Opening Meeting At Aintree

Author

W.B.

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Stirling Moss Drives Impeccably to Win B.A.R.C. “Daily Telegraph” 100-mile “Aintree 200” and 30-mile 500-c.c. Race. Duncan-Hamilton’s Jaguar Beats the Rest in the Sports-Car Race. Lap Record 81.82 m.p.h. by Collins (Thinwall Ferrari). B.R.M.s Outclassed.

The new motor-racing circuit at Aintree, near Liverpool, opened to a wet but successful International meeting organised by the B.A.R.C. for the Daily Telegraph on May 29th. The circuit is, with Silverstone, the longest in this country, having a lap distance of exactly three miles. It possesses long straights and a series of interesting bends, is smooth and well surfaced in Asphaltic Grittite, but resembles an airfield circuit in being perfectly flat — although the huge and elaborate horse-race grandstands ensure an excellent view. A good deal of mud got conveyed to the course, which, like airfield circuits, lacks definition at the corners. With more bunting and a band it could resemble a Continental venue.

The B.A.R.C. wisely chose a sort of revival of their classic 200-Mile Race, but opened this to Formule Libre racing cars, and ran it as two 50-mile qualifying heats and a 100-mile final, probably thinking 150 miles was enough for the average English racing car. Continental drivers, who braved the dismal “Manchester weather” which unkindly enveloped Aintree for practice and the race, numbered Jean Behra, Andre Pilette (Gordinis), P. Etancelin (Talbot), Prince Bira (Maserati) and the American driver Carroll Shelby (Aston Martin).

The official figure for attendance is 25,000, and the prevailing enthusiasm was reflected by the dripping umbrellas of spectators who stuck it out on the top of the stands and in the enclosures. They were rewarded by seeing Stirling Moss drive in truly professional style to retrieve lost fortune, his new Maserati winning the “Aintree International 200” race and his Beart-tuned Cooper-Norton dominating the 500-c.c. event. Duncan-Hamilton took sports-car honours in his Type C Jaguar from the brilliant American, Shelby, in his Aston Martin DB3S and Jimmy Stewart in the ex-Le Mans-winning Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar. The O.R.M.A. proved that it has the right drivers, Flockhart winning Heat 2 in fine style, but neither his nor Wharton’s new Mk. II B.R.M. had sufficient stamina for the 100 miles of the final, both suffering from disc brakes with insufficient retarding ability. Peter Collins showed outstanding virtuosity in the 4 1/2-litre Thinwall Ferrari, second in Heat 1 to Parnell’s smaller Ferrari, but it, too, grew tired of “long-distance” racing. Lap speeds were considerably lower than at Silverstone and Goodwood, the eight corners offsetting the long straights. The meeting was well run but seemed somewhat over-organised to those unaccustomed to the elaborate lay-out and multiplication of officials at Aintree. One area-marshal proved needlessly obstructive to those brave mortals, the motor-racing picture-makers, who take risks to show us what happened with no “come-back ” if they get bowled over, and one heat started a few minutes late, remarkable only because of the extreme punctuality of B.A.R.C. Goodwood races and entirely excusable under the prevailing “next to impossible” conditions. As the Duke of Richmond and Gordon said, Mrs. Topham’s new circuit had at least been tested under the worst possible conditions and not found wanting. The “Christian names — over to you, old boy ” p.a. commentary was open to criticism, because the commentators discussed “form” between themselves which gave rise to contradictions, and cracked jokes in the modern slap-happy manner, which we consider in poor taste at an International meeting. On one occasion they “tore the scoreboard off a strip” for being behind with race positions but it was only occasionally that we got more than the “first three” from the loudspeakers, although James Tilling had a lady lap-scoring for him and was obviously “on the beam.” But is it reassuring for spectators when commentators call up one another for confirmation of whether or not a car sounds to be in trouble, or whether a driver is or is not on the same lap as the leaders, and so on?

[This isn’t sour-grapes criticism, because the proximity of a “mike” scares me stiff! But it may be that announcers have come to treat these once-fearsome objects with too great a degree of familiarity. — Ed.]

Otherwise, bravo Stirling Moss and thank you, Mrs. Topham. Aintree, we think, setting aside some purely personal prejudices, has its future in its tomorrows. — W. B.

The Opening Ceremony
One felt especially sorry that heavy rain was still falling as Earl Howe prepared to “break the tape” of the new Aintree circuit in his immaculate Aston Martin DB2. He addressed the crowds, at first inaudibly due to microphone maladies and then at full blast after he had found the right button — he obviously knows more about accelerators than acoustics. Mrs. Topham also said a few words, remarking “I don’t like this” as she handed the microphone back, and the new circuit, with its Melling Crossing, Tatts Corner, Becher’s Brook Bend, Valentine’s Way and Railway Straight, was open. Motor-racing enthusiasts in the Midlands and the North will become familiar with this fine £100,000 circuit but at this opening meeting we are sure many of the spectators expected to see Ken Wharton riding the jumps on Freebooter and Prince Bira leading in Early Mist.

