Matters of moment, January 1956

Congratulations, Campbell! —
Britain now holds the World’s Water Speed Record, at a mean speed of 216.25 m.p.h. “Bluebird” reached a speed of 239 1/2 m.p.h. in one direction.

We owe this magnificent achievement to the bravery and untiring efforts of Donald Campbell, who pledged his personal fortune in building the K7 jet hydroplane “Bluebird” for this empirical and exacting task.


In capturing this speed record for his country, and by being the first man to travel at over 200 m.p.h. on water, Donald Campbell follows ably in the wake of his illustrious father, the late Sir Malcolm Campbell, with whose exploits most motor-racing enthusiasts are familiar.

We offer congratulations not only to Campbell and his technicians but to Metropolitan-Vickers who made his Beryl jet-engine, to Laystall, Lucas, K.L.G., Mobil, Tecalemit, Coley, Birmid, Accles & Pollock, G. R. Siebe Gorman, and other firms which contributed to this outstanding success last year at Lake Mead, Nevada. And nil-congratulations to the firms which were so shortsighted as to refuse to come to Campbell’s aid in building his new boat…

Whether or not our Royal Navy learns anything of value from the “Bluebird” hydroplane researches, there isn’t an atom of doubt about the valuable prestige Donald Campbell’s record has gained for this country.

—And Fangio
Congratulations equally warm go to Juan Manuel Fangio for taking the Championship of the World in Grand Prix racing for the second year in succession (and for the third time in his career), at the wheel of those superb road-racing cars prepared so meticulously by the great German Mercedes-Benz organisation (and lubricated with Castrol). This year Fangio drives for Ferrari.

New Le Mans and Rally regulations
There is plenty of time ahead during the long winter evenings to consider in detail the new rules which will govern this year’s Le Mans Race; and to ponder on the changes in future rallies run over French territory which must result from the decision of the French Government to ban open sports cars from these events. While the French authorities may well have had cause to panic at the high average speeds achieved on their roads during classic long-distance rallies, whether they have evidence that only open cars go so quickly as to be potentially dangerous is another matter!

The changes in the Le Mans regulations are sensational but, again, it is open to debate whether the banning of prototypes over 2 1/2 litres will render the great 24-hour race safer while ultra-rapid “production” sports cars still race with the far-slower “tiddlers.” However, the A.C. de l’Ouest has taken some minor but sensible steps to try to ensure that the cars which will line up at Le Mans next summer will be more closely related to normal sports cars and a little less like single-seater racing cars than has been the case in post-war races of the series, even though this may remove Le Mans from Sports-Car Championship status. For example, a minimum body width of 47.2 in., a full-width screen of a minimum frontal area of 1.94 sq. ft., a maximum fuel-tank capacity of 29 instead of 44 1/2 gallons, higher seat backs, wider doors on each side, a minimum of 292 miles instead of 268 miles between refuelling, and a number of other changes in former regulations may add up to a means of tactfully eliminating the freak startlingly-fast cars.

A real step forward would have been to have segregated the under- and over-100-m.p.h. vehicles, but it is difficult to see how the Le Mans authorities could do this when so many of their national entries comprise small-engined vehicles and without damaging the reputation of this race, which depends on a large and comprehensive “field.”

More to the credit of the A.C. de l’Ouest are the considerable changes they are making in the circuit, for the pits are being moved back 50 feet, with a slowing-down zone of 220 yards preceding them and a 20-foot wide road before them. New safety fences, walls and safety zones will be constructed, while the radius of the curve under the Dunlop bridge, just beyond the pit-area, will be increased from 1,000 to 1,650 feet. Escape roads will be provided at the Esses and Arnage, and the road at White House may be improved. A loan of £250,000 has been raised to cover this extensive constructional work, which is now in full swing.

Incidentally, the date of the race has been changed to August 4th-5th, out of respect for the spectators who died last year; compensation to a total of some £300,000 will be paid out to dependants and relatives, largely by British underwriters.

