Fine at Colerne

It was fine for this year’s VSCC Colerne speed-trials on April 20, whereas last year the rain was so heavy and continual that it is still remembered. A wet course ruins a sprint event, with fresh records impossible and no chance of seeing whether previous individual times can be improved upon. Fortunately, this time rain confined itself to a shower in the late afternoon, so all went well at what is a major VSCC fixture, its only straight sprint since Weston Super Mare went out of bounds (Curborough has curves).

The Colerne aerodrome course is ideal for competitors, with its wide runway permitting running in pairs, with ‘in your own time’ starts. Spectators fare less well, as they are not permitted to line the runway, so see the action only from the rear, as it were (this applies even to Press photographs, which is why our pictures are paddock shots). The cars are timed over 1/4-mile and km. The paddock (actually a taxi-track, with unlimited space) is a hive of interest and as the cars come up for their runs in any order, the start line-up gains in variety. In fact, there were 11 classes, for cars up to pre-1960, and four main awards with emphasis on the Colerne Trophy for vintage runners. If you know a VSCC member you get in free and spectator attendance is quite astonishing and produces some interesting cars — this year a Hands light-car, an early 2-litre Lagonda saloon, a rear-engined Tatra and a Riley 9 with van body among them. The prop-driven Leyat was motoring about well and deserves to be demonstrated at an event where more spectators can see it.

It was notable that many of the faster cars were absent this time (no ERAs) and that sports car entries outnumbered the racing cars by 78 to 46. The only member of the Walker family competing was Mrs Sophie Walker with the rapid Frazer Nash Special. The post-war historic racing car class included some 500cc entries, rather optimistically against 2-litre Cooper-Bristols. But it was nice to see the Djinn out again, twin silencers poking out behind. The 1000cc racing class was dominated by seven home-brewed A7s some with aluminium bodies based roughly on the Ulster but Diffey’s had a “Manx” tail. The challenging All t’Cok failed to start. Tew’s Wolseley Hornet four-seater had its screen removed, the 1918 Stutz ran screen-up. The Burrell s/c R-R V12-engined Bentleys ran together, the Hotchkiss/Citroen Chevron Lasange single seater now has a fine Brooklands-type tail, Day’s Shelsley single-seater Frazer Nash stood out, and Coombes’s bright yellow D-type Jaguar even more so. Author Nic Portway and Miss Lemon drove smart 30-98s, Whitehead sat over the Japes’s back-axle, Mrs Wigg’s MG could have won a beauty prize, Rogen’s Frazer Nash wore number “1” and a tonneau-cover over the passenger’s seat aided streamlining on Miss Clarkson’s ‘Nash. On practice form Paul Jaye’s 2-litre GP Alta looked a good contender for FTD.

As to the action, there wasn’t any for Allison’s MG, which broke its back-axle. Moore stalled his MG’s engine, Satchell’s Kieft 500 was very difficult to start — after being towed up and down the Paddock it almost stopped in a few yards but recovered to continue but with valuable time lost — but all of course, had two timed runs. Good starts were noted by Flack’s 8-litre Bentley and Towell’s 1929 Super Sports Morgan threewheeler, with smoking back tyre, and Michelmore revved his FWD Alvis’s engine freely. Hare’s 1923 Newton and Lindsey’s Wolseley 1934 singleseater were among those going well. Of the aero-engined cars, Roger Collings was well satisfied with his runs in the 19-litre Mercedes-Maybach, which went through the speed-trap at 102mph, having accelerated rather more slowly than Biggins’s 12-litre Hispano V8-powered 30-98 but soon drawing away; they were in different classes anyway, as Collings’s car is an Edwardian, the other not, although both were conceived in recent times. Wiseman ran his 2496cc vee-four JAP aero-powered GN in the pre-1940 racing-car class, to put in a jot of confusion: it made smoke and is not yet on form. (Terminal velocity is timed over a very short end-of-course distance; slow cars would be at their maximum before reaching it, very fast as likewise, but the heavier ones could still be accelerating, thus the Mercedes-Maybach could well have exceeded 102mph on say, Pre-war Brooklands).

