THE SOUTHPORT ” HUNDRED “
THE most important event on 6: calendar of the Southport Motor Racing Club, Ltd., the Hundred Mile Race, was run off on Birkdale Sands on June 2nd, and resulted in an easy win by 1′. .Stephenson, on one of last year’s 500 Miles Race Austin 7’s. Crowds estimated at between ten and twenty thousand lined the course and the sandhills behind it, and fine sunny weather added to the enjoyment of the spectators.
The course consists of two straights parallel to one another joined by hairpin bends at the north and south extremities, the length of the straights this year being slightly over • 9 miles. The sand seemed looser than usual but the corners remained reasonably hard.
There were 21 entries, varying from Sparrow’s Austin Seven, which only had to complete 49f laps, to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s 4-litre Sunbeam, which was set to do 60f laps. Campbell tried his car on the beach on the Friday, but was recalled to London on the day of the race owing to the illness of his daughter. Blown Austins were as usual prominent among the entries, the fastest being last year’s three team cars entered by Stephenson, Parish and Thomson. The Hodgson Riley had a special low-built chassis with inverted half elliptic springs in front, and double quarter-elliptics at the back. A. F. Ashby brought his special car north, while the Bugattis of
Ferranti and Selby were well known to Southport habitués.
There were only three cars in the Unlimited Class, a touring 2.6 Maserati driven by Sir Ronald Gunter, Jack Field’s famous single-seater Bugatti, now painted brown, and Lindsay Eccles on his single-camshaft ” 2.3.”
The big race started at 3.30, and before the start of this there were two One Mile and one Five Mile Races for members of the M.G. Car Club. P. D. Worthington, Dan Walker and A. Freeman, driving J.2 Midgets, were first, second and third in each event.
The Start and Finish and the pits for the Hundred Mile Race were situated in the Middle of the inshore straight, and a few minutes before the start the competitors took their places ; those with half-lap handicaps faced north on the outside stretch.
Freddy Dixon made a last minute entry, driving the car which had finished third in the Mannin Moar Race the day before, and just reached the line in time. He found himself on the wrong starting line and careered round just as the starting signal was given, looking for his rightful point of departure. The massed start was most effective, and all the cars except Ashby’s Riley got away well. Lindsay Eccles’s Bugatti was in fine form and pulled away from Field, leading him bv 100 yards on the
first lap. Dixon’s Car did not sound healthy, and he stopped in a few laps and dived under his car. He detached the petrol filter and poured out the contents and.got going again, and after a few laps the car recovered the form it had shown in the Isle of Man.
Field meanwhile was ha in pursuit of Eccles, and passed him in five laps. Thomson came to a standstill on his Austin and did some plug changing, while Ashby retired after 10 laps with a stripped-crown-wheel. Dixon was developing a technique of his own, consisting of keeping his foot hard down after the corners, taking no notice of the furious snaking of the rear end. He was considerably faster than Eccles or Field, and shot past Gunter’s Maserati as though it had been standing still. He had one unpleasant moment at the north end of the course, rushing into a sheet of water at the edge of the fairway, and found difficulty in getting away again.
On handicap, of course, the small cars were still well in the lead, with Stephenson a hundred yards ahead of Parish on their 14th lap. Carrington and Fish on M.G.S were a lap behind, then Tong on his 12th. The 2.3 Bugattis were credited with 9 apiece.
By the 20th lap Stephenson had a lead of a complete lap over his rival, Fish was third and Tong fourth. Simister, the winner of last year’s race, was busy with his car at th, pits.
Two laps later there occurred an incident which might have had very serious consequences. The banner at the Finish was suddenly seen to belly out, then the fastening broke and it draped itself across the course at waist level. Thomson on his single-seater Austin was approaching at speed and was unable to stop in time. The rope scraped off the radiator-cap, allowing a stream of scalding water to fly into the driver’s face, while his goggles were torn away. Luckily this brought down the banner completely and it was pulled away before it could impede other cars. The race proceeded without much further excitement, most of the interest being focussed on Dixon’s Riley. Wagging its tail freely at each change of gear, it was
particularly lurid before the corner at the south end of the course, where a bump had formed. By rough hand-timing it was lapping at 1 m. 28s. or 74 m.p.h., Eccles was doing lm. 32fs. and Field lm. 34s. Eccles had dropped back half a length behind the Southport star, but ten laps later he had pulled up level again. Field’s car was sounding woolly, and he withdrew on his 36th lap with no oil pressure and a damaged gear-box.
The race could easily be followed from the admirable score board with its mounting numbers, and when Stephenson was on his 40th lap, Parish was two behind, Field and Eccles on their 35th and Dixon only one behind them. Dixon was soon on the same lap as Eccles, when the latter was seen to pull
into the pits. There was a rapid consultation, his fuel tank was replenished, but the car did not come round again. The trouble was thought to be an air-lock in the tank.
By now it was obvious that a small car must win, and soon Stephenson’s white Austin flashed over the line to win by over a lap from Parish. Selby drove a fast and steady race into third place, while Dixon, in spite of a further delay, when he ran out of fuel on his last lap, finished fourth. The small cars were given such a large handicap that the Unlimited cars had no chance of catching them, but Dixon, who finished three laps behind Stephenson, would have been well up but for his set-backs at the beginning of the race.