Matters of the moment
The Isle of Man races were excellent in every way and made us realise just what we have missed since Brooklands, Donington and the Crystal Palace have been occupied, respectively, by aircraft, army vehicles and empty packing cases. In those now-almost-legendary days before the Hitler War, sprint events were quite a relief from the almost-too-frequent long-distance races then held in this country.
Now, however, without in any way wishing to disparage Shelsley Walsh, Prescott, Bo’ness or Brighton, sprint events do possess an air of repetition and lack the excitement and satisfaction of a race of over 100 miles duration. So let us hope that racing of that sort may happen at Goodwood in 1949, thus obviating the Englishman’s need to travel by boat or aeroplane whenever he desires to see a real motor-race. Incidentally, if this new course comes into its own we may expect that daily paper which told us how Gerard won the motor-boat race at Jersey to regale us in the future with tales of how jockeys Bolster, Brooke and Co. rode oddly-named mounts in hitherto-unheard-of horse-races down at — Goodwood!
Returning to the Isle of Man, the organisation was first-class and Press facilities, under Dennis May and Reuben Harveyson, excellent. And the British Empire Trophy race was nothing if not dramatic, with Gerard, Bob Ansell and Parnell all in the picture at one time or another, before Parnell’s auxiliary fuel tank lost him the race to Geoffrey Ansell. Incidentally, brake trouble may have been said to have put both Gerard and Bob Ansell out, definitely in the case of the former, and through a rod coming out of the Maserati’s engine when it was serving in lieu of brakes, in the case of the latter driver.
Warm congratulations must go out to 28-year-old Geoffrey Edward Ansell, a Hampshire farmer, and cousin of Bob Ansell, who won the Empire Trophy race in his B-type E.R.A. by really sound driving, after serving a racing-apprenticeship that didn’t commence until after the war. David Alan Hampshire, too, put up a fine show to finish second to Ansell in an E.R.A. borrowed from Parnell, for although he has encompassed E-type E.R.A., the Challenger and the old Delage in his racing career, he has only been in the game since 1946. Incidentally, the E.R.A. he drove was the 1934 A-type and that it was modified and prepared by W. E. Wilkinson may have been some consolation to Parnell’s able Chief-Engineer for the retirement of that stable’s E-type E.R.A. and Parnell’s own dismal defeat in the Maserati. This year’s British Empire Trophy race was a triumph for elderly British cars handled by newcomers.
George Nixon is another new driver who proved his merit beyond all doubt by winning the Manx Cup race in his Riley, in which race that trier Gilbert Tyrer deserved his second place. Likewise, K. W. Bear drove in his customary safe and polished manner to victory in the Castletown Trophy race in that very beautiful motor car, the ex-Abecassis “three-three” Bugatti.
By his handling of Dunham’s “12/70” Alvis, a car, one would imagine not altogether suited to the I.O.M. course, Leslie Johnson showed that he has lost none of his prowess. Incidentally he regarded the Empire Trophy race as merely a try-out for his E-type E.R.A., yet brought it in 5th. He did not, as at first announced, equal Parnell’s fastest lap of 72.35 m.p.h. The E-type’s best lap was its 32nd, at 67.78.m.p.h.
Now, more than ever before, is it necessary to endeavour to popularise competition-motoring in this country. Once upon a time there were two schools of thought on this matter, those who wanted motor-racing to vie with football in the nation’s esteem and those who said, no, let us retain the right people and no crowding. But today, when we have become accustomed to seeking official sanction for venues and even for fuel with which to run a meeting, there can be no question but that the bigger the crowd of spectators, the more likely is the motor-racing to flourish. Therefore, it behoves organisers to run meetings slickly and, if entries have to be limited, to accept only the faster drivers and cars. There is no doubt about the extent of public interest at present, even in the sprint events to which this unhappy country is confined. But if excessive admission and parking charges prevail and the public can see only slow cars, badly handled, and those at a distance, this healthy enthusiasm for racing will wane. Then we shall find public corporations less anxious to place private roads at our disposal and H.M. Government less likely to sanction the use of methanol or to listen to pleas for a track and a B.R.M. team.
The Bugatti Owners’ Club sets a high standard at its run-to-a-timetable Prescott Hill Climbs, and by providing adequate spectators’ enclosures and car parks, good p.a. apparatus, easily visible times-boards and sensibly-planned programmes, it and many other clubs make their meetings as attractive as possible to the public.
