Around and about, July 1991


The Indianapolis 500 is one of the fastest of motor races, won this year by Rick Mear’s Penske-Chevrolet at 176.46 mph, his closing laps run at over 220 mph. So it came as a surprise to read in Eoin Young’s weekly Diary that it was not until 1939 that the Indianapolis track had been lapped at over 130 mph. In fact, I think Eoin has confused the ten-lap 130.06 mph qualifying average speed achieved by Lou Meyers (Bowes Winfield) in 1939 with the Indy lap record, raised for the first time to better than 130 mph in 1937, by Jimmy Synder, when his centrifugally-supercharged six-cylinder Sparks Special was timed at 130.492 mph.

It is well established that in spite of its standing-start, as opposed to a rolling-start in the American race, the Brooklands BRDC 500 Mile Race was run at a faster average speed than the American classic in 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1936, although the Brooklands’ race was handicapped. Indeed, the 1935 BRDC event was over 15 mph faster than the USA marathon. As for lap speeds, by the time the Indy lap had been turned at over 130 mph for the first time, thirteen 130 mph Brooklands’ badges had been won (there were to be four more by 1939) and the lap record for the Weybridge track had stood for one and a half years at 143.44 mph.

It is rather pointless to compare different tracks and the varying types of cars running thereon, without qualification. In considering the slower lap speeds at Indy up to the war, against those established at Brooklands, it has to be remembered that between 1921 and 1937 Indy rules for the 500 called for an engine size which averages out to 3122.5cc, although for much of this period the cars were more advanced technically than many of the Brooklands cars. The engine size of the Brooklands’ cars which won for their drivers a 130 mph badge up to May 1937 (the date of the Indianapolis race, when the Indy lap record was raised to just over 130 mph) averages about, I think, to just over 5608cc. However, many of these cars were older than the contemporary Indy racing cars and not so many supercharged. Reverting to the speeds at which the respective 500 Mile races were won, it should be taken into consideration that at Indy after accidents (which were rather prevalent there) part of the race would be run at reduced speed behind a pace car, which did not happen at Brooklands. On balance though, it seems that Brooklands was the faster course. — WB

Historic Photographs

With the ever rising values placed on historic cars there is a useful outlet in collecting other facets of the motoring sport. Photographs perhaps give greater accuracy than drawings and paintings, and the work of the great motoring cameramen, such as George Monkhouse, Geoff Goddard, Alan Smith, Guy Griffiths and a very few others offer splendid and varied studies of motor racing. It is excellent that Griffiths, who has been taking great photographs for over 60 years, and is still doing so, his action racing shots as sharp as his studies of celebrities, has now made available some of his memorable pictures, through Axfords of The Hall, 82 Centurion Road, Brighton, E.Sussex, BN1 3LN. They have a catalogue of these pictures, priced at £2. A set of marvellous postcards costs £25 for 62 cards, B & W 40 x 50cm prints are available for £15 each (20 for £250) and colour prints for £20 each, or six for £100. The quality and perception of Guy’s photographs are too well-known to need re-embellishment and the catalogue, a worthwhile item on its own, gives details of print sizes and 64 clear samples of their great variety, from veterans on the Brighton Run to magnificent action shots of the great drivers and cars of the 1940s to the 1960s, and portraits of these leading drivers, from Nuvolari downwards. Guy raced himself in the 1930s, was responsible for the Griffiths Classic Sports Car Formula, and knows what it is all about. I rate his photography as the best there is, and welcome this opportunity to give others access to his work. — WB