In his letter (May issue MOTOR SPORT) my old friend Anthony Brooke assumes rather more than I have written. Indeed Peter Berthon often rode with Raymond Mays at Southport, and at Shelsley Walsh, at Brooklands and at other venues, not only in the Vauxhall Villiers (now in Anthony Brooke’s good hands), but in other cars raced by Mays.
In my letter I only wrote thus — “I well remember Raymond Mays refusing Peter Berthon’s entreaties to ride with him at Southport as he considered that the left-hand seat was far too dangerous”. This was after May Cunliffe’s accident. That conversation between Mays and Berthon took place during a practice session, I think, and in fact it might have taken place at Skegness. The car in question was probably the Invicta and I remember that Peter wanted to ride with Ray at a practice session at Shelsley Walsh in that car and got as far as the start line before Leslie Wilson turfed him off, as by that time riding mechanics were not allow, at Shelsley.
Thinking back to those days when riding mechanics were allowed it was strange, by today’s standards, that mechanics were so often carried. Raymond Mays driving the Vauxhall Villiers, later Villiers-Supercharge, carried Peter Berthon, despite the extra weight and wind resistance penalty. I do know that in practice Peter learned some things to advantage, but in the events themselves, when every fraction of a second counted, I cannot remember that Peter Berthon had anything to do other than cling on! In those great days motor racing was a sport to be enjoyed and that was paramount even at the top of the scale. Peter Berthon was utterly fearless, not only in the passenger seat but at the wheel too, where he had some monumental shunts and even more near misses. I am afraid we will never get back to those happy days of riding mechanics, not even in vintage cars. The present attitude is exemplified by the new regulations with regard to compulsory seat belts, and the restrictions on photographers at racing events.
Whose life is it anyway?
A. F. Rivers Fletcher