The Bugatti O.C. at Silverstone
R. C. Symondson Wins 48-Mile Final in His 575 Bugatti
The first of the Club Meetings at Silverstone took place in perfect weather on June 18th, organised by the Bugatti Owners' Club, and all the fun and games of club days at Brooklands and Donington before the war were re-enacted again at the new R.A.C. circuit. It was a most enjoyable day. The invited one-make clubs co-operated warmly and an excellent entry of sports-type cars was received for the event, which had been planned by the late K. W. Bear, and the organisation of which was ably carried out by Major and Mrs. Roy Taylor. Major Taylor was rewarded by the loan of the Ostend 182-m.p.h. XK Jaguar as course-car.
Arriving at the venue at a very early hour, appropriately, as passenger in a Bugatti, the morning was disposed of in watching the practice and strolling round the Paddock.
Nothing very startling happened on the course, although Manfield's B.M.W. proved a bit skittish, Heath's M.G. spun round at Stowe corner, and Smith's M.G. used the escape road at this point. Robson was cornering his Lancia "Lambda" with abandon, Noble's V12 Lagonda drophead, rebuilt for the Monte Carlo Rally, rolled appallingly, while Hartwell's modern o.h.v. Sunbeam-Talbot saloon was faster than open s.v. versions of this marque. Goodwin's 8-litre Bentley went on boiling merrily long after it came in, and poor Willoughby was doing his best to caulk a leak at a water connection on his ex-Cunliffe 3-litre Bentley.
Howorth's unusual-looking 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, with i.f.s. by transverse leaf-spring, became unstable when a wing stay broke, allowing the front cowling to flap, and welding operations were undertaken at the wonderful Gerard mobile-workshop trailer, which had arrived behind the well-known Gerard van containing Joan Gerard's Riley "Sprite." A Rootes Group van was present to serve members of the Sunbeam-Talbot Owners' Club.
Other things which the Paddock revealed were that Miles' Miles-Nash was a Ford V8-engined Frazer-Nash, that Kitchin had large Perspex aero-screens and a plated external exhaust system on his 2-litre "Ulster" Aston-Martin, which Morgan's 2 1/2-litre Riley saloon seemed able to hold on acceleration, that Scales' M.G. had a 1,706-c.c. M.G. engine with outside exhausts, and that Allen's 8th Series Lancia "Lambda" was one of the rare two-seater models, while Scales' beautifully rebuilt 6th/7th Series Lancia "Lambda" was once owned by the Editor of Motor Sport. Lusty and Beba found their "TC" M.G.s much of a match, a foretaste of what was to follow, while Leonard was expecting that his famous Marshall-blown M.G. Magnette, now with standard head and, incidentally, using a normal small sump, would be beaten by Jacobs' blown 1,086-c.c. M.G. Hutton drove the ex-Peter Clark "3.3" Bugatti, but it wasn't very fast.
The original intention had been to make drivers leap into their cars at the fall of the flag, but this was considered to be dangerous with a grid start. Cars had, however, to be started on the starter-motor when the flag fell — but, we wonder, did Tony Curtis have his tongue in his cheek when he described the racing as confined to absolutely standard sports cars? No handicapping was used, various one-make races were grouped together, and grid positions were determined by ballot.
1st Race: Miscellaneous Cars — 10 laps (24 miles)
Although Finch's Amilcar, Marshal's Amilcar, Burton's Riley, Leston's Jaguar, Baring's Veritas (not the Hutchison car) and Brown's M.G. were non-starters, the field numbered 25. The lucky front-row occupants comprised Manfield's "328" B.M.W., Waring's business-like Alvis "Speed Twenty," Binns' vintage O.M., Ching's 1 1/2-litre Alfa-Romeo, Leigh's Ford V8-engined S.M., and Sir David, Gamble's Invicta.
A hush of expectancy fell as the "elapsed-minutes " boards were displayed and Ken Hutchison prepared to flag the cars off. Someone started his engine as the flag went up, but was persuaded of his error in time, and all engines were dead as the Union Jack swept down. Mostly the starters did their work nobly, and Sidney Allard nosed through from the second row in his Prescott-record sports Allard, to lead from Tony Crook's "2.9" Alfa-Romeo at Beckett's Corner. The unfortunates whose engines took a long time to fire were Manfield, Tenbosch's ugly Duncan-Healey and Binns, whose O.M. lost a hopeless amount of time.
