The VSCC at Donington

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Bill Morris wins the Nuffield and Shuttleworth Trophies

The Vintage SCC having held the very last meeting at Donington Park before the war, it had to wait until this year to return there. It was a day of great expectations, with the Nuffield Trophy Race — a pre-war Donington ERA preserve from 1934 to 1939, and England’s first long-distance road race — the main feature of a very full programme. In the event too many non-starters, a poor attendance, and from our viewpoint the impossibility of seeing anything of the cornering, or of the pits, from the Pressbox, with the cars far away in the enormous, clinical Paddock, caused a preference for other venues. However, the weather was delightful and there was but one accident, when David Llewellyn proved so keen for his 4½-litre Bentley to resume racing after it had gone off at Park corner that it rammed the luckless 4½-litre Bentley tourer of A. S. Judd. The cars were damaged but the drivers were not.

The VSCC had done its best to increase the nostalgia of the occasion by inviting pre-war personalities to attend. We heard that Bob and Joan Gerard did so. Clive Windsor-Richards drove a parade lap in John Rowley’s 30/98 Vauxhall Wensum, Anthony Heal was using his 3-litre Sunbeam as a course-car, with K. C. Radbum, who used to race a Salmson, with him (and later the Princess had a ride). G. Fenn-Wiggin was able to ride in the 1924 200 Mile Race Alvis he once owned, and Clarke was riding in St. John’s GP Bugatti. Cecil Clutton was present, but, alas, the 1908 GP Itala’s back axle had decided to lock up after practice. D. B. Tubbs was doing part of the commentary — I went to Donington with him before the war, in his blown M-type MG Midget — and Princess Charlotte Hohenloe-Langenburg, who had presented the Shuttleworth Trophy, to commemorate Richard Shuttleworth winning the first Donington GP in 1935 in his Alfa Romeo, was watching the racing.

This opened with a 4-lap scratch race, won by Kerr’s Le Mans Aston Martin, which was chased by Warne’s K-type MG, with Hutchings’ Ulster Austin way behind. Seber’s alloy-bonneted Wolseley Hornet was fourth. Another interesting runner was Dawson’s Vernon-Crossley, which finished the race with its Brooklands’ “can” trailing on the ground.

The 8-lap scratch contest for the John Holland and Tim Birkin Trophies was a runaway victory for Ron Footitt’s Cognac Special, although on the final lap Tim Llewellyn’s 8.3-litre Bentley was just about in sight of the much smaller car, and being in the first Bentley to finish, he took the Bentley DC’s Birkin Trophy. Footitt averaged 68.54 m.p.h. and was actually lapping quicker than the “heavy-metal”, at 70.75 m.p.h. Farquhar’s Riley 9 won its category. The Bentley-Napier obviously couldn’t cope with Donnington’s many corners, coming home fifth, behind Ian Stirling in the Norris Special and the Ghosh’s Vauxhall Rowley Racing special. It was in this race that the shunt occurred. A four-lap handicap followed, won by Smith’s blown J2 MG from Quartermaine’s venerable 30/98 Vauxhall, by perhaps ten lengths, with Barker’s replica V12 Le Mans Lagonda, which made fastest lap at 65.73 m.p.h., third. This led to the big race for pre-war racing cars, the Nuffield and Shuttleworth Trophies contest, over 12 laps of the 1.95-mile circuit, from scratch. As if to confirm tradition, three ERAs were on the front row of the grid — Bill Morris’, the Hon. Patrick Lindsay’s, and Peter Mann’s. Lindsay started well and led for the first two laps, but he then waved Morris by, as the magneto of “Remus” was once again playing up. That gave Bill in the blue ERA “Hanuman” an absolute walk-over (he was saving “Romulus” for Monaco). He won at 73.85 m.p.h., winning both the Trophies. “Hanurnan” had won the real Nuffield Trophy race in 1938. Lindsay had set fastest lap of the race at 76.92 m.p.h. before he retired, a new record for pre-war cars. With Marsh’s ERA third, Black’s 8CM Maserati and Majzub’s Appleton Special had been in the picture, Margulies’ 4CL Maserati passing the Appleton on lap six but retiring a lap before the end. Mann had spun on lap two but then came through the field impressively, to clinch a poor second place, from Marsh whose plugs were suspect, with the Appleton coasting over the line in fourth position.

That excitement over, we saw Dalton’s PB MG Special win a four-lap handicap, from Cookman’s 1½-litre Riley Special and Askey’s “limit” Alfa Romeo. David Roscoe’s scratch 4.3-litre Alvis Special lapped fastest in this one, at 68.28 m.p.h. Tony Jones retired, after a fine start, in the Frazer Nash “Patience” and Simon Phillips was a non-starter in deference to the red oil-warning light showing on his 328 BMW. Firth’s LG45 Lagonda also retired.

