Gerard (E.R.A.) Does it Again, and Breaks the Lap Record into the Bargain! Horsfall Follows Him Home in Bell’s E.R.A. in the British Empire Trophy Race, with Ashmore’s Maserati Third. Heath’s Alta Victorious in Manx Cup, after Stirling Moss Retires.
THE B.R.D.C. races, run over the famous Isle of Man 3.87-mile road circuit — and this really is a road circuit — on May 26th, were most interesting, although not, it seemed, attended by the usual large crowds, possibly because the Island “season” doesn’t commence until June.
The British Empire Trophy Race was preceded by an excellent 18-lap, 70-mile race for the Manx Cup. This event was open to supercharged cars up to 1,100 c.c. and non-supercharged cars up to 2 1/2 litres.
In practice, Stirling Moss surprised everyone and won the admiration of all concerned by making fastest lap, in 3 mm. 26 sec. (67.78 m.p.h.), so that on race day he occupied the front row of the starting grid with Winterbottom, also in a V-twin Cooper. Abecassis, after lapping at 67.13 m.p.h., had a nasty crash in his Cooper and was hurt sufficiently badly not to be able to drive on the Thursday, although, on improvised crutches, he went to his pit to watch Heath in action. Other non-starters were Rhiando (Cooper), Hutchison (Veritas), Gale (Connaught), Holt (H.R.G.), Graham (M.G.), and Baird (Baird Meteorite).
The start was slightly delayed, so we had time to observe the remaining 23 starters. Dryden was courageously running his 499-c.c. Cooper-Norton, Moss, Winterbottom and John Cooper V-twin Coopers, de Lissa the ex-Bellevue M.G. Magnette, Downing a Riley, Horsfall his Aston-Martin, Folland the V12 Ferrari, a much-fancied car, Heath his 2-litre H.M. Alta, Phillips and Jacobs blown M.G.s, Rose his Lea-Francis-engined R.D.L., Kelly the similarly-powered I.R.A., Shillito the Riley which Harrison drove last year, Clark his Vanguard-H.R.G., Gee his 1 1/2-litre Riley, Fairman his 2-litre Riley, Watkins a fully-equipped “328” B.M.W., de Mattos the Spikins-Special, also Lea-Francis-engined, Kennington his 1,100-c.c. Cisitalia, Dunham the old Brooklands Alvis, Lund his “PB” M.G.-engined Lund-Special, and Clapp his 1,100-c.c. stripped sports H.R.G. Phillips’ M.G. had a neat front end with cowled-in lamps, Jacobs’ M.G. exposed its supercharger on the near side, and had a slab-tailed body, the I.R.A. was a nice-looking car, and the Lund had businesslike twin fillers in its tail.
The plugs of Phillips’ M.G. were changed so near to the start as to make it late for the parade lap, and on that lap Winterbottom’s Cooper stopped at Cronk-ny-Mona, but was able to restart.
As the flag fell Moss and Winterbottom forged ahead from the front row, with Heath and Spikins behind them and Folland’s Ferrari rapidly moving up. Dryden tailed the field in his “single-lung” Cooper.
After a lap Moss led, having averaged 66.81 m.p.h. from a standing start, and literally, no one else was in sight. Then down the long straight in the May sunshine, tricky to hold in the stiff breeze, came the others — de Mattos in the Spikins, Winterbottom, Kelly in the I.R.A., Heath’s Alta, the Ferrari, Shillito’s Riley, de Lissa’s M.G. Kennington’s Cisitalia — he waved “o.k.” — Dunham’s Alvis, Cooper, Gee, Jacobs, Nixon, Rose, Clark, Phillips, Dryden, Watkins, and Clapp. Already the Lund was at its pit, soon to continue, misfiring. By the end of the second lap Moss, the almost-invincible, had 30 seconds lead, had averaged 67.29 m.p.h., and was driving beautifully; de Mattos still lay second, but the I.R.A. was now third, about to be overtaken by the Ferrari, with Heath fifth, followed by Shillito ahead of Winterbottom. Another lap and the red Ferrari was second to Moss, the I.R.A. having fallen back to fifth position.
