THE JUNIOR CAR CLUB’S DOUBLE TWELVE HOUR RACE. ALFA ROMEO DRIVEN BY G. RAMPONI WINS FROM BENTLEY.
THE Junior Car Club who conceived the idea of organising a British twenty-four hour race, deserve all the credit they have been given for taking such a bold step as to run a race of this kind for the first time in the history of British Motor Racing.
THE WINNER, G. RAMPONI, ALFA-ROMEO, AT SPEED.
For many years now we have had the Le Mans 24 hours race, which has always been well supported by British entrants, and which they have won on more than one occasion, and this, no doubt, encouraged the Junior Car Club to organise such an event which, however, is not quite so strenuous as the Le Mans event in that the French Classic is 24 hours straight off the reel, whereas the Junior Car Club event has to consist of two succeeding races each of 12 hours since the Brooklands authorities are unable to permit racing throughout the night. The start took place at 8 a.m. on Friday, May 10th. The cars were lined up in front of the pits and on
receiving the signal to go the drivers, who were lined up opposite their cars sprinted across the track, raised their hoods, and midst the roar from their exhausts and the whine from the superchargers they began to sort themselves out.
Kaye Don and G. Ramponi, both on supercharged Alfa Romeos, were first away closely followed by the four Bentleys. The Lombards were slow in getting away and the big six Bentley, which had taken the lead, had completed its first lap before they started. The big six Bentley was closely followed on its first lap by the Alfa Romeos, the other Bentleys and Earl Howe’s 2 litre Bugatti. The drivers now settled down to some fast steady laps during which they jockeyed for position and obtained their team formation, while the chefs dequip in the pits anxiously worked out innumerable calculations and then signalled to the drivers faster, slower. After the first ten laps or so the drivers came in one by one, lowered their hoods and were
off again in a few seconds. Immediately the hoods had been lowered the speeds rose, and it was very soon apparent that the battle was going to be between the Bentleys and the Alfa Romeos who were lapping at 87 m.p.h. and 80 m.p.h. respectively. Since the regulations demanded that every car had to cover one quarter of its minimum distance in each period of six hours each driver was now endeavouring to exceed his schedule as much as possible so as to have time in hand to stop for repairs or adjustments should this become necessary.
The race being run on a handicap basis was rather difficult to follow since the fastest car was not necessarily the leader, but matters were made very much easier in this respect by the new score board, on which, not only the three leaders numbers were painted every three hours but also all the individual class leaders. Towards the end of the third hour what might have been a very serious accident occurred to Captain A. G. Miller, who was driving a supercharged Lombard. Captain Miller was approaching the bend at high speed when suddenly one of his front wheel brake shoes siezed which caused the car to swing around and narrowly escape hitting some of the other competitors.
At the end of the first three hours the cars came in for refueling and in most cases for a change of driver. The six cylinder Bentley was now in the lead with two 41/2 litres second and third, and Ivanowsky on Alfa Romeo No. 54 fourth. The Alfa Romeos pit work was very neat and they were off again in about 11/2 minutes, whereas the Bentleys were about twice this time, since it took very much longer to fill their tanks and compensate for their voracious appetite.
Shortly after the first change over the speed of the cars began to increase. The Rileys who were leading the 1,100 c.c. class began lapping at 74 m.p.h., the Alfa Romeos, who were leading the 1,500 c.c.
JUNIOR CAR CLUB’S DOUBLE
class, 84 m.p.h., the 41/2 litre Bentleys 90, and the big six Bentley at 94-95 m.p.h. Earl Howe’s Bugatti paid several visits to the pits, A. 0. Saunders Davies’ Invicta lost its silencer, and then G. E. T. Eyston who had taken over Alfa Romeo No. 55 from Kaye Don was seen pushing his car into the pits with engine trouble. At the end of the sixth hour the six cylinder Bentley was still holding the lead, S. C. H. Davis on a 41/2 being second, and Ivanowsky on Alfa Romeo No. 54 holding third place. It was here that bad luck overtook the Bentley team for soon Benjafield was seen coming into the pits on the big six Bentley. He and his mechanic quickly got to work and removed the radiator and dynamo only to find that the dynamo coupling had sheared. They quickly replaced the radiator and resumed their wonderful run but were, unfortunately,
stopped shortly afterwards by the officials who would not allow them to continue without the dynamo. Thus. what was easily the fastest car in the race was put out of action and now Ramponi assumed the lead on his Alfa Romeo closely followed by his team mate Ivanowsky with the 41/2 litre Bentley No. 5 in third place.
