A section devoted to old-car matters
The VSCC Silverstone Meeting (April 24th)
The opening VSCC race meeting of the year was held on a wet track, and heavy rain for practice and most of the races brought hazards, causing an accident to Cherrett, who was driving the ERA Hanuman II, which damaged it extensively, and Boyce to prang Archdale’s Frazer Nash on race morning, so that he went to hospital with a strained back; the inadvertently manxed non-vintage body of this automobile was then seen to consist of glassious fibres.
The cold weather was troubling Edmondson’s beautifully rebuilt ex-Bellevue MG Midget, which wouldn’t run properly on the considerable methanol fuel content specified by Wilky Wilkinson, and Waller was being towed about the Paddock in the immaculate monoposto Alfa Romeo, which had damp in its engine—he was wearing a splendidly period linen helmet; what a pity crash-hats are compulsory, in this welfare age when heads are considered more important than when the Alfa was new!
After the winter it is interesting to see whether any “fresh” old cars appear. The Hon. Patrick Lindsay was present but his Multi-Union wasn’t, but Corner had his ex-Mays’ 1936 2-litre ERA R4D out for the first time, a bit twitchy in the wet, and Moffatt his 1934 ERA, rebuilt to commendably original specification since being brought back from S. Africa some six years ago.
The Vauxhall Villiers and Schellenberg’s Barnato-Hassan were again non-starters, but the Brooklands atmosphere was enhanced by the presence of F. P. Morley’s slim and sketchy Pacey Hassan and Russ-Turner’s ex-Birkin blower 4 1/2 Bentley, the latter now with the crimson single-seater body and larger wheels back in place, which removes any past criticisms we have made of the car which, as it was afterwards fitted with mudguards and presumably driven home, is a most commendable and courageous effort on Rusty’s part, the long red car reminding me of seeing it lift the Brooklands’ lap record to over 137 m.p.h.
Morley also had the battery-started 24-litre Sunbeam-Napier out again, and actually got into top gear on the rain-soaked track. The back axle casing has been strengthened and a 3-to-1 ratio is now used, in conjunction with a step-up gear behind the pre-selector gearbox. The car starts in a series of hops, being difficult to coax off the grid, but the mis-firing sounds are simply pop-backs from the 24-stub exhausts, and it is most impressive in action.
Another splendid sight was that of three blue Lago-Talbots, all able to last a 15-lap race. In the past these cars have made desultory appearances. But here were a trio of them going well, Pilkington’s 1948/51 car staying ahead of the other two without apparent effort, although it was somewhat unadhesive approaching Woodcote corner. The beautifully turned-out 1949 ex-Chiron car of the Hon. Alan Clark was driven with great spirit by F.1 driver Mike Beuttler, who took Woodcote with much arm-play, pressing past several other cars on the inside approach on one occasion. Bob Roberts’ 1951 version, once driven by Etancelin, Rosier and Fangio, was considerably slower in the hands of Bill Morris. It may be a matter of final-drive ratios. Another newcomer which went remarkably well was Renwick’s 1950 1 1/2-litre Gordini, which finished with its engine as clean as when it started.
Peter Moore’s daughter Allison drove sensibly, increasing her speed each lap, in her father’s blown Ulster Austin, but carried a severe handicap, and one of those fun cars which jolly up VSCC races was Whittaker’s wooden-wheeled 1928 Chrysler, now sporting twin horizontal SUs with ram pipes, mingled with two three-branch exhaust manifolds. Doug Bianchi’s son raced a 1931 Alvis Silver Eagle single-seater evolved from a saloon. Cameron Miller made one of his rare appearances, but his 1922 GP Sunbeam was soon eliminated through dirt in the fuel, presumably from its ancient fuel tank.
