A fragment of racing history

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A fragment of racing history

While refreshing the memory for April’s article about the first BRDC 500-Mile Race, I noticed that in the programme WB Scott’s 1.5-litre Delage, one of the famous works Grand Prix cars he was to share with John Cobb, was listed as not being supercharged. At first I thought this might be a misprint but as all the other cars which were known to have supercharged engines had a big ‘S’ against their names, this seemed unlikely. Yet it was difficult to visualise one of these complicated but effective cars designed by M Lory (winners of the 1927 Manufacturers’ Championship) being run un-blown. So I asked Alan Burnand, whose Delage of this type is having its proper straight-eight engine reinstalled to replace the ERA engine used while this complex rebuild was taking place. (Incidentally, the ex-Seaman car which was destroyed in the fire at Rob Walker’s garage and rebuilt, is having a new body fitted, and perhaps it will not be too long before we see this and Bumard’s car side by side). Bumand knew nothing about Scott running his Delage sans blower but gave me some very pertinent information.

All the spares for these cars have passed through his hands, and he remembered that one of the beautifully made inlet manifolds had the small orifice for the blow-off valve enlarged to the size of the flange on the Cozette supercharger. This enlarged hole also had a flange, as a photograph confirms. So if it came from the engine in ‘Bummer’ Scott’s Delage it does look as if he drove it in the 1929 ‘500’ in unblown form, although as Alan says, “Without the puff of a blower it must have been very tame indeed”. I have checked to see if Scott used his car in this form before or after the ‘500’ that closed the 1929 racing season and although it was a frequent non-starter after Scott and his wife had driven it on Whit Monday 1929 it was then in s/c form, as it was when run at Easter 1930.

I can find no reference to the removal of the supercharger for the ‘500’ from which the Delage retired (becoming overheated after 370 miles) but the modified manifold does point to this having occurred. When Scott ran it in the 1930 ‘500’, again with Cobb, and the front axle broke up, the engine was supercharged. Another piece of motor-racing history, as this seems to be the only time these famous cars ran unblown.