THRILLING SPEEDS IN KING’S CUP
ALEX. HENSHAW AVERAGES 236 M.P.H. FOR 1,000-MILE COURSE LARGE crowd at Hatfield aero drome on July 2nd was thrilled
by the amazing speed of Alex Henshaw with his Percival Mew Gull in the closing stages of the King’s Cup Air Race. With five laps to go, Henshaw was in eleventh place, but, averaging over 236 m.p.h., he ran right through the field, and started his last lap with a clear lead, to win easily.
In spite of the terr;fie speeds _attained, there is a very leisurely atmosphere about an air race, compared with motor-racing.
This year, however, the race for the King’s Cup was full of interest, for competitors covered twenty laps of a triangular 50-mile circuit, with turning points at Buntingford, Barton aerodrome, near Bedford, and Hatfield, at which last point the start and finish was situated. The event was run on handicap, the limit planes receiving about 21 hours’ start from the scratch machine, the race distance being, 1,000 miles. Every five laps, or every 250 miles, there was a compulsory stop for all pilots of forty
minutes for refuelling. A ” pit stop ” lasting forty minutes would seem somewhat long to racing drivers, but it must be appreciated that it is not as easy to refuel an aeroplane as a racing-car, and the size of the machines Would make an ordinary ” pit ” impossible.
The objeet was also to provide additional spectacle with the fast machines landing and taking off at stipulated intervals. Pilots took off in the order in which they had arrived after the previous five laps, and one was thus able to grasp the race order. The timekeepers were A. G. Reynolds, J. W. Barbour, R. King-Farlow, and F. R. G. Spikins, all of whom are well known to sporting motorists. Chris Staniland was also to have been one of the pilots, but did not start, owing to damage to a wing sustained while taking off in practice. Another well known driver now taking part in another sport was Luis Fontes, who with a Miles Hawk finished thirteenth at an average of over 180 m.p.h. Fontes loOked very fit, and
handled his aircraft well. Incidentally, this was not his first appearance in air racing, for he competed in the King’s Cup Race in 1935.
The first pilot, J. M. Barwick with a Miles Hawk Trainer, soared off into the blue at 9 a.m.’ and since the handicap speeds ranged from 140 m.p.h. to 227 m.p.h., for Capt. R. G. Percival’s Percival Mew Gull, on scratch, many of the limit men had completed the first quarter of the race and had come in to refuel before the fastest planes left. These were the three Percival Mew Gulls of Giles Guthrie, Alex Henshaw, and Capt. Percival. Guthrie had ten minutes’ start from Henshaw, and Henshaw started
81, minutes in front of Percival. Guthrie was co-pilot with C. W. A. Scott in the England-Johannesburg race, and navigated for Charles Gardner when he won the King’s Cup in 1936. In the first few laps Guthrie actually gained a few seconds on Henshaw, but before the first quarter ended Henshaw, working up to the 236 m.p.h. average which he was to maintain throughout the race, had established a powerful position on handicap. In the lead was Flying Officer Hughesdon with a single-engined B.A. Eagle, averaging 143 m.p.h., and he was not dispossessed until the ninth lap, when L. H. T. Cliff, a flying instructor at Brooklands, went ahead on a Miles Hawk
Major, at an average speed of 145 m.p.h. At half distance Cliff was still well ahead, with Hughesdon second, and C. H. ‘rutt (Comper Swift) third. It was evident that T. W. Morton, flying the only twin-engined plane in the race, the handsome red B.A. IV, was in a good position, as he had worked up from ninth plate to sixth, at 159+
It was not so easy, however, to deduce the position of the scratch planes, since the three Mew Gulls were still at the tail of the field, though Henshaw’s 236 m.p.h. was better than the 2341 m.p.h. of Capt. Percival, who had had to concede him a start. It seemed a pity that no effort was made to announce the relative positions on handicap, though the loudspeakers were certainly clearly audible all over the ground, and an excellent scoreboard, kept right up to date, showed the positions on distance. There was sonic excitement as Capt. Percival prepared to start off after the half distance stop, for a loud report and a puff of smoke came from his engine, and the
fire tender came out in a hurry. The trouble was only trivial, however, and Percival restarted at his Correct time. The race was now becoming easier to follow, for at the end of the next quarter only a lap and a half separated the entire
field. Cliff and Hughesdon were still first and Second, but Morton was now third, while Henshaw in his white Mew Gull had passed Guthrie’s red machine, and had gone up from eighteenth to fourteenth. Geoffrey de Havilland, piloting the neatly streamlined T.K.2, built by the De Havilland Technical Scht)01,had worked up from fifteenth to eighth, and W. Humble (Sparrow Hawk) from fourteenth to sixth.
The backmarkers were closing up rapidly, and Henshaw gobbled up six places in the next two laps, and passed another four competitors on the eighteenth lap, so that with two laps to go he was fourth. It was a marvellous sight as the beautiful white machine, clear against the blue sky, swept round the pylon banked over vertically, apparently without slackening its 236 m.p.h. pace in the slightest.
Cliff still held a lead over Henshaw of more than seven minutes, but such was the speed of the Mew Gull that on the next lap it was wiped out. A Speck in the distance approached with such rapidity that it was clear that Henshaw had won through to first place, and, completing the final lap at undiminished speed, he soared over the aerodrome in triumph, hailed by a fanfare of car horns.
Second place was contested strongly, but Guthrie just got home ahead of Cliff. Geoffrey de Havilland was fourth, Morton fifth, and Capt. Percival, who has made so many gallant efforts in the King’s Cup, finished sixth.