What does it feel like to hurtle round Brooklands Track faster than anyone else has ever done it on two wheels? The rider of the victorious Montgomery-British-Anzani records some impressions of present day “top-notch” racing.
Motor cycling at one-hundred-and-thirteen miles an hour is certainly very spectacular to the onlooker, who, as is often said, “sees most of the game.” This is particularly so when the machine passes within a few feet of him, as it frequently does when observed from the small grand stand adjoining Vickers’ sheds at the fork of Brooklands track. It is then that the terrific speed is realised, and appreciated by the keen spectator.
From the rider’s point of view, short distance records, in which the highest speeds are attained, are not particularly thrilling or interesting. The real joie de vivre is most keenly felt in a high lapping speed, such as is obtained by the back-markers in a handicap race.
In handicap events, one is faced at the outset with the tough proposition of catching the field; and having achieved this object, of the gratifying but responsible job of steering past them one by one. When this has been successfully accomplished, the most difficult and, to my mind, the most thrilling moments occur. The final ” scrap ” with the leader of the limit men then takes place. It is then that one crouches closer to the tank and talks to one’s pet machine whilst endeavouring to get the final ounce of power from it. If one is lucky, there follows the exhilarating joy of flashing over the line as winner—most probably only by a few yards.
During the progress of such a race there is far more to do than merely to sit tight and steer. One must concentrate chiefly on two points. Firstly, there is the running of the engine and the behaviour of the various components, such as the oil indicator, “rev.” counter, action of front forks, speedometer, and condition of the front tyre—the latter being a very important factor on a single track machine, as I have before now discovered to my cost. Secondly, one must give lively thought to the track, where and when to leave and pick up the bankings, having due regard to the disposition of the other competitors, combined with a judicious selection of the best course over the bad sections.
Safety In Speed.
Obviously some remarkable quick thinking is often necessary in this connection. When one considers the speed at which the ground is covered, at times approximating to 175 feet per second, one can appreciate that it would probably be a fatal error to under estimate even minor necessities.
The very rare occurrence of spills goes to prove that, generally speaking, high speed racing men have full control of their faculties, and are capable of using them to the best advantage with lightning-like rapidity.
Happily, as I have said, spills, and especially fatal ones, are very rare at Brooklands. I myself am firmly convinced of the fact that there is less danger of injury in being thrown from a machine at high speed than at a moderate speed of, say, seventy miles an hour. This may sound very paradoxical, but statistics, coupled with the opinion of the medical officer of the track, seem to justify my opinion.
It has been my misfortune to be forcibly removed from my machine on three occasions, at eighty, ninety and one-hundred-and-five miles an hour, the latter two spills occurring within half an hour of each other. Needless to say at the time no comparisons were made, but I have since arrived at the following conclusion :— At eighty miles an hour the machine was not rideable, nor the rider inclined to ride again, being somewhat “cut up” about the matter in more ways than one. On the occasion of the “double event,” however, the machine was ridden back to the paddock, and after being treated for gravel (or concrete) rash, I was able to drive home, though certainly I had had enough for one day. It is interesting to note that each of these three spills were caused by front tyres bursting, which accounts for earlier traces of anxiety in this article in respect of front tyres.
Referring to short distance record attempts, there are two phenomena which impress themselves on my mind. The first being the long time it seems to take to cover such a small distance as a kilometre, whilst to the spectator it is a case of “Here he comes ! ” “There he goes ! ” “It’s all over” and “Has he done it ? ” Secondly, whilst travelling along the railway straight and after striking a bump the machine feels as though it is suspended in the air, and quite stationary for a fraction of a second, until the back wheel makes contact and is driving again. So that really, to the rider, the whole distance seems to be a series of jumps, with intermittent stationary patches.
The Vital Test.
There is no doubt that the lapping speed is of the most importance, as a test for an engine, both from the designer’s point of view and that of the man in the street, to whom the lapping engine is finally delivered with modifications, as a standard product, this being the ultimate aim of all designers. With the engine I naturally include components. This being a period of high efficiency and high revving engines, transmitting enormous power, tyres are also called upon to resist tremendous strains and wear, and it is essential that they should be of perfect design and the highest quality. It may, in fact, be said that by far the highest percentage of races and reliability trials are won or lost on the degree of tyre efficiency.
In view of the recent controversy respecting the new silencing regulations which are being enforced at Brooklands, a few remarks on their effect on engines and speeds may not be out of place. It is generally agreed that to fit a silencer to an engine that has been designed to run with an open exhaust, is bound to be detrimental to the speed results obtained, because the free flow of exhaust gas is impeded, and again, through having to force an additional face area through the air, resistance of which absorbs a certain amount of horse-power. In view of the new restrictions I am convinced that as a record breaking track, Brooklands will be severely handicapped, particularly for short distance records. It is quite obvious that if a record can be put up at Brooklands under the present silencer regulations, the same machine can produce a better result on the Continent, where straight roads, superior surfaces and no restrictions exist.
In my opinion motor cycle speeds will continue to advance. They are controlled by (1) contact surface, (2) tyres (lighter tyres will be required for higher speeds), (3) streamlining. In the case of any motor cycle, streamlining is a difficult proposition, but it has not yet been seriously tackled.
New types of engines will doubtless be evolved in the near future, and speeds of 150 miles an hour will, I believe, be attained at no very distant date.