After a lap it was Allard, Crook, Newton (making his first appearance in his 2-litre 1949 "Competition" Frazer-Nash), Tyrer's B.M.W., Matthews' Jaguar and McAlpine's Connaught, with the rest roaring along in pursuit in a vast cloud of dust. Already the S.M. was unhappy. Next round the order of the leaders was unchanged, but both Allard and Crook had increased their lead over Newton, and McAlpine had passed Matthews. Buckler was slip-streaming Wykes' Frazer-Nash, and Rohll's "2.3" Alfa-Romeo was coming up strongly.
On lap three Crook passed Allard on Chapel Curve and led by some 50 yards, the Allard's plugs having oiled-up due to the effect of oil surge on the corners. Miles lost a chain from his V8 Frazer-Nash, but otherwise the position generally remained calm, although Crook drew steadily away from Allard, whose car became more and more intermittent in its sparks department, while, behind, Matthews, Hall's Frazer-Nash and Miles were locked in combat, with a similar battle being fought farther back between Buncombe's H.R.G., Bremner's 1,750-c.c. Alfa-Romeo and Ching.
By half-distance Wykes' rear number-plate was trailing on the ground and the Allard sounded worse, so that Newton was closing on it, the Frazer-Nash sounding beautiful except for a suggestion of clutch slip as he changed-up. Behind, McAlpine was trying so hard in the new 1,767-c.c. Connaught that he clipped the Stowe straw-bales on his eighth lap. After nine laps Newton caught Allard, passing Sir David Gamble's Invicta on the outside round Stowe Corner in his hurry. Considering that his Frazer-Nash had run only 600 miles since Newton took delivery, it put up a most notable performance. The Connaught finished fourth, ahead of Hall's 2-litre Frazer-Nash and Matthews' Jaguar.
1st: T. A. D. Crook (2,904-c.c. Alfa Romeo) ... 19 min. 28.8 sec.
2nd: E. J. Newton (1,971-c.c. Frazer-Nash) ... 19 min. 37.1 sec.
3rd: S. H. Allard (4,375-c.c. Allard) 19 min. 45.6 sec.
2nd Race: Aston-Martin, Riley and Sunbeam-Talbot Cars — 10 laps (24 miles)
As they lined up Oldbury seemed undecided whether to have the screen up or down on his Sunbeam-Talbot. This time the front row men were Elwell-Smith, Cowlrick, Freeman, Fisher, distinctive in yellow jersey and white helmet, and Kitchin, all in Aston-Martins, of which 16 were entered, and Oldbury. The non-starters were Askey's and Bond-Williams' Aston-Martins, Buckley's Riley and Brown's Sunbeam-Talbot, leaving a field of 27. The unfortunates whose starters jibbed were Elwell-Smith, Cowlrick and Mrs. Gerard, while Fisher's Aston-Martin refused to start altogether and was pushed off the course.
Radford, in Mrs. Binns' Riley "Sprite," proceeded to build up a vast lead from Kitchin, leading the Aston-Martins in his 2-litre "Ulster," Warren's 2 1/2-litre Riley saloon, Campbell's 1 1/2-litre "Ulster" Aston-Martin and Barter's 2 1/2-litre Riley saloon. After two laps Campbell was second, Sear's Aston fourth behind Kitchin's, and already Oldbury's Sunbeam-Talbot was in trouble. Campbell and Sear took Stowe in close company, but made no impression on Radford's Riley. On lap three Sangster, chasing the two 2 1/2-litre Riley saloons for all he was worth in his 1 1/2-litre Riley saloon, changed into second at phenomenal revs. at Stowe and in a great cloud of smoke a rod came out, the oil-on-track flag being flown for those behind. Storr's Aston-Martin was mis-firing, but Robertson's Aston had gained a place from Sear's, which had a somewhat smoky exhaust, and Mrs. Gerard, retrieving her bad start by her usual polished driving, was now in fourth place. A lap later Kitchin passed Sear. It seemed that no one could possibly catch Radford, but after eight laps his Riley retired, leaving Mrs. Gerard, who had been signalled to by Gerard and a mechanic from near the start, to win very comfortably from Campbell and Robertson. She had come up to second place after only four laps. Hartwell's modern Sunbeam-Talbot saloon rolled on the corners but was impressively fast.
1st: A. M. Campbell (1,496-c.c. "Ulster" Aston-Martin) 22 min. 26.9 sec.
