THE high-speed test which the 229 starters in the R.A.C. Rally had to take at Silverstone on June 4th was one of the most instructive and entertaining sights imaginable. The cars were called upon to disembark all but the driver and, within half-an-hour, to cover 11 laps if closed and under 1,500 c.c., 12 laps if closed and over 1,500 c.c., or open and under 1.300 c.c.. and 13 laps if open and over 1,500 c.c., of the 2.278 mile Club circuit. This represented speeds of from 50.1 to 54.7 m.p.h., which, for ordinary cars many of whose drivers had not seen the course before, amongst other cars and inclusive, too, of the standing-lap, called in many cases for flat-out driving. One mark or fraction thereof was to be deducted for every second or fraction thereof over the half hour. Alas, the R.A C. and competitors fell out between them as to what happened and the whole test was omitted in marking the Rally. This was indeed a pity; the only consolation is that it eliminated four cars and must have weakened others, thereby adding its quota to the severity of the event. It was such an entertaining spectacle that we have decided to publish our impressions, even though neither the drivers nor the R.A.C. seem to have been able to lap-score on this occasion.
Naturally, nearly everyone hurried, although a cautious few toured the first lap looking at the corners. These were slippery with rubber dust, spilt petrol and hot tarmac and the run was like one immense production car race. Indeed, it was better than that, for every so often new arrivals would join in to keep the interest going—just like one of those really pleasant dreams!
Under the eagle eye of Lord Howe some three dozen XK 120 Jaguars went on first, and the sound of their howling tyres was terrific. Nancy Binns wore a crash hat. Bennett elected to keep his hood up, many had their lamps taped over against flies and flying stones, and several had above-tail luggage grids, devoid of luggage. Miss Newton drove really well bid seemed to lose all idea of the laps she had to cover—perhaps her pattering front wheels as she braked distracted her. Sutcliffe wore a “Chiron” skull cap; one and all drove like fury in this great private XK 120 motor race! Anderson even blew his horn as he weaved a way down to Stowe between two slower Jaguars. Bolton’s car made odd noises from a tyre—incidentally, publicity representatives of the Wyresoles and Blue Peter retread firms were present, some of both these retreads being in use in the Rally (and Wyresoles on the Aston-Matins in the Bod d’Or). Appleyard had a bonnet strap. Pilkington cornered hectically, tyres protesting, but was passed neatly by Miss Newton on the outside at Stowe, although he passed her later.
Next, three “Silverstone” and teal of Ihe older Healeys joined in, the pace more furious than ever. It seemed, too, that passing instructions either had not been issued or were being overlooked, so that, trials and rally types hugged the left side of the circuit, passing on the right, while racing folk tried hectically to go by on the left.
Aghian and Rollings went wide round Stowe, their Healeys on a rather unusual line, and frequently non-racing types swung wide here, troubled by the tail slides of those cornering on their off side. It really was immense! Charles Follett joined in, a vast, overalled, helmeted fingure in a 2 1/2-litre two seater Lea-Francis, and Pitts (Allard) wore a deerstalker hat and ate a cigarette. His car smoked a lot on the over-run. Ashbey’s V12 Lagonda was cautious, Defty’s outside-piped Rapide impressive. Speculation ran high as to who would spin first. Walters 328 B.M.W. nearly won this “honour,” then Bill’s Austin A90, but Tracey’s XK 120 Jaguar crawled, and seemed to retire. Binns, chewing gum, pressed on fast in an open three-seater 2 1/2-litre Riley; both Bolton and Kite used lots of revs. into Stowe corner in thelr Lea-Francis and Goodall and Morgan; in Morgan Plus Fours, really went motor racing. Peter Morgan easily passed Lt.-Comdr. Allison’s V12 Lagonda and a wayward Allard. Sam Gilbey in his 6C Alfa-Romeo saloon mixed it with it trio of Allards, and Major Schrelber’s Austin A135 wallowed round not too slowly. A Bristol slid badly, spewing petrol, and Buckley’s Bristol 400 ran straight on at Stowe on one lap. Then it happened—Leake’s A90 “scored” the first spin at Stowe for Austin, Elwes’ Bristol 401 blowing its horn as it came on the yellow-flagged scene. Crossley was making his A90’s tyres smoke, and Melkle’s Alvis went down the straights really fast.
