GREAT RACING MARQUES.
By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
IN the days when the Wolseley ” beetles ” were upholding British prestige on the Continent, Sir Herbert Austin was an energetic member of the Wolseley staff. It is not surprising, therefore, that after he had started, in 1905, to make motor cars on his own account, it was not long before he began to turn his attention to motor racing ; and on the entry list for the 1908 French Grand Prix, at Dieppe, there figured three Austin cars.
The race was run on a limited bore basis, and while other manufacturers were concentrating on long strokes or high engine speed, the Austins represented a complete break-away from tradition by employing a 6-cylinder engine, the only other multi-cylinder exponent in the race being a French car, the Porthos. The Austin engine had the maximum bore for 6-cylinders of 127 rums but instead of adopting a long stroke they decided on a ” square ” engine, the stroke being 127 mms. also, and the capacity, therefore, 9657 c.c., this being one of the smallest engines in the race. The engines had side-valves and dual ignition by coil and high-tension magneto, while transmission was by a leather cone clutch and four-speed gearbox to a propellor shaft instead of the then more usual chains. The three cars were driven in the race by Dario Resta, J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon and Warwick Wright, but as the Austin engines only developed about Ioo h.p. against the 120-130 h.p. of most of their competitors, they somewhat lacked speed in comparison with the
others. Warwick Wright had to retire at about halfdistance with a seized engine, but both Resta and Moore-I3rabazon finished the race, their Austins being the only English cars to do so.
It is a far cry from this Grand Prix of twenty years ago to the next occasion of Austin activity in motor racing. Some fotuteen years later the Austin company startled the motoring world by producing a small fourcylinder car with a bore and stroke of only 54 x 76 mms. (697 c.c.), which in those days was considered absurdly small cylinder dimensions. It was soon to be proved,. however, that these litt e cars were by no means to be laughed at. With the introduction of the 750 c.c. racing class, the bore was increased to 56 mms., making the capacity 749 c.c., and at the B.A. R.C. Easter meeting in 1923, A. Waite appeared on one of these machines, fitted with a racing body, and proceeded to win a race at 59 m.p.h.
After this demonstration, three Austins were entered in the 750 c.c. class of the Boulogne Grand Prix the same year, by Waite, Cutler and King. Waite retired on the first lap, but King and Cutler continued to chase Senechal on his racing car, until Cutler finally overtook the Frenchman, only to go out with big-end trouble. King was also unfortunate, for he skidded on the train lines at the Boulogne fork and overturned. In spite of these misfortunes, however, Waite and Cutler started again in the Grand Prix des Voiturettes at le Mans a few weeks later, and were accompanied by Roddis on a third Austin. For all the early part of
the race the Austins ran in close company with their leader in third place in the 750 C.C. class. At about half distance, however, Cutler fell out, but Waite and Roddis continued and finished third and fourth. While these cars were engaged in Continental road races, E. C. Gordon England was demonstrating the actual speed capabilities of the little car at Brooklands. He set out with a specially streamlined model to attack the 750 c.c. class records, and succeeded in annexing a whole bunch, from five miles at 79.6 m.p.h. to 73.5 miles in one hour. This performance was merely the prelude to sterner things, for, at the end of the season, he decided to enter the car for the 200 Miles Race. In those days there was no 750 c.c. class in this event, and the little car had, therefore, to run with the rroo c.c. machines. England, however, set out, nothing daunted, for though he could not hope to have the speed of the noo c.c. tars, he knew he could count on absolute reliability. For the first part of the race he was not very prominently in the picture, but then the 1100 C.C. cars began to break up, and he finally achieved the magnificant result of finishing second after a non-stop run, and, incidentally, beating several of the 1500 C.C. cars. For the whole 200 miles he averaged 76.84