2nd: G. R. K. Richards (1,495-c.c. Aston-Martin)
3rd: G. E. Kitchin (1,495-c.c. Aston-Martin)
1st: Mrs. S. Gerard (1,496-c.c. Riley "Sprite") ... 22 min. 6.2 sec.
2nd: J. Lyons (2,443-c.c. Riley saloon) ... 23 min. 0.8 sec.
3rd: L. W. Barter (2,443-c.c. Riley saloon)
1st: G. R. Hartwell (1949 1,944-c.c. S.-T. saloon) ... 24 min. 20.2 sec.
2nd: B. N. Hiskins (1,944-c.c. S.-T.)
3rd: W. Freed (1,185-c.c. S.-T.)
3rd Race: Lancia and M.G. Cars 10 laps (24 miles)
With Flockhart's, King's and Anderson's M.G.s the only non-starters, a field of 24 lined-up, Warr, Bucknall, Abrams, Heath, Kelleway-Line and Messenger's M.G.s and Robson's 7th Series Lancia "Lambda" being in row one.
As the flag fell, Allen's two-seater Lancia and Leonard's M.G. were hesitant in starting, Robson got off slowly, and Brook's "TC" M.G. last of all. As expected, Jacobs' M.G., very steady over the bumps, led throughout, pursued by Lusty's M.G. and Beba's M.G., although Leonard was in the picture for a while. Heath rejoined the fray quickly, after a bad skid at Stowe. The Lancias had a battle-royal between themselves, Jane leading until rising oil-temperature made it prudent to retire, whereupon Allen took the lead, Seal having a grand duel with him and gaining into Stowe, only to lose on acceleration.
1st: D. L. Allen (8th Series 2,570-c.c. Lancia "Lambda" 2-seater)
2nd: E. F. S. Seal (5th/6th Series 2,120-c.c. Lancia " Lambda" 4-seater)
3rd G. Robson (8th Series 2,550-c.c. Lancia "Lambda" 4-seater)
1st: R. W. Jacobs (1,086-c.c. M.G.) ... 21 min. 35.8 sec.
2nd: A. S. Lusty (1,250-c.c. M.G.) ... 22 min. 3.6 sec.
3rd: P. Beba (1,250-c.c. M.G.) ... 22 min. 17.6 sec.
4th Race: Bentley, Bugatti and Lagonda Cars — 10 laps (24 miles)
The non-starters were Austin's 6 1/2-litre and Kramer's 4 1/2-litre Bentleys, Pierpoint's Type 55 and Nixon's "2.3" Bugattis, and Hall's Lagonda. All the field electrically commenced as the flag fell, but Symondson's Bugatti got away rather slowly. However, Symondson led from the first lap, Pitts' impressive "blower 4 1/2" Bentley two-seater behind him, Howorth's special 4 1/2-litre Lagonda third and Kemp-Place's 4 1/2-litre Bentley and Roberts' beautiful alloy-wheeled Type 43 Bugatti pressing hard. Already Willoughby's Bentley was out.
Symondson, driving faultlessly, began to build up an immense lead and the order remained unchanged, Roberts crouching low to urge on the Type 43, which was sending out the usual oil smoke. Poor Goodwin was obliged to retire his magnificent 8-litre Bentley after four laps, with a, bearing run — further proof of the toll taken by the Silverstone Club Circuit.
By half-distance Symondson had lapped Leo's 2-litre Lagonda and the leaders were as before, Wright's 4 1/2-litre Lagonda's brakes were protesting as it took Stowe and Henry was indulging in wilder and wilder tail-slides in his 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, until an all-but-broadsider seemed to sober him up. Both Wright and Kemp-Place indulged in isolated slides out of Stowe. So the race ran on, Symondson's Type 57S Bugatti well out ahead of Pitts' blower Bentley and Kemp-Place's Bentley, Howorth's Lagonda losing ground but still ahead of the Type 43 Bugatti and Wright's Lagonda. Goodhew's "Le Mans" 4 1/2-litre Lagonda had to stop while its driver pulled off its fan belt, the fan having come adrift and chewed up its blades on projecting parts of the machinery.
1st: A. G. Pitts (4,398-c.c. s/c Bentley 2-seater) ... 20 min. 21.8 sec.
2nd: H. Kemp-Place (4,398-c.c. Bentley 2-seater) ... 20 min. 29.0 sec.
