Parnell's Maserati Wins First Post War British Race
Chiron Second —Mays Third. Sommer Does Best Lap at 91.28 m.p.h.
Specially reported for Motor Sport by "Aramis"
This first British-organised road race, although, owing to the peculiarities of our Government, having to be held in the more enlightened Channel Islands, was a terrific success as a race. It was unfortunately marred by certain administrative mistakes, which are the more regrettable as J.C.C. Secretary John Morgan — also Clerk of the Course — had worked himself to the bone to ensure that everything went smoothly. All the troubles seem to have been caused by the errors of voluntary helpers, to whom, of course, one must not be too unkind.
During practice on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings one would have been justified in forecasting a win by the Scuderia Milano. Although "Bira" achieved the fastest training lap at 2 min. 6.6 sec., all three drivers for the Italian team — Sommer, Chiron, and the winner at Pau, Pagani — got round in 2 mm. 10 sec., which is a nice team performance. Parnell did not manage better than 2 min. 18 sec., which meant relegation to the third row at the start. During these two evenings the amount of trouble had to be seen to be believed; all around one people seemed to be in trouble, more or less serious.
Among the blown 1 1/2-litre cars there was more than one suffering from melted pistons, just one more proof, perhaps, of how much we are all missing the help and advice of the fuel companies' technicians. On the second day's training, when Whitehead was giving every indication of revealing the capabilities of the "E" type E.R.A., he suddenly shut off when coming off the back stretch and sensibly halted over a convenient drain while the entire contents of his fuel tank drained off through the enormous split that had developed. The head man of the Scuderia Milano seemed to be a bit unhappy about the two-stage blown car that Sommer was driving, Sommer having come off his own car and into the team, in place of Cortese, who had been nominated to drive originally. John Bolster, driving the Peter Bell E.R.A. for the first time, seemed to have great difficulty in getting his right elbow down to a less "Mary-like" position.
The entire training period was enlivened by the more self-important members of the daily Press getting more and more involved with the humorous information supplied by some of the more lighthearted drivers. After the practice on both evenings, while there were some drivers sufficiently at ease to occupy the bar of the Pomme d'Or, there were an equal number rushing round with worried expressions, faced with the certain knowledge that bed, if reached at all, would not be seen before 6 a.m.
During the second evening's training an exceptional lap was put in by Leslie Johnson on his unblown 4-litre Darracq in 2 min. 17 sec., which is quite definitely a Thing for what is basically a sports car. The three Delages of Louis Gerard's Ecurie Gersac were much slower, and the Delahaye a bit slower still. All the unblown cars gave every indication that they would go through the race non-stop and trouble-free, which might well mean a reasonably high place in the final results. The three Delages were to be driven by Louveau, Levegh, and Achard — and that, incidentally, was the team order.
The trouble on Peter Whitehead's car was repaired during the night and all cars were theoretically ready for the race, although many were not finished until around two hours before the start. From an early hour spectators were invading the course, cars starting to line the road along the Promenade-straight as early as 8.30 a.m., when some drivers and mechanics were still trying to recover from their overnight session.
The starting positions were: —
First file: "Bira," Pagani, Chiron, Sommer.
Second file: Mays, Gerard, Ansell.
Third file: Whitehead, Parnell, Walker, Dixon.
Fourth file: Johnson, Cotton, Woodall.
Fifth file: Levegh, Gilby, Ashmore, Brooke.
Sixth file: Achard, Louveau, Bolster.
Seventh file: Abecassis, Harrison, Chorlton , Pozzoli.
Everyone had been warned about the serious view that would be taken of any undue efforts to emulate Farina and leap off the line before the starter had even found the flag. The start was quite colossal, nobody even crept, and when the flag-tip stirred the entire field hurtled off the line with a crash. Impressions were difficult to analyse during the first mad rush, with the howl of engines rising to a scream, and the confusion of the blurring colours. Pagani took a slight lead from team-mates Chiron and Sommer, while Whitehead's E.R.A. hung slightly on get-away, so that the Darracq and the two Delages, of Johnson Levegh and Achard — in line-ahead — closed up like a released rubber band.
