Circuit Racing at Last!
Since racing was resumed, some of the smaller clubs and newer organisations have certainly shown us the way. And it was left to the Cambridge University A.C. to provide us with real circuit racing, at Gransden Lodge airfield, on June 15th — incidentally, proving wrong those pessimists, the R.A.C. included, who suggested that aerodrome runways and perimeter tracks would be too rough for serious racing. A bigger difficulty was found to be picking out the corners, with no hedges or trees bordering the course. John Bolster, for one, was delighted with the 2.13-mile circuit which Gransden Lodge provided.
The organisation was generally very good — the weather mostly foul. A large hangar formed the "Paddock," so that, although the noise and fumes became somewhat deadly, there was full protection from the British summer. The organisation fell down only over minor matters, such as the difficulty in operating a public-address system in the noisy hangar, rather crude flag-signals at the corners, and some confusion as a result of illegible numbers on the cars and additions to the programme. A fairly large crowd came — and kept well behind the miles of barbed wire which Curtiss had erected. There was a full complement of police, ambulances and fire-engines, and "walky-talky" radio and telephones were put to real use. Curtiss's public-address apparatus, contained in a trailer caravan, functioned well under the care of R. I,. Walkerley. Commodore the Rt. Hon. Earl Howe, P.C., C.B.E., V.D., R.N.V.R., to give him his full dues as quoted in the programme, came in his V12 Lagonda and was very energetic and thorough as R.A.C. steward.
The first 3-lap race was for sports cars up to 1,100 c.c. Lester's M.G. led away from Davidge-Pitts's ex-Whitney Straight "Brooklands" Riley, with Bowles's "Ulster" Austin Seven accelerating through the field. However, Le Strange Metcalfe's "Balilla" sports Fiat early went out ahead, building up a fine lead, to win from Lester's PB M.G., with Lowrey third. Lowrey cornered very spiritedly outside other drivers, gaining several places for his H.R.G., followed by Rivers-Fletcher, both the H.R.G.s wagging their tails in opposite directions on correction. Eilcock's M.G. collided with Bowles's Austin, causing minor damage, the M.G. losing its exhaust system there-after.
The next race, for 1,101-1,500-c.c. sports cars, saw Peter Clark's Le Mans H.R.G. get away from Andrews's Zoller-blown, Benson-o.h.v. Aston-Martin and Mrs. Gerard's Riley. Driving carefully, Peter built up a huge lead, winning at just over 60 m.p.h. from Mrs. Gerard and Lady Mary Grosvenor on Rileys. Jenkinson's Meadows Frazer-Nash was picking up places at the corners and might have caught Mrs. Gerard, but it turned round at the hairpin and, second speed going in automatically after a bump had selected neutral, the r.p.m. went up to over 6,000, to the detriment of the big-ends,
Obeyesekere's Meadows-Nash was slower, and Knight's Full Brescia Bugatti was slow and not very stable. The Aston-Martin engaged in a private duel with Lovett's Rover. Next, we had the race for 750-c.c. racing cars and, as expected, Issigonis (Lightweight) ran away from Marcus Chambers's Austin Seven, which boiled, and Salvardori's M.G., which had badly adjusted brakes. The Lightweight went splendidly, to average 64.4 m.p.h.
The 1,100-c.c. racing cars were led by Nickols's blown M.G., with Weir's "Monaco" M.G., Finch's Amilcar Six, and Sumner's M.G. following. This order held throughout, in spite of one wheel locking-on horribly before corners on Weir's car.
The next race, for 1 1/2-litre racing cars, promised excitement, and we had it. Parnell's beautiful 16-valve Maserati was away smartly at the fall of the flag, pursued by Whitehead's E.R.A., but Gerard's E.R.A. was soon out in front. Whitehead's E.R.A., however, passed everyone, but turned right round at the first corner.