3rd: C. W. P. Milner (6,597-c.c. Bentley)
1st: R. C. Symondson (3,257-c.c. Type 57S Bugatti 2-seater) 19 min. 23.2 sec.
2nd: T. A. Roberts (2,261-c.c. Type 43 Bugatti 4-seater)
1st: F. H. Howorth (4,496-c.c. Lagonda Special 2-seater) ... 20 min. 55.0 sec.
2nd: R. F. Wright (4,453-c.c. Lagonda 4-seater)
3rd: B. A. Henry (4,467-c.c. Lagonda 4-seater)
5th Race: Final-20 laps (48 miles)
Keen anticipation heralded this race, and the front row of the grid emphasised the excitement — Campbell's Aston-Martin, Warren's 2 1/2-litre Riley saloon, Allard's low two-seater Allard, Lusty's M.G., Kitchen's Aston-Martin, Symondson's Bugatti and Pitts' Bentley. Crook was somewhat agitated to find himself in the last row with the "2.9" Alfa-Romeo.
As Hutchison dropped the flag Symondson again faltered momentarily and Allen's Lancia and Henry's now rather-spent Lagonda refused to start. At the end of the first lap Allard had a very decent lead from Crook and Symondson, and behind came Newton's Frazer-Nash (Newton a trifle perturbed by odd transmission noises), Pitts, Kemp-Place, Jacobs' M.G., Lusty's M.G., Henry, Campbell's Aston, and Mrs. Gerard.
Except for more wild tail-slides by Henry, and Kemp-Place having to pull the off-side rear wing of his Bentley clear of the wheel, the race lacked incidents amongst the field, so that it was possible to concentrate on the leaders. Allard did all he knew to hold off the Alfa and Bugatti, doing 100 m.p.h. or more along the straight. After three laps he had lapped a Lancia, and he still led after eight laps.
Then both Crook and Symondson came past him in close company, for, although the oil-level had been reduced to try to avoid oiling-up, the Allard's exhaust note had become irregular and soon it was on four cylinders, with its cooling water boiling away. Signalled to speed up near the end by McCallan, Allard could do little to respond, and he finally retired.
Meanwhile, Crook was giving a huge display of temperament, waving frantically every time he had to follow a slow car through a corner, even shouting at the other driver, so that worried marshals displayed blue flags all round the course. In contrast, Symondson, in black leather helmet, was calmness personified, and didn't appear to be fully extending his Type 57S. After 11 laps Newton caught the sick Allard, but was a long way behind Symondson, who, in turn, didn't look like catching Crook. But, maybe Crook was too busy clearing a passage for the Alfa to watch his gauges, for the fact remains that, passing the line with one lap to go, a sudden haze of smoke streamed from his car, which stopped with something very definitely deranged in the engine.
Demonstrating the superior reliability of his Bugatti, Symondson ran on to win, at the fastest average speed of the day. He has had this beautiful 3.3-litre Bugatti since 1938, before which it was owned by Embiricos. It has a single Stromberg carburetter and ran on 5.50-18 Dunlops at the front, 6.00-18 Dunlops at the rear. Its neat, blue two-seater body is perfectly practical for touring, and the car seemed outwardly standard save. perhaps, for drilled pedals. Pitts' Bentley, with vast Mk. IV ribbed Villiers blower between the front dumb-irons, blower drip-feeds on the facia, and 7.00-21 rear tyres, was a striking contrast to this Bugatti.
Prizes were given for the first to finish in pre-arranged capacity classes, but these awards have not been announced.
1st: R. C. Symondson (3,257-c.c. Type 57S Bugatti) 38 min. 3.1 sec.
2nd: E. J. Newton (1,971-c.c. "Competition" Frazer-Nash) ... 38 min. 47.0 sec.
3rd: A. Pitts (4,398-c.c. s/c Bentley) ... 40 min. 14.0 sec.
4th: H. Kemp-Place (4,398-c.c. Bentley) 40 min. 36.6 sec.
So ended a thoroughly-enjoyable meeting, so that one looks forward to the forthcoming club events at Silverstone the V.S.C.C. on July 2nd, the B.D.C. on July 23rd, and the M.M.E.C. on July 30th. The public will not be admitted, but if you have a friend who is a member of the organising or invited clubs it should be possible to get tickets.
The only critic's-afterthought on the B.O.C. affair is that officials from the invited clubs might have timed their own members, so that times could be given for all the races, and that winner's lap times could have been stated.