500 cc Postscript

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Now that D.S.J is writing letters to the Deputy Editor I will content myself with the occasional postscript, when M L ‘s articles tog the old memory. His piece on 500 cc F3 racing certainly did that, and his title “A Body Is Desirable” he can repeat any time he likes! It is very true that, originally, 500 cc racing was intended to provide for impecunious participation in the Sport but that it soon became professionalised, as always happens. When the enthusiastic Kenneth Neve thought up the Formula, even belt-drive was envisaged, if this would reduce costs…

It seems amusing now that the go-ahead VSCC provided a class after the war for the new form of miniature racing cars, for this sanctioned ‘Moderns” in its midst! It was John Bolster who predicted that very soon the new 500 cc cars would climb Shelsley Walsh in 44 sec. This was greeted with shouts of derision but in less than three years the Bolster prophecy had come true. As things developed, the desire to win, instead of just having fun, made the twin-cam, or “double knocker” Norton engine essential and it cost much money to buy a new motorcycle and scrap it in order to get the required power. As M L points out, special fuels ensured engine reliability — it was said of some competitors that it was difficult to decide where they consumed more alcohol, on the track or in the bar…

I saw 500 racing from the commencement, to the end, and Moss driving brilliantly along the years, until his accident at Goodwood Stirling was certainly the Master and I well recall how he would lap most of a field in those 500 cc races, waving to marshals, Press and friends as he did so. As M L says, little Don Parker was highly successful in 500 cc racing as in today’s F1 he was notably skilful at “shutting doors” on those trying to overtake him, which sometimes resulted in fierce scenes in the paddock afterwards. One recalls, too, that in the early days Lord Strathcarron, now the GMW’s President, was a keen 500 cc competitor, in Marwyn and Kieft cars.

I remember that inaugural race meeting at Brough. The organisers were very keen to get support and invited the Press, and when I said it was a long way logo they offered to fly me up. So I drove to Hanworth in my 1934 A7, which would now be called a Box saloon, and was taken up to Yorkshire in an Avro Anson. The weather was terrible but we were brought back in a DH Dragon Rapide biplane, packed to capacity and flown by a pilot who seemed to have spent most of the day in the bar at Brough with his friends. He kept up a conversation with them through the open door of the cockpit, flying in his shirt sleeves in the most nonchalant manner, and when we were over Hanworth, he put down the flaps and did a stomach-churning dive in, to land. The victorious Moss equipe had started after us, in the Anson, but had overtaken us, this aeroplane needing only 72 min for the journey. I then drove happily home to Hampshire, to discover that at about the time we were landing in the murk two other aeroplanes had collided, not far away. To put things in perspective, at the time the Brough lap record stood at 60.8 mph, on a dry track, and Moss (then aged 18) had, won his best race at 51.5 mph, with His Lordship second… Happy days! — W.B.