LONDON EXETER-LONDON. The Famous Annual Event Run in a Hurricane. Some Exciting Incidents. A Rolls Royce Driver Gives up Early.
THE best that can be said about this year’s London —Exeter run, from the point of view of weather is that, so far as the early competitors were concerned, it started fine. That may have been the determining factor in the minds of the many lady passengers who decided to brave the course, for, considering all things, there was quite a number of them at the start, and the White Hart, Salisbury, served no fewer than 370 suppers that night, a stay of one hour ten minutes being allowed for the meal.
With the Cars.
The course was well marked, arrows marked R., L., or S.O. indicating the course. A landslide had occurred between Shaftesbury and Milbonie Port, but fortunately there was sufficient room left for competitors to get past. It was just about here that one of the car driving competitors, on a Rolls Royce, was seen to be returning, the weather having proved too much for him. Care had to be exercised all along the route to Yeovil, as several large branches of trees were lying across the road, where they had been blown by the wind. At Yeovil a very welcome cup of coffee with biscuits and other light refreshments was served by Mr. P. W. Moffat ; a table by the roadside, covered by an awning, serving as a buffet. The rain, which had set in shortly after leaving Salisbury, was by this time coming down in earnest, and most of the competitors were drenched. The wind was so terrific that many cars surmounting the hill which is encountered just before entering Chard, were almost blown across the road. Some, who hesitated on the top of Chard hill, uncertain of the way, commenced to roll backwards. At Honiton, a check on the outward journey, some of the last competitors to sign on were in time to see many of the first comers on the return journey check in. Arrived at Exeter, cars were left at Gould’s Garage, and competitors were driven in special ‘buses to Deller’s Café, where breakfast was served, and a very good breakfast too. On the return journey, Marlpits hill was encountered just after leaving Honiton. The surface was fairly good except for a stretch near the bottom, where the mud was pretty deep. Salcombe Hill was also in good condition, and presented little difficulty. Immediately after leaving Exeter, Martineau’s Salmson overturned. Apparently he had already had trouble on the outward run with his steering gear, and when the return journey commenced it gave out altogether, the car charged a bank and overturned. Fortunately no one was hurt, but Martineau packed up and went home.
With the Motor Cycles.
So far as motor cyclists are concerned, those who signed the sheet at Staines on Saturday night can rightly pat themselves on the back, for in all the history of this famous run, never have conditions prevailed to test the personal element in such a drastic manner. True there was a time when to climb Chard without
footing it was an accomplishment, but three-speed gear boxes were not then the order of the day and allchain-drive machines were quite unusual. Then it was much more a test of the machine than of the rider.
For this year’s run, a sweet clutch and the right gear ratios were necessary. Given these and a certain amount of luck, a good driver should have been able to qualify for a “gold.” True enough it was hard to cope with fallen tree trunks and unexpected water splashes in the darkness, but these uncertainties are the lot of those who go by night to Exeter, and were it not for the Goddess Fortune, who ordains these unforeseen tribulations, the sporting side of the event would soon be eliminated.
Out of the 380 entries, 363 competitors were sent off from Staines, this total being made up by 122 solo motor cycles, 96 sidecars, 12 cyclecars and 133 cars. The roads were good and little rain was encountered as far as Salisbury where the first control was held. Here the competitors had their first meal and filled up with petrol and oil. Evidently the frightful head wind across the plain had proved too much for some of the entrants as there were a few gaps in the ranks. The weather then started to get much worse, and by the time the competitors reached Yeovil, they met the full force of the gale, combined with driving rain. Here they were regaled with steaming coffee, this being provided by Mr. P. W. Moffatt at his garage. An act of hospitality for which we are sure everyone was very grateful.
Chard proved no obstacle, some made fast climbs even by night, and Yarcombe Hill was hardly noticed. These hills were sheltered and drivers were able to see what they were doing for a brief space.
Between Honiton and Peak Hill conditions became worse, and several competitors fell out, many being blinded by the driving rain and crashing at the roadside. It was rumoured in the lay Press that one competitor had been blown over the sea wall at Sidmouth ; we have not yet been able to verify this statement. It was hard to notice individuals on Peak, but there was a lot of baulking, and one or two failed to make a non-stop ascent. Nevertheless, considering the darkness and the surface, the drivers who took it steadily were to be commended.
