Bill Boddy

Privateer Enterprise
Though originally meant for self-built cars, the Private Competitors race became a popular Brooklands event

Among the handicap races at Brooklands there was one which was titled the Private Competitors Handicap. It must have been very difficult to decide what cars were eligible and what were not, because it was intended that only cars built by the competitor would qualify. But it hardly seemed this could be put into execution, however conscientious the scrutineers were, because the Private Competitor event could hardly expect that every entrant would drive a car of his own make.

The first of these races opened the 1922 Easter Meeting and was won by Count Zborowski from scratch in the Ballot, his standing lap at 94.64mph, his flying lap at 108.98mph, and he won at 101mph from Champion’s Schneider and Meeson’s Sunbeam. Then in the May meeting Brocklebank’s GP Peugeot won at 92.33mph, lapping at 99.21mph in front of Messon’s Sunbeam which made 86.77mph, and Rampon’s Fiat lapping at 96.15mph. Meeson’s second place earned him an 18sec handicap in the next race, the ’90 Short’. Brocklebank repeated his success in the Whitsun Private Handicap Race, lapping at 107.1mph from Zborowski’s GP Mercedes which did 104.19mph.

As Whitsun had come in June there was no Midsummer meeting. The next event took place on August Bank Holiday and again the first race was the Private Competitors Handicap, with Rampon’s Fiat lapping at 100.41mph and

winning from Lt Grey’s standard twoseater ABC and Barlow’s 3-litre Bentley. Brocklebank took his third win of the Private Competitors Handicap at the Autumn Meeting in the Berliet, lapping at 82.73mph, and Rampon’s Fiat did 105.29mph to get second place. Barlow’s Bentley finished third lapping at 91.89mph.

In 1923 the opening meeting was again the Private Competitors Handicap race, but this one was rather tame with Alfred Moss, father of Stirling, winning in his Crouch at a mere 65.45mph from Samuelson’s ‘limit’ FS with 63.19mph. At the Whitsun Meeting Captain Douglas proved a well-placed newcomer in the Aston Martin, lapping at nearly 84.5mph, Eyston in a twin-cam Aston Martin lapped at 93.79mph, and Barlow’s 3-litre Bentley took third position with 94.33mph. At the June Meeting there was no Private Competitors Handicap race but the event resumed again at the August Bank Holiday Meeting with Buchanan winning in his Horstman, lapping at 83.14mph and passing both Randall’s Talbot, which was only doing 68.22mph, and Howey’s Leyland which pulled out a lap of 115.82mph, having motored through a dramatic skid because it was forced too high on the banking. The car slid broadside between two other competitors before control was regained.

The next Private Competitors Handicap race was again traditionally the first race in 1924, at the Easter Meeting, with the start now opposite the Fork stand instead of the Pond. Zborowski entered the 2-litre straight-eight Bugatti which he had driven the previous year at Indianapolis, and lapped at 107.57mph, winning at 98.75mph. In the Whitsun Meeting Dr Benjafield’s Bentley won at 90mph and Howey lapped at 115.55mph, taking second place from scratch, with Eyston’s GN third at 78.43mph.

Again a Private Competitors Handicap opened the August meeting, Duller’s MarlboroughThomas peaking at 92.57mph and winning at 85.75mph, 50 yards ahead of Scriven’s Austin, while Benjafield’s Bentley took third (97.65mph). The 1925 wet Easter Meeting saw Purdy’s Super Sports Alvis put in 83.28mph and win by a length from Dunfee’s ‘limit’ Salmson, which lapped at 79.5mph. Kidston’s Bugatti took third place, making fastest standing and flying laps at the race at 85.57mph and 99.61mph respectively. At the Whitsun Meeting there was another Private Competitors Handicap race which Benj afield took with ease, his Salmson lapping at 85.72mph and coming in victorious at 77.33mph from Aldridge’s 86mph Alvis and Malcolm’s ‘limit’ ex-Gordon England ABC, which had a 11/2-litre Gnat light-aeroplane engine with special valve rockers. Malcolm had repainted his car in black and white stripes; during World War II he flew with ATA and was managing director of the West London Flying Club up to the time of his death.

The Private Competitors Handicap race was not held again until the 1926 Easter Meeting, when it produced a victory for JS Spence’s longtailed 1922 GP Sunbeam, which ran through the field from the 21-second mark to win at 91.88mph, after lapping at 98.43mph. Staniland’s GP 2-litre straight-eight Bugatti was clocked at 103.33mph, earning him second place, and the Gwynne was third, going round at 77.33mph. But Howey’s Ballot, circulating at 112.42mph, was unplaced.

At Whitsun this popular format was again repeated, victory this time going to Purdy’s Type 37 Bugatti at 88mph from Maxwell’s Austin Seven and Basil Eyston’s OHV Aston Martin. Purdy lapped at 96.33mph while Howey, though clocked at 118.3mph in the Ballot, could do nothing from scratch.

The Easter Meeting of 1927 saw the last of these Private Competitors Handicap races, in which Wadham persuaded his aged Horstman to lap at 87.53mph and win at 82.67mph, a quarter of a mile ahead of Staniland’s very fast 2-litre Bugatti, after Benjafield’s Salmson, the only other competitor, had experienced severe engine trouble.


A Major figure on the Track

One of the better and more versatile Brooklands participants was Henry O’Neal de Hane Segrave, a major and later a knight, who although an Irishman became known as Britain’s No] driver in the Twenties because before 1922 Southern Ireland (Eire) was the Irish Free State and an integral part of the United Kingdom. In 1920, in his first race at Brooklands on May 20 in the 100mph Long Handicap Race, the rear tyre came off his 1914 41/2-litre Grand Prix Opel. But in the last race that same day in the Whitsun Sprint Handicap he came first at 88.5mph, followed up by further successes on the Track that year in the Opel, so proving to Louis Coatalen that he was able to drive a racing car.

For the 1921 season Segrave became a team driver for Sunbeam. In March he won the 3-litre Scratch Race in a 3-litre Sunbeam at 94.64mph, and in October he also won the first JCC 200 Mile Race in a 11/2-litre Talbot-Darracq in 2hr 16min 26sec, average speed of 88.82mph and with his fastest lap of 93.09mph, so taking the Gold Cup.

Segrave had several successes in a 4.9-litre Sunbeam at Brooklands in 1922 but only took third place in the second JCC 200 Mile Race in a 11/2-litre Talbot at 85.55mph, plus another third in 1924, but achieving fastest lap at 106.55mph.

In 1925 he won the JCC 200 Mile Race for the second time, at 78.89mph in a 11/2-litre Talbot. In August 1926 the first British Grand Prix was held at Brooklands with two artificial corners formed by sandbanks to substitute for a road race. Segrave, in one of the three new eight-cylinder Grand Prix Talbots, set the fastest lap of 85.99mph but did not complete the race due to a cracked supercharger casing and various other mechanical problems. But in September he won for the third time the JCC 200 Mile Race at an average speed of 75.56mph in 2hr 40min 22.2sec, securing for the STD combine its firth victory in that race.

That year he retired from motor racing to become the organiser and negotiator for the twin-engined 44.8-litre ‘1000hp’ Sunbeam Land Speed Record project. As he had shown in the Great War at RFC Headquarters in London and in Washington in 1918, he had the qualities to fulfil these roles remarkably well, with the result that in 1927 at Daytona Beach in Florida he established a new Land Speed Record of 203mph.