FARWELL "COMBS"

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FAREWELL “COMPS.”

ORDINARY TYRES WILL PERMIT COURSES MORE SUITABLE FOR ORDINARY DRIVERS

WITH the coming of the New Year trials enter upon a new phase, as upon January 1st the latest regulations of the R.A.C. came into force. Amongst the several clauses, one of the most important, and one with, farreaching results, is the ban upon competition tyres. To ” comp.” or not to ” comp.” has been a burning question among trials enthusiasts for many years—indeed, ever since the tyre manufacture’s introduced knobbly” covers for use on mud and • slippery going, and thus thopped the cat among the pidgeons. The rise and fall of the competition

• tyre has not occupied as long a period as some might suppose. The knobbly -tread was first produced for motor cycles, and these tyres were not adapted for ears until about six years ago. Even then, -some time elapsed before they were available in a representative range of .sizes, to fit large cars as well as small. Indeed, one of the early objections to the use of ” comp.” tyres came from big car enthusiasts, who said that on most hills the small fry had an advantage in any case, and that the added advantage of the knobbly covers made the handicap too great.

If the shoe had been on the other foot, or rather the tyres on the bigger wheels, big car drivers would have had a much better chance in trials, and as the knobblies became available in the bigger sizes, while an independent firm began turning -out ” rAreads,” with a formidable Zpattern, for large cars, sonic of the trials organisers of the old school restricted their use to cars over 1,500 c.c., or some similar limit.

Soon after the introduction of competition tyres, the Motor Cycling Club ‘committee resolved to prohibit their use in the club events—an interesting decision in view of the recent action by the R.A.C. However, before any of the classic trials had actually been held under this ruling, a resolution was put on the agenda of the M.C.C. Annual General Meeting of that year that the committee’s decision should be reversed, and that there should be no ban on “comp.” tyres. An enormous .gathering of members turned up at Pagani’s, and the debate waxed hot and furious. At length a vote was taken, which resulted in a majority in favour of ” comps.” and from that time on their popularity was assured, so far as the big trials patronised by the ” regulars” were concerned. This meant that trials routes had to be stiffened up all round. The hills which formerly presented many difficulties, before the advent of “comps.,” were now -easy for the light, low-geared trials car, -shod with tyres embellished by enormous projections. Sheer gradient had long ‘ceased to have much significance, and now even a good surface rendered a gradient

• easy. It is a generally accepted principle that a first-elass award in a trial of any standing shall be a trophy of some value, usually equal at least to that of the entry -fee. A club cannot run its events at a loss, and thus, to prevent an undue proportion of expensive awards, organisers were driven to the inclusion of rockstrewn paths, studded with boulders, abounding in shattering cross-gullies, and generally calculated to provide the

necessary difficulties. Competitors had asked for it, and they got it. This was all very well for the dyed-inthe-wool enthusiasts, many of whom kept a special car for trials, and did not par ticularly mind knocking it about. A certain number enjoyed a considerable degree of works support, though retaining a nominal status as private entrants. Repair bills slid easily off their backs, and it was not difficult for these fortunate individuals to carry any number of spares, including such items as axle-shafts, which are not normally carried by an

ordinary driver, but which now had to be replaced with great frequency. ‘The trials ” regular ” thought nothing of breaking an axle-shaft, replacing it, and continuing in the event with the loss of less than half-an-hour. For the select band of “regulars.” rough courses were indeed essential, since otherwise it would all be much too easy, and no sport would be provided. But what of the huge host of ” Casuals,” the men who liked to enter in three or four events each year, driving their ordinary cars as used for normal purposes, just

for the fun Of the thing ? Still more, what of the novices, the fresh blood from which the stream of competitors has continually to be replenished ? What did they think of all these rocks and boulders ? On an average, trials drivers go on competing for about four years, sometimes less, but seldom more. There are notable exceptions, but, generally, after

that period competitors get married, and have to exchange their supercharged two-seater Whatsit for a family saloon, or have to devote more time to business, or suffer a gradual cooling of enthusiasm for all-night runs, and dashing up the sides of mountains. As one well known figure after another has dropped out, men who in their time have been strong champions of the “comp.” tyre, it has been found in the last few years that fresh drivers have not been forthcoming to take their places, and that entry lists have been dropping and dropping. Take the famous Gloucester tidal, for example, a classic event which was always known to present a sporting course, but which yet catered for the ordinary driver who did not mind a few failures. Some years ago the car entry

used to number over two hundrei, but in the recent event it had dropped to a quarter of that figure. Nor must one Single out the ” Gloucester” as an event that has lost its former big entry. The well known Brighton-Beer trial, another one-time classic for the ordinary driver, has shrunk to less than a third of its former proportions, despite recent efforts by its organisers to return to normal, or the

status quo ante ” comps.” Even the M.C.C. classics have had a steadily diminishing car entry in recent years, though motor-cycle entries have been returning under the influence of special attention. The M.C.C., it must be admitted, have always eschewed car-smashing stuff, but since ” comp.” tyrcs became general, in about 11)83-34, causing the inclusion of hills such as Simms, it has been a very difficult matter for the ordinary driver, not one of the coterie of regular trials

