Does racing sell cars?

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It must be the hope of manufacturers and sponsors who invest millions in racing and rallying that customers will be persuaded into buying their products. How much the average buyer is so affected I do not know, but I would like to think that the elderly lady in her Renault Clio bought it after learning that Williams’ F1 successes were gained with this make of engine. How optimistic!

But in MOTOR SPORT, back in 1951, that superb writer and historian EKH Karslake entertained us in his inimitable Sideslips with a dream about which cars he would have bought along the years as an avid motor-racing follower, had money been no object. His choices were prompted mainly by watching motor races. So in 1896 he would have taken delivery of a Daimler-engined 3 1/2hp Peugeot, after cycling as fast as the competing cars on the route of the 1894 Paris-Rouen trial. But the great Paris-Marseilles-Paris race of 1896 would have caused our auto-epicurean to change the Peugeot fora Panhard in 1897, content with a tiller-steered 4hp two-cylinder model that established for decades the traditional layout of front engine and gearbox and rear axle drive. The race victories of the five years following would probably have made our ‘millionaire’, while faithful to Panhard, acquire increasingly more powerful versions, until in the autumn of 1900 he could have been driving a 24hp with electric instead of hot-tube ignition.

But at the Paris Salon in 1901, Mors showed a fine 60hp car built for the Hon C S Rolls and our imaginary millionaire would have ordered a replica, impressed that Fournier had won both the big races on a Mors of this kind. By 1903, however, the Mercedes Sixty was the advanced design to have, and Karslake would have bought one. But the rise of Fiat in 1905 and with Raggio winning the Florio Cup for Itala, EKHK’s inclination would turn to Italy and to the latter make, as he preferred a live-axle to chain final-drive. His garage would now be occupied by a 60hp Itala, looking like the threeyear old Mercedes he had disposed of but with a certain Latin elegance. It would, like his other cars, have been white, with red upholstery.

The six cylinder Napier now tempted our wealthy buyer. But such an engine was reputed to be primarily suited to city traffic and limousine bodies and not, as he was accustomed to, for dashing from London to Nice and Biarritz. Thus the next outlay was on a Fiat, choice influenced when the Torinese manufacturer had won three big races in 1907. So a 90hp Fiat, which was a catalogue offering, replaced the Itala.

Italian cars were the rage then and the German 1,2,3 in the ’08 French GP did not sway our fictitious millionaire into going German again. But the oh-camshaft engine was the kind to have, and what better than to change the Fiat for the production 100hp 10.6-litre lsotta-Fraschini KM, of the type that had been victorious in the 1908 Targa Florio? That sufficed our keen motor-enthusiast until 1910, when he was convinced by the Prince Henry Trials that a smaller automobile might be fun, and a chain-drive 22/80hp Austro-Daimler was ordered at the 1910 Show, to be succeeded by a live-axle version in 1911. The GPs of 1912/13 were Peugeot grand-slams but no touring versions of their twincam racers were available and it was the Austrian Alpine Trials that had replaced the Prince Henry events, which directed our connoisseur towards a Rolls-Royce for Continental journeys. So in 1913 a 40/50hp Alpine Silver Ghost was obtained, to be kept throughout the war. It held its value thereafter, so its owner would have been financially lucky, “the sort of luck millionaires have…”

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