Matters of the moment

Freedom ?

The "basic," or as it is now termed "Standard," petrol ration, is partially restored as from June 1st, inasmuch as cars not already being run on a supplementary essential-purposes ration can be taxed at half-price and draw coupons equivalent to 90 miles' motoring per month, while "essential" motorists can drive for pleasure if they feel they can spare any of their business-ration to do so. Mr. Gaitskell would seem to have met skilfully the severe opposition put up by all classes of the community to the abolition of "free" motoring by introducing a rather mean scheme which aims to enhance the coffers of the Treasury while absorbing little more petrol than formerly. "Muddled" is the kindest term applicable to this grudgingly given concession.

Even so, the new arrangement will doubtless bring joy to those whose cars have been laid-up  --  if they are fortunate enough not to be prosecuted under one of the many new Regulations that Standard-petrol brings with it. At first sight owners of large-engined vintage cars look like having the time of their lives, for that 4-1/2-litre Bentley, for example, is now virtually a 12-h.p. car, and, moreover, used only for fun, qualifies for reduced insurance rates. A six-months', or approximately 540 miles', petrol ration can legally be used-up in the first month's motoring and as the authorities cannot very well insist on the licence being renewed at the end of the month, those who only seek a month's driving would appear, for the first time in the history of motoring, to be getting quite a decent bargain from officialdom!  Particularly the happy autocycle-owner, who presumably can draw coupons worth about six gallons for the sum of 10d., which, we believe, is about one-sixth of the bad old Black Market charge for coupons of equivalent value.

However, in your joyous pursuit of the again-open road, do not fall too readily for the Gaitskellian gesture. If you are taxing a car expressly for "pleasure" motoring, it will be wise to keep it as small as you can  --  a "3-1/2-h.p." Baby F.I.A.T. for example!  --  for your new-found freedom will be costly enough as it is, assuming you keep your car on the road for any length of time, without paying more than you need for your Road Fund licence. When buying the latter, spare a thought for the clerks in the taxation offices, who now have five basic systems of motor-car taxation with which to grapple, i.e.,£10 flat-rate, tax on cubic capacity, tax on R.A.C. horse-power, tricycle-tax and the Gaitskell half-fare. And never, never lose sight of the fact that, if we motorists sit down placidly under our 20 miles of recreational-driving per week, we may one day wake up to find that even this"privilege" has been withdrawn again. What we want is a fairer system of petrol rationing NOW and a total abolition of rationing as soon as Britain has been restored— in part by the splendid efforts of her Motor Industry  --  to something like her former prosperity.

***

Jersey

Two things emerge from the J.C.C.'s excellent road-race at Jersey. First, the Press arrangements were poor. The "Press Box" was nothing more or less than tiers of wooden-plank seats laid on scaffolding, with no protection from the weather. The unfortunate reporters had only one telephone between them, and that not in view of the race, and no proper facilities for chart-keeping or writing. They had to glean information from the loud-speakers, which were frequently drowned by passing cars, or from the scoreboard which only gave the first four positions and these, the programme stated, were "unofficial." No bulletins were issued relating to non-starters, changes of drivers, race-order or causes of pit-stops and retirements  --  which explains the few minor errors in our last-month's "stop-press" report of the race, to publish which we had to leave the course less than half-an-hour after the finish of the event and prepare the story in an aeroplane that left the Island at 7 p.m. Our task was rendered more difficult because the first official results appeared to show Abecassis to have finished 9.8 seconds behind Gerard when it was obvious that, being over a lap behind, he could not have been within two minutes of the winner  --  actually the times of the place-men were for 54 of the 55 laps, but their speeds had been calculated for the full distance, so confusion reigned, nor were these errors corrected before one daily Press representative had 'phoned his account through. It is easy to criticise and we appreciate fully the enormous and grand job done by the J.C.C. in giving us a race at all. But as Mr. Morgan proudly states, vide  the official programme, that the 1947 race "hit the newspaper headlines" and that "it is doubtful whether any British motor racing event has ever been more widely reported in the national Press," he should take steps in the future to retain the interest of the Press by offering reporters happier facilities than they had this year  --  as one eminent motoring writer observed, they do it properly on the Continent, so why not here ?

Our second Jersey reflection concerns the efficient and pleasant manner in which a couple of dozen enthusiasts were flown out from England to the race and home again at a very moderate charge  --  by the enterprise of a private charter concern.

***

A very good show

Frederick Roberts Gerard was a popular winner of the Jersey Road Race last month, and deservedly so. He drove his Jamieson-blown, normally-sprung, B-type E.R.A. (modified in respect of long radius rods locating the back axle, a 46-gallon fuel tank in place of the former 30-gallon tank, and C-type engine internals), non-stop throughout, as he had hoped to do and, taking the lead on lap 24, thereafter never lost it. He won at 87.33 m.p.h. and made fastest lap at 90.42 m.p.h. without exceeding 130 m.p.h. or so. The Lucas electrical equipment and Lodge plugs stood up perfectly and, in spite of the considerable load of fuel carried, the Dunlop tyres did not require to be changed. This victory brings Gerard into the top rank of British drivers. He graduated sensibly to his present mount, starting with comparatively slow cars, and he is thorough in the preparation of his cars and selection of equipment. Frank Woolley supervised the assembly of the E.R.A., Mrs. Joan Gerard controlled the pit, and keen mechanics set the seal to Gerard's Jersey success. Fourth at Spa, third at Marne and the winner at Ulster and the I.O.M. last year, Gerard is a man to watch for the remainder of this season. Already, apart from his Jersey victory, he has broken Mays' Prescott record and was fastest at Luton Hoo.