Phillips’ M.G. was the first retirement, Dryden came to rest at Cronk-na-Mona but got going again, and Watkins rushed up an escape road in his B.M.W.
Four laps of the 18 and Moss led Folland by 25 seconds, at 66.81 m.p.h., Heath now just ahead of the Spikins. Fairman brought his Riley in and as his mechanics put in new plugs he tested the stiffness of his rear suspension, then lay on the ground to peer beneath the tail.
After five rounds the redoubtable Moss had all but lapped Watkins’ sports B.M.W. and had averaged 66.60 m.p.h., doing one lap in 3 min. 26 sec., equal to 67.78 m p.h. Kennington had now worked his delightful little Cisitalia into sixth position.
Still Moss’ Cooper led, lapping Clapp as well as Watkins. Folland 28 seconds behind after six laps, but signalling “o.k.” to Wyer. John Cooper’s blue Cooper began to go sick, Dunham spun the Alvin at Nursery Corner’ and de Mattos shot up the Cronk-na-Mona — busy place this! — escape road, continued to his pit and had the back of the car jacked up.
All three leaders lapped at 66.81 m.p.h. Then — drama! The Ferrari, a likely winner, failed to come round on its seventh lap. Wyer looked forlornly up the loop-road behind the pits, the seconds turning Into minutes. Then the Italian car appeared, Folland waved “no good” with a wild gesture of both hands, and the Monaco stable’s run was over — clutch trouble. Soon afterwards de Lissa came in, nearly collected people using the pit-road as if it were a country lane, and handed his crash-hat to his lady — big-end trouble, about which nothing could be done.
The retirement of the Ferrari allowed Moss to ease up, for he had about 39 seconds lead over Heath, Shillito’s blue Riley, crackling healthily on the overrun, now third. By ten laps Moss’ lead was down to about 33 seconds.
Kelly stopped at the pits and oil from a gallon tin was poured into a cambox of the I.R.A.’s Lea-Francis engine while it was running, the announcer, rather humorously, saying the plugs were being changed — they were, eventually. The driver finally put back the detachable steering wheel and continued.
At this stage the three leaders were a clear mile ahead of the next car — the Cisitalia.
But anything can — and does — happen in motor-racing. De Mattos found the Spikins’ brakes useless, the R.D.L. came in and retired with “oiling trouble,” Watkins’ B.M.W. went out with gearbox faults. Fairman, going again, was now hurrying along and set fastest lap in his Riley, at 67.13 m.p.h. Clark’s H.R.G. came to rest at Onchan with transmission maladies.
Then that dramatic turn again! Moss shot rapidIy up the pit road and slid to rest with a rasp of brakes. Nimbly he leapt out. removing his helmet as he jumped, and joined his mechanics under the Cooper’s engine cover, while Pa Moss felt in his pocket for a spanner. Alas, the delay was a long one, for after a plug change the car repeatedly refused to restart with a push. It went off eventually and the crowd urging on young Moss to the last man, sank exhausted back to its seats. But it wasn’t to be, for the magneto timing had slipped and the car retired at Park ‘View Corner.
It was now all over bar the shouting! Heath went on in the lead, a lean, helmeted figure crouching over the wheel of his Alta. Behind him Shillito’s Amal-carburetted Riley was going nicely, but not fast enough to catch up. The Cisitalia, a little too warm to be really pressed, was a comfortable third, although its rear shock-absorption wasn’t all it might have been, apparently.
Winterbottom stopped at Cronk-na-Mona, otherwise the race ended sans incident — except that no one troubled to give Heath the chequered flag and his number, so, in spite of triumphant waving-aloft of an open golf-umbrella at his pit, he wisely went on and on after others had pulled-in. When he did stop he proved a very popular winner, obliging the camera boys by repeatedly congratulating his mechanic. The final placings were: —
1st: John Heath (H.W. Alta) … 65.32 m.p.h.
