Alan Cottam’s Day
The traditional VSCC OuIton Park race meeting was held in sunshine, after a wet Friday, and had 148 race entries, and another 35 for the Cheshire Life “Beauty Show”, won by Neale’s 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost from Parker’s 1938 Alvis and Firth’s 1937 Lagonda, the Martini Trophy being won by Barker’s Talbot 90.
Racing opened with a 5-lap Scratch Race in which Quartermaine’s venerable 30/98 Vauxhall, looking just like those that thrilled me in the Brooklands Paddock when I was a boy, led all the way, to win from Hopkins’ 1935 Frazer Nash, that finished a couple of lengths or so ahead of Austin’s Ulster Austin, Hopkins changing into another “dog-kennel” just before the line. Whether Quartermaine gained any advantage from being rammed up the back-tank by Whale’s Frazer Nash in the rush away from the start I do not know, and I wonder whether the 30/98 driver even noticed it—anyway, he has a big spike out at the rear of the Vauxhall for fending off such attacks, or for carrying spare wheels, depending on the car’s usage.
The 16-lap Seaman Vintage Trophy Race was expected to give Neil Corner victory in his ex-Jim Berry Type 358 Bugatti, once driven by the mysterious Englishman Grover. This time the mystery was what ailed Corner, because after leading for the first three laps he was passed by the determined Freddie Giles in the AC-powered Cognac. Corner scarcely saw Freddie again, such a huge lead did the GN-type Special pull out. Giles, carefully feeling that the dog-swop lever was in the right stance, and once glancing astern, not only won by a large margin but set a new vintage lap-record for the now horribly abbreviated Oulton Park circuit, of 74.43 m.p.h. Not much of a race, otherwise, for McWhir was far away even from Corner, settling for third place in his AC-propelled, single-seater Frazer Nash and Moffatt had brought the Wall single-seater Type 35B Bugatti into the pits after doing only one lap and, taking off again, had seemingly blown it up good and proper, pending a block-lifting examination. Arnold-Forster came in on lap 2 to change a plug in Delage II’s engine and then got well and truly up a bank, hurting his face a little and his splendid car rather more. Nice that Neve won on handicap, in the 1914 TT Humber, though.
First of the five-lap handicaps saw Conway Junior just pip Stephens’ Lancia Lambda on the post, in a neat finish, and Galbraith’s Lambda take third place. Sellers’ l.h.d. f.w.d. Citron roadster was out again, now Arnott-blown, and tried to pretend it was a vintage car by being hand-cranked on the line. Benfield no doubt had to be circumspect in his one-brake 1924 200-Mile Race Pirelli-shod Alvis, but how nice to see it going strongly, if not at 1924 speed, a contrast to McGrain in an imitation “Dutch-Clog” Austin 7 and Seath’s Lagonda Rapier with an alloy four-seater body that must surely have been designed on the back of an envelope and made on the garage floor—but at least it is nicely polished!
Those “Bira” ERAs were out in force, as at Silverstone, for the Seaman Historic Trophy Race, another 16-lapper. But it was Martin Morris, that fearless and skilful driver from Devon, who made the running in R11B, his 2-litre ERA, for after he had got past Bill Morris in “Romulus” on lap 4 he ran away from the opposition as Giles had done earlier from Corner, in spite of tailing brakes. This was Martin’s fourth consecutive win in the Historic Seaman Trophy Race. The Hon. Patrick Lindsay took “Remus” past “Romulus” on lap 8 and that is how they finished, Lindsay, lapping fastest, at 77.94 m.p.h. Footitt ran a nice fourth, to prove again the remarkable ability of his Cognac, and the handicap section of the race Went to Crocker’s Lagonda Rapier. Retirements included Marsh (ERA), Margulies (Maserati), Fletcher-Jones (Lagonda Rapier), and Gunn (MG).
Two laps from the end Ghosh’s ex-Alan May 30/98 Vauxhall, with a nice compact body and some gears by Rolls-Royce, took the lead in the next 5-lap handicap, winning from Threlfall’s Lancia and Garfitt’s “limit” Frazer-Nash BMW. That brought us to the 20-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race. Now, we said, Corner will prove he can still win races. But we were so wrong! He made a very poor start in his 250F Maserati, humping off on the clutch, and was down in 8th place at the end of the first lap, which Alan Cottam was leading in his Connaught, from Martin Morris’s ERA and Lockhart’s Rover. Then the 2-litre ERA, devoid of brakes, came in, and Corner began to make up ground. He was, indeed, in second place, haying passed Lockhart, when it all came to pieces on lap 13, the Maserati coming to rest beyond the pits. Lindsay was also in dire trouble at this stage of the race; his 2501: Maserati had been in fourth place and should now have become third. But he made a nonsense of things, probably hampered by poor brakes, and fell right back. Indeed, it was Bill Morris in “Romulus” and Richard Pilkington in his Talbot-Lago who were swopping about for third place—in the end the 1950 car won but the ERA got the pre-war award. Not an inspiring race, and note how the famous historic cars were vanquished by an unblown 1952 Connaught, a funny old Rover Special, the unblown 4 1/2-litre TalbotLago and a pre-war ERA! However, Corner did make fastest lap, at 79.82 m.p.h., and while he was running, which wasn’t for long, the redoubtable Martin Morris broke his pre-war-Class lap-record for this attenuated circuit, at 78.35 m.p.h.
Sad that this year there were not apparently enough GN/Frazer Nash entries to warrant the usual separate handicap for them—they were combined with other makes and Stephenson’s Meadows car scored the FN Award, although unplaced, in a 5-lap handicap won by Loveday in the Elwell-Smith team Aston Martin from the Ghosh 30/98 that was baulked in the early stages, Hine’s replica Le Mans LG45 Lagonda finishing third. Another of these handicaps was won by Cottam, from the virtual scratch mark in the absence of Simon phillips’ Cooper-Bristol, which proves how well the old Connaught is going and made this Cottam’s day. Mann’s ex-Dobson Monza Alfa Romeo was second, quicker than Black’s Monza off the same mark, and the Rover was again in the picture, with a third place, ahead of Walum’s Connaught from the same handicap; damn good going by “Daddy” Lockhart. Limit car was a big Slab-tanked 1939 Alvis Speed 25 of Titterington’s which also ran in the final event, a 5-lap scratch dice. The Northern Lagonda Factory was out in force and Ian Macdonald stayed ahead of everyone in his 1937 LG45 Special with the pointed tail, leading home Weldon’s ex-Eddie Hall K3 MG Magnetic that has taken six years to rebuild into original appearance, third place being taken by Barker’s 4 1/2 Lagonda replica tem car.—W.B.
The course-car was a heavyweight open Rolls-Royce. Sam Clutton’s Type 43A Bugatti was having a busy afternoon and going remarkably well. Nice to see the son of Colley, author and Chain-Gangster, over from Ireland, racing his Meadows Frazer Nash. Bernard Kain was a spectator, his Bugatti having just avoided an expensive happening when a roller-cage picked-up during the Cognac week-end. Pam Arnold-Forster non-started her Type 35 Bugatti with a broken half-shaft. Bugattis still have their plugs changed on the starting grid—we saw Conway doing it to No. 4, on his 37A. A “new” Amilcar-Riley appeared, additional to Batho’s well-established example. In contrast to the ex-Hall K3 MG, Warne had a replica 1(3, with crash gearbox. We heard that a light aeroplane had landed somewhere on the course, which could be one reason for closing the more interesting parts of the circuit! It wasn’t Patrick Lindsay’s, although he did return home in his 1940 flying-machine.