Various Mk V Jaguar saloons, some with spatted rear wheels, some spat-less, Waring’s with a triple horn on the side, came on, and Walton cornered his Bristol 400 neatly, wheels-lifting. W. M. Conifer’s Mk VI Bentley was going really well, but Lord Selsdon’s seemed to suffer some gear-crunching, while Lewis’ Austin A90 clearly didn’t like Stowe corner.
Onslow-Bartlett, bare from the waist up, lost time in Clarkson’s “Inter” Ferrari due to a vapour leek in the fuel system, stopping before Stowe but eventually roaring away. Spollen’s closed Railton seemed better than Fulton’s, drophead Railton, and Lucy Pappou from Athens drove professionally in her Lancia Aurelia, although crunching the approaching Stowe.
Surely someone else will spin soon? Yes, round goes Pierson’s 3 1/2-litre Jaguar, the driver behind skilfully diving straight on to miss him. Heart stopping! Mrs. Allard wisely sat behind groups to watch such situations. Kenyon indulged in long tail slides, his Rover pouring out fuel and smoke and some cars were positively dangerous in spilling petrol—black mark for modern filler caps. Runton’s Jaguar saloon sent out a positive fountain and a Sunbeam-Talbot was another offender. The wise came to Silverstone with not much in their tanks, to aid fast cornering.
Amongst the varied array of dicing moderns Doreen Osborn’s rough Ford V8, McCracken’s S1A Ford V8 and S.-Ldr. Beadon’s old Armstrong-Siddeley stood out like navvies amongst a line of Guardsmen. McDonald’s Wolseley “6/80 ” saloon was holding Mrs. Allard’s P-type Allard saloon. Great fun!—the girl driving Rose’s Austin A90 hit a whole gaggle of marker tubs at Stowe, but decided to keep going, and Kenyon, in the aforementioned elderly Rover Snorts Fourteen saloon, turned round at Copse and, sliding wider and wider, eventually swiped the tubs at Stowe. Gardiner’s Armstrong-Siddeley was nearly but not quite “collected” in the process. The rolling and front wheel angles of Batley’s Studebaker Champion defy description and finally a wheel fell off. Gordon’s H.R.G. slid happily at Stowe, and Michael Lawson’s was really going, while once Booth’s Jupiter had a double-slide here. Becquart, of Monte Carlo Rally fame, had his Jupiter going so fast that Imhof’s had all lts work cut out, hooting at slower stuff, to cetch him—and we bet Goff enjoyed this unexpected “motor race.” You should have heard the tyres! Once Betty Haig slid her “TD” MG, and again Imhof hooted. Nancy Mitchell (H.R.G.) was a bit rough changing down, Scott drove his “TC” MG with great verve, and Hopkinson lef Holt (“TD” M.G.s). Of course it wasn’t a race! But Horton’s sports A40 Austin enjoyed a grand duel with Richmond’s 1 1/2-litre H.R.G., which, however, passed in time, and Young’s Austin A90 had dreadful brake-snatch. The Javelins rolled alarmingly, Van der Mark really moving in his. Carefoot’s Lancia Aprilla skittishly lifted a back wheel, and Sinclair Sweeney’s 1 1/2-litre Riley was cornering on the limit. Fothergill arnered his Ford Consul close in at Stowe, but Cressman’s Consul took a wide sweep.
Nest, spin!—Wilion’s Austin A70 Hereford, which looked like overturning, but dived off on the inside of Stowe instead. Just before we left two Javelins ran bearings, one stopping on the circuit, the other drawing into the Paddock. After the run a little servicing was done on the three Jupiters.
This test was instructive and vastly entertaining, though what possessed Col. Barnses to sanction it we don’t know. But a properly-organised high-speed run should figure in all future rallIes: we are sure most of the drivens just revelled in this one; whatever their cars thought about it! And It must have done far more weeding out, than was apparent from flung wheels and burned-out bearings. Certainly chassis designers should have been compelled to spectate at Stowe. Alas, it seems that we may never see the like of this particular piece of entertainment again on this Circuit. Considering that many of the drivers were unacquainted with the circuit, the standard of driving was very high and that no serious incidents occurred seems to prove that rally drivers are amongst the safest on the road.