2nd: G. S. Shillito (Riley) … 64.18 m.p.h.
3rd: F. W. Kennington (Cisitalia) 62.71 m.p.h.
4th: G. N. Gee (Riley) … 62.06 m.p.h.
5th: J. N. Cooper (Cooper) … 60.67 m.p.h.
6th: C. G. H. Dunham Alvis) … 60.56 m.p.h.
John Heath (H.W. Alta) — Wheels and tyres: Dunlop. Plugs: Lodge. Shock-absorbers: Girling. Brake Iinings: Ferodo.
G. S. Shillito (Riley). — Wheels and tyres: Dunlop. Ignition: Lucas. Plugs: Lodge. Shock-absorbers: Newton-Girling-Andre. Brake linings: Ferodo.
F. W. Kennington (Cisitalia). — Fuel: Shell. Wheels: Italian Rudge. Tyres: Dunlop. Plugs: Lodge. Shock-absorbers: F.I.A.T. and Girling. Brake linings: Ferodo,
The British Empire Trophy
The big race, for a first prize of £250, was for Formula I cars, over 36 laps, or 140 miles. It merely produced most of the old favourites, as the list of non-starters was a long one: Mathieson’s now ghostly E-type E.R.A., Whitehead’s tricky Ferrari, Ansell’s rather worn-out Maserati, Villoresi’s Maserati — alas, Salvadori’s Maserati, Baring’s Maserati, Ramseyer’s Maserati, the A.J.B., and Watson’s Alta.
We noticed that both Parnell’s and Ashmore’s Maseratis had the new diamond-tread racing Dunlops — 6.15-16 at the back — as had Gerard’s famous E.R.A. at the back only. Horsfall was driving Bell’s E.R.A. in place of the unlucky Bolster, this being the 2-litre chassis with the two-stage Jamieson-blown 1 1/2-litre engine from the bent car. Claes had painted well-defined racing numbers on his yellow Lago-Talbot.
In practice Reg. Parnell had unofficially beaten the course record with a terrific lap in 3 min. 6 sec. (75.08 m.p.h.). With him in the front row was Walker’s E.R.A., which had done a truly courageous 3 min. 9 sec. lap. Abecassis had pulled out 3 min. 13 sec. in the G.P. Alta, but as Heath was to handle it, it went back to the very last row. Gerard and Horsfall had row two, Rolt, Harrison and Hampshire row three, Murray and Ashmore row four, G. Ansell, Chorlton and Clues row five, and Richardson and Nixon row six. Richardson’s R.R.A. had an E.R.A. engine in the ex-McClure Riley chassis, now with torsion-bar rear suspension.
As the Lucas starting apparatus released the pack it was Parnell who positively leapt away. Gerard next, then Walker and Rolt. Harrison alone hesitated. At the end of lap one it was: Parnell (Maserati) six or so seconds ahead, Ashmore (Maserati), Gerard (E.R.A.), Walker (E.R.A.), Horsfall (E.R.A.), Rolt (Alfa-Romeo), Murray (ex-Parnell Maserati), Hampshire (E.R.A.), Ansell (E.R.A. — last year’s winner), Nixon (E.R.A.), Heath (G.P. Alta), Chorlton (Bugatti-engined C.D.L.), Claes (Talbot). Harrison (E.R.A.), R. Walker (Cotal-gearbox Delahaye), and Richardson (R.R.A.).
Another lap and it was just like the previous race, no one in sight of the leader, for Parnell led Ashmore by some 17 sec., and Ashmore was about 5 sec. ahead of Walker, who had passed Gerard. Already the average was over 73 m.p.h. Parnell went on consolidating his lead and already trouble had struck the field — Chorlton came in to virtually rebuild his car, judging by the part or the afternoon spent at his pit (actually the tank had split), and Murray’s Maserati had its plugs changed and its engine restarted with a handle of immense length — just like a modern fug-box!
