The Outer Circuit "200s"

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Preparations for the 1923 race (Continued from the May issue.) 

During the. early nineteen-twenties small cars were doing outstanding things in BARC short handicaps and in the field of record-breaking, but perhaps they achieved their greatest allure in the JCC 200-Mile Races, run over the Outer Circuit in 1921-1924. Previous articles in this interesting series appeared in the February, March, April and May issues, when the races of 1921 and 1922 were dealt with. —Ed 

The Junior Car Club received rather less diverse entries for the 1923 race than it had done for the 1921 and 1922 events, but again two very successful races were run, and it is now history that Alvis won the 11/2-litre contest for Britain. The date was October 13th, the “1,100s” starting their race at 10 am and the bigger cars raced at 2.15 pm, times more convenient to everyone. By the close of entries at ordinary fees the list comprised Eyston, Zborowski, Morgan, Lionel Martin and Halford (Aston-Martins), Marshall, Cushman, O’Day and Lancaster (Bugattis), Newsome and Peacock (Warwicks), George Newman (Wolseley), Meeson and Joyce (AC), Bertelli, Douglas and Barnato (Bertellis), Peacock (Hillman), Parry Thomas and Duller (Marlborough-Thomas). Temple (Horstman), Harvey and Brayshaw (Alvis), Marendaz (Marseal), Smith (Erie Campbell), Vandervell (Crouch), and unspecified cars by Moss and Malcolm Campbell and, in the 1.100-cc category, Pickett (Frazer-Nash), Eric Longden (Eric Longden), Newton and Pellegatti (Newtons), Gordon England (Austin Seven and ABC), Heaton and Wenmoth (Derbys), Hawkes, Norris, Morgan and Horrocks (Morgans), K Don (Imperia), Bovier, Benoist and Devaux (Salmsons), Cater (Windsor), and Tollady (Crouch).

Rumour was rife concerning the possibility of the Talbots, which had won so convincingly in 1921 and 1922, running, and of the very hush-hush and so far unbeatable 11/2-litre Fiats appearing. Some thought that the Talbots would run, others that even if they were entered at the last minute they would not start, either because of the proximity of the Barcelona GP or because they feared the Fiats. So preparations went on day and night at Brooklands amongst the British entries, excitement increasing daily.

Sprint events happened in great profusion every week-end and the Boulogne week came. At that meeting Segrave won the GP on one of the new Talbots at 671/2 mph, followed home by the Aston-Martins of Morgan and Eyston, with Bugattis 4th and 5th, Benoist’s Salmson getting away with the 1,100-cc section at 63 mph, from Buenos Salmson and three V-twin Frazer-Nashes. So there was plenty to stimulate interest, which reached its peak when it was announced that three Talbots would run, to be handled by Lee Guinness, Segrave and Divo, and that two Fiats were definitely expected. It was pointed out that the Talbot s gave 82 bhp and would be able to lap at over 95 mph. But a week later it was announced that the Talbots would not come over, as they had too-close Continental appointments, but the Fiats, to be handled by Malcolm Campbell and Charles Salamano, were a certainty. Other late entries were Ware’s Morgan and Hawkins’s DFP in the 1,100-cc class and another Horstman and Miller’s single-carburetter sv AC in the 1-litre category, giving a grand total of 52 cars. Moss’s car was his Anzani-engined Crouch, “The Rolling Stone.” Actually, right up to the day of the race there was doubt as to whether or not the Talbots would appear, but the Fiats definitely came over and we were reminded that, as Salamano, who had the faster car it seemed, used to be with Fiats at Wembley, he really knew Brooklands quite well.

These cars were very much dark horses, but they were known to have Roots superchargers for the 65 x 112-mm, double-ohc ball-bearing 4-cylinder engines and weighed just over 10 cwt. Salamano got round very easily at 100 mph in comparative silence, doing one lap at 103.

