Miscellany, April 2001
The gremlins got at last month's piece on the GP Opels. The last line of…
Alfas up again
There is always something new from Africa, and those two ferocious Grand Prix races, one in Tripoli and one in Tunisia, which took place last month, reveal a new and more healthy situation in big-car racing.
After a period of complete, albeit well-deserved, domination by the two German marques, the 12cylinder Alfa-Romeo has at last arrived and the results of the two races show it to be a formidable rival to Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union. At Tripoli, neglecting tyre stops (if you can), Brivio’s car was actually faster than Caracciola’s, and the superior engine power of the Auto-Unions could only show to advantage in a race in which the slowest corner can be taken at 75 m.p.h. at least In the Tunis young ” Pinta ” whose rise in the Ferrari stable has been rapid since his win as an unknown in the Giro d’Italia two years ago, secured second place behind
Caratch’s Mercedes. Comparison with the AutoUnions was here difficult after Varzi had turned over and Rosemeyer’s car caught on fire. The horse-power developed by the Alfa-Romeo, 380 at present, is inferior to that of the other two, but Jano and Co. are not greatly worried by this, as they reckon that a greater horse-power with a forward engined 750 Kg. car simply makes the wheels spin and causes unnecessary tyre-wear. The Mercs. give
400 h.p. and the Auto-Unions 500. Imagine fivehundred horse-power let loose in a car the weight of a Singer or a Riley Nine.
The situation in the 1,500 c.c. field is much the same as that of the big cars, with Maseratis offering quite effective opposition to the all-conquering I.R.A., while Seaman’s Delage is another serious challenger. This is just as it should be, for no one wants to see the Isle of Man race and other 1i-litre events run entirely as E.R.A. benefits. Rayson tells me that his ” Maser ” though 2 cwt. lighter than the English cars, cannot yet match them for all-out speed or acceleration, but as his engine is still running comparatively gently at 5,300 r.p.m., he feels that more power will be forthcoming when he gets the hang of the tuning. Tenni’s car, which was streets ahead of the other Maseratis in the Prince
Rainier race, gave Lord Howe and” Bira ” a good run until the brakes failed.
Improving the Delage
Seaman’s only complaint at Donington was that the front brakes of his car were now too powerful owing to his converting them from cable to hydraulic operation. This will be remedied by fitting smaller operating cylinders. The car has been lightened by 300 lb. and is now within one hundredweight of the E.R.A.s. As I write this the results are not yet in from the Isle of Man, but the outcome of the International Car Race (two foreign drivers) will tell you more than I can.
Another new or shall we say redesigned car which is having its first long-distance test is Freddy Dixon’s
supercharged Riley. This is of course Fred’s first venture with a blown car, and if it shows the same superiority in speed as the unblown ones did over their competitors, ” Bira,” Seaman, and Co. will have to keep their feet firmly on the floorboards. I hear incidentally that the course is not being too favourably received, the back leg leading up to Cronk fly Mona corner being twisty and the corners
concealed by high hedges. Somehow none of the courses chosen for car races in the Isle of Man have been too popular, being either too twisty, too bumpy or too long or too short.
On Two Wheels
The motor-cycle T.T. races reveal rather a sad falling off from the days in which sixty entries were received for each of the three events. This year there were only twenty-four entries in the Senior, twenty-seven in the Junior, and thirty-four in the Lightweight. The 500 c.c. bikes are so fast nowadays that only a handful of riders can manage them flat out, a situation not unlike that in Grand Prix car racing. Spring frames are now the rage, while the supercharged A. J.S. four seems, and will sound, interesting.
While on the subject of motor-cycles, did you realise that Italy still holds open road events on the lines of the Mille Miglia ? One of the most strenuous was the Milan-Rome-Naples started in rain-storms and finished in blazing heat. The winner was Omobone (1i-litre Maserati). Tenni, who rode a Guzzi, covered the five hundred odd miles at an average of 60 m.p.h. A Guzzi performance ?
Rumours about the future of Brooklands track have reached very high r.p.m. lately, and I was interested to get some definite information from Mr. Bradley the last time I was down there. It appears that the sale of the Brooklands Estate to a syndicate is now almost certain, but that the Track and the Aero Club and other traditional features will not be disturbed. In fact, as Bradley pointed out, things will if anything, be improved, as the new syndicate will probably allot a considerable sum of money to making improvements in buildings,
catering, and other amenities, alterations which the present owners were unable to finance. A.P.B. and Colonel Moore-Brabazon will be on the board of management, so the present tradition will be maintained.
