First year at Donington
If your elghteenth-century deer park ls proving hard to maintain, there’s only one thlng to do with it…
Brooklands was well established after its opening in 1907, but between the wars there arose the feeling among motor racing enthusiasts in Britain that we should follow Continental countries and have a road circuit. Some attempt was made to this end with the Campbell Circuit, built on part of Brooklands.
In 1931 the Derby and District Motor Club suggested to Mr J G Shield, the owner of a Gothic mansion called Donington Hall, that a road-racing course could be laid out on the park’s existing drives and farm roads. Shield agreed and the plan went ahead. The circuit, which measured two and a quarter miles and cost £12,000, included four exciting corners which all had good spectator viewing points, except where it passed through the woods. In two places, where it ran between some farm buildings and where it squeezed through one arch of a stone bridge leading to the house, there was no passing allowed.
The circuit was opened on March 25, 1933 with short speeches by Sir GBeaumont and Col Lindsay-Lloyd of the RAC. The first race was for 850cc supercharged and un-blown cars but had only four entrants — one Austin and three MGs — with the winner being ER Hall in a supercharged MG Midget with a winning speed of 56mph; he completed the race in 23min 19.4sec. The supercharged Austin driven by RF Turner came in second but suffered from a seized blower and coasted in with a time of 23min 40.4sec. Third place was taken by JD Barnes in an unsupercharged MG Midget with a time of 27min 7.6sec.
There were six other races; the second race was run in two heats for 850cc supercharged and 1000cc unsupercharged cars. The first heat was won by ENWard in a Riley with a time of 25min 4.4sec and the second by ER Hall’s supercharged MG Midget. But unfortunately shortage of time did not allow for a final run, so the winner was decided on their times.
The third event only had two entrants, A H Langley driving a Montlhery MG and Judson in an MG J2, who had to coast in, giving Langley a rather empty win in 23min 7.2sec. The next race was run in two heats but the winner was also decided on time, this going to G Casswell (Frazer Nash) in 24min 11.6sec for the first heat, with Freddy Dixon (Riley) in 23min 10.6sec coming second. The fifth race again only had two entries — Horton who won in a supercharged MG Magnette in 22min 5.8sec, and ER Hall in a 746cc MG supercharged Midget with 23min 5.8sec. The last race for all comers was won by Freddy Dixon in a Riley in 23min 51.2sec.
The second meeting at Donington was held on May 13 with 51 cars entered, but 13 failed to start at all and 18 more retired or were nonstarters, and in three of the 10 races only two cars finished. The 9-10,000 spectators had good weather and there was some very good driving to be seen, notably by ER Hall (MG Midget), K Hutchinson (Bugatti), RF Turner (Austin), JE Gibson (Riley), EK Rayson (Riley) and H J Aldington (Frazer Nash).
The starting system had been improved so that cars were now drawn up in rows of three or four and sent away ‘en masse’. In the first race there was an accident in which Sparrow overturned his Austin; he only suffered a nasty cut on the head but his passenger sustained a broken thigh. This crash bought to light the lack of drilling by the ambulance men, who tried to bring their vehicle over soft ground at the side of the track and became bogged down, so that the injured man ended up being taken away on a lorry.
The third meeting, held on August 19, was a most successful affair, having ironed out the previous problems of car capacity being limited to 1500cc, the dusty track surface and delays in the programme. The only thing that marred the event were two accidents, one fatal where J Gordon, a passenger to P J Warren in a 11/2-litre Bugatti, was killed during practice.
The last meeting of the season was held in showery weather on October 7 and following the accidents at the previous meeting, when both victims were passengers while both drivers escaped, for the first time passengers were not allowed to travel in the competing cars. The last race of the season was won by ERHall driving a 1496cc MG Magnette S, winning in 11min 44sec with an average speed of 55.88mph.
In its second season the track was extended to two miles 971 yards, and again in 1937 to three miles 220 yards for the TT and the two last Donington Grands Prix.