Sports-Car Race (10 Laps)
This provided a short, sharp curtain-raiser, in heavy rain. The field was interesting, with seven Type C Jaguars, including the three Ecurie Ecosse cars of Stewart, Sanderson and Sir James Scott-Douglas, and Duncan-Hamilton’s Le Mans practice car, Salvadori’s Maserati, Chapman’s Lotus, Carroll Shelby’s Sebring Aston Martin DB3A in American colours, Reece’s 1,096-c.c. Osca, new Sports Connaught, and examples of Frazer-Nash, Healey, Cooper-Bristol, Kieft, XK120 Jaguar, Aston Martin and H.W.M.

Stewart led after the initial melée, but Duncan-Hamilton sat close behind and Shelby came through the field, driving well. We noticed Protheroe cornering well in his XK120, Gould was seen through the spray having his usual dice in the Kieft, Dickson’s Frazer-Nash had business-like intakes on its bonnet. etc., and Walton snaked bit in his Cooper-Bristol. Chapman, riding Lotus, fell at Becher’s Brook!

Hamilton’s Jaguar took the lead a few laps from the end. Stewart appearing to miss a vital gear-change. Shelby also passed the Ecurie. Ecosse car, and the line-ahead Scottish running was interfered with because Tony Gaze had the H.W.M.-Jaguar ahead of Sanderson and Sir Scott-Douglas, finishing a second behind Stewart and actually setting fastest lap, at 75.1 m.p.h. Salvadori led Gould of the 2-litre contingent. Duncan certainly pressed on, averaging nearly 74 m.p.h. under very wet conditions against Moss’ winning 77.7 m.p.h. in the F. 1 car in the Formule Libre race on a dry track, although over three times the distance.

Formule Libre Aintree 200 — Heat 1 (17 Laps)
Any hopes that the rain might cease before the racing cars came out were effectively damped. Only three cars non-started, as some compensation, these being Dunham’s D.H.S., the Emeryson and the Marquis de Portago’s Maserati. This left Behra’s bIue Gordini, Parnell’s 1953/4 Ferrari, Moss’ Maserati, Wharton’s stub-exhaust Mk. II B.R.M., McAlpine’s, Marr’s, Sir Jeremy Boles’ and Young’s 2-litre Connaught’s. Gould’s Cooper-Bristol, Brooke’s H.W.M., Fairman’s Turner, Hall’s Cooper-Bristol, the aged E.R.A.s of Somervail and Birrell and Peter Collins in the 4 1/2-litre Ferrari Thinwall Special.

Collins, who certainly never seems to recognise when a car is going as fast as it wants to, was expected in some quarters to be wild with all the Thinwall horses at his command. Instead, after a brilliant start, headed only by Parnell, he drove this big, magnificent car splendidly, leading from the first lap, from Parnell, Behra and Moss. Lapping at nearly 80 m.p.h. in clouds of spray, he built up a truly commanding lead after less than ten miles. Already McAlpine was in, wasting 30 seconds, asking puzzled mechanics to examine the Connaught’s near-side front wheel, which appeared undamaged, and Boles’ Connaught was in trouble, to stop on the circuit on lap seven.

It looked as if the Thinwall and its new driver would win in a canter, until a change of exhaust note heralded trouble. The odd beat of the V12 engine often suggests misfiring when all is well, but now, after nine laps, the discerning reported the big Ferrari in difficulties. Parnell’s 2 1/2-litre car had closed right up and on lap ten passed Collins in front of the pits. Moss was in third place, having taken the Gordini on lap nine, but Collins had sufficient in hand to remain ahead of “No. 7” Maserati. Wharton never got the B.R.M. higher than fifth until lap 10, when he overtook the ailing Gordini. Somervail’s gallant E.R.A. took on oil, just losing its place to Marr’s Connaught. Otherwise, no excitement.

Formule Libre Aintree 200 — Heat 2 (17 Laps).
Fortified by lunch, the crowd settled down to watch Heat 2. With Whiteaway (H.W.M.), Nuckey (Cooper-Bristol), Lewis (E.R.A..) and Lund (Frazer-Nash) non-starters, the field consisted of the Belgian Pillete in a yellow Gordini, the Maseratis of Bira and Salvadori, Gaze’s H.W.M., Tyrer’s massive Bristol-Alta, Thorne and Boulton in Connaughts, Rolt in Rob Walker’s Connaught. Gerard’s Cooper-Bristol, Graham Whitehead’s and Flint’s E.R.A.s (the latter’s is “Remus”), Etancelin’s 4 1/2-litre Talbot, the R.R.A. and Flockhart for B.R.M. Of these, Bira was left with oil running from the front of his car and Gaze was in almost immediately for a plug change, a trouble which dogged him all the rest of the race.