That Mercedes Outline
Leaning gracefully against one of the posts in the Paddock the other day, I was suddenly stirred into activity by seeing what appeared to be a G.P. Mere. being borne in on a lorry. I found it to be a 8i-litre Talbot belonging to Dr. Roth and fitted with a singleseater body with the rounded nose, the slender body and the high tail one associates with the German car. It was designed by Peter Berthon.
With a self-change gear-box and a selecting lever on the steering column the driver does not have to play at catch-as-catch-can with a central gear-lever coming up between the legs, which is one of the joys of driving a Maserati, but transferring the steering to the middle of the chassis presented some difficulties.
Not having driven the car on the track when I saw him, Dr. Roth was not prepared to tell me its maximum speed, but as Couper’s 31-litre car fitted with a four-seater T.T. body won a race at the last meeting at 112.29 m.p.h. the single-seater should be worth watching.
The 8-litre Barnato-Hassan also has a look of Mercedes about the cowling, but the bonnet comes very close into the engine, an unusual outline but rather attractive. The four carburetter intakes project through the side panel, taking in all the air they can in an effort to snatch back the Outer-Circuit
record from Cobb’s Napier-Railton. Amongst the smaller cars Eason Gibson’s supercharged 1,100 c.c. Ford follows the prevailing fashion, while the Alta and the Austin are at any rate in agreement as far as the curved radiator guard is concerned. The 5-litre Bugatti once driven by Kaye Don has gone on its travels again ; it has just been bought by Harvey Noble. Not an easy car to drive, but Dudley Froy, who is one of the few people brave enough to give it the gun, tells me that even at 130 m.p.h. on top gear the back of the seat hits you a hearty smack when you put the throttle hard down. His idea, and I think a sound one, is that the engine should be in
stalled in another chassis. It would do well in one of the two 4-litre Sunbeams, formerly owned by Sir Malcolm Campbell and now in the hands of Cobb and Rose-Richards.
The Bugatti Hill Climb
Except for International Shelsley there is a great shortage of hill-climb sites in this country, and when the proposal to enlarge and reconstruct the Dancer’s End hill was sent out to members of the Bugatti Owners’ Club last March the secretary received encouraging promises of support, financial and other
wise. Mrs. Good, owner of the hill, enthusiastic motorist and wife of Mr. A. P. Good, chairman of the new Lagonda Company, readily gave permission for trees to be cut down, paths to be cut, and the thousand and one other things one has to do to make the place safe for drivers and spectators.
Preparations have even got so far as the choosing of fields for car-parks, and it was hoped that the course might be completed in time for a full-sized meeting in September. As usually happens when one tries to organise a motoring event, a snag has cropped up, this consisting of a local personage who complained of the noise which would be caused by the cars in their four meetings a year, though he has no objection to the use of the hill by the local motor-cycle club. I have no doubt that the tact and charming manner of Colonel and Eric Giles, who are the moving spirits in the enterprise, will eventually win through, and hope they will not have to wait too long before they get permission to go ahead. One might almost suggest Brooklands silencers as a solution, though anyone who has had the trouble and expense of fitting them will hope that this restriction will not be necessary.
Terrors of Shelsley
Never a Shelsley meeting without the rumour that
Hans Stuck will be over again. He has often been asked, but the crowded state of the calendar and his importance in the Auto-Union team make it uncertain that he will be able to run in June. In any case he is down for the Penya Rhin race at Barcelona on the 7th, and 700 miles the day before a Grand Prix race is rather excessive, even by aeroplane. His cousin, whom I met the other day, thinks that Stuck will ” cut ” Spain in favour of England. John Bolster is always one of Shelsley’s star attractions, and his new car, which however will not be ready until the autumn meeting, promises to be as unorthodox as ” Mary ” herself. In my last notes on the subject I said the newcomer was to have three V-twin motor-cycle engines, but the owner now tells
me that he has decided to use four ! These will be arranged in tandem like the present ” Mary,” and each pair will drive through its own motor-cycle gear-box, by chain to the back axle. Independent springing will be used, with swinging ” wish-bones,” The driving position will be quite high, rather like that of the E.R.A.s, giving Bolster more freedom at the wheel than with the present coffin-like construction.