About this stage of the journey a fallen tree was encountered, and H. E. M. Kingdom (3-i P. & M. Panther and sidecar), followed by W. Julian (8 11.1). Zenith and sidecar), very nearly piled themselves up. Several solo riders crashed in trying to avoid it. Sharp on time, H. B. Browning (5 & 9 Scott), ran into Gould’s garage at Exeter, followed by Heath on his Henderson. No. 3 was missing, and the rest of the competitors came in in fairly regular order, although one noticed many gaps in the Solo class. The sidecars seemed more regular, and No. 3, O. S. Bridcutt, (3.5 Dunelt) arrived amongst them, minus his back tyre,
having run several miles on the rim. On every side was evidence of the frightful weather that had been encountered. Very few people could claim to be dry, it had even penetrated through one or two of the famous Hutchinson ponchos.
Everyone then adjourned to have breakfast at Deller’s Café, where the catering was admirable. At 7.30 the first man started off on the return journey. A short run to Honiton, and then came the unknown hill, Marlpits. This proved to be in good condition, and very few people had any difficulty in making a good climb. One struck the full force of the gale on the fiats above Marlpits, and a few competitors went out of their way owing to their inability to see the arrows through the driving rain. Up on these heights soloists were hard put to it to maintain an upright position. It was necessary to lean well into the
wind all the time, and when a sudden lull came ! ! Then followed a rough section over the hills to Salcombe. This proved to be quite a deceptive hill. The surface was good and most of the solo machines went up without trouble. G. A. Pigeon and J. Lewis, both on 3.5 Sunbeams, made good climbs. The 2.75 Indians ascended quite well, but we noticed that the engines of the first two were missing on the upper part of the hill. The Ner-a-Cars, piloted by Pigeon and Hadfield, were quite surprising. F. N. Wood, on a 2.75 A. J.S., went up very well, changing up at the worst part. F. G. Foster, on a 2.1 Levis, went up slowly but surely. G. Brough and G. S. Allen who kept well together throughout the run, went up with plenty of power in hand, their machines being quite silent. L. G. Smith (2.7 A.J.S.) made a slow climb preceded by a smoke cloud. Fielden (7.7 Powell) climbed quite well for his power, but needed a little foot slogging. M. B. Hutchinson, on a 31 P. & M. Panther, made quite a fast climb, considering that he was in bottom gear. This rider had the misfortune to break off his left foot rest on a curbstone just before Peak on the outward journey. He was also unable to use his second gear throughout the run, but we noticed that he performed very well on all the hills. J. S. Wakelin (7-9 Harley-Davidson) made a very fast climb. Most of the solo machines made good climbs, and it troubled very few of the sidecars. Amongst the latter, W. H. Julian made a spectacular ascent on his 8 h.p. Zenith (sidecar).
On the top of Sa,lcombe several of the solo machines again went astray, as it was nearly impossible to keep One’s eyes open for any length of time, and consequently one was inclined to miss the arrows that marked the course.
From Salcombe to the next hill, White Sheet, was a run of about 30 miles. The first competitor reached here about 10.20 The feature of this hill was the stop and re-start test in the middle of the ascent.
Every competitor had to stop under the first banner, and upon the fall of the flag, he had to restart and reach the second banner some twenty yards ahead in less than 15 seconds. Curiously enough, this hill was not in its worst condition, as the rain had swept the soft matter away and left a reasonably hard surface.
According to local opinion the surface is at its worst about three days after a heavy fall of rain.
Very few competitors were able to make a fast climb, as they generally appeared in bunches and rather hindered one another. Incidentally the surface on the lower part of the hill was rather loose, and .so full of ruts that a slow climb for a solo machine was advisable. Once again the two Sunbeams made good climbs, and on re-starting went straight away from the mark. Foster on his Levis was excellent. We noticed that Bucknall (2i Matchless) was bothered by his handlebar windscreen, but nevertheless, did quite well. E. H. Gifford (2i Beardmore-Precision) pulled away nicely without any fuss, as did Hutchinson on his Panther. About this time it was more than obvious that the course had been taking its toll of the solo machines, as they came up in irregular numerical order and there were many gaps. J. J. Hall (6 h.p. P. & P.) made light of the gradient and the surface, and went away at speed. C. B. Bennett lost control of his 31 Burney and collapsed with the machine on top of him. Several spectators helped him to right it, but as the gear was still engaged and the engine running, the machine charged into a car and again crashed. Eventually he got away. Just after this a rider on a Zenith ran into the bank, but recovered and made a good climb. H. H. Barrett (21Ner-a-Car) got well away from the stop, and changed
LONDON—EXETER LONDON continued.
up practically before he was out of the control. E. A. Cullum Francis Barnett) re-started well and his small engine took him straight up the hill out of our sight
without a falter. The Brough Superiors and the Coventry Eagles all made excellent ascents, as one expects them to do.
