Matters of the Moment
The Monte Carlo Rally
Congratulations are due in full measure to the International Sporting Club for so ably organising this year’s Monte Carlo Rally — the first since the war. Proof that this classic event, the most strenuous of normal motoring competitions, was welcomed alike by sportsmen and manufacturers, was provided by the record entry of 230 cars. If pre-war conditions, which prompted the late Humphrey Symon’s classic book Monte Carlo Rally, could not be entirely emulated, certainly this great event, even in what was a comparatively mild winter, provided a more than adequate test of men and machines. It is significant evidence of the Rally’s publicity value that from this country the Rootes Group, the Nuffield Organisation, the .Austin Motor Co., Ltd., Jowett Cars, Ltd., the Ford Motor Company, Ltd., and the makers of Allard and Healey cars were amongst those who put in “works” or “works”-sponsored entries.
The task of averaging an overall 31 m.p.h. for over 1,000 miles is a severe test in itself. Couple this with the required average of 31 m.p.h. over four sections of the difficult mountain route of 300 miles from Lyons to Monaco and the final test of speed and regularity over two 10 1/2-mile laps of a hill-circuit behind Monte Carlo, and the 1949 Monte Carlo Rally can be set down as a very strenuous test indeed and one well worth winning.
This year’s deciding test could hardly be bettered, and was certainly superior to a series of driving tests in which one mistake on the part of the driver could wash out all the advantage his car had gained during the road-section. To be called on to drive flat-out over two laps of a given circuit and to be penalised both for lack of speed and for variation in time over two 2-mile sections of the course, puts a big premium on all those performance and handling qualities essential to pleasant motoring and which denote a car’s ability to cover long distances safely at useful average speeds. The emphasis placed on consistent speed called, additionally, for cockpit-skill and curbed those who would otherwise have scored by wild driving which normal owners-in-a-hurry would hesitate to emulate. The organisers deserve full marks for this, as for all other aspects of the Rally.
By dividing entrants into classes for cars up to 750, 1,100, 1,500 and unlimited c.c., the International Sporting Club showed recognition of the prevailing interest in small, economic cars.
The results of the Rally were awaited with extreme eagerness by those back home, and it is pleasant to be able to record that they featured adequately in the Press and B.B.C. news services.
The warmest praise must be bestowed on Jean Trevoux and M. Lesurque for bringing their 3.4-litre Hotchkiss saloon home the absolute victor, more especially as Trevoux won the Rally in 1939 and occupied a place in the winning crew in 1934. The Hotchkiss success was sealed by Worms and Mouche taking second place in another of these cars. Those who noted, at Earls Court, the fine design of the Hotchkiss and its refusal to in any way emulate present-day styling will be gratified that this make of car has won the Rally. This victory cannot fail to be of immense benefit to the Hotchkiss Company and to France’s struggling motor industry as a whole.
But, if France has won outright, Britain can be justly proud of the placings occupied by her cars. A Bristol, driven by the Czechs F. Dobry and Z. Treybal came in third, and Leonard Potter, a native of Farnham, in Surrey, brought an Allard home in fourth place, partnered by Robin Richards. Ken Wharton’s Ford Pilot occupied fifth position, and an amateur newcomer, Godson, was placed eighth in his Allard, a performance of which the Allard Motor Company must be justifiably proud, particularly as these cars were placed 4th, 8th, 11th and 23rd, taking the Team Prize.
It is, too, highly satisfactory that a British Jowett Javelin, driven by T. C. Wise, should win the 1 1/2-litre category of the Rally, with Gatsonides’ considerably less-expensive 1949 Hillman Minx second and another Jowett Javelin third. The recognised quality of British coachwork and the suitability of British accessories received a great uplift when it was announced that W. M. Couper’s Mk. VI Bentley had won the Comfort Competition, this car having the standard saloon coachwork, in which form it sells in this country for the basic price of £2,595.
To these outstanding performances must be added equally the victory of the 570-c.c. o.h.v. Simca driven by Dr. and Mrs. Angelvin in the 750-c.c. class, in which it beat an Aero Minor, the success of Louis Rosier’s twin-carburetter rear-engined 760-c.c. Renault in the 1,100-c.c. class, in which it vanquished a Simca, and the winning of the Ladies’ Cup by a 3.9-litre Ford, driven by Countess van Limburg. The class winners in the Concours de Comfort were Buick, Hillman Minx, Renault and Simca, while our Sunbeam-Talbot and 1947-model Hillman Minx teams secured special prizes. The prestige of all the cars named has benefited enormously.
