finally banished the bogey of handicapping by doing it with corners of varying severity, in its International Trophy races at Brooklands, from 1933. But before most of this, there were the JCC High Speed Trials, also at the Weybridge Track.

They were also a distinct innovation, because they incorporated a bit of real road-section per lap, to enliven driving round the track proper. This worthwhile club was conscious of the innovative part it was playing, advertising its event in MOTOR SPORT, although omitting to mention its High Speed Trials and dating the first of its “road-course” 200s as 1926, instead of 1925. But the former did happen, causing quite a stir, when mooted for 1925. To have this road-race element, the JCC had persuaded the Brooklands’ authorities to let it use the Paddock entrance road in the reverse direction, so that competitors ran down the Finishing-straight, round the Byfleet banking in a clockwise direction, and along the Railway-straight, from which they dived off right-handed onto the road by which racing cars normally returned to the Paddock, from the outer-circuit.

Then the cars hairpinned left, to the rising road through the tunnel, round the bends to the right-hand swing over the Members’ bridge and down the Test Hill, to regain the Finishing straight. That there was an element of danger is seen by a no-passing rule and a 10mph speed-limit (only the impetuous JCC could have included such, in a high-speed event!) from the fork before the Members’ Bridge to the top of the Test Hill. But speed was unfettered down this 1-in-5 hill and anyone who has driven or walked up it should be able to visualize what could have happened had someone’s brakes faded or failed!

This did not trouble the carefree JCC, who set the date as May 2, starting at 2pm, so that spectators would have ample time to get to Brooklands before it all began. They were to be admitted at the Fork-entrance, BARC and JCC members and those with 10/(50p) to spare driving onto the Hill enclosure, from where the Test Hill descents and the distant hairpin could be seen, others being allowed to continue round the Members’ banking to take up positions directly over the Paddock road, with a fine view of the cars taking the hairpin. More energetic onlookers could climb a temporary stairway on the banking and stand on the rim, seeing something of the other corners — but how it was that no-one fell onto the road below is one of those miracles with which the JCC was blessed. These vantage points cost a mere three bob (15p), as did others, one enclosure being right beside the hairpin.

Back to the event itself. It was for strictly standard cars, which the BARC Scrutineer, Hugh McConnell, did his best to ensure. Only tyre changes and brake adjustments were to be permitted during the event and afterwards the cars would be checked for defects to lighting-sets, starters, etc, which if found, denied them a gold medal. The distance was 100 miles and the qualifying speeds were 33mph for 1100cc cars, 37mph for 1500cc cars, and 45mph for sports-cars up to that size. So novel was this event that it got good mentions in the weekly motor papers and the limit of 50 entries was soon filled, with 15 reserves. Not all amateurs, either. SCH Davis was to drive a 10/23 Talbot four-seater, with two passengers to operate stop-watches and speed-charts. Donald Healey had an Ariel, Chinnery, who had won the RAC Welsh Six-Days Trial the year before, was again Gwynne 8-mounted, W H Oates was in a Lagonda light-car, C M Harvey, winner of the 1923 JCC “200” was another works driver, for Alvis, the Hon Victor Bruce was batting for AC, Aldington for Frazer Nash, and as expected, Norris and Hill entered Rhodes, L G Hornsted who had thrilled the crowds before the War with the Big Benz but had done little since, was to appear with a balloon-tyred sports Mathis, George Newman had a Salmson, Vernon Balls an Amilcar, MOTOR SPORT’s then-Editor Richard Twelvetrees favoured an Alvis, as did the semi professional Macdonald, and well-known amateurs included the racing-doctor, J A Benjafield (Salmson), the Hon Brian Lewis (Frazer Nash), Rivers-Oldmeadow (Bugatti), H S Eaton (Aston-Martin) and Hillary (Frazer Nash). Kaye Don was a reserve, hoping to get his Bayliss Thomas accepted, Randall whom I mentioned recently, again relied on a Talbot 8, and Alec lssigonis was to try his luck with his mother’s Singer Ten fabric saloon. And three Windsors were listed.