Then, with only four laps run, the leader was overdue! He continued overdue for so long that we feared an accident — but presumably it was only the race news-service that had had an accident, for eventually he was announced as having retired at the Manx Arms with supercharger trouble. It may have been that an oil filler cap refused to come off for topping up before the race and that oil-starvation resulted — or it may have been something quite otherwise. At all events, Reg. walked in to nobly assist in Ashmore’s pit — and team-mate Fred led the race. Before his retirement, Parnell, his car sounding magnificent, had averaged 71.6 m.p.h. and lapped in 3 min. 11 sec. (73.11 m.p.h.).
Ashmore led after five laps, at 68.65 m.p.h., from P. Walker, Gerard, Horsfall, Rolt and Hampshire. Ashmore lapped in 3 min. 15 sec., Gerard in 3 min. 16 sec. on their eighth lap, but next round the former speeded up to 3 min. 14 sec.
On the 12th lap Ashmore did 3 min. 13 sec., Gerard 3 min. 12 sec., but next round both were slower, Horsfall holding Gerard. Peter Walker, after another terrific drive in the old B-type E.R.A., experienced the same brake trouble that dogged him at Silverstone, and, stopping for adjustments, fell to fourth place, while Harrison was now fifth, Rolt sixth. As Walker came in, so did Nixon, to change a front wheel, bent when he hit the sandbags at the Manx Arms; no fuel was added to either car. After 15 laps, with Ashmore leading at 70.31 m.p.h., lapping at 71.98 sec., Gerard was 19 seconds behind, but had averaged 69.87 m.p.h. and was closing the gap. Nixon and Geoffrey Ansell were enjoying a private E.R.A. duel, the former with a slight advantage.
After 20 laps Ashmore led at 70.64 m.p.h,., to Gerard’s 70.31 m.p.h., but he gave his pit an ominous signal as he passed. Sure enough, he came in next lap, for oil, Vignol being quickly fed in, while a little fuel was also put in, with churns, some unfortunately falling on to the seat. The stop was superbly handled — this team has definitely improved its pit work, in which Parnell now figured prominently. The Maserati was at rest for 29 seconds, but the total loss on lap time was one minute, so that Gerard went by.
The order at 25 laps was: Gerard 70.55 m.p.h., Ashmore 70.37 m.p.h. The official race bulletin hinted at a fuel leak from Ashmore’s car. Meanwhile Heath plodded along in the G.P. Alta, once hitting the kerb at Governor’s Bridge at the very spot where Abecassis crashed in practice. The real genius of Gerard now became apparent. He has for long had the reputation of driving steadily, properly to depot-control, so that his aged British E.R.A. vanquishes such things as two-stage Maseratis when they strike trouble. Now, however, we saw the real Bob Gerard in action, driving an epic race. Signalled to speed up, for Ashmore should have been able to catch him, he set a new lap record in 3 min. 9 sec. (73.88 m.p.h.), and then equalled it the very next, or 28th, lap! This handsomely beat last year’s record of 3 min. 13 sec. by Parnell’s (now Murray’s) Maserati.
The pace was certainly telling. Murray retired his Maserati, after Parnell had inspected it, with gearbox trouble. The R.R.A. showed signs of having hit something gently.
The question was still, could Ashmore catch Gerard? But he did not seem to be doing so and then fate struck him another blow. He hit the kerb at Nursery Corner and burst his nice new off-side front Dunlop. The wheel-change was carried out magnificently, in 31 sec. Parnell helping to start the car by hauling on a rear tyre. But Jock Horsfall, driving a tremendously impressive race in Bell’s E.R.A., went by to take second place.
