A toss of the coin
Similar accidents, dramatically different outcomes Motoring through Italy, we once found another motor racing roadside…
INTERNATIONAL TROPHY WON AT 91 M.P.H.
A I-SECOND WIN IN THE INTERNATIONAL TROPHY. “B. BIRA ” AND RAYMOND MAYS BOTH DRIVING E.R.A.S IN A THREE-HOUR BATTLE. A GALLANT DRIVE BY DOBBS ON A 2-LITRE UNSUPERCHARGED RILEY INTO THIRD PLACE.
The 1936 International Trophy must stand out as one of the best and most exciting events staged at Brooklands. An entry of forty-two formidable cars faced the starter on May 2nd, and throughout the three hours of the race kept the leadership always in suspense, with the dual between ‘ Bira ” and Mays as a final thrill. Like the International Trophies of previous years, this year’s race was blessed with fine weather, and large crowds gathered everywhere round the course. The race was run over a course consisting of the Finishing Straight and part of the Outer Circuit. comprising the Byfleet Banking, the Railway Straight and the Home Banking, from which a difficult dropping turn swung the cars back to the Finishing
Straight again. Half-way down this was situated an S-bend, while at the Fork were placed the ” channels ” which are a unique feature of the J.C.C. event.
One straight-through passage for the small cars, and four, each with bends of increasing severity, were traced out with sand-banks and flags, the one allotted to Group 5 being so severe as to be in effect a pair of hair-pin bends. In this way the lap times of cars of widely varying capacity were equalised, and a massed start and the race could be run off like a scratch event, avoiding time handicaps. Group 1 comprised cars up to 750 c.c. supercharged and 1,100 c.c. =supercharged, Group 2, supercharged up to 1,100 c.c. and =supercharged 1,750 c.c.. Group 3 supercharged up to 1 f-litres and =supercharged to 2,750 c.c., Group 4, supercharged to 2,750 c.c. and unsupercharged above this figure, and finally Group 5 for supercharged cars over 2,750 c.c. The race distance was 260 miles, being 100 laps of the 2.6-mile course. As to the cars, Staniland had his monopost° Alfa, Eccles the 3.3-litre Bugatti, and Austin Dobson his 3-litre Maserati. In Group 4, two 2.3-litre Alias and Everitt’s 2.6-litre were matched against Rose’s 2.7-litre Maserati, the car on which Seaman won the Empire Trophy. In the third group there were no fewer than ten E.R.A.s, Mrs. Derby’s ungainly looking Derby, Faue’s Frazer-Nash, two 1i-litre Maseratis driven by Rayson and the Swiss driver, Kautz, and two 2-litre Rileys with Brackenbury and Dobbs in charge. The most interesting entries in Group 2 were the new Riley racingcar with independent springing in front, driven by Mrs. Wisdom, and Dixon with one of his usual ” silver ” ones with a 1,750 c.c. engine. In the smallest category were the three overhead camshaft Austins in their first appearance as a team and
a bunch of R type M.G. Midgets, the three driven by Connell, Briault and K. D. Evans, also now furnished with ” doublewipe ” heads.
At 2.30 the Paddock Gates were opened and one by one the forty-two cars were wheeled up the Finishing Straight to their starting positions between the S-bend and the channels. The fastest men in each class occupied the front rows, and as the tail of each car was painted a distinctive colour corresponding to the group to which it belonged, and each channel was similarly marked by a painted board slung overhead, there was no doubt as to the destination of each vehicle. Some of the cars showed reluctance in starting, and men were pushing about Mrs. Petre’s E.R.A. in a distracted sort
of way, while Kenneth Evans seemed doubtful about his M.G. Unmoved by predicaments such as this the starter took his place, and an incredible din rent the air as forty at any rate of the engines
came to life. ” Bira” and Mays, the two fastest drivers during practising looked particularly resolute, their cars rocking on the line as they “blipped” their engines, but on the fall of the flag the first to reach the channels was Harry Rose on his Maserati. Behind them a great company of cars surged, leaving behind a surprising number of unfortunates such as Whitehead, the gear-box of whose E.R.A. seized on the line, Lord A vebury, whose Alta seemed reluctant to start, Connell whose car refused to fire at all, and Lord Howe. After much heaving from mechanics he was sent on his way, amid cheers, only to retire in three laps with a burst oilpipe and other trouble “downstairs.”
As this was happening the leading cars were already roaring down the Finishing Straight. At the head was Mays, closely followed by “Bira,” Dixon, Cyril Paul (E.R.A.) and Dobbs, and after them a perfect cataract of cars poured through the S-bend, and steady driving was needed to avoid a collision as half-a-dozen cars made for the narrow opening. Last of all came Manby-Colegrave, who saw no point in hurrying at this stage in the proceedings, and Mrs. Stewart, whose Derby became increasingly slow and had already developed a partial seizure of the steering, which later compelled her to withdraw.
