Earl Howe Explains Efforts to Secure Somewhere to Race
On December 11th last year the R.A.C. Competitions Department called the second meeting of Approved Motor Clubs, with Earl Howe in the chair. Much of value resulted from this frank airing of views on matters relating to the Sport. Major Dixon Spain introduced the four new members of the Competitions Committee, F. S. Battles, T. A. S. O. Mathieson, Maurice Toulmin and Lord Waleran. He was able to say that 27 new speed courses have been inspected and that three more await inspection, that the record of racing drivers’ performances is right up to date and that the third party insurance scheme has been extended to cover gymkhanas and similar events. Major Dixon Spain called for good behaviour on the part of all competitors and recommended shorter events in order to retain public interest and enthusiasm.
Earl Howe, who took the chair so very ably, told us of his efforts to get us somewhere to race. He felt that the S.M.M.T.’s reply about Donington had rather lost us the chance of using that course. He had inspected two aerodromes, one hopeless, the other good and round which a 3.8-litre Bugatti had lapped at 90 m.p.h. But the landowners had quashed the use of this course. Eight Government Departments have to be consulted, including the Home Office, Ministry of Supply, Board of Trade and Ministry of Town and Country Planning, before anything can be settled and, at the end of the road, there is the Treasury. But at least one important member of the present Government is fully conscious of the need for racing successes to boost our export trade, and Howe is still hopeful of finding a course. The A.C.U. pointed out that the Motor-Cycle Manufacturers’ Union wants Donington. Earl Howe paid a very fine tribute to Lt.-Col. Gardner’s courage and initiative in taking 750-c.c. records, and announced that this year was the Jubilee of the R.A.C. The R.A.C. Rally will he held, in September, finishing at Scarborough, “petrol or no petrol.” An exhibition of racing cars and veterans may be possible, and the Brighton Run will be held, while the British Hill-climb Championship will be contested at Shelsley Walsh, Prescott, Craigantlet, Bo’ness and Bouley Bay.
This led to statements that the Jersey Race, with the co-operation of the J.C.C., will be held on May 8th, and the Blackpool Rally in June, and that the Experts’ Trial will be elaborated, and possibly staged as a two-day event in 1948. On the subject of the change in the British racing colour, Earl Howe said be was entirely to blame. At the C.S.I. meeting he had attempted to get sanction for independent drivers to use their own colours (like Seaman’s black) and, high-speed technical French rather confusing the issue, had allowed himself to give approval to a trial period of using blue. S. C. H. Davis thanked Earl Howe for his frank admission and said he was sure no blame attached, hut Howe said there was blame on his shoulders and he would do his hest to get the ruling rescinded at the next C.S.I. meeting, which he thought would not be difficult. [This frank and fair statement should be accepted by everyone without further quibble. — Ed.]
On the subject of sports-car regulations, Earl Howe favoured the T.T. rules of the R.A.C., which he thought had produced a very reasonable fast touring car. Italy had proposed a new sports-car definition and the C.S.I. had asked her to run races under these rules and then to report to them again, and, proposing touring car races, she was told that saloon cars must run with the windows open and rear window removed. [Sensible, hut non-aerodynamic. — Ed.] Howe would like to see a stock-car race on American lines.
The number of clubs that should be invited by an organising club to its closed invitation events was discussed and was to be debated at the meeting of the C.C. on December 12th. Many ways of cleaning up the trials situation were discussed after Earl Howe had said it was essential not to annoy the general public or to impair their safety. He regarded Buxton as overworked in the past in respect of trials.
The locked-differential problem came up, and while Toulmin agreed with Ballamy (“750” Club) that progress in design must not he retarded, he felt the matter worth discussion. Kirkman (Southsea M.C.) said he had beaten locked differential cars with his Alvis, but the meeting suggested to him that locked-differential cars cannot be competed against by normal cars. Imhof (N.W.L.M.C.) said any regulations introduced should at least be enforced and Callender (Scottish S.C.C.) reminded us that Scotland’s Standing Regulations ban locked differentials, while not excluding cars like the Frazer-Nash and Trojan. Birkett (“750” Club) said the restricted differential was a new menace. A motion to ban locked differentials was carried by a large majority.
The Liverpool M.C. suggested extending Competition Licences to trials-drivers, and while many people were against this, Fred Craner thought this a good thing and Toulmin said that a system of registration would suffice. This was confirmed by vote.
After tea racing matters were discussed. The B.R.D.C., represented by S. C. H. Davis and Kenneth Evans, gained almost all its points, which covered allowing one marshal to help a driver restart his car if he stalled his engine in a race, and running all racing car entries, for both runs, in the middle of sprint programmes (which Rivers Fletcher reminded us had been suggested at the “Rembrandt”). Earl Howe certainly backed the marshal-helper idea, recalling his own stalled engine at a Rheims G.P., and Eric Giles, Leslie Wilson, and the Jersey, Ulster and Bo’ness organisers were able to say that racing cars would be run between the Sports-car classes at their 1947 fixtures. Spectators invading the road at the end of a meeting would need to be guarded against.
The question of issuing Standing Regulations for speed events cropped up, but most people favoured individual classifications and rules for sprints.
Other matters relating to regulations did not progress very far, but Strang (“500” Club) asked if standardised positions for carrying racing numbers could be agreed and Howe confirmed that this was important. Davis (B.R.D.c.) thought 500-c.c. cars might be scrutineered while they were a-building. Davidge Pitts (Hants and Berks MC.) felt that too many thinly-disguised racing cars were allowed to run in sports-car classes at Sprint meetings, often using methanol.
In reply to Bowler (Vintage S.C.C.), Earl Howe hoped an aerodrome circuit would become available for hire to clubs. Tett (Harrow C.C.) announced a complicated scheme for a “Trials-Drivers’ Star” contest, which his club wished to introduce, but Toulmin reminded him that the B.T.D.A. was handling such a scheme, and Tett said if that was so the Harrow C.C. would withdraw. Many speakers felt that the problem of big cars winning all the “pots” in trials could be obviated by using capacity classes or grading starting points on the hills. [We favour this line of approach to a growing problem — Ed.] Toulmin said that if the big cars did win everything did that matter? No one expected to beat Raymond Mays at Sheisley Walsh with an unblown 550-c.c. car. (But we must remember the effect of “Talbot-Darracq domination” on entries. – Ed.]
Dewey (Southsea M.C.) said that it is difficult to get numbers printed in small quantities and could the R.A.C. undertake to do this, selling supplies to the clubs. Major Dixon Spain said this was an expensive hobby, but Dewey, quite rightly, emphasised that, far from being a hobby, this is a necessity. It is under stood the R.A.C. will supply numbers.
Thus concluded a most useful meeting, attended by club representatives from far and wide, the North of England being especially well represented. Cecil Clutton (B.O.C.) proposed a vote of thanks to Earl Howe and the Competitions Committee.