Matters of the Moment

Popular Motor Racing

A particularly interesting announcement has been made recently by the British Racing Drivers’ Club, to the effect that its meeting at Silverstone on August 20th will have the backing of the Daily Express newspaper. The plans are ambitious, embracing as they do a full-length Grand Prix race in which the leading British and foreign drivers are expected to compete, preceded by a sports car race which looks like being a cross between the late-lamented Tourist Trophy and that 8-Hour Race put on by the since-deceased Light Car Club at Brooklands before the war. A good entry is expected, as manufacturers will not be likely to forgo such a well-publicised race. Many years ago Motor Sport expressed the opinion that if motor racing in this country is to become really popular and if it is to attract really big crowds, daily-paper backing would be about the most effective way of fostering its appeal to the masses. Not only can a rich and influential newspaper offer prize money and starting money adequate to ensure a first-class entry of the leading drivers and cars, but it can introduce motor racing to a vast new public and encourage their attendance at the particular event it is sponsoring. In backing an event of this kind a newspaper is hoping to secure increased sales and therefore can be depended on to publicise motor racing in a readable and lucid manner, acceptable to those lacking any previous knowledge or appreciation of the Sport.

The Daily Express is an ambitiously-conducted newspaper and it seems very probable that the accommodation available at Silverstone for 150,000 spectators will be packed to capacity on August 20th. Certainly no one can grumble at its intention to put on the greatest motor race ever seen in Britain. It looks as if Desmond Scammell has backed a winner.

British motor racing in general is, indeed, in an almost startlingly virile condition. We have already this season seen long-distance classics run off at jersey, at Silverstone and in the Isle of Man. Apart from the above-mentioned B.R.D.C. races at Silverstone, many British drivers are expected to take part in the Formula I race at Zandvoort at the end of July, and there are the Curragh races in Co. Kildare on September 10th, followed by another Goodwood meeting on September 17th, apart from the various Continental fixtures attractive to British drivers, including various classic sports car races. Then we shall see several club meetings, offering excellent fare for the amateur, at Silverstone this year, while the sprint exponents, apart from events at Shelsley Walsh, Prescott, Bo’ness, Craigantlet, Bouley Bay and Brighton, this season, have additional commitments at Blandford, Weston-super-Mare, Rest-and-Be-Thankful and Stanmer Park. All this must severely tax aged racing machinery and ration-bound drivers, yet, after so many years of “blood, sweat and tears,” we should rejoice that the 1949 fixture list is such a full one.

Another Ambitious Fixture
And having disposed of the fixtures described in the preceding paragraph, news comes to hand of another new English circuit and an ambitious race meeting which the West Hants and Dorset Car Club intends to hold there later in the season. This new course is in Blandford Camp, Dorset, and has been approved by the R.A.C. It provides a lap of 3.2 miles and is regarded in motor-cycle racing circles as the best road circuit in England — which is praise indeed. And in case this suggests that it is unduly narrow, it is about as wide as Goodwood. Lapped clockwise, three acute right-hand bends and a fast left-hand sweep are included and the two-wheeler boys lap it at nearly 90 m.p.h. The West Hants and Dorset C.C. intends to include races for the 500-c.c. Club cars, which are rapidly being developed to a high pitch of efficiency, to run a Formula II race which will be an excellent opportunity for enthusiasts in this country to see the latest non-supercharged 2-litre cars in action, while it also hopes to stage a sports car race, of which there have been too few since the war. If you attended their kilometre speed hill-climb on May 28th you have already seen part of their new circuit.

The date fixed for this meeting was provisionally August 27th, but as this is only a week after the great Daily Express/B.R.D.C. Silverstone race and clashes with the V.S.C.C. Prescott Hill-Climb, another date may be obtained. With circuits at Silverstone, Goodwood, Lulsgate and Blandford, racing in this country is better served than it has been for many years.

The British Grand Prix
British race-goers will wish to offer that cheery Swiss driver, Baron Emanuel de Graffenried, warm congratulations on winning his first victory in a classic race in this country. After the remaining 4CLT Maseratis had experienced various troubles, his car ran on to a convincing unflurried victory in the R.A.C. British Grand Prix at 77.31 m.p.h., after two depot stops. And our own Bob Gerard, in his aged Jamieson-blown B/Ctype E.R.A., drove his usual calm, well-judged race to come in second, 1 min. 5.2 sec. behind, averaging 76.95 m.p.h., thus reversing the Jersey race placings — a fact that obviously amused this happy pair as they congratulated one another after the finish. It was pleasant, too, to see one of the non-supercharged 4 1/2-litre Lago-Talbots in third place, the Frenchman Louis Rosier at the wheel, thus effectively following up his feat of 1948 when his was the only non-supercharged car to come home. Gerard stopped only once, for fuel, but the other supercharged cars required two stops. The Talbots should have run non-stop, but Etancelin’s was refuelled as a precaution. In most cases, tyres lasted the full 300 miles.

Sympathy must be expressed to those who were injured when the Thinwall Ferrari left the road and to Ken Richardson who was driving it at the time. Under the circumstances no man could have done more than he did to avoid an accident. Such happenings are always unpalatable and no one is less callous about such things than the motor racing enthusiast. For all that, such disasters happen in practically every field of human endeavour and happily, in this instance, no one’s injuries seem to have been unduly serious. Which, however, does not one whit reduce the sympathy extended.