This brought us to the 12-lap race tor Historic Racing Cars. The 1959 P25 BRM had been brought out of the Donington Collection for Neil Corner to conduct. Tom Wheatcroft, as enthusiastic as ever, came to see it win. So it was a shock when Vic Norman rocketed away from the front row of the grid in his ex-Fangio Lightweight Maserati 250F, leaving Chapman in the Monza Lister Jaguar a poor second and Corner as yet scarcely in the running. It passed Norman on lap two, and as the Maserati dropped back, Corner took second place. These three naturally ran right away from Lindsay who had secured some sparks for “Remus” and had the pre-war ERA in a masterly fourth place. It took Corner until the seventh lap to get into the lead, after which he drew right away, winning at 81.53 m.p.h. and lapping at 85.00 m.p.h. on his best circuit. Richard Pilkington was going very well indeed, as he usually does, in the Talbot Lago, closing right up on Lindsay on lap nine and taking him on lap 11, only for the determined Patrick to re-adjust the matter on the last lap, in a frightfully close finish. So they ran home — 1959 2½-litre BRM, 1957 3.8-litre Lister, 1957 2½-litre Maserati, 1936 1½-litre supercharged ERA and 1950 4.4-litre Talbot Lago, etc.

After which Nev Farquhar’s ex-Dixon Riley 9 ran away with the 8-lap Class Handicap race for the Geoghegan Trophy, from Horton’s road-equipped Type 43 Bugatti, after Elwell-Smith’s Aston Martin had fallen back. It was nice to see Dutton’s water-cooled Aero Morgan three-wheeler running well in this and other races, although the VSCC had hoped for hotter cars from the three-wheeler fraternity. The 4-lap scratch race for the Flying Lady Trophy presented by Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd., who were hosting the Meeting, was a runaway win for Dolton’s successful MG, from Hine’s big LG45 Lagonda replica and Fairley’s TT replica Frazer Nash. Howell’s Special then upheld “chain-gang” honour by winning a handicap from scratch (Freddie Giles’ GN “Salome” was non-competing, with bevel-box maladies), from Walton in the A-type Connaught racer, third place being a “photo-finish” affair for the Talbot Lago, this time from the “limit” mark, from Felton’s 2.6-litre supercharged Alfa Romeo. The last handicap was rather fun, with Cooper running a smart standard Austin 7 Chummy, windscreen erect, which his wife used as her shopping car, as it was quicker than his Sima-Violet cyclecar, and Orttewell keeping the top up on his 1930 twin-cam Alfa Romeo coupé, as this apparently makes it go more quickly. To no avail, as Johnson’s Colmore Frazer Nash carried it off, Hutchings’ Ulster Austin 7 being second and Black’s nice 1922 Bentley third. Nigel Arnold-Forster had had to wait until now to unleash his amazing 1912 chain-drive 5-litre Bugatti. Although tending to starve itself on r.h. corners, it went splendidly, but a fastest lap of 59.71 m.p.h. was not quick enough for a place. After which we drove away in the restful Rover 3500, thinking what a thrill it had been pre-war (those Donington Grands Prix, won by the Auto-Unions!) and wondering whether the VSCC will hold this pleasant social interlude again, next year. — W.B.

Results:

John Holland Vintage Scratch Race:

1st: G. R. Footitt (Cognac Special), 68.54 m.p.h.

2nd: T. C. Llewellyn (Bentley) Birkin Trophy.

3rd: A. I. Stirling (Norris Special).

Shuttleworth & Nuffield Trophies Pre-War Scratch:

1st: W. R. G. Morris (ERA), 73.85 m.p.h.

2nd: P. A. Mann (ERA).

3rd: C. P. Marsh (ERA),

Historic Racing Cars’ Scratch Race:

1st: E. N. Corner (BRM), 81.53 m.p.h,

2nd: M. C. Chapman (Monza Lister Jaguar)

3rd: V. Norman (Maserati)

Class Handicap: A. N. Farquhar (Riley), 62,25 m.p.h.

Flying Lady Trophy Scratch Race: A. D. Dolton (MG) 64.68 4-tap

Scratch Race: J. G. B. Kerr (Aston Martin), 56.11 m.p.h.

First 4-lap Handicap: P. Smith (MG), 61.03 m.p.h.

Second 4-lap Handicap: A. D. Dolton (MG), 62.96 m.p.h.

Third 4-lap Handicap: A. I. Stirling (Norris Special), 65.31 m p.h

Fourth 4-lap Handicap: D. Johnson (Frazer Nash), 56.06 m.p.h.

Fastest lap of the day: E. N. Corner (BRM), 85.00 m.p.h.

Leading Positions to date in the 1979 MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy: D. R. Hine (Lagonda) 44 points; Bill Morris (ERA) 16 points; I. Stirling (Norris Special), and B. Summerfield (Avon-Bentley), 26 points each; R. J. Hutchings (Austin). 22 Points. Next round: Oulton Park, June 16th.

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