SIR HENRY BIRKIN’S BOOK “FULL THROTTLE”
BY H. NOCKOLDS
THE motor-racing book-shelf grows apace. A few years ago Jarrott’s “Ten Years of Motors and Motorracing” was its solitary occupant, but now that classic book has some worthy companions,. and the latest volume to take its place in motor-racing literature is Sir Henry 13irkin’s book “Full Throttle” (Foulis, 7/6d.). Earl Howe has written a Foreword, in which he pays tribute to the fine qualities of the author as a driver and concludes by giving in brief, the reasons why motor-racing should ( become a national sport.
To many the book will come as a surprise. Their knowledge of Sir Henry will be confined to seeing him hurtling (there is no other word for it) round Brooklands Track in the single-seater Bentley, or driving with polished brilliance at Belfast or Le Mans in Bentleys and Alfa Romeos. To them the thrill of speed and driving skill appears to be his chief concern, and whether he is driving at home or abroad, in an English car or a foreign machine, does not seem to matter so long as he has a good drive. But they are wrong. Behind all this daring and zestful racing is an intense desire that Britain should take its due place among the great motor-racing nations of the world. To Sir Henry Birkin “the wearing of the green” as he calls it, or his participation in the Bentley team at Le Mans, Brooklands
and Ulster was in the nature of a knight defending the honour of his country. And when the Bentleys were no longer able to run in big races, in spite of the Indian Summer of 1929 when the Hon. Dorothy Paget very sportingly ran a team of four throughout the season, Sir Henry regarded his having to race foreign cars as a period of “exile.”
Inevitably, he reiterates that only a road-circuit of our own can give England a chance to compete in motor-racing, and in the chapter “England, my England,” which he describes as “the kernel of the book,” the case for a road-circuit is put with a seriousness and fervour which cannot fail to move the reader. Here are a few points from a chapter which should be read and re-read by all who have the future of English motoring at heart.
“The acid test of a car is a road-course. Throughout the length and breadth of England there is no road-course.” “A Nation’s motor trade derives more impetus and publicity and financial profit from winning such an event than the most
elaborate advertising campaign could ever give it.”
“It is silly to assume that a road course must spoil the view.”
“So it has come to this, that we who pride ourselves on our sportsmanship, who minted the word and laugh at it on foreign lips, have no representation in one of our main departments of sport. Worse, we are the only great European country in this humiliating position.”
“The expert has accustomed himself to high speed, and knows by instinct how to deal with a crisis. Only a road-course can make this familiarity universal.”
“Foreign money would come pouring into the country if a road-course were built in England ; this is not merely my own theory, but an argument that anyone can corroborate.”
“Why must we be sea-sick to watch our road-racing ? ” “Foreigners would flock to it . . . and international relations would be aided by a voluntary friendship far stronger than political entente. So it
has always been on the Continent, and we would be no less eager, once the time came, to welcome our guests and parade the glories of our new circuit ; and cars would be built once more to restore our honour.”
” . . . still our English firms must take their cars abroad if they wish either to test or advertise them in the best way possible.” “Its first meeting would be attended by teams of foreigners who have been
longing for such an occasion, and. crowds would flock there more certainly than they do to Belfast.” The proposed Ivinghoe circuit, with its great 101, will fulfil the demands of
Sir Henry in every respect, and all who hope that England will once more be represented in Grand Prix racing will do everything in their power to further this solution to our present difficulties. “Fill Throttle” reveals a personal aspect of Sir Henry Birkin which will do much to endear him to everyone who has the good fortune to read the book. His courage (when he hacked away the red hot tyre from the brake drum of his Bentley with a pen knife at Le Mans in 1928). His reticence about the sensations of lapping Brooklands at 137 m.p.h., a sight which never fails to sicken at least one spectator. His can dour, “If . • . my younger readers had pictured me as tall and broad and clear-cut, barking out instructions in a voice like a knife, I am heartily sorry ; I am quite small and I do
stammer.” His—but there are so many aspects of the author which are bound to charm the reader. His tribute to the mechanics who do “the dirty work ” ; to Clive Gallop, who has been in charge of the preparation of his cars ; to many drivers, English and foreign ; and to ” Ebby,” the Brooklands handicapper, “any reward must be, and is, hopelessly inadequate.”
But one could write a whole issue of MOTOR SPORT in singing the praises of “Pull Throttle.” Thrills, anecdotes, humour, and first hand information of the magnificent sport that is motor-racing, all are here in plenty, illuminated by a personality which stands for everything that is fine in sportsmanship.
” Full Throttle” is dedicated “to all schoolboys.” In turn, they could not have a finer example to follow in courage and daring than Sir Henry Birkin.