” BIRA’S ” WINNING HABIT E.R.A.s DO WELL IN NUFFIELD TROPHY. BUT NEW CAR A NON-STARTER
FOR the second year in succession, Prince “B. Bira ” of Siam won the Nuffield Trophy Race at Donington on June 10th with his E.R.A. This was the sixth occasion upon which the race has been run, and each year victory has fallen to an E.R.A., although this was the first time that the race had been a scratch event for Ii-litre cars. In 1938″ B. Bira ” averaged 72.84 m.p.h., and this year his winning speed rose to 75.87 m.p.h., in the fastest race of the series.
” Bira ” set up a notable record, for he scored his fourth win, in consecutive races. He had already won the International Trophy, the Coronation Trophy, and the sports-car Race at the Crystal Palace.
Raymond Mays has begun well as an independent driver—though one must not forget his long career as an” independent” before the E.R.A. was ever thought of—for he followed his new record at Shelsley Walsh by a steady drive to secure second place in the Nuffield Trophy. Peter Whitehead, after a bad start, did well to secure third place.
There were only five non-starters out of the entry of twenty-two cars, but these five could ill be missed, for they were the most interesting cars in the race. The new E.R.A. had “blown up” in practice, and frantic last minute work could not prepare another engine in time. Another casualty in practice was Reggie Tongue’s latest type Ma-serati, while the two works Maseratis had never appeared at all. Finally, R. E. Parnell’s new” Challenger” was not ready.
Nevertheless, the field of seventeen cars was enough for a fine spectacle, including nine E.R.A.s, three privately entered Maseratis, two Rileys, an M.G., a Brooke Special, and one of the 750 c.c. Austins. Lord Austin himself, vicepresident of the Derby and District M.C.,
was among the spectators. The race distance was approximately 200 miles, or sixty-four laps.
Peter Whitehead, having secured the front rank on the starting grid with his E.R.A., had the bad luck to stall his engine as the flag fell, and was left stationary with cars darting by on all sides. Mechanics, running out from his pit, cranked the engine, it fired at once, and Whitehead got away about 200 yards behind the field.
Percy Maelure’s sopercharged Riley was out in front, the driver, bareheaded as usual, enjoying himself thoroughly. Going like a rocket, he was building up a nice lead from ” Bira,” who, lying third behind Ansell’s E.R.A. on the first lap, was beginning to increase pace when suddenly Maclure appeared no more. After five brilliant laps gearbox trouble had put him out at Coppice Corner.
Raymond Mays had started cautiously, eschewing fireworks, but when ” Bira ” took the lead was coming up nicely, to follow in second place. He began to gain slowly on the Siamese, but ” Bira ” matched him with a further increase in pace, and at ten laps led by 18 secs. Whitehead had recovered splendidly from his bad start. On the very first lap he passed four cars, and on the next
ate up another two. Now he had actually worked up to third position, and was only 33 secs. behind the leader.
Angell and Robin Hanson, both with E.R.A.s, were having a great fight for fourth and fifth places. Ansell maintained his lead for ten laps, but then Hanson got in front. A, R. P. Rolt with his E.R.A. was delayed by misfiring. In the early stages of the race he had to stop to change plugs no fewer than four times, causing despair for Freddie Dixon in his pit. The leading Maserati was that driven
by Charlie Dodson. The other two Maseratis were soon in trouble Lover, the French driver, fell out with overheating, while Parnell, handling a Maserati instead of the ” Challenger,” suffered piston trouble. The Hon. Peter Aitken’s E.R.A.,
after starting well, was troubled by escape of the fuel feed pressure, but he was still well up. Twice he had narrow escapes at Red Gate Corner as he arrived in company with other cars, and once he had to take to the grass, driving on with wheels spinning for quite a distance. Rolt’s pit stops had put him far behind, but his car was now going better, and his cornering was as exciting as ever. At last he overdid things just past the Stone Bridge, at the dangerous left hand bend before Maclean’s Corner, and hit
the bank. The E.R.A. leapt into the air, but Rolt managed to retain control. He drove round to his pit, where it was found that the front axle had been damaged, so Rolt had to retire.
Most of the cars stopped to refuel after an hour and a half’s running, for with modern engines even a 50 gallon tank is scarcely sufficient for a 200 miles race. But” Bira “and Mays did not stop, apparently trying to wear one another out. At 20 laps Mays was only 12 secs. behind, at 30 laps he was 16 sees. in arrears, and at 40 laps the gap was still only 21 secs.
A stop by ” Bira,” therefore, might have altered the whole position. But at 50 laps it was Mays who pulled in for refuelling, and 29 precious seconds were lost, rapidly as the men worked. Worse still, when Mays came by next lap he held up five fingers, and indeed it was evident that the stop had unsettled his engine, which was now running on five cylinders.
With only a dozen laps to go, a further stop would have put Mays right out of the running, so he continued ; but he was now losing ground steadily to ” Bira,” who clearly had enough fuel for the whole distance. Whitehead was still in third place, though he had never been able to make any impression on the leaders. However, he had a comfortable lead over Robin (Continued on Page 220)
Vintage Postbag, continued, April 1961
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