and in the course of this performance annexed five records from ioo miles to two hours, with a practically standard car with only a special camshaft and two carburettors to supplement careful timing. For the 1924 race a 750 c.c. class was introduced, and no fewer than nine Austins were entered for it. Of these eight started, Gordon England again appearing with R. E. Hall, 0. Hendy, J. P. Dingle, A. Waite, H. Cutler, L. T. King and A. Braid as his companions. Unfortunately, their only rival in this class, the French Vagova, failed to appear, and so the Austins were left to fight it out among themselves. Hall first got the lead, followed by England and King, but these tin ee rapidly changed places. Before long, however, this
internecine strife at high-speed began to have its effect, and Cutler and Dingle fell out with big-end trouble, to be followed by King and Waite. This only left three Austins, with England in the lead, but the latter was chased very hard by Hall until a broken connecting-rod overtook the chaser. England and Hendy, however, continued serenely, the latter finally winning at 75.61 m.p.h., and, as in 1923, beating all the 1100 C. c. class cars with the exception of one Salmson. The average speed was not so high as in the last year’s race and for a rather interesting reason. Within a few laps of the finish one cylinder cut out and the race had to be finished, on three ; when the engine was afterwards dismantled, one piston and con-rod was found to have completely disappeared, until they were discovered in the bottom of the crankcase, where they had dropped without doing any other damage.
After the race at Brooklands, England, Waite, Hall and Dingle took their Austins over to France for th-, opening race on the new Montlhery track. The 750 C.C. class proved an easy thing for the Austins, for England won at an average of 73.25 m.p.h. with the remaining members of the team in the next three places, the last of them being three laps ahead of their nearest rival. Not content with this, however, Waite entered his car for the Imo c.c. class also, and succeeded in finishing fourth, being only beaten by the Salmson team. A short time afterwards a race was held on the new track for 1500 c.c. cars, and in spite of having to compete against cars twice as big, Prince de Cystua and Michel started on two little Austins, and succeeded in holding their own well, Piere Michel finishing sixth and Prince de Cystua eighth. At the end of the season one of the little Austins made a new attack on records at Montlhery and succeeded in running for four hours at exactly 8o m.p.h.
By the beginning of 1925 these performances had begun to attract the attention of sportsmen beyond the borders of England and France, and in the early part of that year R. Ricardo won the 1200 c.c. class of the Indian T.T. on his 750 C.C. Austin, while Pallo Saguier, on one of these little cars, won the noo c,c. class of the Montsenat hill-climb in Spain at 53 m.p.h. In the meantime, in England, the Austin Company was engaged on a new enterprise of fitting a Rootes-type supercharger to a racing Austin with a view to taking records. In April this car was brought out by A. Waite, who proheeded to take the 750 C.C. class short distance records, averaging 85.97 m.p.h. over a kilometre, which he covered in one direction at over 92 m.p.h. In August he continued the good work and took the longer distance
records up to 10 miles, all at over 8o m.p.h., and covered the standing mile at 65.73 m.p.h. ; while in October he went on to take the 50 mile record at 83.74 m.p.h.
While Waite was showing the actual speed of the little Austin, however, England and Samuelson had set out to drive one in the hardest endurance test of the year, the 24-hour race at le Mans. The little car, however, had no chance to distinguish itself, as in the early stages of the race a stone went through its radiator, and as water could only be taken on after 215 miles had been covered, it had to be withdrawn. Two cars of similar type, however, took part in the next big French touring car race of the year, the Georges Boillot Cup, and were driven by England and Waite. For all the early part of the race they ran with great regularity, but on the eleventh round Waite dropped out, leaving England to take ninth place. The San Sebastian meeting of 1925 opened with a light car race, and in the 750 c.c. class Zuliaga started
on an Austin. He took the lead at the outset, and finally won the race with an advantage of nearly three quarters of an hour over his nearest rival.
