MOTORING SPOR (NEW SERIES). SMEN
III. KAYE DON.
T Brooklands during the past decade there has been no more conspicuous figure nor live personality amongst the leaders of the sport than Don.
Invariably cheerful, always keen and alert, he appears to be endowed with a temperament which, one might say, is essential to a man who is engaged in those pursuits in which Kaye Don has made his name. In demeanour and conversation he does, as a rule, convey the impression of light-heartedness and an abundance of optimism, and one has only to watch him “on the job “—say in the process of setting up a new lap record—to see that this is reflected in. his driving. But Don is not just a dashing performer who can be relied upon to thrill the crowd. He is a man of tremendous experience with a cool, calculating mind, and these qualities, balancing up with others, combine to make him a first-rate driver, be it on road or track.
Versatility has always been most marked in Don ; in fact it is safe to say, without reservation, that he has had a more varied career in the world of motoring sport than any other man.
It was in 1912—exactly twenty years ago—that Don first tried his hand at the game. And as a motor-cyclist in a hundred and one reliability trials he consistently showed his ability, Then came the War, and rather naturally he joined the Royal Plying Corps. In point of fact, it was while in the Service that the writer first became acquainted with him, and one has a very clear recollection that he was in those hectic days just as keen on his job, just as jovial and just as masterly in the handling of his machine (in his case an R.E.8, so dreaded and cursed by many pilots) as he is to-day. Don must have piled up a good many hundred hours in the air, for in addition to serving in an artillery observation squadron on the Western Front for a considerable period, he was for about six months a pilot attached to headquarters, which entailed flying to and from France on all kinds of special missions. He was also attached to a squadron stationed in. Ireland, and after the War he still wielded the stick in the R.A.F. Reserve. In 1919, he appeared once more in motor cycle trials, then two years later he caused a stir when he obtained the Hour Record at Brooklands on an A.C. at a speed
of over 90 m.p.h. He also secured many International records with the same car.
To detail all his successes would result in a formidable and lengthy list, and space does not permit. But to recall a few—In 1923 he won the President’s Gold Plate on a Deemster in 1925 and 1926 he secured sundry awards with that monstrous motor, the Vv-olseley Viper, and in the following year—at the Easter Meeting—the Founder’s Cup fell to him, after he had driven a wonderful race with his 2-litre Sunbeam, winning at a speed of 105.03 m.p.h. A little later, at the Whitsun Meeting, Don won another coveted Brookla.nds award—the Gold Star, again with the Sunbeam (speed 118.9 m.p.h.).
In the following year he repeated this success, winning the 1928 Gold Star Race at the phenomenal speed of 128.36 m.p.h. This was the fastest speed at which any race had ever been won at the time from a standing start, and during the event Don broke the lap record at 131.76 m.p.h. The car was the renowned Sunbeam “Tiger,” which had a 12-cylinder 4-litre engine.
During the season of the same year, successes came to him thick and fast ; at the August Bank Holiday Meeting he won the President’s Gold Plate, was the winner of the Ulster T.T.—on each occasion, it will be remembered, with a Lea-Francis—and he held the record for the iflitre class for the Ards Circuit. Add to these the fact that during the year he had broken between 30 and 40 records, World’s, International and British, and it becomes easy to understand why he was elected British Champion for 1928.
The proficiency with which he had carried out his racing programme during that year, and the good fortune which had seen him through that strenuous time was not lacking when the 1929 season was under weigh, and the Don-Sunbeam combination proceeded to annex premier awards at Weybridge with a regularity which the Brooklands crowds had, by now, grown to expect.
The lap record, which had become a sort of Don speciality, was raised to 132.46 m.p.h.. at the Easter Meeting, the Gold Vase went his way at Whitsuntide, and at the August Bank Holiday Meeting he astounded everyone by once more smashing his own record for the lap by putting it up to 134.95 m.p.h. This was when he was competing in the Gold Star Race, in which event he ran home into seLond place. On 1st July, 1929, Don made the highest officially recorded speed at the track— a cool 140.95 m.p.h. for one kilometre. When the season closed he was again elected Champion.
As all the world knows, the year 1930 saw the opening up of a new sphere for Kaye Don’s activities, and following the lamentable death of Sir Henry Segrave, he was
chosen by Lord Wakefield to pilot his speed boat “Miss England IL” Those who had watched him on wheels and wings were now keenly interested to see how he would shape in this new enterprise. And, to be sure, we were not disappointed.
But before he temporarily abandoned the car for the boat he rounded off his mulcitudinous Brooklands achievements by again breaking his own. lap record, and this still stands—the figure ? 137.46 m.p.h. That was at the Whits= Meeting. His bad luck in the R.A.C. T.T., when he skidded, overturned and caught fire, will be well remembered by those who saw the incident, and if it was rough that he was thus put out of the running, it was, on the other hand, fortunate that the injuries he received did not permanently place him on the retired list. And so we come to the year just past. On 2nd April at Buenos Aires Don gained his first victory on the water by capturing the World’s Water Speed Record, at 103.49 m.p.h., with the now-famous “Miss England II.” On 9th July, at Lake Garda, Italy, he eclipsed this performance by increasing his speed to 110.28 m.p.h. Two months later he went to Detroit, and won the first heat in the Harmsworth Trophy Race, and set up a new record for the course (93.017 m.p.h.). Smallwonder, after these successes, that he was awarded the International
Motor Yachting Union Medal of Honour for the world’s best motor boat performance of the year.
At the commencement of this article we wrote of the versatility of Kaye Don ; it will be realised from the foregoing that it would be difficult to exaggerate upon this point. Motor cycles, cars, aeroplanes and boats— it is obvious that he has in the past, and still can pilot any of these with an ease and skill which is altogether exceptional. And with fresh achievements and new developments he retains an affection and keenness for his earlier mounts.
Of his intentions for the coming season Don is a little reticent. But in our interview he told us that he plans to take “Miss England III.” (now in course of construction) to Lake Garda in May. There he will take part in the race for the D’Annunzio Trophy, and around that time he also anticipates an attack on the Water Speed Record ; then, if all goes well, he will compete in the Harmsworth Trophy Race at Detroit.
The sport afloat will not, however, occupy the whole of his time, and we may hope to see him at the track again—in all probability at the wheel of a 5-litre Bugatti —while he will use also two British cars which are at this moment being prepared.
And knowing Don, we may rest assured that things will happen.