VSCC Silverstone

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The first VSCC race meeting of the season attracted the expected full grandstands and was run in cold but dry weather until the final race. It will be remembered as “Romulus Day”, for the excellent reason that Narisa Chakrabongse, daughter of the late Prince Chula, had extracted that “Bira” ERA from the NMM and had let Bill Morris resuscitate it, so that he could be the first driver, other than Prince Bira, to race it, on the car’s first racing appearance since 1946. The reappearance in racing of this famous car was marked by a “White Mouse” exhibition of Chula/Bira mementoes in a big tent in the Paddock, arranged by the present members of the family in aid of Cancer Research for which £120 was raised. It was an absolutely splendid show of magnificent silver trophies, pictures, pit-equipment, plaques, flags, prizes, a model ERA, etc., appertaining to the past successes of the Bira/Chula “White Mouse” stable. I hope it can be done again—perhaps at the Brooklands Re-Union? Shura Rahm, former Chula Racing Manager, accompanied “Romulus” to the start and was only with difficulty prevented from donning overalls, in case it needed working on in the pits!

Outside the tent the three ex-Bira ERAs, “Romulus”, “Hanuman II” and “Remus”, stood side-by-side. They had been joined by a certain red ERA, with a hole in one of its pistons, attracted to them as if by a magnet. Bill Morris had worked late to get “Romulus” going and had it mostly in 7th place in the Allcomers’ Race, opposed by four pre-war cars and a 2-litre ERA, until it began to go off-song, after 13 of the 15 laps. Any disappointment that Miss Chakrabongse felt was compensated for by Ben Morris, driving in his first race, who led a handicap in “Hanuman II” until just before the finish, when the much more experienced Frank Lockhart got past in the very quick 1946 3-litre Rover—a pointer, maybe, that we shall all soon be wanting to drive Rovers. The meeting should have been marked by several “new” cars but most of them nonstarted. However, de Cadanet’s 2.9 mono posto Alfa Romeo, imported from the Argentine and not raced since 1936, was the centre of attention, especially when it spun at Woodcote, and Benfield circulated slowly in his absolutely immaculate and meticulously-rebuilt 1924 200-Mile Race Alvis.

The customary High-Speed Trial, lasting 40 minutes and in which 15 qualified, had such diverse runners as Harley’s blue R-litre H6C Hispano-Suiza with replica “ZborowskiMonza” body, and Elder’s 1925 Trojan (After watching the latter rolling round Woodcote, I realised I had seen about everything in VSCC racing! Although too-pedestrian to hold the required road average in the “Land’s End”, I am told it is able to lap Silverstone in three minutes.) Neither qualified . . .

The All-Comers’ Scratch Race was a walkover for Simon Phillips in his Cooper-Bristol, who drew well away from Cottam’s Connaught with Cameron Millar holding third place in his blue Maserati 250F after passing Martin Morris’ ERA on lap seven. Morley had the Bentley-Napier out again but was understandably careful after his last year’s accident and was also not used to the Dunlop tyres that have had to replace the worn Indianapolis Firestones on the monster’s rear wheels.

The 10-lap Itala and Napier Trophies Race was another walk-over, the Club’s President, Bernard Kain, leading all the way, in his Type 35B Bugatti. Moffatt gradually closed up on him, in Wall’s single-seater 35B, but was never a danger. The latter Bugatti had got a bit of gear-tooth mixed up in its selectors earlier on, which may have been preying on Moffatt’s mind. Freddie Giles lasted only four laps in the Cognac, leaving a poor third place to McWhir’s AC-Frazer Nash. An uninspiring race, saved by the sight of Clutton’s 1908 GP Itala, after which the meeting is named, running well in its 68th year, driven by Sam, who has been conducting it for 40-odd years. It was beaten to the Edwardian Trophy by Liddell’s ten-years-younger Straker-Squire, and was followed by the 1914 TT Humber.

Fleming’s Riley won the first handicap from the Appleton, which seemed to have had enough but started ahead of Cook’s Riley. In the following 5-lap Scratch Race, Threlfall’s prototype Lancia Astura just pipped Whale’s ex-Derek Dent Meadows Frazer Nash to the post, with Clinkard’s Alvis third, its engine helped by one of 12 special camshafts made for the 12/70. Conway, Junr., watched by an impeturbable Conway, Senr., easily took the lead in the next Handicap, his road-equipped Type 37A Bugatti now having a Reece camshaft which has restored the correct valve timing. He was followed over the line by Mrs. Nickalls’ Lagonda Rapier with odd 3-seater coachwork and Austin’s Austin 7. To keep the Trojan in its place, an Austin 12 tourer circulated quite quickly in this one.

The entry, smaller than last year’s by a mere ten cars, was accommodated in another two Handicaps and a final Scratch contest. In a most exciting finish Roberts’ 328 BMW just won the first of these from Fleming’s Riley, Barbet’s Riley well up in third place —but the VSCC no longer tells us the racetimes. Faster stuff contested the next race, in which newcomer Ben Morris did so well until Lockhart caught the ERA, the evergreen Rover lapping at nearly 84 m.p.h.—and if the “Driver of the Meeting” Award went to Bill and Ben, the Rover had already received the accolade of “Dish of the Day”. Wall’s Bugatti was nor on form, and the Appleton was among the retirements. A little rain made the track slippery for the last race and was the undoing of Dunham’s ex-Brooklands Alvis, which held a slender lead but lost it after a snaky time at Woodcote, repeated on a subsequent lap. So it was Cook’s abbreviated Riley Special that took the flag, with Fleming second, Manson third; 14-litre Riley Specials 1, 2, 3, no doubt to the delight of any Riley Register members who had braved the cold wind to stay and watch.—W.B.

Items: Barry Clarke’s GN was hors de combat with a busted Ford block. Mann’s 3-litre Bentley qualified in the High-Speed Trial and Hall raced his immaculate 3-litre. Ward still believes in low-hung Chummy Austins, using 5.00 x 15 rear boots. Quartermain’s E/OE 30/98 was out again. The meeting ran to time and will be repeated on July 24th.

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