The great event of the year from the Austin point of view was, of course, the 200 Miles Race. Five cars were entered in the 750 C.C. class, of which one driven by A. Depper had a supercharger, while the other four were handled by Gordon England, Hall, Hendy and Grey. This year the Austins had no rivals in the 750 c.c. class, but Waite entered his supercharged car in the Imo c.c. division, the cylinders having been bored out to 57 mins. diameter, making the capacity 776 C.C. In the smaller class, Depper got the lead with his supercharged car, while the others followed in regular order, until, at about half distance, Grey lost a back
tyre on the home banking and crashed. Then, however. Depper’s car was afflicted with a slipping clutch, and England took the lead, while Waite, who had got into third place in the ‘Jo° c.c., in spite of his small engine, was put out with a broken universal joint. Just before the finish, Hall also had to retire with an over-heating engine, but Gordon England went on to win the 750 c.c. class, with Hendv and Depper second and third. This year, as turns were included in the circuit, the winner’s average was 61.16 m.p.h.
Before the year was out an Austin appeared once more at Montlhery, this time in the Grand Prix de France race for motor-cycles and light cars. The car was driven by Hall, but half an hour before the start it broke its water pump. Nothing daunted, Hall pulled the pump off and proceeded to run with thermo-syphon cooling. This necessitated rather frequent stops for water, but, in spite of this, he finished second in the 750 c.c. class, less than three minutes behind the winner.
Austin activities in 1926 opened with the participation in the most strenuous road race of the season, for Zuliaga entered his Austin for the Ta.rga Florio. The competition in the noo c.c, class was keen, but in spite of this, the 750 C.C. Austin went magnificently on the difficult Madoine circuit and finished third in the Iwo c.c. class. After this performance, Zuliaga took his car to Miramas, where he won the 750 C.C. class race which was run in conjunction with the French Grand Prix of that year, at 50.2 m.p.h.
In the meantime, the English season opened with a production car race organised by the J.C.C., in which Waite, Samuelson, Hendy and Walther entered Austin Sevens. Hendy retired early on with engine trouble, while Sa.muelson’s car caught fire and had to be withdrawn. ‘Walther and Waite, however, finished, the former winning the 750 c.c. class and averaging 51.2 m.p.h. over the 1925 200 Miles Race course.
F. H. B. Samuelson’s Austin appeared again in the Grand Prix de Boulogne later on in the year, and succeeded in finishing fourth in the voiturettes class, which included. the noo c.c. cars ; and after these preliminaries attention became focussed on the 200 Miles Race. t Four Austins were again entered in the 750 c.c. class, and three of their drivers were England, Hall and Hendy, as before, while the fourth car was now handled by Walther, and Waite again entered the 776 c.c. car in the 1100 c.c. class.
This year, Gordon England took the lead at the outset, closely followed by Hendy. Walther’s car, however, fell out with some mysterious trouble, and Waite had to withdraw his car for the maddening reason that the body threatened to fall off. England, however, won in fine style, averaging 58.26 m.p.h. over the new course, with Hendy a good second. Two laps from the finish Hall was running well, when the officials thought he had finished and called him in, and he thus lost third place by a piece of most infuriating misfortune. At the beginning of September, 1927, a race was organised at Brooklands for all sizes of sports cars, but in which fuel was limited and handicaps given in
relation to engine size. J. P. Dingle entered his Austin Seven, and as this was the smallest car in the race, he was sent away first. The little Austin, however, soon showed that it possessed extraordinary speed for its size and he finished in the same position in which he had started, averaging 52.1 m.p.h. over a course with turns with a consumption limit of 32 m.p.g.
Six Austins were entered for the 750 c.c. class of the 1927 200 Miles Race, and had a Ratier as their only rival. They soon showed, however, that they were much the fastest of these little cars ; and once more they proved that in this racing class the Austin enjoys such pre-eminence that serious competition has practically vanished, and is, in fact, the only English car which is in a similarly enviable position.
TILE BROOKLANDS AT’STIN SEVEN IN ITS PRODUCTION FORM.