After 30 laps Gerard led at 70.91 m.p.h., by 1 min. 10 sec. from Horsfall, who had averaged 70.09 m.p.h., and by 1 min. 23 sec. from Ashmore, who had averaged 69.91 m.p.h. Behind came Harrison, Walker, Rolt, Hampshire, Claes, Ansell and Heath. Three laps more and Gerard had increased his lead to 1 min. 18 sec. over Horsfall and to 1 min. 27 sec. over Ashmore, the last-named grazing the hedge at Willaston Corner in his haste.
It was now virtually over. Gerard and Horsfall drove on to complete the race of their lives, both non-stop, and the Scuderia Ambrosiana two-stage Maserati had to be content with third place, the price of its two brief pit-stops. The warmest congratulations go out to an unflurried but very rapid Bob Gerard and to Joan Gerard, who controlled him from the pits. Horsfall showed remarkable ability, taking over an unfamiliar car at short notice. Only once did he “get between two gears” in the Wilson change, but he finished minus a piece out of the aero-screen and with no brakes, the gearbox serving to slow the car during the closing laps. A grand show, by British drivers and cars. The final placings tell a very interesting story: —
1st: F. R. Gerard (E.R.A.), 36 laps completed, 1 hr. 57 min. 54 sec. … 71.06 m.p.h.
2nd: St. J. Horsfall (E.R.A.), 36 laps completed, 1 hr. 59 min. 21 sec. … 70.20 m.p.h.
3rd: F. Ashmore (Maserati), 36 laps completed, 1 hr. 59 min. 25 sec. … 70.16 m.p.h.
4th T. C. Harrison (E.R.A.), 36 laps comp. 69.20 m.p.h.
5th: P. D. C. Walker (E.R.A.), 35 laps comp. 68.31 m.p.h.
6th: A. P. Rolt (Alfa-Romeo), 35 laps comp. 67.07 m.p.h.
7th: D. Hampshire (E.R.A.), 34 laps comp. 66.80 m.p.h.
8th: J. Claes (Talbot), 34 laps completed … 66.61 m.p.h.
9th: G. Ansell (E.R.A.), 34 laps completed… 65.41 m.p.h.
10th: J. Heath (Alta), 34 laps completed … 64.98 m.p.h.
11th: G. M. Richardson (R.R.A.), 32 laps completed … 62.47 m.p.h.
12th: Jason Henry (Delahaye), 32 laps comp. 61.98 m.p.h.
13th: G. Nixon (E.R.A.), 31 laps completed… 60.34 m.p.h.
F. R. Gerard (E.R.A.). — Fuel: Shell. Wheels and tyres: Dunlop. Ignition: Lucas. Plugs: Lodge. Shock-absorbers: Girling and Andre. Brake linings: Ferodo.
St. J. Horsfall (E.R.A.). — Wheels and tyres: Dunlop. Ignition: Lucas. Brake linings: Ferodo.
F. Ashmore (Maserati). — Wheels and tyres: Dunlop. Ignition: Lucas. Plugs: Lodge. Brake linings: Ferodo.
Harrison had put an old engine into his E.R.A. following the Silverstone “blow-up.”
The race-commentary was put over by T. H. Glenbourne public address apparatus.
The stands were not very well filled, but many unauthorised people got into the Press section and destroyed concentrated reporting with their idle chatter.
The Press bulletins didn’t seem quite so informative as usual and we missed the tea and cakes served in the Press stand last year — but there, we always grumble, and on the whole the arrangements were good.
Ragged small boys showed great ability to climb into the stands from the back, and they were joined later in the afternoon by school-children on their way home!
Pertinent questions: How did the lightning-calculator young lady get on, and did the drivers appreciate the cemetery behind the course by the stands?
An “XK” Jaguar and a 2 1/2-litre Riley 2/3-seater were used as course cars. Lady Bromet, wife of H.E. the Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man, started the races, and T. G. Moore was one of the judges.
Lucas and Dunlop presented valuable prizes.
Motor Sport flew to the race and back in an Airspeed 65 “Consul” of Air Enterprises, laid on by Air Liaison Ltd.