The new Bertellis aroused much interest, being sleeve-valve cars to Bertelli’s own design, built at Lingfield in Surrey. Probably the first sleeve-valve racing units built since the 1914-18 war, the engines had single sleeves to each cylinder. The chassis had 1/2-elliptic front springs, 1/4-elliptic rear springs anchored below the axle, and 3-speed gearboxes, the frame side members having a number of lightening holes along their deepest sections. On Car No 1 the radiator was cowled and isolated from the bonnet, which was faired down behind it, while the exhaust pipe ran along the near side of the body and entered the tail just above the rear axle, to protrude an inch or so beyond the tail apex.

The Warwicks turned out to be the old Coopers, with a new 60 x130 mm engine, one of the few long-stroke units in the race. Overhead valves were operated by opposed camsliafts in the crankcase, via push-rods with tappet adjustment at their lower ends, and rockers. The standard engine gave 12 bhp at 1,000 rpm and 45 bhp at 3,500 rpm, but the racing units, which had tubular con-rods, steel pistons, special cam contours and stronger valve springs, a light steel flywheel, welded steel exhaust pipes and double magnetos and carburetters, gave some 60 bhp at 4,000 rpm.

The differential was not used on the 200-mile cars and they carried light bodies, rather Aston-Martin-like about the scuttles, with tapering tails and long 3-piece bonnets, the radiators having wire screens. They were closely developed from the newly-announced 85 mph, £600 super-sports production models.

The Marlborough-Thomas cars had 4-cylinder engines which were virtually scaled-down versions of the Leyland Eight, even to leaf-valve springs, and made by Peter Hooker Ltd. There was comparatively little Marlborough about the chassis, except for the side members, axles and gearbox. Between the clutch and gearbox Thomas had installed an extra planetary gear, giving a reduction in ratio of 15 per cent, in order to enable speed to be maintained up the hill on to the Members Banking and to ease engine speed on the subsequent run down on to the Railway Straight, a typical Parry-Thomas approach to a special problem. Beautifully streamlined bodies were used, of barrel section, tapering uniformly from round radiator cowl to tail, having staggered seats, faired driver’s headrest and full-length underpan. The axles were attached to the chassis by parallel bars, the uppermost of which was anchored to the side member with a rod running transversely half-way across the chassis. This transverse rod ran within a tube attached to the inside of the chassis side-member and, being splined to the extreme end of the tube, torsional suspension was obtained. The engine was the 1.8-litre unit used in sprint events earlier in the season, with a new crankshaft to bring it within 1,500 cc, and a new camshaft.

Joyce’s AC had the twin-ohc, twin-carburetter. double coil-ignition engine from the car holding the light-car hour record at 101 mph, and was expected to lap at about 95 mph quite easily. Marshall’s and Cushman’s sixteen-valve Bugattis both had cowled radiators and properly streamlined bodies this time, and Cushman’s used quite a high-sided cockpit and a streamline headrest for the driver. Lancaster had a curiously-bodied car, the chassis being that which Marshall drove in the 1922 race.

Cushman’s car had over 100 awards to its credit., having finished the 1922 TT, and run 5th in the previous year’s “200”,starting its racing career in 1921. Cushman used Discol fuel, with Specialloid pistons to raise the compression ratio to 8.1 to 1, and used Celerity valves, a small diameter flywheel, twin Claudel-Hobson carburetters, and extra oil supply to the engine, and an ingenious device which put the gearbox constant-mesh pinions out of action when top gear was engaged, this necessitating losing the use of 3rd gear. Otherwise the car was standard, and Leon aimed to hold 3,800-4,000 rpm throughout the race, using an axle ratio of 3.2 to 1.

Newman’s Wolseley had the engine from the car driven in the 1923 race by Capt Miller, and Peacock, a well-known motor-cycle rider, was relying on a virtually standard sports Hillman with over 15,000 miles already to its credit. The sports body was slightly modified and extra tanks fitted, and the owner did most of his own tuning, although it was expected that the Hillman Motor Car Co Ltd, might breathe on the engine.

