WB Rumblings, February 2005

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Interesting that the Lagonda Car Club has a Vokes Trophy among its awards. It recalls those ‘pancake’ Vokes air-cleaners which could be neatly attached to carburettor intakes. Arnold Davey, editor of the Lagonda CC magazine, tells me that this trophy was presented to the Club by C Vokes’ grandson Tony Vokes, as an award for the AGM driving tests. He inherited a 3-1/2-litre Lagonda, one of at least six his grandfather owned. The ex-Vokes 3-litre is now owned by Mike Graber and the ex-Fox & Nicholl Le Mans 4-1/2-litre left by Robbie Hewitt to her cousin Alison Moores is in New Zealand, but she hopes to bring it over to Le Mans in 2005 for the 70th anniversary of the marques win.

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The VSCC has sensibly been giving advice to drivers at its events, such as taking care that in a race if a change of line in a corner is contemplated this must be achieved without inconveniencing or endangering other drivers. It reminds me of Jenks telling me that, after he had begun racing faster motorcycles, two top-class riders called him over and said, “Don’t look to see where we are and move over to let us pass. Keep to your line and we will keep to ours.” After which he took their advice and they would rush by, sometimes one on his left the other on his right, safely. So be it…

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I was pleased to see the great ace Dr Giuseppe Farina profiled recently in Motor Sport. I have a distant memory of him in 1952 when Tony Vandervell engaged this Doctor of Law to drive for him the Ferrari Thinwall at Charterhall in Scotland. Vandervell drove Farina up on his 4-1/4-litre Derby Bentley, and before the race, which it seemed certain the Thinwall could win from the V16 BRMs of Parnell and Wharton, Farina stood alone, coat flung over his shoulders, mulling over the coming 80-mile struggle. A minor race for the Italian, but he set fastest lap (85.2mph) before the transmission gave up. Parnell also retired and Wharton finished an ignominious second to Bob Gerard’s ERA.

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I used to wonder what became of the rare 1927 35hp straight-eight Sunbeam which had been given a shooting-brake body around 1948 and which Keith Schellenberg acquired in 1958 as a tender car for his mighty Barnato-Hassan at race meetings. From the STD I learn that it had four more owners and is now in Orkney.

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Formula 3000, so well commentated upon by Simon Taylor but which is replaced from 2005 by the new GP2 series, produced tight racing with cars almost as fast, overall, as in Formula One. But to me all one-make engines in similar cars lose some of the appeal. Make against make seems a more traditional scenario. In years gone by race reports usually gave the make of car first in the results tables, with the drivers’ names in brackets. Of course the drivers count, although in recent times, with so much that can be done electronically or by computer to help the machinery, l am beginning to wonder whether the difference has diminished. As Jenks said to me, one day we will have racing with driverless cars, controlled by black boxes in the pits. But for the future survival of F1 racing at its best, please leave well alone, Mr Ecclestone…

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Anyone tempted to add a classic or earlier motorcycle to their ownership of a car of this period will find a great many suitable bikes listed in the VMCC’s magazine. The club’s address is Allen House, Wetmore Road, Burton-on-Trent. Staffs DE14 1TR. Its 2005 list of fixtures is so extensive as to require a 19-page booklet to cover them: the total of well over 700 events includes such enticing happenings as the Levis and the Flat-Tank & Gaslight Trial. At the AGM some 76 per cent of MCC members voted for the club’s historic trials to continue unchanged. Historic bike racing is anticipated at Mallory Park, Pembrey, Lydden Hill, Cadwell Park and Anglesey, looked after by Mrs Judith Alcock, 2 Station Lane, Farnsfield, Notts NG22 8LA.

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An indication of how popular the Motor Cycle Club’s long-established trials continue to be: its Exeter Trial (first held in 1910) last month had 90 motorcycle and 224 car entries. The next one, the Land’s End Trial, is on March 25/26. For details of membership apply to the Rev PG Lawley, The Vicarage, St George’s, Telford, Shropshire TF2 9LF. enclosing a stamped addressed envelope.

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Congratulations to GC on his ‘scoop’ about who actually wrote Sir Henry Birkin’s book Full Throttle. Who, I wonder, was Barré Lyndon, who did a number of MG histories? Segrave was said to have written The Lure of Speed himself but, to round this off, who ghosted the SF Edge book?

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