What happens at purely club fixtures is of less importance, but we consider it highly desirable that such standards be maintained at the more important events. It was here that the Brighton and Hove M.C. slipped up in respect of the Stanmer Park Hill Climb. All credit to them for getting a new course and for the many elaborate arrangements they made in an endeavour to ensure a successful meeting. Their mistake seems to have been in asking for an International fixture and then accepting entries of sports cars, many of them very slow and not always driven very inspiringly, from their own members. The resultant entry of 84 cars was a great number to handle, bearing in mind the 2 p.m. start, the length of the course and the fact that no return-road exists at Stanmer Park. Had the handicap class been waived, it is probable that, in spite of Gerard’s accident, there would have been time to complete the programme, instead of having to abandon second runs in the over 3-litre racing cars class. We look forward to returning to Stanmer Park, but we hope that the Brighton and Hove M.C., which has run so many excellent meetings in the past, will not make the same mistakes twice. For many years Brighton has been anxious to attract the motor-racing fraternity and it is our wish that their future meetings shall continue to be amongst the best-attended and best-supported in the country.
A job to do
Matters which concern the Press may not, at first sight, appear to be of interest to a paper’s readers. But a little consideration will show that they are. The reader who visits an event likes to know more about it than he can glean from the public enclosures, and readers not able to attend events personally rely on the motoring Press for their contacts with the movement. So it is very much in their interests that Press reporters and Press photographers are given reasonable facilities for doing their jobs. Practically all that a representative of the Press needs is freedom to see what is happening and facilities for obtaining correct results at the close of a meeting.
Although promoters of motoring events announce prominently that everyone at such a meeting is present at his or her own risk and that the organisers are absolved from all liability, howsoever caused, no one wants racing cars to maim humanity. Therefore, it is logical that officials and police remove from the close proximity of the course all persons with no authority to be there. But a Pressman has authority to be reasonably close to the course. Indeed, the R.A.C. has set up a special committee to decide which Press representatives shall and which Press representatives shall not be in possession of Track-Passes at the more important meetings.
We consider the formation of this Press committee a desirable move — although we should have felt still happier had we been allowed to announce its impending formation and which officials sit on it. Be that as it may, Press-Pass applications are vetted by the R.A.C. and when such passes have been granted the holders should be given every facility to go where they wish, short of interfering with the running of a meeting. They are doing a job of work, in many cases an arduous one, and they should most certainly not be subjected to rudeness and “moving-on” at the hands of ill-informed officials and over-zealous police. Yet many times last year we suffered thus and heard of others who suffered likewise. And at a recent hill-climb the representatives of two leading motor papers and of a local newspaper were ordered by the police to leave what was an entirely reasonable position and that after they had already completed observations of many competitors’ performances from this position. Nothing can be more detrimental to fair and accurate reporting.
We suggest that the R.A.C. might emphasise to organisers that holders of authentic Press-Passes are entitled to reasonable freedom and civility. And organisers, in turn, should ensure that their officials, and the police detailed to act for them, respect such Passes. Often a Pressman knows rather more of where it is and is not safe to be when racing cars are unleashed than an inexperienced club official or a local gendarme. Moreover, the man in possession of a note book or camera is not necessarily paid to be in the best position at every meeting in return for a few lines of “copy” or a picture only if there’s a crash — some of us have a job of work to do and appreciate being allowed to do it.
The Royal Netherlands Automobile Club has made a truly generous gesture to Britain by inviting British drivers to compete in the three races to be held at the new Zandvoort road circuit on August 7th — at no cost to themselves. Of this invitation, which has been accepted, Earl Howe says:
“With the gates of Brooklands track and Donington Park road circuit, formerly the racing equivalents of Ascot and Lords, closed in their faces, our racing men will be deeply grateful to these Dutch sportsmen for their invitation. For this ‘corner of a foreign field’ to be English for a day is something of real significance to the track-starved generation of racing drivers which has grown up since the war. The Royal Netherlands A.C., moreover, proposes to assume full financial responsibility for the expedition”
We understand that the new circuit measures 2.7 miles to a lap, has eleven corners, flanks the sea near Haarlem and is expected to be lapped at about 80 m.p.h. The races on August 7th are to comprise two 60-mile heats and a 108-mile final. It would be a thousand pities if we did not accept this gallant invitation made as a token of gratitude to us as a liberator nation, and we are glad to learn that drivers of the calibre of Mays, Gerard, Parnell, Johnson, Abecassis, the Ansells, Hampshire and Brooke early made known their intention to drive at Zandvoort. It is still a thousand pities that this invitation cannot be returned at Donington or Brooklands — it must seem odd to the Benelux countries that the “liberator nation” has no motor course of its own.