On the second lap Paul took the lead, keeping a few lengths ahead of “Bira.” Mays fell back behind Hamilton (2.3litre Alfa-Romeo) and Dobbs on his odd-looking Riley with the off-set body went up into third place. Then Paul slowed up for some reason, and a few laps later he came in for oil. On the tenth lap the order was” Bira,” Hamilton, Dobbs, Mays, Everitt (2.6
litre Alfa). Miss Evans led Group 5 with her M.G., the Austins running in team formation a few cars behind. Freddy Dixon quickly retired from the scene with a broken back-axle, and twenty minutes after the start there were already seven retirements.
With the ” channel ” system of handicapping the contest was as easy to follow as a scratch race, and with a closely bunched crowd of cars all disputing for first place, the race maintained its interest. At 15 laps Hamilton dropped back and amazingly enough Dobbs on the unblown 2-litre Riley pressed hard on ” Bira” with his blown 11-litre, and for a few laps held first position. The order at 20 laps was as follows :—
Dobbs, ” Bira” (1 sec. behind) Mays (4 sec.) Everitt (6 sec.) and Hamilton (8 sec.). Dobbs’ speed was 89.48 m.p.h.
Our prince was as usual unperturbed, and set to work to regain the lead from Dobbs on the white Riley, but it was evidently quite a difficult task, further complicated by the pair of them coming up on the slow-moving Mrs. Stewart just as she was negotiating her ” channel.” Another lady who had difficulty there was Mrs. Petre, the tail of her car sliding about in a way which threatened to beach it on the sand-bank barriers. Shortly
afterwards she touched a patch of oil and turned the car right round, remaining somewhat disconsolately until mechanics arrived to give the car a push-start. Mere males were not without their anxious moments either, as when Driscoll’s Austin stalled just after the S-bend and Manby-Colegrave’s E.R.A. also nearly came to rest in the fairway. Mays and Dobbs had never let the blue E.R.A. get far out of reach, though “Bira ” remained in front at the thirtieth lap, and thus secured the special prize for the leading car at this stage of the race. Everitt and Hamilton held fourth and fifth places. Group 1 found the double bend too much for them, though Staniland’s 160 m.p.h. all-out speed and Austin Dobson’s inspired sweep of the wheel—he took his car round the hairpins with a single sweep and uplifted elbow, and now ran level with Hamilton —ought to have brought them higher on the score-board. The small cars all
seemed to be in trouble, Austin and M.G. alike, making frequent stops for plugs and various adjustments.
A newcomer to the score-board was No. 8, Rose in the 2.7-litre Maserati. Lying back in his car, like Count Campari of old, in what seemed a most uncomfortable driving position, he had brought his car to within less than a minute of the leading E.R.A. ” Bira” held grimly to his lead, and Mays’ efforts to draw level were stopped for the moment on receiving the signal to come in and fill up. This took him just over a minute, and he pulled out again a short distance in front of ” Bira” but of course nearly a lap behind. At 50 laps Dobbs was in second place, only
44 secs, in rear, Rose Was 1 min. 17 secs. behind the leader, Mays 1 min. 42 secs. and Hamilton 2 nuns. 5 secs. There was
obviously going to be a stern strug0(, between the blue ERA. and the official y entered green one in the second half of the race, especially as ” Bira” had not yet had a re-fuelling stop. Retirements continued apace, Evcri t t on the 2.6-litre Alfa dropping out with a
broken piston, while Briault on a doublecamshaft Midget epitomised his -troubles in the word ” engine.” Unexpected and undeserved misfortune prevailed in the Austin camp. The oil -filter on Driaeoll’s car was smashed by a piece of metal deposited on the track early on by Lord Howe.’s E.R.A. and picked up by the Austin’s front w Goodacre’s car just refused to play, the fault being thought to be in the ignition department, while the super charger blow-Off valve on Dodson’s car refused to stay put, releasing all the
pressure and causing the plugs to oil up. So far the race had been happily free from .accident but now occurred two which might have had serious conse quences. The first was when Miss Doreen Evans’ M.G. Midget which had been leading Group 5 caught fire, as a result of friction between prop-shaft and tunnel, a melted electric wire and petrol in the undershield. The car started to blaze just as it came off the Home Banking, but Miss Evans kept her head, and leapt out as she slowed the car down on the Member’s Hill side of the Finishing Straight, leaving the car to roll driverless across the track into the railings. She escaped with slight burns. The other accident was when the E.R.A. driven
by Norman Black suddenly seized. Black was thrown forward with such violence that he knocked out a tooth on the windscreen. Fortunately no one was following close behind. At 60 laps Mays was once more back in second place, only 8 secs. behind ” Bira,”
whose speed only varied a decimal point at 90.46 m.p.h. Charles Brackenbury on a Dixon Riley made a first appearance on the leader board in fifth place, and Hamilton had returned to fourth. Nearing three-quarter distance there was just time for a look round the score board. In the first group Staniland’s car was the only one running, Eccles’ Bugatti coming to rest with the usual transmission trouble just as he was negotiating the twisty channel at the Fork. Hamilton and Rose were still running in Group 4. Of the ten 1 i-litre E.R.A.s seven were running at 4.30 but Scribbans then retired with piston trouble while Benjafield dropped out with damaged trans
mission. Manby-Colegrave’s car now driven by ” Buddy ” Peatherstonhaugh, all summery in shirt-sleeves, was creeping up steadily. Pane’s Frazer-Nash had been going well until it went out with a broken valve-spring, and Christian Kautz, the Swiss Maserati driver whom at one time we timed to be the fastest through the S-bend, retired, with a damaged gearbox, after a couple of hours of steady driving. Mays regained the lead at 65 laps, and ” Bira’s ” pit-stop which took nearly a minute, set him still more firmly in the lead. ” Bira” had evidently been reckoning on this delay however, and set off again at increased speed, being only
29 secs. behind at 80 laps. The teamcar still sounded healthy enough however, and there was no reason to suppose that Mays with an identical car could not remain in the lead.
