Veteran to classic: VSCC Silverstone

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Disappointment forgotten

The big attraction at the VSCC race meeting at Silverstone on April 25 was to have been Nick Mason’s MkII V16 BRM, racing for the first fime since Ron Flockhart competed in one of these fabulous cars at Castle Combe in 1955. Alas, Nick was in America. But Tony Merrick, who has so ably rebuilt the car, did some demonstration laps, and the sound of those 16 little “pots” firing properly all together rang out again, as it had at Donington in 1985 when Willie Green and Neil Corner demonstrated Tom Wheatcroft’s similar car.

The sun shone, large crowds watched the ten events, and after 36 years Silverstone had a tunnel and two bridges giving access to the Paddock during races (Brooklands, of course, had a bridge and two tunnels from its 1907 inception!), so any disappointments were soon forgotten.

After the customary High Speed Trial, which is so useful to beginners and included entries from girls in A7s to the Sixty Napier, racing proper began with the Fox & Nicholl Trophy Race, intended for the larger sportscars but now dominated by thinly-disguised racing cars. Thus there should have been two road-equipped Type 51 Bugattis, but Lord Raglan’s non-started with more back-axle problems. To its credit, Sparrowhawk’s 4.3 Alvis Special beat them all in a scratch contest with Heimann’s T51 Bugatti second and Drake’s very interesting 8CM Maserati third. Its very special chassis was made by Sefac before the war, and it used the 2.9-litre engine from a crashed car. The Alvis lapped fastest at 75.92 mph.

Lees’ 11/2-litre Riley Special then led a five-lap scratch race for three laps, after which Thompson’s Lagonda Rapier took over. MacPherson’s Riley 8/90 finished third, its bonnet crammed full of V8 power.

Drama came in the Itala & Lanchester Trophies Race, when Bob Roberts pulled out a fine lead in the Sunbeam “Tiger”, with a best lap at 79.41 mph, as Rain’s 35B Bugatti was held up on lap one after Cardy fell out of his 35B at Copse, and when Arnold Forster’s Bequet-Delage spun at Becketts.. Leatherclad Stuart Harper in the Aero Morgan was second up to nearly half-distance, when Bernard Kain passed him to win this race for the fourth time, after the Sunbeam had retired with transmission slip two laps from the finish.

Hines 3/41/2 Bentley was third, ahead of Threlfall’s McDowell dirt-track car. In spite of having to catch up, Kain’s best lap was 1.6 mph slower than that of the flying 4-litre V12 Sunbeam. Other non-finishers were Howell’s venerable blown 3-litre Sunbeam, emitting smoke clouds on the over-run, and Stewart, whose Bentley went straight on into a post at Woodcote. Bruce, in Wills’ T35 Bugatti, won the Lanchester Trophy at 65.77mph.

The first five-lap handicap was enlivened by the GB Star and 1908 Napier, 27th and 25th at the end. The winner was Seber’s effective Wolseley Hornet Special, from Sayers’ Riley Sprite Special, which recorded the fastest lap at 74.03 mph, and Black’s AM-Riley.

As the historic pre-war cars lined up for the Patrick Lindsay Scratch Race, we reflected that all Alfa Romeo monopostos are now P3s, but some are more P3 than others! Anthony Mayman in ERA R4D led all the way, to a comfortable victory from Ludovic Lindsay in ERA R5B. They were divided on laps 3 and 4 by Felton’s 3.2 Alfa Romeo, but its bonnet lifted, and anyway he had to retire when the water-pump drive sheared. This let Black’s P3 into third place after a hesitant start. Mayman won by 9.2 sec at 85.7 mph, and 18 sec separated Lindsay and Black. Felton, very impressive in practice, did fastest race lap at 88.51 mph, but Colbourne spun his 6CM Maserati while negotiating Woodcote.

Another five-lap handicap saw Toms’ 11/2-litre Riley Special win from Keelings’ MG TB, with Thompson’s Lagonda Rapier third, the latter two tying for best lap at 70.34 mph

The quickest cars then came out for the Allcomers’ Scratch Race. It was the Hon Amschel Rothschild’s day, for he won easily in a BRM P25 after Mayman in Halford’s Lotus 16 retired from the lead on lap 6. Felton had repaired his Alfa Romeo and finished second, 18.8 sec in arrears. Sir John Venables-Llewellyn in Mayman’s 250F Maserati held third place, some way behind the Alfa, until he stopped with low oil pressure two laps from the end. So third place went to J Harper, driving the ERA-Delage in place of the other BRM P25, and Lindsay was fourth, ahead of Mann’s ERA R9B. Rothschild had lapped at 92.03 mph and averaged 90.04 mph.

There was an “interesting” incident at Woodcote, when Gilles’ Treen-Riley charged into a bunch of slower cars and hit Duly’s P3 Alfa. This caused the Riley to tilt at some 45° and the Alfa to retire, but Gillies continued at unabated pace to finish 11th.

As a change from handicaps there followed another five-lap scratch race, which was won by the irrepressible Sparrowhawk’s big Alvis, from Spollon’s 21/2-litre Riley Special and the hard-trying Wolseley Hornet. The meeting (running rather late but who cared?) concluded with yet another “five-lap” handicap, in which the faster cars had to do six laps. Martin Morris’ younger son, Miles, came through very fast against this handicap in ERA R11B, but failed to catch the winner, MacPherson’s Riley. Ingham’s LG45 Lagonda was third, and young Morris lapped quickest, at 80.64 mph. WB

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