I had a visit the other week from N. S. Brockelbank, who was driving a Bugatti in the Empire Trophy, and felt that the remark made by our contributor that he was dangerous on corners was unjustified. He told me he had copied the technique of changing down right on the corner from Continental drivers he had seen in action, and, as be quite rightly remarked, his driving methods allowed him to stay on the road when quite a number of drivers left it. We shall have to send our race-scribe abroad again to “brush-up his cornering.”
Points worth Copying
How often do you find that a car performs perfectly except in one respect, quite easy to correct and which any private owner or independent individual could point out after an hour’s driving ? Matters such as heavy steering for instance. My own car errs in that respect, not surprising when you consider its weight, its 6 in. tyres, and the fact that the steering pivots have plain bushes which are never properly lubricated except within two or three days of its monthly greasing. Why not fit roller bearings, as is done on little racing
Austins ? With bearings of this type it should be possible to fit high-geared steering once again, and not the traction-engine type which figure on so many sports cars nowadays. A neat point I noticed the other day on a Lancia Augusta saloon was the adjustment for the doorhinges. The bushes were eccentrically mounted in the supports, and when wear takes place or the doors start to sag, you simply slack off the securing nuts,
slam the door and tighten up again. How useful this would be on an open two-door four-seater with 30 in. doors and a body which alters in shape after 10,000 miles.
Incitement to Theft
Another fitting long overdue on all cars s an efficient anti-theft device. Even an ignition lock, secured
with a key of distinctive pattern would be something, but there are quite a number of sports cars costing anything up to four figures, which are quite unprctected in this respect and which simply ask to be stolen.
A concealed battery switch is fairly satisfactory during the day, but offers no protection when the car has to be parked with lights on.
The only car which gives adequate protection, as far as I recollect, is the Talbot. By the turn of a key the starter button is locked, and also the ignition, and the lighting switch can be secured either in the off position or for side-lights only. Apart from all that, the lock fixes the switch-board firmly to the steel supports of the scuttle, and nothing short of entire rewiring will enable the engine to be started.
Le Mans Preparations
British cars will play their usual prominent part at Le Mans on the 13th and 14th, and many of the factory entries are already finished and on the road. One of the most interesting entries will be the new 2-litre Aston-Martins, two of which will be running.
Being over the iflitre limit, they have to carry four-seater bodies but these are so well streamlined that you would hardly know. The radiators are slightly different from those of the smaller cars. Fairfield and Brackenbury are driving one of the 2-litres and Everitt and Davies the other. The works 1i-litres will be handled by Elwes and Benjafield, with a private entry manned by Headlam and Woods
(” Happy ” not Stanley). ” Bert,” otherwise A. C. Bertelli, doubles the part of designer and chef d equipe.
A Lagonda Rapide entered by Fox and Nicholl secured first place in the Grand Prix d’Endurance last year, and Arthur Fox is having another cut at it with a brace of the latest cars. The engine is said to develop 140 h.p., and the complete cars only weigh
twenty-seven cwt., so they ought to be adequate. The body frames, only weigh fifty-eight lb., not bad for a four-seater. Another interesting point
is that the special hydraulic shock-absorbers will be retained, with friction dampers for use in emergency. The drivers are Brian Lewis and Tim Rose-Richards on one car, and Major Gardner and E. E. Clifford on the other. Their closest rival will be E. R. Hall, who will be driving one of the new 4+-litre Bentleys. I hear he plans to use a 40-gallon petrol tank, and to drive the
whole way single-handed. Not much worse than the Mile Miglia, but still, twenty-four hours !
Two of the new 44-litre Lagondas will be running in the French Grand Prix, driven by Leboux and the Spanish driver Leoz. These will be fitted with twoseater bodies.
The T.T. Regs.
Talking of two-seaters and four, I gather that both will be permitted in the Ulster T.T., the handicap being altered to suit. This is rather complicated but fair to everyone, and it may attract Delahayes, Talbots and other cars competing at Montihery.
From all accounts the new regulations will set out in great detail exactly what alterations may be made and the restrictions imposed there will make the cars $. good deal more standard even than last year.
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