After about 90 -seconds of silence the leaders dived out of the Bayview Hotel corner, brakes on, and slowed for the pedestrian-like hairpin, Sommer in the lead, "Bira" 2 seconds behind, then Pagani and Parnell. There was an appreciable gap behind these four before Mays, Ansell and Whitehead came round, but what a shame it was when the "E"-type E.R.A. was seen to be pulling in. Although it restarted, it subsequently retired with more fuel tank trouble — next time perhaps everything will be right. Before the first five laps had been completed "Bira" had nipped in front of the French champion, but on the sixth lap Raymond Coeur de Lion rushed past again but couldn't hold it. Just before the 10-lap placings were clear, "Bira" pulled in to change a wheel — tyre damaged after hitting a kerb — and although he got away in about 24 sec., that man from Derby had got in front by a margin of 45 sec., and there he stayed till the end of the race. Sommer, who had said before the race that he would burst in three laps, established the lap record at 2 min. 6.2 sec., or 91.28 m.p.h., before he was forced in with a tired engine. Plugs were changed, on he went, true to character still trying — but he was finished. Eventually the car was retired with practically everything broken that could break.
From then until the end of the race, most people's minds were busy trying to clarify the position as shown by the misleading scoreboard, and the equally misleading statements from the broadcast announcer. It was not until three laps from the end that the scoreboard suddenly changed and showed the true placings — Parnell in the lead. The Italians had inexcusably omitted to keep a lap score, and had apparently relied on the "unofficial" board, so their reactions can be imagined when they found that Chiron — whom they had been flagging down for lap after lap — was in fact second and not comfortably in the lead. Parnell probably would not admit it now — and who can blame him — but one suspects that his lap scoring wasn't too accurate. Certainly he was driving as if he thought he was second, unlike Chiron who was driving as if he was sure he was first. All very confusing indeed.
From the tenth lap until the end, with Parnell in the lead the whole time, the race was lacking in interest so far as the winner was concerned. The real interest lay in the efforts of those further back trying to secure a higher placing. Mays drove as he seldom has before, climbing ruthlessly up from the ruck to third place once he got his car firing on all six. Johnson, playing a waiting game behind Louveau's Delage, had the shattering luck to lose top gear, just when his pit signalled him to take Louveau during the last third of the race. Brooke performed, for the delight of the spectators, a real engine burst — bits and pieces flew in all directions.
The final placings, after all the protests and shouting had died down, were: —
1. Reg. Parnell (Maserati), 1 hr. 53 min. 83 sec. (84.52 m.p.h.).
2. Louis Chiron (Maserati), 49 laps (83.24 m.p.h.).
3. Raymond Mays (E.R.A.), 48 laps (81.82 m.p.h.).
4. Joe Ashmore (E.R.A.), 48 laps (81.41 m.p.h.).
5. Henri Louveau (Delage), 47 laps (80.66 m.p.h.).
6. Leslie Johnson (Darracq), 46 laps (79.4 m.p.h.).
First three British drivers to finish outside the first three: Ashmore, Johnson and Gilby.
Fastest lap: Raymond Sommer (Maserati) on his fourth lap, in 2 min. 6.2 sec. (91.28 m.p.h.).
Last year's fashions were observed on more than one driver. For example, Louveau was wearing his old Scuderia Milano overalls, while Sommer in practice appeared in light blue complete with the Cisitalia sign.
Whitehead, although retiring with fuel tank trouble, was said by some unkind people to have cracked the head on the "E"'-type.
Rough calculations by the ruder types estimate the winner's winnings at around £1,000. Fair enough for a provincial boy. He may have spent that, and a lot more, in Switzerland on the 1 1/2-litre Mercédès by the time this appears.
John Bolster, who kept going, most effectively, on five cylinders under the impression he had melted another piston, was really suffering from two pushrods that had jumped out.
The variance in driving manners was most observable. The older, faster and, let's face it, tougher drivers, were a lot more polite and gallant than some of the beginners who should have been trying hard to impress.
Gilby's ex-Rayson 4-cylinder Maserati went very well indeed. He, on the other hand, should remember that in his first race, style, driving manners, and a complete lack of baulking are more important than dicing hard. Style and correctness are still the first things to learn.
Chiron, whom some self-important British drivers have said was finished, proved again that he is an artist at the wheel. He was streets faster than anyone through the worst swerve on the course — at the Bayview Hotel — and seemed appreciably safer also. He still justifies the name "Louis the Debonair," with his perfect turn-out.
I know that man from Derby won the big race, but one day he may lose a race if he forgets to do something about getting his pits really organised. If "Wilkie" hadn't been driving with Cotton, things might have been better. Sponging the driver's face with methanol, and pouring oil down his leg surely cannot be the right way.
Odd, giving a prize to "Bira," who neither finished the race nor made fastest lap, while Sommer went away empty-handed. In fact, the whole prize-giving ceremony was a shade queer, but at the moment of writing it might be wiser to say nothing.