The Aston-Martin entries included the 16-valve Boulogne cars (Eyston handling one), and the Ballot-design engines were expected to be free from original bothers. RC Morgan’s sv car had a typical 2-seater AM-tailed body, McCulloch’s Aston a long-tailed early track-body and cowled radiator, and Eyston’s a tapering radiator cowl. The Eric-Campbell was very fully wind-defeating, with long round-section radiator cowl, two faired headrests, barrel-section body with long tail, undershield and discs on the rear wheels. The Anzani-engined Horstman entries had the long-tailed aluminium bodies on wood-stiffened chassis and typical ribbed, uncowled radiators, Temple’s car being supercharged. The Alvis Co had just announced the new ohv “12/50” super-sports engine to supplement the famous sv “12/40,” and the two 200-Mile cars were built up of virtually standard parts, but with the engines well back in narrow frames, the radiator sitting over a drilled cross-member of typical “12/50” formation, directly above the front axle.

One car had a front track of 4 ft 1 in and a rear track of 3 ft 6 in, and the other was of 4 ft 1 in and 3 ft 10 in, respectively. Solid, exposed rear axles were used, consisting merely of a large-diameter steel tube carrying the crown wheel, a single 12-in brake drum with two independent sets of shoes, and the wheels. This tube ran on four ball bearings, an aluminium housing between each pair taking the long underslung 1/2-elliptic springs set inside the frame. A torque member was used to relieve them of some of their work. On one car the base chamber was exposed, but otherwise the deep-tailed body shed enclosed everything aft of the engine save the wheels, and also carried the drum-shaped fuel tank abaft the driver’s seat and almost dead over the rear axle. The other car had a remarkably narrow single shell body, and the final drive ratio was 3.5 to 1. Both cars had faired oil tanks on the near side, and on Harvey’s car a long pipe ran from the radiator vent to the cockpit. The brake camshaft and shoe pivot passed right through the bevel casing and torque member, being attached between casing and drum. Although no front brakes were fitted, the cars were said to pull up in about 180 ft from 60 mph. In mid-September the racing engine was given a 31/2-hour all-out run on the bench, during which it continuously developed just under 70 bhp at 4,400 rpm. Harvey’s race engine had a compression ratio of 6.2 to 1 and averaged 4,100 rpm for the race, the rev-counter showing no loss by wheelslip. Cylinder block, pistons and gearbox were standard, and the magneto was a new-type BTH polar-inductor type designed for motor-bus engines. The Solex carburetter fed through the now well-known 40-mm “big port” manifold and 50/50 No 1 BP and benzole was used. The Rudge wheels carried 710 x 90 Englebert tyres. Smith-Clarke designed the chassis and body while in bed with influenza with a temperature of 103, and George Tattersall was responsible for the erecting and testing.