Shortly after the eighth hour the Riley driven by Staniland and Cobb, which was leading the 1,100 c.c. class, was forced out of the race with big end trouble, thus allowing Riley No. 75 to lead its class and shortly afterwards reach third position in the general classification when Bentley No. 5 was forced to retire also with big end trouble. After nine hours Ramponi and his Alfa Romeo still held the lead closely followed by Bentley No. 6
in second place and Riley No. 75 third. W. M. Couper on a Lagonda was leading the 2 litre class and the two Studebakers were lapping very consistently without any apparent fuss or bother at 73-74 m.p.h. Shortly after the tenth hour Riley No. 75 was forced to retire with big end trouble which let Birkin ‘s No. 12 into third place. His mechanic was, unfortunately, badly burned about this time through his clothes, over which he had spilt some petrol whilst refilling, becoming ignited. He fortunately rolled on the ground and after a time the flames were extinguished with Pyrenes but not before he had been badly burned and had to be removed to hospital.
The retirement of Riley No. 75 allowed Salmson No. 82, which had been going very steadily, to assume the lead in the 1,100 c.c. class and fourth place in the general classification. At 8 p.m. when the maroon was fired G. Ramponi streaked down the finishing straight on his Alfa Romeo having won the first day’s race at an average speed of 77-57 m.p.h. Bentley No. 6 driven by S. C. Davis and Sir R. Gunter finished second with lvanowsky on Alfa Romeo No. 54, and H. R. S. Birkin on Bentley No. 12 was third. The two Studebakers who were the sole survivors of Class B. (up to 8,000 c.c.) finished in perfect condition having averaged 72 m.p.h. and run with clocklike regularity. The Aston Martin was close behind Ivanowsky’s Alfa Romeo, and R. R. Jackson still held the lead in the 2 litre class on his Lagonda closely followed by W. M. Couper on another car of the same make. The Salmson still held the lead in the 1,100 c.c. Class closely followed by Riley No. 74, and the lone 750 c.c. Class entrant, Austin No. 86, driven by the Barnes brothers had run with remarkable steadiness throughout and averaged nearly 50 m.p.h.
So ended the first day’s race. All the cars less the seventeen retirements were now pushed into their allotted stalls in the Paddock where they were wrapped up so as to ensure an easy start in the morning. The next morning all the cars were lined up again outside their pits and at 8 a.m. the starter’s flag dropped for the start of what turned out to be one of the most exciting races in history. The little Austin was first away closely followed by the Invicta, Birkin’s Bentley and the two Alfa Romeos, Nos. 53 and 54. For the first two laps the drivers toured round at a steady speed so as to warm up their engines as carefully as possible and then on being
signalled from their respective pits they increased their speed to normal. The race now resolved itself into a terrific duel between S. C. H. Davis on Bentley No. 6, and the two Alfa Romeos driven by Ramponi and lvanowsky who in turn were closely followed by Casse on the Salmson. Round after round they circled, first one leading then the other. To make matters much more difficult for the drivers rain now began to fall and as a result the speed im mediately began to decrease. S. C. H. Davis on Bentley No. 6 narrowly escaped disaster when his Bentley developed first a front wheel skid followed by a rear wheel skid which caused
the tail of his car to slither round and hit the sandbank. Sand shot high in the air but the Bentley continued unhurt save for the loss of the accumulator box lid. Mrs. Chetwynd who drove a Frazer Nash with her husband was another unfortunate competitor who developed a serious skid when her car nearly turned round as she was nearing the bend. She, however, managed to right her car and continued. All the other cars appeared to be skidding very badly and a sigh of relief went up when the rain stopped and the track began to dry. After fifteen hours Ramponi on his Alfa Romeo was still in the lead and in spite of his having driven without a change of driver was going better than ever. S. C. H. Davis’ Bentley was hot on his heels, followed by Bentley No. 12. J. Dunfree was unfortunately forced to retire with his Alfa Romeo owing to stripped timing gears, and T. E. Rose Richard’s Lagonda was also forced out of the race by engine trouble. Ivanowsky Alfa Romeo spent some time in the pits but again resumed the race at the same high speed as Ramponi. The 0. M’s were very regular in spite of persistent misfiring which, how
ever, did not increase in intensity. Earl Howe ‘s Bugatti paid several visits to the pits but in spite of this his speed got slower and slower. The Frazer Nash’s also paid several visits to the pits but managed to keep going albeit slow compared with the other 1,500 c.c. cars. The two F.W.D. Alvis were very regular but very noisy mechanically, and the Lea Francis team who were going well appeared to be suffering from either weak springing or loose shock absorbers. And in front of all lap after lap drove Ramponi and Davis each cornering magnificently and gradually increasing their lap speeds.