Anyone anxious to learn the worst Italian would have got an earful when the lap-scoring board suddenly changed three laps from the end. The most recurrent word in the Maserati pit seemed to be cretinissimo. Fair enough, really, however one looks at it.
Let's hope nobody blames Secretary John Morgan for the nonsenses that were made. After all, he cannot be expected to nurse all the voluntary helpers, all the time, although some of them seem to need just that attention — or is that rude?
Parnell won on Dunlop tyres, and used Lucas ignition.
Compiled by a spectator, for whose views "Motor Sport" isn't necessarily responsible.
Halfway down the straight the cars had spread out a surprising amount barely half a mile after the massed start. First 3 or 4 laps the order was Cortese, "Bira," Pagani, Parnell. Chiron in the field.
The pack of cars were followed on lap 2 or 3 by a large dog running along the straight. Consternation. Was removed in time.
The official Maseratis appeared to have free differentials.
In the first quarter or third of the race all the faster cars had pit stops with mechanical trouble; this, coupled with the rapid spreading out and the very short lap, made the race hard to follow. The official decision re lap counts is denied by two people I met, besides the Maserati manager, which would make Chiron the true winner. During the critical last quarter of the race, at the latter end of which the official mind was changed in favour of Parnell, the two were almost exactly half a lap apart. Chiron was probably under a "slower" signal; as Mays (at least one lap behind) was gaining 4 or 5. lengths per lap on him. The scoreboard was suddenly altered about 2 or 3 laps before the end. [But we understand that the official lap times tot up definitely in Parnell's favour. — Ed.]
The Delage, and Bolster's E.R.A., were very sick throughout, the latter consistently on five cylinders. Surmise: Overwind in early stages and bent valves or cracked heads. Mays said to have cracked head, and after several it stops early on, in which "Wonderweld" said to have been used, the performance was outstanding. Third place very creditable indeed.
Cotton's E.R.A. was chiefly driven by "Wilkie."
Gilbey tardy in giving way to faster cars; tended to keep to middle of road. Turned round on West Park hairpin; pit staff ran out to push. Parnell very determined, passing just before and in corners, sometimes failing to bring it off.
West Park corner very acute, after downhill straight, with adverse camber. Only Johnson and Mays consistently neat. The former able to hold the power slide down the camber by means of almost full-lock correction. This manoeuvre never observed with the 1 1/2-litre cars.
"Bira" very fast and almost as determined as Parnell. Three reasons given for retirement: (a) Seizure of engine (blower); (b) Overdice (dimly recall Bel Royal mentioned in this connection) with engine stall, too far from pits for help; (e) Overdice, rammed brick wall, damaged car. "Bira" cycled back to pits.
Brooke's, E.R.A. threw rods and things away, opposite the pits.
Chorlton drove a Type 51a Bugatti throughout as Harmer did not arrive on island at all. Pit thus understaffed. Rubber connection on oil pipe broke. Retired when auxiliary oil tank exhausted, also driver. Steering very heavy on hairpins. Would not get max. speed on straights. Inadequate preparation.
Itier Delages very impressive, not all that slow, Louveau up as lying 4th until official mind-change. Very consistent, and Cotal upward changes most impressive. Ran latter part of race in line formation and numerical order. This obstruction must have been maddening to Parnell and others in a hurry.
Pozzoli very wild, probably failing to emulate Johnson.
Ashmore's fourth place due to the large number of retirements and pit stops on the part of the faster drivers. Appeared undistinctive in the race. But then, so did Chiron.
Sommer did a number of laps with o.s. front wheel leaning in at top. Must have hit something.
Great party and presentation at the Pavilion, West Park. Much alcoholic hilarity. Much hard feeling by non-ticket-holders denied entrance. In presentation, it appears that "Bira," in error, took trophy for fastest lap in race (due to Sornmer), having only made fastest lap in practice. Embarrassing situation skilfully glossed over by the announcer.
Chiron made long speech in French (beautiful enunciation) saying that he firmly believed he was in the lead and was very disappointed to find himself placed second. He would, however, cheerfully abide by the Steward's decision, because the Sport is the thing.
Party broke up 1 a.m. A lot of people looked sort of pale the next morning.
It took me a few minutes over the hour from Eastleigh airport, Southampton, to St. Peter airport, Jersey, in the most comfortable and up-to-date twin-engined private aircraft, and cost £7 return. The ship costs about half this and takes, from embarkation to disembarkation, ten or more hours. An aircraft, moreover, can be chartered at times to suit one's self, but is more governed by weather conditions. Cars, self-drive, are easy to hire in the island, and taxis are plentiful, though expensive — about 1s. a mile. My hotel cost 12s. for supper, bed and breakfast.