It all went very well. The cars roared or more likely rolled away at five-second intervals. The hairpin soon became cut up — it had seldom been used before and was probably formed during WWI for the convenience of RFC lorries — and two cars came to grief here, Simpkins’ Salmson diving into the ditch, after steering gear disruption and a collapsed wheel. On lap one Macdonald’s magneto expired and he pulled off into the tennis courts, an Amilcar also fell out then, as did Simmins’ Talbot, with ignition problems. Tyres defeated an ABC, engine trouble Marr’s Lea Francis, and lssigonis was disqualified for overtaking in the no-passing area, although how his very pedestrian Singer contrived to do this is a mystery… That was five out, in the first hour.

A little rain then made the road section slippery. Kaye Don brushed the bank at the hairpin, Olive’s passenger used sidecar tactics in the Amilcar, and Wallsgrove’s Riley skidded and hit the bank and later retired with a broken timing-chain. Horden’s Alvis stopped right on the hairpin with a bent gearbox selector and was pushed out of the way, and Benjafield was unhappy with his Salmson’s gear-change. Vernon Balls also had an acrobatic Amilcar passenger, Twelvetrees and his passenger wore canary-coloured sweaters, the Bugattis of Richards and Oldmeadow were going well. as was Havers, a regular Riley exponent.

The turn from the broad expanse of the Railway straight onto the road-course was quite a test of brakes (Douglas was fast here in the Aston-Martin) as was the hairpin, and many swooped fast down the Test Hill. Davis’s 10/23 Talbot was doing 40 down the Finishing-straight, 45 mph by the aeroplane sheds. 50 by the Byfleet bridge, working up to 55mph along the Railway-straight, taking the turn off at 45, the hairpin in bottom gear at ten mph, the tunnel at 30, the next, double, bend at 38, to the 10mph limit, where he lit his pipe… Stirring stuff! “Benjy” blew a tiny bulb-horn when overtaking, two cars actually ran out of petrol, Laffan’s four cylinder GN lost its battery-box and ran a big-end, and Pemberton’s Amilcar was disqualified when its grating fish-tail finally fell off.

The only real incident was Hillary’s Frazer Nash losing its steering-gear and diving into the tunnel wall, Norris’s Lea Francis hitting it and breaking a headlamp glass. The event cost the JCC 25 gold and five silver medals. A dozen cars retired, and the Mathis, Olive’s Amilcar, Myers’ Gwynne 8, Berwick’s Windsor and Whitcroft’s Riley finished the 34 laps but too slowly to get an award, although the MOTOR SPORT Alvis took a gold medal in spite of a short delay when a tyre burst. Twelvetrees was quoted at 3 to 1 with the “bookies” and fastest driver, lapping in about four minutes. McConnell sought to make it sound a real test of catalogue small-cars, reporting that no springs broke, no brakes were adjusted, no dynamos failed, unless the belts fell off (!) and few drivers had to change tyres. One car hit the back of another and broke a lamp glass, but not the bulb. The blotted copybooks of retirement were those of Talbot, Salmson (2), Senechal, ABC, Frazer Nash, Lea-Francis, GN, Riley, Alvis (2), and Amilcar (2). Two more had been disqualified. Yet with the speed possible on the Track, it should have been reasonably easy to have kept to the set averages, one might think, but only if the sportscars could exceed 70mph.

Having been well received by competitors and spectators. the JCC continued these ingenious High Speed Trials to the same pattern for a few more years, even adding sand bag S-bends at the Fork in 1927. But eventually the BARC decided that the Track entrance-road could no longer be closed, even for two days (practice and the trial), as it cut visitors’ cars off from the Paddock and Aerodrome. The JCC High Speed Trial was then confined to the outer-circuit, using artificial corners; in contrast to the MCC, which ran its faster High Speed Trials over the full Brooklands course. I seldom see a JCC badge these days but when I do I think immediately, first of the 1921 200-Mile Race and then of those innovative “road race” trials, of this ambitious Club. WB