ON BLOWING OUR OWN TRUMPET
ONE of our National characteristics is that of hiding our light beneath a bushel and of disparaging British efforts and achievements. Those who make a habit of practising this ,characteristic in respect of motor-racing performances received rather a blow on May 31st last and must find not inconsiderable difficulty in explaining away an all-British achievement which happened on that day. For on May 81st, Major A. T. G. Gardner, over on the Dessau autobahn, achieved a speed of over 200 m.p.h. with his 1,100 c.c. M.G., aided by Shell fuel, Duckham’s oil, Dunlop wheels and tyres and Lucas electrical equipment. The M.G., which last year set up the remarkable speed of 186 m.p.h., actually established the International Class G flying kilometre record at 208.54 m.p.h. and the flying mile record at 203.16 m.p.h. and the flying 5 kilometre record at 197.54 m.p.h.—note that these are International Class records and not, of course, World’s figures, as the B.B.C. told the world. Gardner’s best run was over the outward mile, when the British M.G. covered the timed distance in 17.36
secs., at 207.37 ‘m.p.h. The car was virtually the same as when it ran last year and went so fast that the sceptics, mostly Britishers, said the timing or course measurements must be at fault. The axle-ratio had been raised to 8.09 to 1, and the engine, which is quite an out-of-date design, single o.h. camshaft, vertical-valve M.G. unit, peaked at 7,000 r.p.m., or at just over 206 m.p.h. The body was as before, with almost enclosed cockpit and fully enclosed wheels, and, in spite of the dated-design of the wonderful little engine it gave more power-forsize—approximately 190 b.h.p. per litre— than any other engine ever built, largely because a huge Centric supercharger, absorbing some 85-40 b.h.p., boosts it at a very high pressure, in spite of being driven at just over half-crankshaft speed. Not content with these remarkable 1,100 c.c. records, Major Gardner had the engine rebored with a portable boring plant to 1,1054 c.c., only just within the Class F or 14-litre category, and two days later set up International Class F records of 208.85 m.p.h., for the flying mile, 204.28 m.p.h. for the flying kilometre and 200.62 m.p.h. for the flying 5 kilometres. His best run was the outward kilometre, at 206.85 m.p.h. This disposes of the American Lockhart’s historic 164 m.p.h. 14-litre record with a Miller, and makes the British M.G. the only 1,100 c.c. and If litre car to exceed 200 m.p.h. This is a truly remarkable achievement, and one on which everyone concerned with the car deserves the heartiest congratulation, and one, moreover, of inestimable value to British engineering
prestige the world over. In 1,100 c.c. form the M.G. has come within 40 m.p.h. of the speed attained by the fastest 3-litre car Germany has produced. We are always moaning that we have no formula G.P. car, and recently we have been. bewailing the likelihood of suffering defeat at the hands of Mercedes-Benz in 14-litre racing, because the new E.R.A. has consistently failed to do more than break its engine—actually Germany seems to be sparing us the latter trouncing, at all events until the 14-litre Formula is introduced, which is decidedly considerate of her. After Major Gardner’s great records perhaps we shall say rather less than we, as a pessimistic race, usually do say to the detriment of our own prestige. I know it can be argued, and with a very good deal of truth, that much more International prestige accrues from racing than from record breaking. I know a G.P. car has to last a much longer run than 5 kilometres. I know we should have a team of 3-litre Formula cars to beat the world, tucked away amongst the guns and tanks and gas-cylinders and other costly war materials that this country is now accumulating. I hope that the B.M.R. Fund will ultimately enable the latest E.R.A. to cut its molars and retain for us our supremacy in 14 litre racing. But, in these new records we have something about which we have every excuse to shout very loud, and, while regretting what we lack in other spheres, we should be careful not to lose our true sense of perspective. Over 200 m.p.h. from a 1,100 c.c. car is mighty good going. To keep a car weighing only 15 cwt. on the road at this speed, especially in something of a breeze, is no mean technical achievement, yet the M.G. had only a normal, non-independent system of suspension. To go out with no previous practice, playing “away,” and get all these records at once, especially with a newly bored-out engine, is a fine tribute to thorough preparation. Naturally, there are several ” ifs ” about the attempts. A higher gear-ratio might have been possible and a twin o.h.c. engine might have given a few more m.p.h. One wonders what the 14-litre engine would do in a G.P. frame on the world’s road circuits . . . But, just as they stand, these records are an extremely valuable piece of propaganda for this country and we shall do well to realise it—even though the daily press did not appear to do so. The only quibble the anti-British brigade can possibly find is that German Bosch plugs were used for the Class G record, but the answer to that is that the engine was put up in its Class F form Lodge plugs were inserted ; and so far as we can see there is no technical reason whatsoever why plugs which functioned satisfactorily in a 105, c.c. motor running at 7,000 r.p.m. should not do so in an identical unit of 1,086 c.c. running at the same speed. Nevertheless, it seems a great shame that Lodge plugs were not used in the first place, thus making the car entirely British for both attempts. That is, however, such a small matter. The important
thing is that Major Gardner sounded the British trumpet very loudly when he sped along the Dessau autobahn in the 12 h.p. M.G., and although he is amongst the most modest of men and modesty is a characteristic we admire, nevertheless we could do with a deal more blowing of our own trumpet.
Incidentally, Major Gardner was using a V12 Lagonda as his personal car, another British focus of interest to the Germans. Which recalls another sphere in which Britain is looking after her prestige, for the V12 Lagondas for Le Mans are exceptionally fine cars and sports-car racing is becoming a more important and International matter year after year.
We are reminded of yet another sphere in which this country leads the world by comparisons which have been made between the 45-litre Sunbeam which first exceeded 200 m.p.h., in 1927, and Gardner’s M.G. This sort of comparison. is useful as emphasising the tremendous technical worth of Gardner’s records, but actually the Sunbeam belongs to quite a different class, and in this class we also hold our own, for Capt. Eyston’s ” Thunderbolt ” holds the worlds’ absolute car speed record at 8574 m.p.h. The design of that car as a whole, and the development of its two Rolls-Royce engines to give 8,000 b.h.p. apiece (as against the 1.080 b.h.p. of the standard Rolls-Royce ” Merlin ” aero-motor, which is used in so many of our fastest military aeroplanes and is so covetted by foreign powers) is yet another proof of British engineering ability.
1978 French Grand Prix race report
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