A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport No. 3 — Raymond Mays
There are few drivers, in any country, who have had a racing career as extensive as Mays. In the seventeen years that he has pursued the Sport, it is a remarkable fact that he has never had a serious accident. Winning many important races and breaking numerous records have in no way been through taking undue risks.
When we visited him at his ancestral home in Bourne, where he lives with his mother — a lady of exceeding charm who has welcomed many of the motoring notoriety — we were impressed by a formidable collection of trophies, also some fine Gordon Crosbie originals
In the attic of Eastgate House Mays has made a pleasant retreat which would attract any racing enthusiast. Comfortable and informal, it contains a reference library of motoring books and megazines. It is here that Mays writes his articles with all his information at hand. An adjoining coach house provides him with ample garage space. In one part we inspected the black E.R.A., which was well preserved, the bare metal parts being liberally greased. .
Nearby was the usual host of racing spares one sees, including numerous wheels, spare engine and a Zoller blower. What would any E.R.A. owner give for the opportunity of taking as much as he could carry of these valuable replacements.
(a) Fastest time of the day at, innumerable hill climbs in the hill-climb days from 1921-1924, inclusive, and several hillclimb records; also many first places at Brooklands.
(b) Has won many sand and speed trials all over England.
(c) Has made fastest time of the day at Shelsley Walsh on twelve occasions and has broken the record on eight occasions.
(d) Has won many of the important road and track races, both at home and on the Continent, including:— The 1 1/2Eifelrennen at the Nurburg Ring, Germany.
(e) The Picardie Grand Prix, France (on two occasions).
The Albi Grand Prix, France.
The Nuffield Trophy, Donington.
The British Empire Trophy, Donington.
The International Trophy, Brooklands.
The Phoenix Park Grand Prix, Dublin.
The Mountain Championship, Brooklands (twice).
The Siam .Trophy, Brooklands.
The Coronation Trophy Race, Donington.
The Dunlop Jubilee Road Race, Brooklands.
The Crystal Palace Cup Race, Crystal Palace. Etc.
(e) Now holds the following course records :—
Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb.
Prescott Hill Climb.
Mountain Course record, Brooklands.
Campbell Road Circuit, Brooklands.
Crystal Palace Course record.
Record lap for the Albi Grand Prix, France.
Record lap for the Picardie Grand Prix, France.
Motoring Activities Immediately Prior To The War
On parting company with E.R.A. Ltd. (May 1939), for which firm Mays been No. 1 driver since its inception, he drove as an independent on the E.R.A., for which he had both a 1 1/2-litre and a 2-litre engine (which were inter-changeable). The car was a 1938 type independently front sprung Zoller blown. During the season in 1939 the following were his chief successes.
1. Second in the Nuffield Trophy Race at Donington, and making fastest lap of the year at Donington for any size car.
2. Breaking his own record at Shelsley Walsh, time being 37.37 seconds.
3. Won Crystal Palace Cup race at record speed and breaking the lap record for the course (1 min. 58 1/5 see.)
4. He drove the new experimental single-seater 4 1/2-litre Talbot, for the Talbot firm in the French Grand Prix, at Rheims. The car ran well, but the petrol tank burst after covering 100 miles.
5. Drove his E.R.A. in the Albi Grand Prix and when in good position the rear hub broke in two and the wheel came off.
6. He broke the Preseott Hill Climb record on his first appearance at the hill and made fastest time of the day in 46.14 seconds (Bugatti sent over for this event a 4.9-litre supercharged special hill-climb car, driven by the works No. 1 driver, Wimille).
7. The Campbell Circuit scratch race at the Brooklands course, which he won. Two days later he made a successful attempt on the Campbell Circuit record with a lap time of I min. 44.91 secs.
Motoring Activities During The War
In the early days of the war he used his 4 1/4-litre overdrive Bentley for business journeys. Selling it in 1940 he commenced running a 1940 Rover Fourteen, which has served him with utter reliability and complete satisfaction. He has the highest possible praise for this car. Always to be seen immaculate, it looks as fine today as it did when it left the showroom.
Mays is hoping to run the E.R.A. in any sprint events which may occur in 1946. He also hopes, if he finds himself capable of approaching his 1939 form, to participate in events on the Continent for the next year or so. After that he intends to retire from active racing and take a general interest in the Sport, in this country, helping the new and younger drivers.
Cars Now Owned
Rover Fourteen Sports Saloon.
2-litre E.R.A with interchangeable 1 1/2-litre engine.
Most Frightening Experience
(In his own words.)
I have had many exciting experiences during my racing career and think one of the most frightening was when running in a road race at Donington on my 1 1/2-litre Zoller-blown E.R.A. I was trying out some experimental brakes and on one lap, when going flat out down the straight and approaching Melbourne Hill, in the neighbourhood of 150 m.p.h. on the flat, the brakes were applied. I found that my foot went straight down on to the floor and that the brakes did not work at all. I was faced with a downhill descent at Melbourne with very limited time to spare before Melbourne Corner. At once, I changed from top gear to second on the Wilson pre-selector box, ramming in the clutch with no throttle at all, so locking the back wheels.
The car skidded semi-broadside down the Melbourne Hill, and on correcting this skid the E.R.A. broadsided the other way, and with locked rear wheels I carried on skidding in all directions for two-thirds of the way down hill. Even so I was still doing between 95-100 m.p.h. with now a dangerously small space between me and the corner. At this speed I changed down to bottom gear, again with no throttle, in a final endeavour to slow up before crashing into the bank.
Luckily this procedure slowed me enough to enable me to take the grass and drive round the corner off the road. The terrific strain of this occasion split the back axle casing in two and did damage to the transmission of the car, but the great braking power obtained through the Wilson type gearbox certainly saved me from disaster.
Hobbies Other Than Motoring
Mays has many stage friends, stage life and the amusing temperament of stage people attract him. If he likes any particular show he will go and see it innumerable times. He greatly enjoys championship tennis and Jean Borotra is his favourite star. Boxing also attracts him and whenever possible he attends a championship match.
Mays has great admiration for anyone in any sphere of activities who has a long and successful career.
Mays is a connoisseur of all things that affect him. From the furnishings in his home to the choice of the plants in his garden, it is evident that he knows what he wants and what is best.
Perhaps his happiest moments are spent simply in the country with his Dachshund. It is often noticed how some great men like to get back to nature, as an antidote to an otherwise hectic life.
Business Or Professions
Mays is managing director of his father’s wool and chemical manure concerns. Has now started a high-class garage repair shop for high-speed tuning.
Advice To Less Experienced
(In his own words.)
Never try to “run before you can walk.” I am convinced that more harm is done than can possibly be imagined by new and promising drivers handling too fast cars and trying to drive them too fast in the early stages. Real patience in motor racing is an absolute necessity. A great amount can be learnt from watching what other people do on particular parts of courses, such as when they slow down and open out, and particularly watching the way an expert places his car on every part of the course.
Any Suggestions For Improving Motoring As A Sport
Mays feels that more enthusiasm should be created throughout the country. By making racing more interesting to the layman, greater support will be forthcoming. Motoring Sport should play a really prominent part in England.