Bad weather cleared at Snetterton in time not to spoil the West Essex C.C. racing on Whit Saturday, which consisted of nine short, snappy events.
The 10-lap Formula III race made the fans sit up, for Allison’s Cooper led Jim Russell’s Cooper and even looked steadier until, at the Esses on the last lap Allison, now with Russell virtually alongside, spun off on the outside, to roll backwards across the course with the front bonnet unsecured. Hall’s Border Reivers’ Cooper had been holding third place in front of Parker’s Kieft and now ran home second, Allison restarting in time to finish before Parker. Russell averaged 80.81 m.p.h on this hard-won victory but Allison made fastest lap, at 82.94 m.p.h. Anderson finished nursing the nose of his Staride-Norton.
The 1 ½-litre sports-car race promised entertainment. Colin Chapman’s Lotus-M.G. had no trouble, however, in winning from Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Climax, the Lotus crossing the line 8.8 sec. ahead. Parnell was trying a Cooper-Connaught from the same stable but retired early, and Leston s non-aerodynamic Connaught was passed by Sopwith after the first lap, although it outdistanced Naylor’s Lotus-Connaught. Russell was having a go in a works Cooper-Climax but on lap three slid outwards at the Esses and then across the course, to park neatly out of the way up a sandbank. Chapman averaged 82.62 m.p.h. for the five laps and made fastest lap at 84.23 m.p.h., tyres howling through the corners. Hill’s Turner indulged in a battle with Ladd’s M.G., with much politeness as to who should lead at the Esses.
The 2-litre sports-car race was a gift for the talented Archie Scott-Brown, who lapped at 84.52 m.p.h. in the familiar Lister-Bristol and won at 83.33 m.p.h. Second and third places were again occupied by Sopwith’s Cooper-Climax and Leston’s Connaught, the gaps between the first three being, respectively, 5.6 and 2.0 sec. Parnell’s Cooper-Connaught was now a non-starter and Chapman’s aerodynamic Lotus-M.G., now driven by Jopp, didn’t last a second race, retiring. Naylor was again fourth, Crook nearly “lost” his Cooper-Bristol at the Esses but held off Stoop’s new Frazer-Nash, which was suffering from fuel starvation from the reserve petrol supply.
The unlimited-capacity sports-car race merely served to show the worth of Scott-Brown and the very-stable Lister-Bristol, which refused to slide even when Archie flung it through the Esses. This time he won at 85.96 m.p.h. and had increased his lap-speed to a remarkable 87.41 m.p.h., which was sufficient to leave Peter Collins in a works 3-litre DB3S Aston Martin 9.2 sec. behind at the finish. Stevens rotated at the Esses in the Vermin Stable’s DB3S Aston Martin, and a moment later Lawrence’s Jaguar XK120C went straight on at the same place. Taylor’s coupé Jaguar XK120 toured along, being passed by Blond’s XK120C in mid-Esse on lap five. W. T. Smith’s Jaguar XK120C was third, 6.6 sec. behind Collins. Unfortunately, John Sommervail’s Austin-Healey became master of its driver at the hairpin and ran infield, collecting and seriously injuring a flag marshal on the way and hitting a Ford Zephyr by which others were standing, inflicting further injuries on others, including a child spectator. The disc brakes probably locked-on.
We tipped C. A. N. May to win the F. III race for J.A.P.-engined cars, but after the first lap his Cooper fell back. Tony Marsh’s Cooper displaced Iszatt’s Cooper on the last lap, to win at 75.45 m.p.h., with May third. W. T. Smith’s XK120C won the Jaguar race at 84.65 m.p.h. from the similar cars of Lawrence, and Blond the initial leader. Blond tried some brave late-braking into the hairpin, and lapped fastest, at 87.10 m.p.h., but Smith regained the ground lost on acceleration, back tyres well “alight.”
The 10-lap Formula 1 race for the Curtis Trophy was, alas, a dull procession, the twelve entrants being reduced to a mere five starters and the Owen Maserati being amongst the absentees. Even Scott-Brown couldn’t hold off Salvadori in the Maserati — although he tried! Salvadori won at 89.03 m.p.h., 1 min. 16.6 sec. ahead of the Lister-Bristol, with Sommervail’s Cooper-Bristol third, Boulton’s Connaught fourth and Gibsort’s Connaught fifth.
Two B.R.M.s graced the Formule Libre 10-1ap race and Peter Collins seemed to have victory in his lap, and had set a new lap record of 95.11 m.p.h., when he spun coming out of the hairpin on the sixth lap and damaged the near-side front tyre and suspension. Salvadori thus ran home the winner, at 90.72 m.p.h., in the Maserati, which out-distanced an unhappy-looking Flockhart in the other B.R.M. by 14.4 sec., its acceleration not appreciably better than that of Cunningham-Reid’s Lister-Bristol. The irrepressible Scott-Brown in his sports car was third, Smith’s XK120C Jaguar fourth, and the old Spero 3-litre racing Maserati fifth.
Racing concluded with a 5-lap handicap for saloon cars in which Gelberg’s 2 ½-litre old-model Riley came through to win at 65.30 m.p.h. from Woozley’s DB2/4 Aston Martin and Foster’s M.G Magnette, fastest lap going to Woozley at 74.88 m.p.h., and Sopwith enjoying himself enormously in a Ford Zephyr which couldn’t catch Everard’s Ford Zephyr convertible.
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Postscript: Although we journeyed up to the wilds of Norfolk on the Whit Saturday, traffic congestion wasn’t serious on this pouring-wet holiday morning. After the meeting we repaired to Watton and ate alone in a deserted café in the main street (a tip to others for August 13th), and then took a quiet road through an Army-devastated plain and charming common-land back to Thetford. Thereafter the Fiat 1,100 made excellent time along that splendid highway A11 (neat litter-bins at each lay-by a good feature), until we left the spacious Norfolk scene for Cambridge. We saw the University town from its less charming aspect, but certainly Britain has fast highways going east-south-west in this area, only a delightfully “local” train at Foxton level-crossing halting us on the Cambridge-Royston-Baldock stretch, after which we crossed A1, and had, a glimpse of Hitchin, which looked a pleasing town, before regaining familiar, still-uncongested territory from Luton onwards. — W. B.