A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport
No. 1 — Earl Howe
The Rt. Hon. the Earl Howe is a gentleman of excellent taste. This was evident to us when we had the pleasure of visiting him at his charming Elizabethan country home in Surrey.
Known as the “Old Rectory,” it contains many valuable pieces of antique furniture, beautifully set off by the Linenfold oak panelling, but his most valued possessions are his numerous trophies and photographs of motor racing. Amongst these are some fine model ships, which reminded us that the Earl has been a Naval reserve for over 40 years. Here was such a wealth of interest that we could have browsed around for hours. Indeed, it must be pleasant for the Earl to return to such a restful and inspiring atmosphere after his hectic motor-racing exploits or his tiring political life in London.
Earl Howe first drove a car as far back as 1898 and completed in his first race in 1928. When a child his enthusiasm for motoring was such that he faked many a bilious attack to bring the doctor to the house, as he possessed the first motor car in the district, and his visits ended with a ride down the drive for Howe.
Howe was driving his E.R.A. in South Africa in 1938 and the early part of 1939.
Whilst running at Brooklands on the Campbell Circuit in May, 1939, he missed a corner, owing to the limits of the track being obscured by a large puddle of rainwater. The E.H.A. was slightly damaged on striking a ball. This was his last race.
In the course of Earl Howe’s extensive racing career some of his most notable successes are as follows :—
1st, J.C.C. B.D. 12-hr., 1931, M.G. Midget (with C. S. Staniland).
1st, Le Mans, 1931, Alfa-Romeo (in conjunction with Birkin, and 1st in 4th Annual A.C.O. Cup, also 1st in 7th Biennial A.C.O. Cup).
1st, Avus G.P., 1932, Delage 1 1/2.
1st, Nurburg G.P., 1933, Delage 1 1/2.
2nd, Picardy G.P., 1934, Bugatti.
1st, Targa Avruzzo, 1934, Alfa-Romeo.
3rd, R.A.C. Inter. T.T., 1935, Bugatti.
2nd, J.C.C. 200-Mile, 1936, E.R.A.
1st, Grosvenor G.P. (South Africa),1938, E.R.A.
Racing Class up to 1,500 c.c., 1938, E.R.A., Brighton Speed Trials Record.
Immediately prior to the war, he drove his Lagonda and Fiat 500 whilst on naval duties in the North, and later used his Bugatti as well.
As to future plans, Earl Howe says that he is not a “planner,” but prefers to meet occasions as they arise. Anyhow, he has his E.R.A. The cars he now owns are a Bugatti, Type 57, Lagonda V13, Railton 4 1/2-litre and a Fiat 500.
Howe’s most frightening experience in motor racing was in the T.T. On the Ards Circuit, in which he was driving a Monza Alfa-Romeo. He was descending Bradshaws Bray at some 80 m.p.h. when to his dismay he perceived the Italian-driven car ahead of him pulling up on the bend. Immediately, Howe braked, but the surface was loose and he spun round 180 degrees, hit the bank with his back wheels, leapt into the air, cleared a low brick wall and sailed over the heads of three very surprised people who were climbing a bank to take photographs. The car then landed on its four wheels in a potato field. At this moment Howe was not a little surprised to find himself unharmed and the car apparently intact. Help soon arrived and with some struggle the Alfa was turned round and taken out of the field, through a gate, thence through a farm and back on to the course. Howe merely finished the circuit as the brakes proved to he defective. Subsequently it was discovered that the chassis was fractured.
Howe is chairman of the Marine Motoring Association. He is fond of music and has a vast library of gramophone records. He likes all sorts of music, but is opposed to “jazz.” In his earlier days he played cricket and golf, but now his various mishaps (in which he has broken practically every bone in his body, except, strangely, those in his legs) have rendered him, he says, too bent for these games.
He has a large library, is fond of model ships and enjoys his well-kept garden.
Earl Howe has strong individual characteristics. An array of caps that we observed in his library recalled memories of him, always wearing a cap at jaunty angle, in bygone days. His racing colours are blue and silver. He is a director of the A.E.C. Co. (manufacturers of heavy vehicles), is interested in politics and has been a member of the House of Commons for 11 years for Battersea South.
Earl Howe advocates starting at the beginning, as he did. He recalls his first job as a garage mechanic in France at 4 francs a day, later rising to 5 francs as he grew proficient. He is of the opinion that it is better to gain experience in unimportant races, where it does not matter where you come in. As you progress you invariably realise how little you know and how much there is to learn. Start with all humility and an open mind, learning by every means possible.
Dick Seaman, he points out, spent many hours studying photographs of cornering technique and learnt much thereby. There is no quick and .safe road to success.
Asked if he had any suggestions to improve motoring as a sport, Earl Howe said it is important that motor racing should be commenced before it can be improved. He feels that racing cars were getting too fast for the circuits that were available, and with this high speed the safety of the spectators represented a big difficulty. Furthermore, as the speed of the racing car increases, so the number of drivers who can handle them with the necessary split-hair reactions rapidly decreases. At 200 m.p.h. things happen so quickly that drivers with exceptional qualities are required.