RUMBLINGS, July 1934
Motor Racing and the English Public.
COMPARED with the crowds who assemble at every corner round the motor-cycle T.T. course, the number of spectators who watched the Mannin races at Douglas this year was disappointingly small. The Stand, which consisted of four “bays,” each holding perhaps 200 people each, was only threequarters full, and there was no difficulty in getting to the front line at any of the ‘vantage points. A similar state of affairs exists at Donington, where the gate for
the motor-cycle events is usually three times as large as for the car races. Various reasons were put forward, such as the fact that the dates were too early in the season for people to take a holiday, or the discomfort of having to face a sea-crossing, though this does not prevent a tremendous influx of visitors for the T.T. My own theory is that motor-cyclists as a body are much more sportingly inclined than car owners, and though there are only 500,000 two-wheel enthusiasts as against a million motorists registered in England, the former offer a much greater number of potential spectators for sporting events. No doubt as the Mannin Races
increase in reputation, larger numbers of people will go over to see them, and in one of the speeches at the Mannin Moar prize-distribution I was interested to hear that starting money might be considered when finances permitted.
A Strenuous Week.
The drivers and their helpers seemed to enjoy themselves very well in the Island, though the two early morning practices were rather wearing after working late into the night. Fear of horse-whipping prevents us publishing some of the photographs taken at 5 a.m. of well-known drivers.
The high-spot for many of the race-fans was to see a Ferrari Monoposto Alfa “in the flesh,” and in the hands of Brian Lewis it certainly showed its superiority over anything else in the Moar race. Its appearance in the Isle of Man was of course due to the keenness of Noel Rees, who was determined even if he could not own one of these marvel cars, at any rate to be the first to enter one in a British race. This sporting gesture must have been an expensive affair, for apart from the fee for hiring the car and the cost of transport, the Scuderia Ferrari were to receive half the winnings.
The car was brought all the way from Italy on an Alfa Romeo truck, accompanied by two Italian mechanics. Galcardi, who was in charge, had been Nuvolari’s mechanic when he raced at Dublin and at Ulster. The” 2.6,” he told me, was capable of 150 m.p.h. as against the 160 m.p.h. of the new Three-Litre. The car they had in the Isle of Man was the one driven by Varzi at Monte Carlo.
Brian Lewis was remarkably fresh when he stepped out of the Alfa after the race. The car apparently handled perfectly everywhere, though its lightness made it necessary to use a little care on bumpy corners. He only used second and top gears after the first few laps, as third kept slipping out. “I coasted round the corners on top gear like an American car,” he said, but the reserve of power was so great that the car got away quite cleanly from 10 m.p.h. up the 1 in 10 of Bray Hill on the gears which were left. He reached 132 m.p.h. on two occasions just before Governor’s Bridge.
A Good Party.
After the race quite forty people sat down to the luncheon in celebration of Brian’s success and the hotel outdid itself in giving a carnival air to the table decorations. One of the central features was an enormous loaf and a butcher’s knife, which was placed on a stand in front of the second of the Italian mechanics. He had made himself celebrated during his stay in the
Island by eating two dozen slices of bread at a sitting, interspersed with fragments of Italian opera. Freddy Dixon, who was one of the guests, was in no way cast down by his misfortunes in the two races, and told us in song that he was “As wild as a prairie flower.” An even more cheerful party took place that night,
• the only drawback being that the morning steamer left at 8.30.
Since the famous occasion when he leapt the hedge at Quarry Corner in the 1932 T.T. race, Dixon has constantly figured as a spectacular driver. After seeing his car sliding about on the sand at Southport, I decided to ask him just how safe he
really felt. “I don’t care what a car does,” was his reply, “as long as I’ve got it under control.” • He worked for two months on his Rileys perfecting the road-holding and brakes before attempting to do anything to the engine, an example which might well be followed by some of those who perform at Don ington. He never uses a test-bed for tuning the engines, just “tickles them up,” but as the cars are quite heavy, weighing some 14-cwt., the power output must be a useful one. At present the cars are doing 130 on the
level and he thinks that with some further tuning and a single-seater body, 150 m.p.h. should be within his reach. He is entering for the Ulster T.T., but like most super-tuners of most makes of cars, finds his limitation in the standard crankshaft.
As a side-line he has brought the” Silver Bullet from Jackyield, the Southport driver.
When Whitney Straight first announced his intention of forming a racing stable in England, many people were doubtful of its success. The season so far has shown a useful crop of thirds and fourths, while both Straight and Hamilton have been dogged by ill-luck. Hamilton was hot in pursuit of Chiron and Varziin the Tripoli race when the needle in his carburetter floatchamber stuck, while Straight missed a third at Casblanca through a burst tyre, with only three laps to go.
The speeds attained on the Tripoli course are really amazing, for apparently the straight stretches seldom measure over half a mile in length, most of the course consisting of very fast corners, many of them blind, which can be taken at 150 m.p.h. by a courageous driver. The Stands and pits are all constructed of concrete, dominated by an enormous tower, from the top of which the entire circuit can be seen.