competitors, to gain the coveted Triple Award. The trouble has been that all trials have gained the reputation of using routes Over which no ordinary driver would think of taking his car, Even at beat, there have always been folk who, if asked whether they would take part in a trial, would reply ” No, thank you I I have

more respect for my car ! ” In recent years a great many trials courses would have merited this comment, and those clubs who have endeavoured to keep to fair going have suffered by being lumped with the rest. For this state Of affairs the competition tyre has been largely responsible, and the members of that M.C.C. committee which originally wish,d to ban it can now wag their heads and say ” I told you so.” One cannot blame the tyre manufacturers

in any way. They perceived a demand., and were ready to supply it. Only a decisive action by a governing authority such as the R.A.C. could have saved the situation, and that action has

now been taken. It is one of those arbitrary actions which make for the general good. If it had been possible to take a referendum amongst present trials drivers, there can be little doubt that a vote would still go, as at that M.C.C. meeting, in favour of ” comps.”

However, the people who voted would, in all probability, be the ” regulers,” that small and undaunted band, the minority with a loud voice. The ” casuals,” whose support is yet so valuable to trials, would probably onlit to vote at all, as happens so often in a General Election unless much whipping in is done. As for the new 1)lood, waiting to be attracted, they would still be in embryo, and would not hear of it at all. Some clubs have always stuck out for the merits of a course designed for ordinary tyres. It wes once decided that even On the well known Experts’ Trial ordinary

tyres should be used, but the move was naturally unpopular, for in this event above all others the ” regular” Conies into his own, and the cry has been for “nothing barred.”

It is perhaps ironical that the R.A.C. ban on Competition tyres has arrived at a time when the military authorities are taking a serious interest in crosscountry motoring, and, as the old saying goes, all’s fair in love and war—even competition tyres ! The ” comp.” tyre, however, has not led design along paths which make a sports-car suitable for ordinary motoring. It has encouraged very low bottom gears, for the absence of spin makes it necessary for plenty of power to be available. ‘With ordinary tyres, and a high-geared sports-car, a clever driver will actually

14-.Ne a little spin in order to keep the revs. up.

It has masked the effects of the modern tendency to put the engine far forward in the chassis, thus leaving insufficient weight on the rear wh.,;ds, and causing many steering problems. The change to ” ordinaries ” is likely to provide Several shocks for hitherto confident competitors, till they learn a new techaique. There is, indeed, a different style of driving necessary with ” ordinaries.” Rush tactics, so successful with ” comps.” and often so damaging to a car, are not always desirable, though much depends

upon the gear ratio. A driver has to pick his way, for if his front wheels come up against any projecting ledge it may cause the rear wheels to start spinning, where ” comps.” would have carried him through unconcerned. Tyres have to be let clown to much lower pressures, and there is scops for nice judgment. If security bolts are not used, too low a pressure will cause the cover to creep, thus pulling out the tyre valve. On the other hand, a few lb. of prsasure one way or the other may make

all the difference in obtaining wheel grip, especially on slippery mud. Security bolts, which have not been seen much of late, since the beaded edge tyre was discarded, are certainly to be recommended in the new conditions.

One of the arguments against the use of one’s ordinary tyres for trials is that the low pressures which are necessary on most observed sections are not good for the walls, and in general there is considerable wear and tear on the tyres. This cannot be denied, but better to suffer some additional tyre wear rather than to spoil the whols car! Wear can in any case be kept to a minimum by having a tyre pump ready to restore the pressure as soon as the slippery section is past. On soft mud little harm will be done. It is on hard roads that normal pressures are necessary. A counter-argument is that with ” ordinaries ” one is spared the expense of maintaining a separate set of ” comp.” tyres especially for trials, and probably the expense of two extra

.spare wheels as well. If one has not indulged in extra wheels, one has had to, carry ” comps.” on the normal spares, and few even of the most ardent ” coinp.” enthusiasts will advocate their use for ordinary purposes on the road. Not only does wear take place much more quickly, if a” comp.” is driven on tarmac roads, but the steering and road-holding, so good on loose stuff, is usually affected On a hard surface, owing to the flexion of the projecting rubber knobs. One of the difficulties has always been to define a competition tyre. Some Manufacturers have boldly listed their products as ” sports ” or ” competition “but in other cases tyres with formidable projseting treads have lurked under

quite normal tyre names. The R.A.C. has taken the only course by issuing a list of banned types of tyre, a list to which additions will have to be made from time to time, for the wiles of competitors in finding loopholes are many.

One may expect a great increase iii tyre diameters, but this seems quite a proper subterfuge, as large tyres are -equally suitable for use on ordinary roads. In the past some clubs have laid down a limit in the overall diameter, and this may have to be done if the overzealous find a tyre which, .again, will render any but abnormally rough surfaces too easy. Already many clubs have been anticipating the new ride by ordaining the use of ” ordinaries,” but it is useless for organisers to expect to be able to use the same hills which they have included

hitherto. Otherwise, difficulties Will be so great that long delays will ensue while the new entrants will be more discouraged than ever. It will be necessary to chOose a course very carefully, bearing in mind the possibility that rain may make an easy hill impossible, or dry weather may make a terror easy. Where possible, a route in winter Conditions may include alternatives, to be used according to the weather, as was done on the Inter

‘Varsity Trial in 1937. In summer,. when one hopes for more stable conditions, this precaution is less necessary.

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