Veteran to classic

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108

A “Tyreing” Time

The photograph which we published in November of Alfred Ellison’s 1912 15-litre GP Lorraine-Dietrich Vieux Charles Trois minus all its tyres after a skid in practice for a Brooklands race has aroused such interest that I feel inclined to repeat it and to enlarge on the incident.

I have no way of knowing exactly when this alarming incident happened, which Ellison coped with admirably, took place. It could have been during the week prior to the race in question. But as it was reported in the press accounts of the 1923 BARC Summer Meeting, which reports were usually written about the day’s racing, and as Ellison was a non-starter in his first race that afternoon (the 20th Lightning Short Handicap), in which the old Lorraine should have started as limit car in a field of which Parry Thomas’s Leyland would have left 26sec later, I think we may assume that the horrific skid and tyre-shedding did happen on that June morning.

Apparently the great car burst a tyre just as it was coming fast off the Members’ banking into the Railway straight. It slid backwards down the banking. It then spun round and this tore the remaining three tyres from the rims. One of them went clean through the mile timing-box, an example of how much force was generated by a cover flung from a car with a top velocity of over 100 mph. Incidentally, this was the very same wooden timing-box which Count Zborowski’s Chitty Chitty-Bang Bang had also demolished, the previous year, when it burst a front tyre and ran off the track. A BARC official jumped into the adjoining ditch to escape, but just too late: some of his fingers were severed by the bare rim of one of Chitty’s wheels. It was suggested that, in future, the timing-boxes should be replaced with concrete pill-boxes, but this was never done!

Reverting to the Lorraine’s escape, it must have taken some time to repair the damage after its return on the bare rims and to. fit new tyres, or perhaps find four different wheels. But Ellison was ready just over two hours after racing had started, to bring his car out for the 34th 100 mph Long Handicap, which he won comfortably from J A Joyce’s 1-1/2-litre AC, both cars extremely well matched and both doing their fastest lap at 102.69 mph, but Joyce accelerating less quickly and having a three-second handicap to make up on the French car. I have a very happy picture of the Ellison brothers as smiling winners, with a well-dressed lady, presumably Alfred’s wife or mother, looking equally pleased, and wearing a stylish hat, standing by Vieux Charles Trois.

The race they had just won was over 8 1/2 miles. The next engagement was the the 90 mph Long handicap, less than 30 minutes later. In that event the Lorraine, after making the fastest standing lap of any car in the race, at 90.29 mph, burst a tyre on its second lap by the Vickers sheds and another at the place where the Finishing straight met the Members banking, this one flying over the trees.

Naturally, Ellison had to pull up. But this is an instance of how undurable racing tyres were in those days, for assuming the new ones fitted that morning were still in use, the car could not have run much more than about 12 racing miles, if that, before two of these burst. It was something to think about, in the 1920s. WB