Minor changes have been made in this mouth’s premier event, the Monte Carlo Rally, in which, of course, open cars have not been eligible for many years. A pity, this, because those who remember pre-war Monte Carlos when competitors used to start from Europe’s remotest backwaters and face the harder winters of those times in skeleton two-seaters cannot really work up quite the same admiration for today’s crews, who embark on the shorter modern Monte Carlo, through no fault of their own, in enclosed, heated, de-iced and de-misted travelling boudoirs! Good luck, all the same, to the 1956 crews—and may a British car win.

Finalisation of many of the new regulations for next season’s events will not be made until the next C.S.I. meeting at Monte Carlo on January 24th, for which reason we do not intend at present to deal with proposals in greater detail.

The next Grand Prix formula
The existing Grand Prix formula has two more seasons to run—1956 and 1957—but can be revised for 1958. At a recent meeting in Paris of a sub-committee of the C.S.I., at which delegates representing Britain, America, France, Italy and Germany met under a Swiss chairman, the next G.P. formula was discussed; it was suggested that the existing Formula I be continued until the end of 1959 but that gas-turbine-propelled racing cars be included, to compete on equal terms with piston-engined cars from 1958 onwards. The sub-committee also favoured retaining the existing Formula III to the end of 1959, and introducing a new Formula II, covering unsupercharged cars up to 1 1/2 litres, for the seasons 1957-1959 inclusive.

The reference to including gas-turbine cars in Grand Prix racing from 1958 onwards is significant, for Mercedes-Benz might well return to the field in that year and, having developed their piston-engined fuel-injection G.P. cars into world-beaters, they may decide, possibly have already decided, to come back and do the same in the technically-fascinating sphere of the gas-turbine.

The sub-committee did not reach agreement about the type of fuel to be used in F. I and F. II races but is to meet again in Frankfurt on January 10th, after which its final recommendations will be referred to the C.S.I. Monte Carlo meeting of January 24th.

The time to buy!
According to the News Chronicle of December 12th, the boom in used cars is over, and prices of such vehicles are “toppling far more heavily than the customary seasonal fall.” For a long time we have raised the Editorial eyebrows at prices asked for pre-war motor cars which, as we have pointed out, are now more than 15 years old and which during their life have either been wearing out on the road or deteriorating in storage. Of recent times the less-affluent enthusiasts have been heartened to discover that used cars can often be purchased at prices lower by an appreciable amount than those chalked on their windscreens or quoted in advertisements—especially if ready cash can be handed to the vendors!

Now it looks as if even less money need be taken on car-purchasing expeditions, for some dealers are said to be virtually writing-off part of their stocks, and it will no doubt pay eager buyers, on discovering the car they covet, to ignore its suggested value and “make an offer.” Now, it seems, is the time to buy!

Epping Forest Motorsport Association
A film show will be held on January 19th at St. Mary’s Hall, 201, High Road, Loughton, Essex, at 7.45 p.m. Admission is free and everybody is welcome. The show will include a tribute to that gallant French driver Pierre Levegh, with a showing of Shell’s “Le Mans 1952.” Other films in the programme cover events at Le Mans 1955, Brands Hatch 1955, Belgian Grand Prix 1955, Ulster Motorcycle T.T. 1955, and the British Road Federation’s new film “Highways for Tomorrow.”

Programmes will be available, price 1s., and refreshments will be served in the hall. The hall is 3 min. from Loughton Central Line Underground Station.

M.G. C.C. (S.W. Centre) Driving Tests (Nov. 26th)
Some 30 competitors completed four difficult tests in the Bristol Tramway Bus Depot at Winterstoke Road, Bristol, on November 26th. The tests consisted mainly of garaging the car forward and in reverse, and much-circling of pylons was also necessary. As the afternoon wore on the deposit of rubber mixed with some oil made the tests extremely difficult and many competitors failed to halt their cars astride the test-finishing lines.

Amongst a small entry of ladies, Jean White-Smith in a TR2 was the most successful and succeeded in being 12th overall in the competition.

The club’s annual general meeting and a film show was held at the Ship Hotel, Alverton, on Saturday, December 10th.

Best Performance: M. D. King (TR2).
Best M.G.: J. B. Hall.
Best Saloon: M. King (Ford Eight).
Best Open Car: C. Teomer (TR2).
Best Performance by a Lady: Jean White-Smith (TR2).