After one lap Parnell led from Gerard, whose car snaked under the brakes, and Mortimer's Alta had gone sick. Then, at the corner following the mile-straight, after two laps were run, Gerard spun round and stalled his engine. He leapt out, handle in hand, to restart, but the car was blocking the course and had to be pushed off. Abecassis' in his Alta, had been in 3rd place and he now moved up 2nd, to finish in that position, with Bainbridge 3rd in Ansell's E.R.A. Parnell, wearing crash helmet and visor, drove splendidly, to average all but 79 m.p.h. over a wet course. He made fastest lap of the day, the Gransden Lodge record, at a shade over 86 m.p.h. Davenport's ex-Maclure Riley, retired with dirt in the fuel system, and Mrs. Mortimer's 4 1/2-litre, low-chassis Invicta towed-in her husband's Alta.
The 2-litre sports car race was notable for a great duel between Crossley and Crook on 328 B.M.W.s, Crossley passing Crook at the top corner, only to be repassed almost immediately. Eventually Crook got fairly well ahead, and, to complete the B.M.W. benefit, Crozier's 328 was 3rd. Crook averaged 63 1/2 m.p.h. and, although running well, Greig's Frazer-Nash Six could not hold a candle to the B.M.W.s.
The up-to-3-litre sports cars came out next. Heath's blown 2-litre Alta made everyone else look silly, building up a huge lead, some 3/4-mile by two laps, and winning a grandly-run race at 66.8 m.p.h. He elected to drive in ordinary clothes and cloth cap, incidentally. Wagner's S.S.100 was 2nd, and Matthews's sister car 3rd. Jordan was flagged-in to secure his S.S.100's bonnet, when in 3rd place, and Rayner Green did wonders with an S.S. saloon, holding Bremner's pretty little blown 1,750-c.c. Alfa-Romeo out of the top corner. Behind thundered several old-school Bentleys, which were nowhere in the picture, Brierley being last in spite of metallic exhaust note, and Mrs. Jason-Henry passing the Alfa-Romeo into a corner but being left behind thereafter.
No Edwardians being present, Cowell's Alta, now with its driver's name on the scuttle, Bolster's "Mary" and Harrison's 2-litre Riley Six battled for 2-litre honours. Off the line they were equally spaced — Cowell, Bolster, Harrison. Then Cowell stopped while water was cleared from the front two sparking plugs and the Riley, sounding most healthy, started to build up a huge lead, finally winning at over 70 m.p.h. John had a grand dice, but burnt out his clutch, Cowell fell right out, and the enthusiastic Buck wasn't very rapid in his Type 35 Bugatti.
Three Type 51 Bugattis and Wallington's Alfa-Aitken raced next, with Abecassis (who had brought the ex-Charlie Martin, ex-Baron "3.3" G.P. Bugatti out of store), thrown in too, as he had no one to dice against in his own class. Bear got going really well, commenced to spit and "popper," and fell out, leaving the Alfa out in front, Abccassis 2nd, and Monk house 3rd. The Alfa and "3.3" Bugatti were really motoring, Wallington using brakes and revs, to great effect, and flame pouring from Abecassis's exhaust pipe. The Bugatti closed up a bit, but the Alfa won in a cloud of spray at 75.7 m.p.h., with Monkhouse, one strip rear wing out of place on his "2.3" Bugatti, virtually 2nd, and Watson's Bugatti — misfiring — 3rd. Abecassis did one lap at 77.03 m.p.h.
There were so many sports cars of 3 to 5 litres that two one-lap heats preceded the Final. In the first, Metcalfe's Lagonda and Butterworth's 4 1/2-litre Bentley were well matched on initial acceleration, but Alexander's ex-McKenzie 4 1/2-litre Bentley 2-seater won easily. In the second heat Mann's 3 1/2-litre S.S. won from an Alfa-Romeo, with Windsor-Richards's S.S. 3rd. The Final saw Mann lead away, Gilbey's Alfa-Romeo closing on him, and Alexander's Bentley 3rd. After a lap the Bentley had a small lead, and behind came Im Thurn's Bentley, Windsor-Richards's S.S., and Mann's S.S., in a bunch. Im Thum experienced a front wheel slide at the top corner, touched a barrier, and lost several places, the Alfa's dickey lid flew open and it retired, while Miller's Bentley sounded sick. Alexander, snaking slightly as he braked, built up a most respectable lead, and won very easily after a grand run, at an average speed of 65 1/2 m.p.h., clapped by the Bentley Drivers' Club. Mann was 2nd, Im Thurn 3rd and, miles back, having spun round, came the Le Mans Lagonda.