Flockhart at once put the B.R.M. at the head of affairs, controlling it like an experienced driver, leading Salvadori and Gerard. Gerard was going splendidly in his bright green Cooper-Bristol, watched by Joan Gerard, but Rolt, behind him, was losing ground, to retire with gearbox trouble. The E.R.A., too, had a heart-stopping overtaking episode on lap five and also retired, Whitehead called at his pit and Tyrer was lapped by almost the entire field. Bira had started eventually, but was soon back at his pit.

Interest centred on Salvadori’s relentless chasing of the B.R.M.; on lap 12 he was within 3 sec. of Flockhart and lapping faster, a lap later six lengths behind, then 1 1/2 lengths, and seeming to accelerate nearly as well, suggesting trouble in the V16. Flockhart scraped in to win by 3 sec., the order of the leaders unchanged.

500-c.c. Scratch Race (10 Laps)
It was certainly Moss’ day and with his well-known virtuosity he took the Beart Cooper-Norton to the front and ran right clear of the others, winning at nearly 71 m.p.h. in the wet, and setting a F. Ill lap record of 72.19 m.p.h. Don Parker held second place and behind Russell was well established as third, but Brandon in Nuckey’s Cooper was engaged in a terrific ding-dong with Hull’s Cooper, ending in Eric’s favour by 6 sec. Leston was not present. Incidents included gyrations by Howard and Phillipson at Tatts, engine failure on the part of Harris and Bueb, the disappearance of the Revis as it seemed to be coming into the picture, and a head-on argument with the wall at Anchor Crossing by Graham Maude.

Formule Libre Aintree 200 — Final (34 Laps)
On the grid in the front row were Parnell, Flockhart, Salvadori and Collins, The second row contained Moss, Wharton and Gerard, the third row Pilette, Behra, Etancelin and Hall, the fourth row Nuckey, Marr and McAlpine, the fifth row Fairman, Thorn, Birrell and Boulton, with Holt, Whitehead and, somehow, Bira, at the back.

As “Ebby’s” flag began to fall Collins got the Thinvvall Ferrari away in the lead ahead of Flockhart’s B.R.M., and these two young drivers led Parnell and Wharton at the end of lap one, Moss fifth.

Collins proceeded to secure a most commanding lead, having the length of the Finishing Straight over the leading B.R.M. after only four laps. Already Parnell had begun to drop back, being passed by Wharton and Moss on lap two. Jean Behra was-settling down to some fast work and by lap five Moss was in fourth place, with the Gordini behind him. Then on the next lap Flockhart skidded and clipped the straw bales, and fell right back to 11th; Salvadori spun off and went right to the bottom of the cIass.

This made the order of the leaders Collins, racing away on his own, Moss, Wharton, Behra, Parnell, Gerard. Flockhart’s skid was a pointer to B.R.M. discomforts, and on the next lap Wharton waved Behra past as they went into Tatts. The H.W.M.’s brakes were obviously becoming ineffective; Wharton changed down twice before this slow corner, Flockhart three times.

Although Behra was now third, an ominous trail of smoke was corning from the Gordini’s exhaust and when the Thinwall Ferrari began to sound like it had at the end of Heat 1 we realised it was anybody’s race. Moss was driving calmly, stylishly in second place, not appearing to be trying to catch Collins but steadily closing up, with Parnell comfortably far behind after the inevitable had overtaken Behra and he came to his pit on lap 11.

Meanwhile, Flockhart was making up time and by the 12th lap was in sixth place, behind Gerard’s Cooper-Bristol. But clearly the B.R.M. bolt was shot, for the little Cooper-Bristol kept ahead of the blown V16, a tribute to Gerard’s driving but also an indication that Flockhart had only a part of that world-beating performance left. Back in the field numerous pit-stops did not, affect the main issue; Rolt and Birrell retired, Pillete like his teams-mate was in trouble so was Bira, later to resume quite fast, Behra had a second stop, Marr’s Connaught slid into deep mud beside the track, to be restarted by first-aid men.

But all eyes were on Collins and Moss. The rain had ceased and the track was dry. Collins would win easily if all his horses continued to prance, but clearly they didn’t wish to.

Lap 13 saw Moss 26 sec. behind. He had made up two seconds by the next time round; Parnell third, Wharton, Gerard and Flockhart bunched, farther back. Lap 17 saw the gap between the leaders unchanged: Flockhart had scraped past Gerard, now fourth and sixth, for Wharton was having a bad time, with Bira behind him with with no power to catch up.