As this meeting took place in April a brief report will suffice. It opened with the traditional One Hour High-Speed Trial with two compulsory pit-stops (plug and wheel-changes), in which, the rain taking its toll of unadjusted qualifying times, only Tyrrell (Frazer Nash), Mrs. Hill (who later raced Joseland’s Frazer Nash) in her AJS, and Meeks, Griffiths, Hamilton Gould, Raeburn and Gledhill (Austin 7s) qualified, and from which Ulph’s blown Austin 7 and Kirby’s Austin 7 retired.
In the first live-lap handicap jolly Jack Marsh again took the mickey out of the VSCC by taking the lead on lap two, in his terrible-looking 1936 Alvis Special, to win in a canter, chased by Carmichael’s l.h.d. 1939 328 BMW, who then strapped on his luggage, put up the hood, and ran for home. Rogers’ AC Special was third. The next five-lapper, in which Mumby spun his white Austin at Woodcote and Collis had moments at Becketts in his Speed 20 Alvis, was an easy win for Hingley’s 1925 aluminium-bodied Anzani Frazer Nash, from Golder’s 1936 1 1/2-litre Falcon-based Riley Special and Bianchi’s Alvis Special.
The first of two 15-lap All-Comer’s Scratch Races, this one for pre-war cars, saw Corner the master in his new ERA, although he was challenged gamely by Martin Morris in his 2-litre ERA, who took Corner on the inside going into Woodcote on lap three. Thereafter Corner drew away, the two ERAs right ahead of the field by two-thirds distance, Hine third in Llewellyn’s smart blue 3/8-litre Bentley two-seater, staving off Venables-Llewellyn, whose ERA now goes very well. Morris lapped faster than Corner, at 77.6 m.p.h., and was only 0.8 sec. behind at the finish.
The GP Itala Trophy Race for vintage racing cars was ten laps packed with drama! The irrepressible Llewellyn led all the way in that stupendous 1925/9 Bentley. Moffatt in Wall’s well-known, alloy-wheeled single-seater Bugatti, was close on the tail of St. John’s GP Bugatti, and when the latter’s water-pump drive sheared on lap three Moffatt drove furiously in pursuit of the Bentley. Llewellyn cornered close in at Woodcote, nearly ramming the Chawner-GN on lap eight, the Bugatti on his tail. Then, on the lost lap, Moffatt overcooked things, sliding into the Woodcote ditch and ending up nose-on to the bank, whereupon he sprang out, hand-cranked the engine into revival, and was pushed onto the track, contriving to occupy third place, although so much time had been lost that Rippon’s yellow Bugatti had gone by.
The RAC Steward, Col. Rixon-Bucknall decided, rightly we think, that as Moffatt had only been pushed backwards, he would not be disqualified. He made best laps, at 75.18 m.p.h. Evans went nicely in the Chawner-GN, taking Woodcote with his left hand while keeping the dogs in their kennels with his right hand.
The mixed All-Comers’ saw Corner’s 1959 GP Aston Martin the unchallenged victor, with Wilks’ Lotus 16 a deserving second, after a skillfully-held 90 deg. slide going into Woodcote on lap ten. Lord Clydesdale in the Maserati 250F worked up to third place by lap seven, by passing Morris’ ERA, the best pre-war finisher. Corner lapped fastest, at 84.63 m.p.h. There were then three more five-lap handicaps. In the first of these, Peterkin in Lord Doune’s beautiful 1930 2 1/2-litre straight-eight Maserati, won on the last lap, in spite of some front axle tramp, from Russell’s ex-Burville Riley TT Sprite replica, and Alexander’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda. Binns then upheld blue-diamond honour by running right away with the next race in his 1929 Riley 9 Special, with Morten’s 1928 4 1/2-litre Bentley next up, and St. John, who had borrowed Kain’s water pump, third, ahead of Wall. In the final event, rain again lashing down, Gunn’s MG got ahead of Johnstone’s Hyper Lea-Francis on the last lap, and Dr. Andrews in his 1928 Brooklands-model Riley 9 finished third, just ahead of Waine’s 1934 Riley 9 Special.—W. B.