— Lindsay in fine form. Vanwall burns
The VSCC racing scene moved to the excellent Donington Park circuit on April 28th for some interesting racing which just escaped the rain. As an extra treat for the spectators Tom Wheatcroft, owner of the circuit and adjacent collection of Single Seater Racing Cars, allowed his Mk2 V16 BRM out of captivity for some earshattering laps in the hands, first, of Willie Green, then of Neil Corner, while Tom kept a critical check on how they were using the power through the corners to compare with his own driving of this exciting car.
First race was the Brooklands Society Trophy Handicap, won easily by Fountain’s Riley 9-powered Bugatti Special which is said to have either made a Brooklands appearance or been intended to, as an ex Victor Gillow 1930 creation. Willie Green in the Heelis Riley 9 of the same age came in second, in a close finish with third-place Sparrowhawk in the 4.3 Alvis, who lapped fastest, at 70.73 mph. Next came the 10-lap John Holland Trophy scratch race, in which Tim Llewellyn led from start to finish in his 8-litre Bentley Special, lapping his wife in the 41/2-litre Bentley on the way, and pulling out more of a lead over Dick Smith’s Frazer Nash, with another large gap between him and the third car home, Morley’s Bentley-Napier, which took this position after Freddie Giles’ GN/AC had expired at half distance. Harper gave Schellenberg’s 3/41/2 Bentley a good run until the three-wheeler Morgan’s flywheel centre came adrift on lap eight — “It felt very funny around my feet”, said the intrepid leather-clad driver. Tim had lapped at 73.08 mph and took the Birkin ‘Trophy, the expected David and Goliath dual between him and Footitt in the AC/GN, however, failing to develop, as Ron made a pit-stop to replace a plug lead, after which he did best lap, at 74.53 mph. Howell should have had his venerable blown twin-cam Sunbeam out again but a repaired crack in the block had opened up again. Threlfall’s Ford was fifth, behind Shellenberg.
Then we had a four five lap handicap, won by Walter’s A7, from Wortley’s Morris Oxford Special and Baddiley’s Speed-20 Alvis, Dolton’s MG Magnette just failing to catch the place men, but lapping quickest, at 65.78 mph, equalled by Weeks’ Bentley. Speed increased with the Shuttleworth and Nuffield Trophies Scratch Race, in which the Hon Patrick Lindsay was at his 10,10ths best, keeping the ERA “Remus” well ahead of David Black’s P3 Alfa Romeo which is usually invincible but could do nothing about R5B over this course. Lindsay won by 4.7 sec and made fastest lap, at 80.88 mph. Martin Morris was third in ERA R11B, 0.3 sec behind Black in an exciting finish and Willie Green took fourth place and the Nuffield Trophy for the first 11/2-litre car, in Mann’s ERA R9B, although slowing towards the end. In a spot of his own, Colbourne continued his good form in the hybrid Maserati, finishing fifth. Behind, a separate race was run with Spollon (ERA R8C ) holding off Sir John Venables Llewelyn in Lord Raglan’s T51 Bugatti after Mason had dropped back in ERA R10B. Notably, there were no non-starters but Day’s ERA developed gearbox problems and Sweet’s KN MG Magnetic with twin cam Parnell had blower -drive troubles.
After Tim Llewellyn had walked off with the 10-lap Vintage Sports Car Handicap in the big Bentley, with AG Smith second and Geoghegan Trophy winner in the hard driven Super Sports Frazer Nash and Willie Green continuing his busy day with third place in the Heelis Riley 9, the 10-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race enlivened the April afternoon. Mayman drove Hallord’s Lotus instead of his Ferrari/Maserati entry, and Corner and the Hon A Rothschild BRM P25s. Alas, on the first lap the Vanwall caught fire and the race was stopped. Tony Merrick having jumped from it, breaking a wrist and suffering facial burns, although he was able to go home later. The car was happily not badly damaged. (Before the race I was told brusquely that this is not a replica of VW II and that I was the only writer to say so; in spite of what the GKN hand-out and the views of a Vanwall authority had told me — apparently it is a VW5 replica, which shows what confusion such cars can cause, splendid though it is to have a Vanwall in VSCC racing. . .
Before the black flags went out, Corner had led from Lindsay and when the race was restarted Neil drove faultlessly, to win by 17 sec from the flying Lindsay, who had the ERA home long before the Maserati 250Fs of Mason and Chris Mann finished. Martin Morris was in Charles’ C-type Connaught and took Norman’s Mk2 T23 Cooper Bristol on lap seven and Walton in the other Connaught, Walton having worked his way past the duelling Wilson in the ex-Grist 12 plug Talbot-Lago and Heimann in the T51 Bugatti. The Lotus-16 did not reappear, rumour saying its tyres were unsuited to the now wet track.
The Riley Handicap saw an enormous field, with the only non Riley car or “ace-in the-pack” being Hancock’s Fiat Balilla — and only the previous day I had been reading Sammy Davis in 1930, when he was bemoaning the very poor field they had had at Brooklands in a special Riley race! The Donington race was for the HG Dobbs Trophy and Davie drove a 1,725 cc Dobbs’ Riley that had earlier shed a push-rod. But it was Watney’s Brooklands-model Nine that won, with a close second by Ricketts in his 12/4 Special from Dunn’s Falcon Special. The John Goddard Trophy Handicap was won by Toone’s blown 1750 Alfa Romeo with screen flat on its thought-to-be James Young body, very comfortably from Forster’s Montlhery MG Midget and the 61/2 Bentley-Royce. The Hon Victoria Watson’s hope of driving de Cadenet’s monoposto Alfa Romeo had evaporated with its bearings. The final Handicap went to Morton’s neat Morgan 4/4, with Bailey’s AC Ace next home and Burrows’ Alvis Speed-25 Special third. — WB.