The three-litre Alfa Romeos were of course much the fastest, being capable of about 164 m.p.h., and since they only weigh 13+ cwt., no other cars can live with them. The Maseratis were doing approximately 160, Hamilton’s car, which was a special one built for Nuvolari, weighing 14+ cwt. with a 45-gallon tank. The Bugattis were reaching 150 at times, while the Miller were capable of around 145. The drivers had had no experience of road-racing, while the pit-work was rather pathetic. Engine oil was poured in from an ordinary tin with a small hole punched and the engines were left ticking over during the stop. Apparently they run on neat petrol to which a high proportion of Ethyl fluid has been added.
The Racing Deadlock.
The undoubted supremacy of the Ferrari Alfas has made the result of any race they go in for a foregone
conclusion, for one of the cars goes ahead and makes the running, while the rest of the team sit on his tail to see that nothing goes wrong. The only driver who can hustle them is Etancelin, who drives with a complete indifference to revs, and suchlike matters, but Straight and Hamilton are very little slower, and are therefore much favoured by the race organisers.
A certain confusion has lately visited the Ferrari stable, for Guy Moll has been refusing to take a back seat, and at Tripoli chased past Chiron and nearly caught Varzi.
I was interested to see that Mercedes and Auto Union occupied the first two places in the Eifel race. This should spell a lively struggle in the French Grand Prix on July 1st.
Only constructors are permitted to take part in this year’s race, and with Mercedes and Auto Union for Germany, Alfa Romeo and Maserati for Italy, and Bugatti France, the coming struggle on the Monthery road circuit will recapture all the glamour of the prewar French Grand Prix.
Eltore Bugatti, of course, made a last-minute decision to enter, and this will deprive the Maserati team of the services of Nuvolari. Whitney Straight was to have driven another of the three cars, but owing to the fact that the oil company to whom he was under contract would not permit him to use the lubricant specified by the Maserati Company, he will not take a wheel. The Maseratis will be driven by Etancelin, Zehender, and the third car will be driven by a more or less unknown mechanic from the Bologna Works.
Le Mans Aftermath.
I visited the Aston Martin factory the week after Le Mans and found the people there a little recovered from their disappointment. It appears that the dynamo-drive dog at the front end of the crank case disintegrated and chopped up the casing, filling the oilways and bearings with aluminium dust, which just goes to show how totally unexpected things happen in races. Tongue’s car which ran in last year’s team, and Noel’s, a perfectly standard four-seater fitted for the race with a high-compression head, came through without a moment of trouble. Everyone was hard at work preparing for the T.T. The lightened chassis are, of course, not permitted in
the Irish race, and it has been found possible by using side-members of a lighter gauge, to keep down weight without the heavy expense of cutting and drilling. The chassis of Bertelli’s car in particular was slotted till it looked like one of the girders from the Forth Bridge, but none of the frames were any the worse for their week of practice and fast running at Le Mans.
New Bentley definitely to be raced.
I was very interested to hear that E. R. Hall’s 4-1itre
Bentley is an official entry for the R.A.C. T.T. races, and another similar car may also be raced there. There is also a possibility that Eric Burt will enter his Bentley for the Belgian 10-Hour Race, to be -driven by RoseRichards and F. E. Clifford. R. E. Tongue, who under the pseudonym of” Vincent ” was a finisher at Le Mans, is also thinking of entering if he can find a spare driver willing to pay his own expenses.
Nuvolari for the T.T.
There is no doubt that th e presence of a first-class foreign driver does add much to the interest of British races, so it is good news to know that Nuvolari will drive one of Norman Black’s team of 1,250 c.c. M.G. Magnettes ; Eyston will also lead a team, and three other similar cars are expected. Singers will probably have a team of 1,500 c.c. cars with Barnes in charge, and three of the “9 “s driven by Langley, Baker and Wisdom. Dixon is entering some Rileys, presumably the two 1,500 c.c. ones and the Nine, and a works team is promised. Three Aston Martins will run, to be driven by Fotheringham, Penn Hughes and Hamilton, while Aldington and some private owners will uphold the prestige of Fraser Nash.
In the bigger classes, apart from the Bentleys ‘already mentioned, there will be a team of V8 Fords entered by the Ulster agents, a 4f-litre Lagonda by Arthur Fox, and one or more Talbots, presumably 105’s, with Rose-Richards as one of the drivers. No Alvis cars have yet been entered, and Bugattis find themselves too busy to contemplate entering any ” 3.3 “s, but there is a chance that one of the Indianapolis Studebakers, which are stock cars turned out as standard with three carburettors, may run. The last week of entries will probably bring further support.
It appears, therefore, that the R.A.C.’s drastic ban of superchargers has in no way lessened the interest of the T.T., though obviously speeds will not be so high as in previous years.