On planning for the peace – II

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Even in our particular world there are divers matters that will require reshaping when the peace comes and about which thinking men and women should plan now. Apart from major motoring issues there is the question of how the thousands of enthusiasts serving in H.M. Forces now are going to gain much-needed relaxation by way of sporting motoring when the Axis Powers have been brought to heel. There arises, at once, the question of whether races and other events will begin to happen immediately after the armistice. With enthusiasm what it is and a fairly early termination of war, I see no reason why this should not be the case. This country is, in some ways, unique, inasmuch as club members have, in the past, been able to compete in the smaller races over three of the circuits over which our great national races have been contested – viz., Brooklands, Donington and the Crystal Palace. There seems no reason why the road-circuits of the last two venues should not re-open very soon after the finish of hostilities, inasmuch as I believe Donington’s roads are much as they were in 1939 and that no particular damage has been done to the more artificial course at Sydenham by enemy action.

Brooklands, of course, is another matter, but it was cheering to hear the trend of opinion expressed as to its future at a recent J.C.C. Council luncheon. It was agreed that much money would be needed to restore it to good order and a decent state of repair, but it was considered that the present occupants might have no further use for it and that it would be useless as a housing estate and that therefore it could best earn its keep by reverting to its former status. Here I would like to emphasise how important Brooklands is to us and what a loss it will be if the track is not restored. Criticisms have been hurled at the Weybridge course, but it is really something we cannot dispense with. Up to now we have discreetly refrained from mentioning the changes that have come over it since the war. but as a contemporary has referred to it recently there can no longer be any objection to relating that, apart from internal facilities which no longer exist, you can now drive a car, or for that matter a lorry or two lorries side by side, into the place at the Byfleet side, a big piece having been taken out of the Byfleet banking. Now, even if Brooklands is to be restored to us, it is quite conceivable that the Mountain circuit and the Campbell “road” circuit alone would be put into good fettle, the outer part of the track, dating back, even now, a matter of 35 years, being left untouched and allowed to fall into complete disuse, save as a ring road round the estate. I do want to say very strongly what an unfortunate thing this would be. I am mighty glad the bomber that landed on Percy Bradley and his M.G. did the ex-clerk of the course no very great damage, for I think he may realise the value to all of us of a British outer-circuit course, and that if he has anything at all to do with cleaning up Brooklands after the war he will see clearly the desirability of getting done some plastic surgery on that scar in the Byfleet banking. The whole point – and I’m not even going to touch on “tradition” or the thrill of going round the rim at 120 per, or the fun ordinary folk can be allowed to have on non-race days on this comparatively safe course – the whole point is simply that when there is any engine tuning or testing to he done, consistent results can only be obtained on a course over which lap times are unaffected by chassis performance or driver characteristics – as our American friends would say, cockpit trouble can upset everything in research of this sort. Robert Waddy saw this point at once when I discussed the future of the Brooklands outer circuit with him at the last of those 750 Club war-time gatherings – for which we owe Bill Capon an everlasting debt of gratitude.

Whatever the outcome of this important matter, I see no reason why club-type competitions should not begin again with the peace, and I hope they will be even better than those that went before. Of the state of the roads at Shelsley Walsh and Prescott one receives varying reports, but we do know that the Midland A.C. and the Bugatti Owners’ Club intend to open up at these venues as soon as they are able.

The Vintage Sports Car Club, largely by the good work of Sam Clutton, and the E.R.A. Club, have, even in these trying times, given evidence of their aliveness and Eric Giles has not lost his organising grip by any means. I have already referred to Bill Capon, and I really do think he has done a remarkably fine job for us all, especially considering that no one seemed to know him until he suddenly came along in that sleek Riley of his and proceeded to run club gatherings in exactly the manner club gatherings should be run, war or no war. Obviously, all these people and clubs will function effectively for our good when the time comes, but as, for a while, fewer meetings per season will be doctor’s orders, I hope they may not set too much store on the different sects to which they belong, but may combine and run fewer and better very-much-inter-club meetings for the common cause. It will be a miserable business if there are not reasonable opportunities for running the many “Specials” which have been going together, albeit slowly, during the three years.

I suspect that considerations of economy will be uppermost in the minds of the majority when Ethyl is available again, in spite of income tax bonus and interest on the war earnings of the fortunate. So any car contemplated for extensive motoring in the post-war era should presumably be on the small side. If trials and racing do not get going at once there will be a tremendous urge to drive for the sake of driving when petrol-without-paper happens again. True, we appreciate a car on even short journeys these hard times and have, in consequence, some of us at any rate, gained a new sense of pleasure in places visited and relaxation away from the car. Nevertheless, I do not think it will take very long before we re-adjust the views and feel again the enchantment lent by distance, and the keen joy of long, unbroken spells of driving for its own sake. Until meetings every week-end interfere, doubtless lots of enthusiasts will seek to forget the war years by, for example, leaving an office in London at around 5.30 p.m. on a summer evening and driving North, or West, or North-West for 200 miles before seeking food and sleep. They will complete their 100, maybe 200, miles by lunch-time on the Saturday and then forget the car, at all events as a high average speed machine, until after lunch on the Sunday, when they will motor home without undue wastage of time.

Especially, I think, will this be the case if sensible “summer-time” becomes a British institution, so that lamps are unnecessary before 11 p.m. on June evenings.

Clearly, this sort of exercise calls for an effortless 40 m.p.h. average, but also, I consider, it will in many cases call for a genuine 40 m.p.g., because putting 600 or even 800 miles into a week-end, and frequently, will be an undertaking in which fuel costs will loom very materially.