The Bentley Drivers' Club was again elated to see MacGregor's magnificent Blower Bentley — spare car of the Dorothy Paget team — win the big sports car race easily from Birkett's S.U.-carburetted 5-litre Bugatti and Howard-Sorrell's rather' touring 6 1/2-litre Bentley.
That would normally have concluded the proceedings, but a 5-lap race was put on for the six fastest cars-and what a race it proved to be!
Those on the line were: Parnell's 16valve Maserati, Hampshire's 6-cylinder Maserati, Wallington's Alfa-Aitken Abecassis's "3.3" Bugatti, Monkhouse's "2.3" Bugatti, and Bainbridge's E.R.A. Abecassis got away from the Alfa at the start. As they came up to the top corner after one lap it was evident these two cars were going too fast. Both took to the escape area, but Abecassis swung round, over the grass, and continued, Wallington, too wide to have cornered any way, eventually following. This incident put Parnell well in the lead, with Monkhouse close on his tail, and Hampshire and Bainbridge behind. Abecassis was back in 2nd place after another lap, close up to Parnell, with Monkhouse 3rd. After three .laps Abecassis went past the Maserati going into the top corner, but Parnell actually got away on acceleration, only to immediately run out of fuel - very hard luck, sir.
Monkhouse still held off the Alfa-Aitken, but at the top corner, after lap 4, his Bugatti got into a nasty slide, missed hitting the Alfa, was held on full lock still sliding, Peter's mouth wide open, all but clouted the pylon on the apex of the corner, and recovered, with little loss of time. However, that let the Alfa and Hampshire's Maserati through. Abecassis was enveloped in steam and nearly swerved into Wallington when he received scalding water in his face after finishing. The thermometer "blew-up" well and truly, even its glass coming out. The Bugatti averaged 73.85 m.p.h., the course now soaked again with torential rain. There was mention of a protest that Abecassis had taken to the grass, but he was billed as the winner-and deserved it.
Altogether it was a grand meeting and proved that disused aerodromes can offer excellent motor-racing facilities - the Government, having taken Brooklantis and Donington, might take heed of this.
Sports Cars, 751-1,100 c.c.
1st C Le S. Metcalfe (995 Fiat) - No time.
2nd. H. Lester (939 M.G.).
3rd. J. Lowrey (1,074 H.R.G.).
Sports Cars, 1,101-1,500 c.c.:
1st. P. C. T. Clark (1,496 H.R.G.) - 60.2 m.p.h.
2nd. Mrs. Gerard (1,496 Riley).
3rd. Lady Mary Grosvenor (1,496 Riley).
Racing Cars up to 750 c.c.:
1st. A. Issigonis (747 Lightweight Special supercharged) - 64.4 m.p.h.
2nd. R. Salvadori (747 M.G. supercharged).
Racing Cars, 751-1,100 c.c.:
1st. I. Nickols (1,100 M.G. supercharged) - 65.7 m.p.h.
2nd. J. Weir (1,089 M.G. supercharged).
3rd. O. Finch (1,090 Amilcar supercharged).
Racing Cars, 1,101-1,500 c.c.:
1st. R. Parnell (1,490 Maserati supercharged) - 78.9 m.p.h.
2nd. G. Abecassis (1488 Alta supercharged).
3rd. G. Bainbridge (1,488 E.R.A. supercharged).
Sports Cars, 1,501-2,000 c.c..
1st. T. A. D. Crook (1,971 B.M.W.) - 63.5m.p.h.
2nd. G. Crossley (1,971 B.M.W.).
3rd. G. Crozier (1,971 B.M.W.).