Came lap 19 — and Collins pulled in! Plugs were whipped out, new ones put in, the engine proved stubborn to restart, and it was some six minutes before Collins roared back into the race, hopelessly far back, even had the car been fit, which it wasn’t. So Moss became the leader, Salvadori behind him on the road but way back in the race. Bira came in and his Maserati was reluctant to restart.

Flockhart’s brakes became worse, so that Gerard re-passed him on lap 18, and Etancelin’s Talbot gained on the B.R.M. into Tatts. Hall’s Cooper-Bristol retired with a blown gasket, and Wharton retired, brakes oily and smoking, on lap 22. Moss was going wide into Tatts on his usual impeccable line, lapping now at nearly 77 1/2 m.p.h. One commentator asked, “Would he have to refuel?” Quite properly James Tilling said he’d be very surprised if so. And, of course, Stirling didn’t. He just drove on, comfortably in command of Aintree’s first long-distance race.

Parnell stayed in second place, safely out of reach of Gerard and Flockhart. In the closing stages of the race, after Collins had finally retired on lap 28, the only excitement was to see whether Flockhart or Gerard would get third place. Bob was handling his little Cooper-Bristol magnificently, the boy from over the Border was doing his best sans brakes into the corners and “edge” out of them. The B.R.M. got by on lap 27 but always Gerard was a danger. On the final lap he closed right up, commentators and crowd danced with the audacity of it, but Bob slid wide on the last corner, to finish 1.4 sec. behind the B.R.M.

“Tic-Tacs”
No madam, Jean Behra was milling round in a yellow Gordini, not taking the jumps on Golden Miller. Nor was Ron Flockhart a Russian Hero attempting to prove, via stub exhausts, that They, too, possess The Weapon …

* * *

In contrast to the outcry about cruelty to horses after this year’s Grand National, no one has complained of cruelty to racing drivers-although under the prevailing weather conditions, well they might!

* * *

There were a number of charming, young ladies in the pits, wearing Trade passes — the passes did not state what trade they followed.

* * *

The pits are adequate without being as elaborate as those at Silverstone.

* * *

Interested onlookers included the Mayor of Liverpool, a director of the Daily Telegraph, the Hon. Gerald Lascelles and his wife, A. Asher, who plans the Daily Express Silverstone meetings, etc.

* * *

After John Morgan, much of the Aintree organisation rested on the good-natured shoulders of G. P. F. Sykes, who was grandly attired in a black “Tarmac” waterproof.

* * *

We saw Mrs. Topham in a police M.G. Midget which was ringing its “gong,” but we don’t think she was being arrested!

* * *

Congratulations to Liverpool for posting scores of policemen (and a policewoman) to wave the traffic away after the meeting; and to the slickness of the Mersey Tunnel officials in issuing tickets for this very excellent exit from the town.

* * *

Aintree organisation was apt to be overwhelming to those who have only once seen a horse race — like the Editor, after his aged car had back-fired during an Aldershot parade! For instance, having an invitation to lunch from the Aintree Automobile Racing Company and the Daily Telegraph, we tried to convert this into tickets on arrival at the course, but after visiting some twenty different officials who merely passed us on elsewhere we went to see Ian Gordon and Miss Hobbis and partook of the more humble, but very adequate Press luncheon. What, dear reader, has this to do with you? Well, a properly-fed Press-man should write more intelligently than one who starves . . .

* * *

Tony Vandervell was billed by one newspaper as Tony Vanderbilt. He personally assisted in changing the Thinwall Ferrari’s many plugs after the car had become fluffy towards the end of Heat 1. Peter Collins, meeting Reg Parnell after this heat, got a kiss from Sally Weston and happily pulled Reg’s leg, calling him “You wicked old man.”

* * *

Stirling Moss, in his victory speech, said that he hoped one day to win in a “green car” and not in one which is “merely painted green.” His last lap was done in a British car — seated in the back of a Rolls-Bentley tourer, holding the very impressive Daily Telegraph Challenge Trophy. No win could have appealed more to the rain-soaked English spectators, but, phlegmatic to the last, they scarcely showed it! Moss won £610 in prize money and richly deserved it, even if, like all the true G.P. drivers, his style is relaxed and unspectacular.

* * *

The only warmth at Aintree came from the brake discs of the B.R.M.s.

* * *

The lightfooted agility of the Gordini mechanics unfortunately failed to do anything to cure their cars’ ills; the phlegmatic Maserati mechanics smiled very slightly when Moss won, with Salvadori in fourth place.

* * *

The presence of the huge Ecurie Ecosse van and a Castrol van outside the Merton Hotel in Bootle was good free advertisement for the morrow’s racing!

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