R.. B. Clarke, on a it Diamond, was rather weak, but just managed to get going.
Guthrie, on his Super Squirrell, was quite one of the best. R. N. Kelson (31 Ric-Triumph) caused some consternation amongst the spectators by ramming the bank and
was allowed a second try, and went away very shakily. Chirney (2/ Rudge—Whitworth) and N. Driver (3-1 Panther) made good getaways, and Gus Kuhn, of course, was quite unconcerned on his Velocette.
G. W. Copeland, turning up late, stalled his Norton, recovered without actually stopping, and perhaps just got away in the 15 seconds.
The first sidecar to appear was driven by Baxter (5.96 Indian Scout) who started his class well, but T. Harrison, also on an Indian Scout, failed twice, and was pushed off eventually.
R. Snell followed on 8 A. J.S., and took the re-start slowly, with entire absence of wheel spin.
Bridgeman on a 12 h.p. Indian seemed to think it necessary to bounce, which he did certainly to advantage, but it was interesting to contrast his methods with the previous competitor.
Nearly all the Matchless sidecar machines performed consistently, as did the Coventry Eagles.
P. Pike, on his Norton,was certainly the best performer on this hill, his gear change being hardly perceptible, and his acceleration perfect.
L. A. Welch made a very good show with his 2f O.K. and sidecar.
The F. N. with balloon tyres and enclosed sidecar did well in the hands of L. C. Ottley.
Pelison on a 4 h.p. Dunnett and two-seater sidecar, arrived a bit late, but got his machine off the mark smartly.
Karslake, on his S.S. ioo and sidecar, was almost too spectacular, but he was useful for clearing the spectators off the course. The latter continually baulked competitors and unfortunately there seemed to be no marshal to control them.
The 8 h.p. Cedos was fast in the hands of P. C. Spokes, as was Wheaton (8 h.p. Coventry Eagle), but we think he broke something in his sidecar chassis.
B. L. Bird repeated his performance of Gambles Lane, and we were under the impression he had an 8 h.p. machine, but we found it was his 3.49 B.S.A.
T. H. Garner (8 h.p. Royal Enfield) did well, and we noticed that he had balloon tyres fitted to his machine. It was interesting to note that all the machines fitted with these tyres performed very well. Davies, driving a Rex Acme, had a very hot engine which was knocking badly. The 3f Douglas Sports, in the hands of R. Chaplain, made good time, and doubtless this was due to the vigorous manner in which the driver bounced about on his saddle. H. E. M. Kingdom (3i P. & M. Panther), shortly followed by W. Julian (8 Zenith and sidecar), both made very good ascents. R. L. Bowes was the next competitor of interest by reason of the fact that he terrified the spectators by tremendous acceleration with his io h.p. Ace.
About this time Payne, on his 21 h.p. Connaught, returned down the hill with a flat back tyre, bewailing the fact that his Schrader valve had stuck up.
The first of the Morgans then appeared, and made a very satisfactory ascent, which example was followed by every Morgan which came up. One of the few failures in the sidecar class was P. 0. Keboe (34 P. & M. Cub) who had trouble with his petrol supply.
W. E. Bliss, on a 10.15 Fiat, was the first car to arrive, and from his performance we did not think that any of the following cars ought to have any difficulty in climbing the hill and correctly stopping and re-starting. H. J. Marks, on a io h.p. Salmson, followed by a Sports Alvis, confirmed this opinion, and we then proceeded to Dorchester, where many of the competitors were accepting the hospitality of Mr. Churchill in the shape of coffee and sandwiches.
From there to Salisbury was a straight run of about 35 miles, where there was the usual control at the White Hart Hotel, and garage. Leaving the majority of the competitors there, we took the road to Staines, and after a few miles we passed Heath (11.5 Henderson) and H. B. Browning (5.6 Scott) still maintaining their correct positions at the head of the run. Browning was the first to check in at Staines at his right time, 5.30 p.m.
279 machines checked in on Saturday night, comprising 91 solo motor cycles, 63 sidecars, 8 cyclecars and 117 cars. It will be seen that the cars had the least percentage of failures, but when we consider the forces of nature which were at the worst, it is surprising that so. many motor cycles and sidecars completed the course. From personal experience we know that it was very hard to keep a solo machine on an even keel when the gale struck one with full force on the quarter.