Sports Cars, 2,001-3,000 c.c.:
1st. J. Heath (1,996 Alta supercharged) - 66.8 m.p.h.
2nd. T. Wagner (2,663 S.S.).
3rd. G. Matthews (2,663 S.S.).
Racing Cars, 1,501-2,000 c.c.:
1st. T. Harrison (1,986 Riley) - 70.29 m.p.h.
2nd. C. Miller (1750 Riley).
3rd. J. Bolster (1962 "Bloody Mary").
Racing Cars, 2,001-3,000 c.c.:
1st. R. Wallington (2,991 Alfa-Romeo supercharged) - 75.7 m.p.h.
2nd. P. Monkhouse (2,271 Bugatti supercharged).
3rd. G. Watson (2,270 Bugatti supercharged).
Sports Cars, 3,001-5,000 c.c.:
1st. G. Alexander (4,398 Bentley) - 65.5
2nd. C. Mann (3,486 S.S.).
3rd. J. Im Thurn (4,398 Bentley).
Sports Cars, Over 5,000 c.c.:
1st. S. MacGregor (4,500 Bentley supercharged) - No time.
2nd. H. Birkett (5,350 Bugatti).
1st. G. Abecassis (3,300 Bugatti supercharged) - 73.85 M.p.h.
2nd. R. Wallington (2,991 Alfa-Romeo supercharged).
3rd. D. Hampshire (1,488 Masemti supercharged).
Air Commodore D. Atcherley, C.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C., who so kindly lent the aerodrome, landed there during the afternoon in a Miles monoplane.
Other air aspects were a very impressive shoot-up by a Vampire and three C.U.A.S. Tiger Moths in close formation, the centre one towing first a glider, later a banner.
Abecassis's "3.3" Bugatti, the ex-Baron car, was. driven to and from Gransden - what a road car! The carburetter was dismantled before the first race.
A big Wolseley saloon towed Monkhouse's Bugatti, and a 1,100-c.c. Balilla Fiat saloon did like service for Wallington's Alfa-Aitken, which uses the front half of the "Bimotore."
Mrs. Gerard set a fashion note - grey flannels and white helmet. And how lucky you found your umbrella, Mrs. G.!
Amongst interesting cars about the aerodrome were a s.v. Aston-Martin, Cooper's "12/50" Alvis coupé from Leicester, a very old Morris-Cowley 2seater, and Winterbottom's sports Alta, now with coupé body from an M.G.
Birkett's Bugatti came in useful, taking home Hogarth's sick Velocette and also towing away Jenkinson's Frazer-Nash.
The noise in the hangar which served as a paddock was the worst ever! And why does it always rain at motor races?
The Sumner J.A.P. had bad luck, a broken exhaust stub preventing it from running. It has a blown J.A.P. engine, Bugatti gearbox and rear axle, Lancia "Lambda" front-end, Bowden-operated rear brakes, and G.N. clutch pedal.
A huge S.U. carburetter protruded from the bonnet of Parnell's famous Delage. It started on the handle, first pull-up.
Metcalfe ran his Le Mans Lagoncla stripped and diced in visor and white overalls.
Will the person who rushed about the paddock in the morning blowing his horn behave better in future, please?
Wilcocks's M.G. bad a quick-action radiator cap and outside exhaust, Lester carried his spare wheel on the seat beside him, and Lovett had the name "Hades" on his M.G.'s bonnet.
Finch's Amilcar Six was formerly owned by Hampton, Metcalfe, Monkhouse and Humphries.
More and more drivers are having their names inscribed on their cars. This originated on the Continent, usually on team cars such as the Auto-Union and Mercédès-Benz, but, let us remember, for the purpose of identifying the car, not the driver.
"Bira's" Maserati finished fourth at Chimay, but had trouble, which may be the reason why it did not appear at Gransden.
The motor-cycle racing was supported by the cream of the amateur road-racing riders, and we regret there is insufficient space to report it. Considering the conditions the standard of riding was exceptionally high, and the 500-c.c. and unlimited races were won at over 70 m.p.h. S. T. Barnett (400 Norton) was outstanding.