At 90 laps came a dramatic moment. Two fast-travelling E.R.A.s pulled over as they came down the Finishing Straight, just distinguishable as those driven by Mays and Featherstonhaugh. The plan in each case was to take on a small quantity of fuel for the last 10 laps, but Maya in his haste overshot his pit by ten yards and had to be pushed back by the frantic mechanics.
Ten gallons were shot into the petrol tank in 25 secs., and then Mays roared off again in pursuit, now 18 secs. in rear of the flying ” Bira.” With only twenty-six miles to go, every one of the dozen or so surviving cars crammed on full speed, and fairly scuttled through the S-bend and the
flag-decked channels. In two laps Mays had reduced his gap to 12i secs. and Dobbs faithful to his black fur gauntlets and Featherstonhaugh coatless and without goggles strove to maintain their places on the leader-board. Another five laps, and eight secs. separated the two E.R.A.s and with two laps to go, just over six. The penultimate lap found ” Bira”
a mere 3 secs, ahead ; the last hectic lap might spell one burst engine or two.
Mays had been running his willing engine at 6,500 r.p.tn. for the last 9 laps, and with a great effort he succeeded in passing ” Bira ” on the Byfleet Banking. Now, when every scrap of speed was wanted, the revs, started to ease back, and just as he started to swing up the Home Banking, a mere half-mile from home the relentless ” Bira” caught him, roaring down the Finishing Straight to cross the line a mere thirty yards ahead. It was a fitting end to the most exciting long-distance race seen for years on Brooklands Track. If Mays had had one pit-stop instead of two, or if he had not overshot the Mark in his fill-up he would probably have won. However, motor-racing is
largely a matter of “ifs,” and the extra stress he gave to his car in the last ten laps undoubtedly led to the partial failure of the sparking-plug which pulled him back in that last frantic lap. ” Bira ” drove extremely well and fully deserved his success.
A final and striking point about the race was that not a single car in Group 1 finished the race. The pace set them was much too hot for the ” babies.” RESULTS
1.”B. Bira” (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) 2h. 52m. 249. 91.00 m.p.h.
2. Raymond Mays (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) 2h. 52m. 30s. 90.99 m.p.h.
3. R. G. Dobbs (1,985 c.c. Riley) 2h. 56m. 379. 89.38 m.p.h.
4. H. Rose (2,698 c.c. Maserati), 2h. 58m. 69. 88.11 M.p.h.
5. G. F. A. Manby-Colegrave and R, E. L. Featherstonhaugh (1,488 c.c. E.R.A:) 3b. lm, 5s. 86.68 m.p.h.
6. C. Brackertbury (1,985 c.c. Riley) 311. lm. 328. 86.47 m.p.h.
7. A. P. Hamilton (2,384 c.c. Alfa-Romeo) 3b. lm. 40$. 86.40 m.p,h.
8. A. Von der Becke (1,748 c.c. Riley) 3h, 3m. 509. 85.37 m.p.h.
9. P. G. Fairfield (1,090 c.c. E.R.A.) 3h, 5m, 54s. 84.43 m.p.h.
10. C. Paul (1,488 c.c. E.R.A.) 3h. 6m. 39s. 84.09 m.p.h.
11. C. 8. Stanitand (2,905 c.c. Alfa-Romeo) 3h. 7m. 13s. 83.83 m.p.h.
Mrs. K. Pare (1.488 c.c. E.R.A.) covered 94 laps ; C. Dodson (Austin) covered 79 laps,’ A. R. Samuel (M.G. Midget) covered 92 laps ; E. K. Baron (Maserati) 85 laps.
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