After eighteen hours Ramponi was still leading on his Alfa Romeo but Davis on Bentley No. 6 was very near now and it was evident that if he continued at his present high speed he would soon overhaul the fleet little Italian car. The Salmson had now worked up into third place since H. R. S. Birkin on Bentley No. 12 was forced to retire with bearing trouble. The Lagondas’ began to pay frequent visits to their pits but were off again without any waste of time. Earl Howe’s Bugatti appeared to be going up in a cloud of smoke but he struggled on grimly in spite of being nearly suffocated. And now misfortune overtook Ramponi and he was forced into his pits with a loose accumulator box which he and his mechanic after much feverish work managed to secure with strap and rope, but not before Davis’ Bentley had passed and gained a useful lead over him. Soon after Ramponi had resumed the race Bentley No. 6 came into the pits with a flat tyre and thus the Alfa Romeo regained the lead which it again held at the twentyfirst hour. The Alvis driven by Mr. and Mrs. Dykes was forced to retire with axle trouble. Now started the most exciting race that has been seen for many years. Lap after lap the Alfa Romeos reeled off, superbly driven and cheered on each circuit with cries of Viva ! Viva ! from a knot of Italian supporters Their cornering was magnificent and their gear changing perfect. It was noticeable how the Italian drivers always picked exactly the same course and always changed gear at exactly the same spot Their method was to start the corner well over on the right, cut it very close in the centre, and finish the turn with the aid of the banking, down which they then swept so as to increase their speed, but in spite of all their wonderful efforts Bentley No. 6 was slowly gaining on them. ‘The Alfa Romeo pit now signalled to Ramponi to go all out and as a result he began to drive like a demon, closely followed by his team mate Ivanowsky. Faster ancl faster they cornered, their mechanics opening the doors and leaning right out in an effort to steady the cars. The majority of the other cars appeared to be crawling around as the little red Alfas passed them one by one on the corner all except the Bentley, which in spite of being a much heavier car was handled equally as well and was if anything even faster on the corner. Down the railway straight the Bentley passed the Alfas who tucked themselves in behind it so as to benefit by its slip-stream only to be shaken off when the bigger car got well over the 100 m.p.h. mark. And so little by little the British car began to gain on formula until the stewards noticeing that the bonnet clip of the Bentley was undone ordered Davis into the pits to do it up. This piece of bad luck probably cost Davis the race since Ramponi made full use of every second and began to increase his lead again, and now, try as he might, Davis could not catch the Italian car in spite of the Bentley going faster than ever. Thus were the cars tearing around when the maroon sounded, the flag was raised and one by one they stopped at their pits to await the result ! it was nearly a quarter of an hour before the timekeepers, who had worked out the results to three places of decimals, announced that the Italian car had won by .003 on the fcrmula basis, which will give some idea of the terrific struggle which had taken place. The Salmson which had been gradually increasing its speed was third. and Ivanowsky on the other Alfa Romeo finished fourth. The 4/2 litre Bentley covered 1,950 miles at an average speed of 8139 m.p.h., and the Alfa
Romeo 1,824 miles at an average speed of 76 m.p.h. The two Studebakers finished in perfect condition both having made wonderfully consistent runs. W.
M. Couper was first home in the 2 litre class on his Lagonda and the unsupercharged Aston Martin put up a really wonderful performance by finishing third in the 11/2 litre class at an average speed of 6936! RESULTS :—