Twin histories of Irish road racing
Two interesting books have been published by Dreoilin Publications in the Irish Transport series in association with the RIAC Guinness Segrave Archive. No15 covers The Bray Motor Races I 9341935, described by Robin McCullagh, and is a well-illustrated book of 32 pages with historic pictures of these events and the conditions under which these exciting races were run. The text covers forgoffen aspects of these first road races run in Southern Ireland. Price £6, ISBN 978-1-902773-20-9
No14, by John S Moore, covers the International Ulster Trophy Races 19341935 including the County Down Trophy and the Champion Handicap events which were held on four different road circuits such as Dundrod and Ballyclare circuits, with illustrated maps and race results. Price £6, ISBN 978-1-902773-18-6
Explorations in Motoring History, edited by Bryan J H Brown, is published by Oxbow Books, Oxford for Bournemouth University which in 1996 held a History of Motoring Conference, organised by The School of Conservation Sciences. This is a rather unusual book containing nine papers covering the broad spectrum of current research, and serves as an illustration of the variety of work presently in progress. These papers are the opening debate rather than seminal conclusions, with headings such as ‘Imaging of motoring’ by David Jeremiah, ‘The history of oil and Duckhams’ by Pat Lellioff, ‘Reaction to the motor car: rural community response in the 1920s’ by Bryan Brown and concluding with ‘The development of the high-performance engine: a revisionist history’ by David Hebb. Price £4.95, ISBN 190-0188-48-1
It could have been as easy as ABC…
Before owning my Austin 7 I had seen in a breaker’s yard an ABC which had no tyres, but the breaker said he would put tyres on if I bought it, to which I agreed. Before I collected the car I told my close friend Tom Lush what I was buying and he said he would get away from work early and meet me at the end of the Kingston bypass. The car started alright but only got to the start of the bypass when it stopped. Unable to restart it, I flagged down a passing car which happened to be driven by a girl, and amazingly she stopped. I asked if she would mind telling my friend who would be waiting for me at the other end of the bypass. She said how would I know him and I told her that he would be dressed like me in a leather coat. She agreed to this and in due course Tom arrived and
got me started and we set off back to London.
Early next morning we went to the garage where I had left the ABC that night, as Tom and I intended to drive it to a race in the Midlands. When we push started the car it caught fire near to the petrol pumps and the garage staff quickly moved it away. Having
sorted out the problems we set off and all went well until a modern car overtook us and a child poked his tongue out. This annoyed me so I opened out to re-pass them. Tom tried to stop me, but the inevitable happened; the engine blew up at the top of the hill
so we coasted down to a garage at the bottom. It was still early morning so while we waited for the garage to open Tom removed the flat-twin engine, put it on the back seat and covered it with a cloth.
When a mechanic arrived we told him the engine had fallen out. He looked up the road to see if it was there, but when he discovered it was on the back seat the joke backfired as he would not then let us leave the car at the garage. So we pushed it to another garage where we left it and returned home on public transport. When we went to retrieve it the next day with a tow car we started to cross the main road, inadvertently impeding a large vehicle that was climbing the hill and whose driver shouted at us in anger, as we had caused him to stop. Eventually Tom put the car back into running order and shortly after that I sold it for a fiver, which is what I had paid for it.
As a change from books about full-size cars it was refreshing to receive a book by Bryan Apps entitled When Toys Were Fun. This medium-size book is about the author’s wartime childhood playthings and his subsequent experiences with toys of all kinds, in which
he describes the work of such toymakers as the Bing Brothers, Georges Carette, the Marklin Brothers and some less remembered
makers, memories of well-established stores such as Harrods, Hamleys and Gamages, with chapters entitled Hornby Trains, Dinky and Corgi Toys, and coming up to date with television-related toys.
This 144-page book, which includes many fine illustrations and catalogues of yesteryear, is an excellent recall of when toys were fun, as was the author’s previous book about When Cars Were Fun. Published by Halsgrove of Somerset, price £19.19, IBSN 978 0 85704 040 4. E-mail: [email protected]
Full speed astern, and an early encounter with pond rage
As a boy I had a number of toy boats and would go with my mother to sail them on the pond at Clapham Common. One we bought from a shop in Balham, after which I went by tram to the pond. After gaffing it started up I placed it in the water, whereupon it went backwards. My mother had to cope with a furious boy as we took it back to the shop. The shop assistant turned the propeller the other way round, and when we returned to the pond the boat proceeded in the correct way.
I also used to go to Brockwell Park to watch the miniature power boats that were kept in the club house. The boats went round and round the pole to which they were tied. On one occasion when fast laps were being made a man put a sailing model in to the pond at the same time. It was hit by a power boat which caused a lot of damage. The owner was furious and fetched a policeman but was told that those who were using the pond had permission, which the owner of the sailing boat had not, so consequently there was no claim.