Other Specials included the fearsome 2550cc Hornet with dual Harley-Davidson vee-two engines, which Piattaway released well and spectacularly, Knight’s Dodd Special and Buxton’s GN, apparently a FN with Ford power. Jo Moss had her low-chassis 4 1/2-litre Invicta going beautifully. Sparrowhawk’s 4.3-litre Alvis ran hood up, and Fiankin’s replica Targa Florio 7.3-litre Fiat, the oldest car competing, had the right “Gatling gun” exhaust noise but was not very quick.

As expected, Jaye’s 1938 2-litre s/c Alta made FTD, in 23.92sec, improving on the pre-war class record by 0.05sec and going through the terminal velocity trap at at 146mph on its second run. The Colerne Trophy for best vintage-car time was won by Ben Collings with the 8-litre Bentley in which he had driven to the course; fully road-equipped it clocked 25.48sec, and 136mph, after a fine battle with the other 8-litre Bentleys, Flack doing 26.17sec (135mph), Day’s s/c car 27.55sec (125mph). Collings was faster than the V12 s/c 8-litre post-vintage Bentley-Royce, which did 25.96sec (128mph) on its only run. The fast lady was Miss Burrell, who was 1,31sec slower than her father and the saloon which improved most on its handicap was Sparrowhawk’s 4.3 Alvis, clocked at 34.74sec (96mph).

The vintage racing A7s had another close result, Baxter’s s/c Seven winning with 34.03sec (91mph) from Diffey’s non-s/c car, 86mph, and Miss Wilson’s 84mph, at the speed-trap. Roger Collings’s 19-litre Mercedes-Maybach won the Edwardian class on both handicap and time (32.61sec, 102mph) and smashed the aeroengine record held by the Metallurgique-Maybach, by 3.08sec. Second Edwardian on handicap was Ian Rendall’s 1918 5.9-litre Stutz, 6.53sec quicker than Rankin’s 1906 7.3-litre racing FIAT, their respective top speeds 68 and 62mph. Biggins’s Vauxhall-Hispano V8 was the only runner in the post-Edwardian aero-power class, — 34.26sec, 96mph. Cars that failed to make the km-course from the start were the Alit’cok, Allison’s MG and the Delage-ERA.

It is as difficult to report on a ruler-straight sprint (especially from the paddock) as it is to cover DTs. It is the results which really count. With some excellent motorcycle demonstrations and — ahem — bicycle races, and light aeroplanes flying in, including this year Hamish Moffatt’s pre-war Gypsy Moth, Colerne is one of the top VSCC enjoyments. The class-winners follow (mph refers to terminal velocity, not average speed; where no vintage result is quoted a vintage (pre-1931) car won the class outright, over the non-vintage runners, as is appropriate to VSCC events. W B


Sports cars: J Baxter (Frazer-Nash), 32.31sec (96mph); J Guyatt (Delage), 32.88sec (101mph), Vintage, B Sudjic (Bugatti), 38.91sec (84mph);

T Wakerkay (Rapier), 29.71sec (112mph); Vintage, Mrs S Walker (Frazer Nash), 36.51sec (85mph). B Collings (Bentley), 25.48sec (136mph), Colerne Trophy.

Racing cars: M Dowley (MG), 29.63sec (110mph), Vintage, J Baxter (A7), 34.03sec (91mph). P Whenman (Lagonda Rapier), 28.93sec (115mph); Vintage, R Towell (Morgan), 31.06sec (102mph), P Jaye (Alta), 23.92mph (FTD 146mph) Vintage, P Irwin (Chevron Lasange), 34.06sec (90mph). Edwardians: J Roberts (Djinn-JAP), 27.38sec (119mph). R Collings (Mercedes-Maybach), 32.61sec (102mph). Aero-Engined cars: D Biggins (VauxhallHispano), 34.26sec (96mph).

1950s Sports/Racing cars: J Coombes (Jaguar D), 26.47sec (125mph),