Fine if cold weather, a large attendance and an entry of 232 cars on April 23 made the first Vintage Sports Car Club race meeting of 1988 a memorable one.
Two intended attractions at Silverstone were the Bugatti Royale and “Babs”, the 27-litre aero-engined Parry Thomas car due to race for the first time since 1926 when it lapped Brooklands at 125.77 mph. However, “Babs” suffered a con-rod failure on its warm-up lap, and the Royale did only a slow lap or two before refusing to restart and leaving in a van. Someone was heard to suggest that the VCSS must be a very wealthy club to have a £5½–million course-car!
The ten-lap scratch race for the Itala Trophy saw Ivan Dutton invincible in a borrowed red Bugatti, essentially a brand-new Butti T35B, Bob Roberts, did his best in the Midland Motor Museum’s V12 4-litre Sunbeam, lapping rather faster than Dutton, but to no avail; the Bugatti won by 11.7 seconds after a best lap of 82.46 mph. Kain’s 1929 T35B was third, followed by the similar cars of Horton and Cardy.
Stu Harper’s incredible Morgan three-wheeler found a way round Schellenbert’s big Barnato Hassan (watched by Wally Hasssan), which Keith did well to keep in seventh place. Tim Llewellyn and Harvey Hine, meanwhile, battled it out in their Bentleys (Tim’s now with a 5.3 litre cylinder-block, which might be why it prevailed over the 3/½). Since the 1914 GP Opel was not ready, Valentine Lindsay ran the Rolls-Royce PII tourer to get points on his novice license; it went well, lapping fractionally quicker than the 1904GB Star, at 51.27 mph.
Another unchallenged winner, this time in the Patrick Lindsay ten-lap scratch race, was Anthony Mayman in ERA R4D, which has lost 100 lb during the winter and lapped Duly’s Alfa Romeo before half-distance. Lapping 90.03 mps, Mayman took the flag 5.1 seconds ahead of Bill Morris in ERA R12B, which is also rumoured to be lighter this season.
Ludovic Lindsay was third in R5B, with Classic and Ricketts next home, making this an ERA occasion. In contrast, Peter Morley and the 24-litre Napier-Bentley were caught for thirteenth place by Elmgren’s 6CM Maserati, but reversed the decision on the last lap by a mere 0.7 seconds.
Those who came for sheet speed had their fill of it in the Allcomers’ race, also over ten laps from scratch. It had been feared that clutch-actuating problems might cause Neil Corner’s 1960 Ferrari to start fro the back of the grid, but this proved not to be necessary – driving a model race in the marvellous sounding 3-litre Dino, he won by 15.5 seconds from Mayman’s Lotus 16.
Last year’s winner, the Hon A Rothschild, finished third in the P25 BRM, but pre-war cars were not to be denied, with Morris and Lindsay next up in front of Duffy’s B-Type Connaught and MacPherson’s Cooper-Bristol. Grant Peterkin must have been gratified to come in eighth in his previously troublesome Formula Two Alpha.
The remaining ten-lap scratch event was the Fox & Nicholl race for the bitter spots cars, although some of the entries if disguised as such would have been given a quizzical look by dear old Arthur Fox! Here we saw yet another easy victory, Spollon’s Alfa Romeo Monza replica (once a drophead coupe, we are told) winning at 78.65 mps. Pilkington’s Talbot Lago, which had had its carburettor gaskets replaced beforehand, lapped even faster in second place, while Sparrowhawk’s 4.3 Alvis was third.
There was one other scratch race, this time over just five laps, which was won by a blown Riley Sprite, from the ex-Brooklands Dunham Alvis and Fletcher-Jones’ blown Lagonda rapier. Unfortunately, Seber crashed badly in his Wolseley Hornet.
The day had opened with the customary high-speed trial which is such a good beginner’s event; Goodman Jnr was making his first appearance in dad’s Riley, for instance, while Ann Shoosmith’s more experienced son took the wheel of her Bentley with the original HM-Bentley slab-tank body.
It was nice to see Tom Delaney racing his ex-Brooklands Hyper Lea-Francis (the one with the huge No 11 Cozette supercharger) and Nigel Corner run home fourth in the F&N race in the Ronnie Symondson Corsica-bodied T57S Bugatti which took part in the 1936 TT. Dr Bscher drove the genuine ex-Tongue Maserati 4CL, and Gillies the Riley which H L Brooke ran (with no body) just after the war; its present bulbous body was put on by George Nixon.
This time the Bentley-Royce was in trouble, but Burrell is threatening to build another – with a blown PIII engine. WB