SPRINT EVENTS AND SAFETY
A fatal accident at Kop Hill in 1925, tivolving a spectator and a racing Bugatti, resulted in a ban on speed events staged on public roads.
Writing in the February issue of ” The Sports Car,” Mr. Norman Ruck predicts that an even blacker day is likely to be near at hand, when all but a very few of the speed-trial and hill-climb courses at present in use will be ” condemned in the technical sense Of being declared uninhabitable.”
Certainly the ban on racing on the open road has resulted in a search for private speed venues that has not been so successful as might have been hoped, so that certain of the smaller events have been held at rather unsuitable venues. But in every ease R.A.C. permission has been obtained, and we see no reason why the R A .C. should suddenly condemn venues that it has previously sanctioned. Mr. Rock recalls the unnerving sight Of a driver of long experience who shot off the road in practice at about 115 m.p.h. and cannoned into a tree. We agree that it was a miracle that he escaped injury but we feel rather dubious about the estimated speed. Mr. Ruck says that the crux of the whole matter is increased power of competing cars, and suggests that since 1927 the bh.p. of typical 1i-litre sprint cars has increased front 90 to 120 or 125. Come to that, cars of upwards of 300 b.h.p. ran in speed trials last year, and there seems nothing
gained by bringing in the matter of a problematical increase of 35 b.h.p. amongst the slower cars. Accidents –fortunately none of them fatal—occurred at sprint meetings last year, but, generally speaking, we can, see no reason why high speed along a straight road should be regarded as impossibly dangerous in a racing-car, whose stability shoulil be amongst its most highly developed features Most drivers know their car’s capabilities and are not likely to risk an unpleasant incident for the sort of awards, offered at club speed trials. Bearing on this, S. E. Cummings would have gone faster at the last Brighton meeting had twin rear covers been permissible, but they rendered braking unsafe and were very wisely not used. twice. And when the Vauxhall-Villiers crashed so badly at Weatherby a tvre-bnrst was held responsible. The other had accidents involved R. R. Jackson and Driscoll, and Mr. Ruck should remember that the latter crashed on a hill-climb course. It is a little difficult to agree with Mr. Ruck that hill climbs are safer than speed trials because hill-climb drivers have to cut out for bends. So much depends on the course, and Mr. Ruck should watch ears going into the ” 8,” or taking the final straight, at She’sley. Yet Shelsley has a good record, and the Alta accident this year occurred beyond the finish, due, we believe, to a stuck throttle. Surely the great point in favour of the
speed trial is that spectators Can be kept completely away from the fast section of the course, as is invariably done at Lewes. They can see from the start and remain happy, whereas at a hill climb they naturally seek the most spectacular spots, where the cars corner, which are also the most dangerous. No ! We feel that it is a moot point whether it is more dangerous to drive alone along a straight road, round the rim of Brooklands track, or into a gutter at 200 m.p.h. to pass another G.P. car in a G.P. contest. Motor racing will always be dangerous, and the important thing is to safeguard the spectators—which can be done more :effectively at a speed trial than almost anywhere else. It is nice of Mr. Ruck to suggest that no one is justified in allowing really fine drivers, in the prime of life, to risk themselves in pursuit of the elusive and wholly unimportant fifth of a second. But we are under the impression that it is this “elusive fifth” that drivers chase in practically every speed contest for which they enter, so it seems that Mr. Norman. Ruck, is, as he himself admits, a scaremonger after all. Sprint events are growing in popularity, and fortunately the R.A.C. wisely issues permits for the courses now in use. A very experienced driver tells us that .Sotithsea is a good safe course, whereas we were not impressed— which just shows that a spectator cannot always tell.—W.B.