Turning to the “1,100s”, Pickett’s car, to be driven by Nash himself, was a Frazer-Nash V-twin GN conversion, and the Eric Longden was the normal Brooklands car. The ABC looked outwardly as last year, but now had a Bristol “Cherub” light aeroplane engine of 1,100 cc installed. It was standard except for two carburetters and higher compression ratio and ran at 3,800 rpm, 200 rpm below peak, due to an unsuitable axle ratio. Beart and Norris had standard ohv water-cooled Blackburn engines in their Morgans, while Douglas Hawks had a water-cooled ohc Anzani V-twin, the radiator being moved 8 in rearwards to enable two Zenith triple diffuser carburetters to be fitted. The normal fuel tank carried oil, and a 14-gallon petrol tank beneath the chassis-members fed by air to the carburetters. Ware’s Morgan had a water-cooled JAP engine. The Derbys had high chassis, carrying a long-tailed 2-seater body of quite sober design but light and very strong, and an uncowled radiator. The engine was a 59 x 100 mm special Chapuis-Dornier with two Zenith carburetters hung low down on the off side, feeding via updraught pipes integral with T-manifolds. The valves were overhead, two inlet and a larger, exhaust valve in each head, operated by push-rods. The chassis were believed to be absolutely standard. Speculation ran high as to the identity of the Newtons. They turned out to be low-built cars with faired dumb-irons, having 60.35 x 95.7-mm (1,095 cc) 4-cylinder engines. The crankshaft ran in three Hoffman ball-bearings and ohv, inclined at 45°, were operated by twin oh camshafts, the combustion chambers being perfect half spheres. The gearbox was in unit with the engine, 3-point mounting being used, and the brake mechanism, steering gear, pedals, etc, were all carried on the engine unit. Lubrication was by gear-driven pump, the oil feed being centrifugally governed, and the cooling system used a pump but no fan. The cars were made for Newton, a young enthusiast, by an Italian concern, Olivo Pellegatti being one of their staff. Tollady’s Crouch was, of course, his famous old rear-engined V-twin “Grandpa.”

Although the silencer rule did not affect Brooklands generally until 1924, silencers were insisted on for the “200” and the cars had to come before a silencing committee headed by the late Col Lindsay Lloyd, on the Monday or Tuesday before the race. The Aston-Martins were sent away to achieve more silence, likewise Marshall’s Bugatti, but Ware’s Morgan was very quiet at speed. Naturally, people complained of overheating, and Marshall said he had had to cut down the Bugatti’s normal exhaust outlet by half, losing considerable speed but, on the whole, not much trouble was caused, although Cushman said he lost 7 mph. Joyce had a small silencer let into the AC’s pipe just in front of the diminutive handbrake, and attached to the body by two clips and two stays. Meeson’s twin-carburetter sv AC had a pipe protruding from its tail, a la Bertelli, with a small fan-tail on the end, and Hawkes’s Horstman had a peppered end-piece on the pipe. The, pipe of Marshall’s Bugatti came out of the tail, just behind the fairings for the anchorages of the reversed 1/4-elliptic rear springs.

The little Austin which had been prepared for Gordon England was of exceptional interest. Austins had run a team at Boulogne before attempting much in this country, the cars having twin Cox-Atmos carburetters feeding through long riser-pipes to enable three-branch outside exhaust pipes to be used, the engines being virtually standard except for a high-lift camshaft and omission of the dynamo. Eleven-gallon fuel tanks were used in the scuttle, and stub tails carried spare wheels beneath. These cars were handled at Boulogne by Waite, Kings, and Cuttle. They used Scintilla magnetos, Palmer tyres and KLG F12 plugs, and ran up to 5,000 rpm. In the race Kings crashed and the other cars suffered mysterious big-end maladies, allowing a Senechal to win the 750-cc category. [Waite ran a car at Shelsley said to be made from parts of all three Boulogne cars] Later, however, a single-seater appeared at Brooklands, very fully streamlined, and with it England took the Class L Hour record at 73.50 and the 5-miles record at 79.62 mph ! For the “200” a “Brooklands” model, afterwards a production type, was used, with uncowled radiator and faired front springs.

It was actually the record-breaking single-seater which had also won a lightcar handicap at the Whitsun BARC meeting at 633/4 mph, re-bodied. Stronger valve springs, a high-lift camshaft, Celerity valves, a special head giving a higher compression ratio, forced-feed to the big-ends, and twin carburetters were the only non-standard engine items, and the crankshaft and standard rods were used. The axle ratio was 4.5 to 1, and the little car lapped at 77 two up, doing 86 flat-out. England purposely stopped tuning when 80 mph was possible, preferring to maintain 4,500-4,700 rpm throughout the race.

