Another Opinion on
REAL RACING FOR THE IMPECUNIOUS
Kenneth Neve utters some words of advice IN the January issue of MOTOR SPORT was published an article which, under the above heading, outlined and discussed proposals from the 750 Club and the Midland Motoring Enthusiasts’ Club for giving less affluent zealots a chance to race, As author of one of the Class I articles published some months ago I have, naturally, thought quite a bit about this aspect of the matter and, without thrusting Class I into the limelight again, offer some relevant comments. I can claim to do so in a spirit of genuine altruism because until 1939 I ran a
” 30/98″ Vauxhall, and now I have a decidedly vintage Austin Seven, and just as soon as possible after the war, D. (and the Chancellor of the Exchequer) V., I shall revert to 41 litres again. There will be few who will deny that the more people who are able to race the
better for the Sport generally, but as with everything else, perhaps even more than in any other sport, there must be a limit to the cutting of costs. The fact must be faced that motor-racing is expensive, and because one’s financial position enables one to run an Austin Seven, it quite emphatically does not enable one, as a regular thing, to race that Austin, even against other Austins. The 750 Club’s proposal is that there shall be road races for side-valve unsupercharged roadequipped 750-c.c. cars. This, in other words, says : “Let there be a race for Austin Sevens as used by their owners on the road.” Such a race would provide little excitement for any but those taking part ; there are few unblown used-on-theroad Austins which could achieve their 70 m.p.h. on any circuit except Brooklands, and the spectacle of them trying would be decidedly dreary and, in addition, would take a disproportionately long time out of any club’s programme. Anyone who saw the Fiat ” 500 ” race at Brooklands will agree that after the first rather comic sight of a mass of multicoloured crawling creatures the interest was just nil, and even the bunch of enthusiasts with whom I Was watching had ceased to take any notice after the race had gone half way. At a club event the result would be much the same with unblown sports Austins.
Now club events need a very great deal of organisation, from arranging the venue and obtaining an R.A.C. permit, to finding scrutineers, timekeepers and marshals, not to mention the secretarial work, and I cannot see a club welcoming a scratch race for unsupercharged Sports Austins which would is of strictly limited appeal. However, assuilic for a moment that this could be overcome, could the 750 Club guarantee a ” field ” for their race ? Enthusiasm now is high, but experience shows that in practice many would inevitably default ; as Wharton points out, the number of Austins now available which are in race-worthy condition is small indeed, and then finance, mechanical derangement and the nasty necessity of earning one’s daily bread would still further impoverish the number of entrants. The competitions secretary of the Vintage Sports Car Club, Harry Bowler, wrote to MOTOR SPORT (November, 1941) on the Subject of Class 1 contests, pointing out that the V.S.C.C. provided racing for the impecunious amateur before the war and, as his remarks are so very apposite, I can do no better than quote the relevant paragraphs. He said : “The V.S.C.C., by its careful definitions of Sports,’ Super Sports ‘. and ‘Racing’ cars did its best to encourage the ‘ impecunious amateur’ and, I think, attracted a considerable number of them. Yet it was seldom that a 750-c.c. class in a speed event had sufficient entries to be run as a class on its own. (These events were open to both vintage and modern cars.)
“Most of the impecunious ran cars of 14 litres or more for the very good reason that for a given expenditure more fun can be had with the larger car. A 750-c.c. car cannot be made to go sufficiently fast to be exciting without becoming unreliable unless a lot of money is spent upon it. . .”
The V.S.C.C.’s racing was cheap, and it is unlikely that the 750 Club will be able to get it cheaper by running things themselves. If by a miracle they did, and one of their number, call him ” A,” had a generous uncle and tuned his motor a little more highly than ” B,” then they are back where they started. Any Austin Seven owner cotlid have entered the V.S.C.C.’s events and had a
good rim, and perhaps a class win at low cost before the war. Can the 750 Club’s scheme offer more ?
The M.M.E. Club ideas are different, and although they received in the January article an Editorial frown. they seem to me to go nearer to the root of the matter and to be much more practical. They recognise that racing is not the pastime of he who can just afford to run an Austin Seven, however much he wishes to assess his prowess at the wheel under racing conditions. They recognise that standard cars (of an obsolete type at that) cannot form a sound basis of a racing class. In the very nature of things the enthusiast is one who wants an ” individual ” car as opposed to a standard product, and by giving due acknowledgment to this fact, Wharton’s scheme holds a greater chance of practical success. The M.M.E.C. recognise the fact that by widening the classification to include all ” unblown 750 c.c.s,” it places itself in a far stronger position when it comes to persuading an organising club that a 750-c.c. class is worth while.
But I would caution all enthusiastic 750-c.c. owners, before making ambitious plans for sub-divisions of accepted racing classes, to re-read Harry Bowler. 750-c.c. racing was available before the war at frequent, well-organised meeting; and as cheap as racing could be. The response was negligible ; will it be greater after the war ? I am conscious of having been largely destructive so far in these notes, so let
me accept Wharton’s invitation constructively to criticise his plans. First, do not ask organisers to split the unsupercharged 750s into further sub-divisions (a) cars built of one make components, and (b) ” Specials.” If a rejuvenated ” Ulster ” Austin Seven cannot beat a ” Special,” then let the ” Special ” win, and if the ” Special ” cannot beat the rejuvenated “Ulster,” then let its designer go home and think again. Secondly, do not insist on a reverse gear : for a vehicle under 8 ewt. the law does not do so, and by thus virtually eliminating the motor-cycle gearbox, you make the special-builder’s job much harder and do not improve the engineering quality of his work.
With so Much latent enthusiasm for unsupercharged 750-c.c. racing the first thing for the two clubs most concerned— the 750 and the M.M.E.C.—to do is to find common ground ; that should not be difficult, as both aim to assist those to whom low-cost racing is a sine qua non. Having done so they will be in a position to get into touch with those clubs who have members’ days at the Crystal Palace and Donington, and discuss some reciprocal arrangement as suggested by MOTOR SPORT. Divided into “Austins only,” “Specials only” and “one-make component cars,” the groups are too small to make themselves interesting to others, and too powerless to get a hearing from larger clubs. United into an “Allcorners unblown 750 c.c.” class they could ensure reasonable racing at reasonable cost. Everybody cannot win, and the car used on the road may not stand so great a chance as the special racing vehicle, but its owner will have had his race against others of his own size.
As for myself, I shall enter my Class.. I mach inc !
[Well, those are Neve’s views, and they arc well worth digesting before anyone takes any concrete steps to try to give owners of unblown 750-c.c. motor-ears their inexpensive post-war racing. But Neves (‘losing comments seem rather to contradict his opening remarks, inasmuch as if handicapped club races offer better prospects than scratch contests for oneclass cars, owners of 750-c.c. machinery have no need to get together and appeal for special races—they will merely need to join the Vintage S.C.C. or similar clubs and concentrate individually on wiping up the bigger ears. However, it must be remembered that the 750 Club, quite naturally, wished to organise races in which its members could compete against one another directly, without a background of other ears (probably overshadowing ” Ulsters ” and ” Nippys ” in everyday use) and without the complexities of the individual handicapping system. I am guilty of suggesting the use of other club’s fixtures, because I cannot see the 750 C1111) being endowed with such great good fortune as to find its own circuit—actually Birkett would much prefer the racing to be entirely a 750 Club affair. Anyway, it is all most interesting, and I hope something definite may some day result from all this painstaking thought and discussion.—Ea.