Indeed, much interest was added to the 1923 “200” by pre-race activities. At Mont Ventoux hill-climb the Talbot made its debut and easily won its class. At Brooklands Hawkes’s Morgan took various rapid records, setting the British flying kilo to 92.17 mph. At Le Mans Divo and Moriceau finished 1st and 2nd on the Talbots, and Benoist on a Salmson won the cycle-car GP, the 750-cc class seeing Lombard’s Salmson, Senechal’s Senechal, and Waite and Roddis on Austin Sevens, home in that order. The Fiats were unbeaten in Italy, and were believed to be as fast as the Talbots at Monza. True, the 2-litre GP cars had had trouble with their Wittig vane blowers, but when it was learned that the 11/2-litre cars for the “200” had Roots superchargers, most people thought they would put the race in their pockets. It was further rumoured that Salamano intended to attempt to lower the World’s Hour record during the first hour’s running, which meant he would need to cover 108 miles, and he was reputed to be very confident. Three weeks before the race “Long Tom” offered 3 to 1 on this Fiat, 4 to 1 on Campbell’s, 5 to 1 on the first Talbot, and 7 to 1 on a Bugatti win, and 4 to 1 on a Salmson win, or 10 to 1 on Norris’s Morgan —poor Smith took the longest odds, the Eric Campbell being priced 100 to 1. Fiat and Talbot, as cars, were evens. Higher speeds were expected, general opinion indicating a 11/2-litre winning average of about 95 mph, against the Talbot’s 88 in 1922. As the practice period wore on, changes became apparent in the entry list. Lionel Martin decided he could not use his two entries, although at one time he had hoped to run sv cars as fully equipped as the regulations would allow, using talc for glass in the windscreens. He sportingly gave his single fee entries to Henly’s, as they had overlooked the closing date. Harvey’s Alvis caught fire at 5.10 pm on the Monday before the day, but it was rebuilt, by hectic efforts, in 24 hours. It then straightaway lapped at 93, and went even faster after adjustments to the radiator cowl and carburetter setting.

Eyston’s poisoned finger got worse, and McCulloch suffered from an internal strain, but Eyston’s mechanic got the Aston round at 98 mph. Zborowski’s, incidentally, was a short-chassis 6-valve Aston. Marshall’s was expected to be the fastest Bugatti, and early in October Cushman was still busy on his car.

Thomas found his planetary gear very effective, and the Bertellis were at the Track all the pre-race week tuning-up, lapping at well over 90 mph even before final carburetter adjustments were made. The Fiats lapped very quietly, even the superchargers being almost inaudible, and it seemed that Salamano could easily achieve a lap speed of 100 mph, and Campbell about the same. It was anticipated that these two cars would finish 1st and 2nd at between 95 and 96 mph.

The Eric-Longden cracked a cylinder and had to start in that condition. Hawkes’s Horstman was owned by G Boston, who had used it daily as a road car for three months, and Nash’s entry developed timing gear troubles a few days before the race, and the car driven by Hawkins in 1922 was substituted. Wenmoth’s Derby failed to pass the silencer test and was disqualified ; a pity, as it was the “hot-stuff” entry and Heaton’s only a second line of defence. Cushman did 80 laps on his Englebert tyres before he even started in the race. The Salmsons were, of course, twin-ohc cars very like those of the previous year, with Buena, Benoist and O Wilson Jones as the pilots. England had trouble with the ABC’s roller bearings, fearing at first the crankshaft had gone, and right on the eve of the race the Bertellis were given new big-ends. Ashcroft’s Bugatti and Marendaz’s Marseal failed the silencer test, and the Imperia came down on the Friday, but missed the inspection due to a downpour of rain. The Windsor, the Warwicks, the Newtons and the Eric-Campbell were all unfinished and had to be withdrawn, and McCulloch’s Aston-Martin and the fifth AM entry were not even assembled. Vandervell fitted cylinder liners to his Crouch, only to find they fouled the con rods. [Funny, ha-ha !] So the field thinned out, but not so drastically,fortunately, as to mar the prospects of an excellent race. (To be continued!)