The Rally was well-accepted in so many ways. The British Petroleum Board provided petrol coupons for British drivers. The village of Brough in Yorkshire displayed a “welcome” banner, and Clifton’s Garage, Sidcup, issued free tea and cigarettes to competitors who stopped there. The Mayor of Boulogne laid on an official welcome and vin d’honneur>/em>. And on the final section gendarmes waved competitors on to a “Grand Prix” finish — further proof that, in an age overshadowed by the atomic bomb, skilfully-handled competition cars no longer seem the lethal weapons they formerly represented to the man-looking-on and that, in this mechanised age, the whole world has become motor-contest minded. All the better, therefore, if Britain could win the Monte Carlo Rally of 1950.
The prospects of the forthcoming racing season have received a damper, and the entire sporting world is distressed, by the fatal accident to the 41-year-old French driver, Jean-Pierre Winaille. Wimille was the greatest Grand Prix driver of modern times and his brilliant career ended when spectators invaded the road during practice for the Buenos Aires race — a happening all too frequent since the war — causing the Simca, he was driving to hit a tree.
Wimille was born in Paris and began racing, with a Bugatti, about 27 years ago. He did great things in rather out-moded cars of this make in the nineteen-thirties, and 1935 saw Wimille victor of the La Turbie hill-climb, his Bugatti beating Dreyfus’ Alfa-Romeo. In 1936 he won the Marne Grand Prix, Deauville Grand Prix and Cornminges Grand Prix for Bugatti, and, partnered by Raymond Sommer in that magnificent aerodynamic sports 3.3-litre Bugatti, won the French Grand Prix, at 77.85 m.p.h. That year, too, Wimille came in second at Long Island and made fastest time, and he also won a 400,000 franc prize by setting the fastest Montlhèry lap in a Bugatti. In July he came to Prescott and was beaten only by Raymond Mays, in spite of his 4.7-litre Bugatti being unsuited to the winding road through the Bugatti Owners’ Club estate. The year 1937 saw Wimille win at Pau, the Avusrennen and Rheims, and, sharing a 57C 3.3-litre Bugatti with Robert Benoist, he won the Le Mans race at 85.07 m.p.h.
During the war he served in the French Air Service and, after the fall of France, in the resistance movement. 1947 saw Wimille a valued member of the great Alfa-Romeo team and for them he won the Swiss Grand Prix and European Grand Prix. With a Simca-Gordini he was victorious in the Coupe Robert Benoist and the Coupe de Paris. Last season Jean-Pierre Wimille proved his worth by bringing an Alfa-Romeo home first in the French, Italian and Monza Grands Prix, and no man can drive better than that. Furthermore, he was second to Count Trossi at Berne.
We mourn a very brave and talented driver who was at the very top of his profession ; our deepest sympathy is offered to his wife and child. Wimille’s death has caused unrest amongst drivers such as Nuvolari and Chiron, who talk of giving up racing. That, doubtless, will pass, but Wirnille’s place must remain for ever vacant.
Goodwood and Sports-Car Racing
Those who meet and mix with motoring sportsmen must be aware that amongst members of the B.A.R.C., late Junior Car Club, there is a feeling of disappointment that the Goodwood race meeting scheduled for Easter Monday is to be confined to racing cars, with no races for sports cars.
We felt that possibly John Morgan, General Secretary of the B.A.R.C. had decided to cater only for racing-car owners on Easter Monday because this is an International Fixture and that later races for sports cars would become a regular feature of races at the Goodwood circuit. Consequently, we put this point to him. His reply is to the effect that motor-racing can only exist and expand if it can obtain and hold the support of the paying public. At Goodwood for the forthcoming season, says Mr. Morgan, quite considerable sums are being expended in improving the course and in better amenities for the spectators who pay to see the racing. It is felt that a programme of the highest spectator appeal should be presented at the opening meeting of 1949 and that persons witnessing racing for the first time will be more satisfied to see purely racing cars in action than to be offered a mixed racing and sports-car programme.
With these sentiments we are in agreement or at least partial agreement. But we are disturbed to learn that sports-car events are unlikely to be held at the three meetings scheduled to take place at the new circuit this year. Mr. Morgan appears to have no room for sports-car events until, as he puts it, the organisation at Goodwood is working on a smooth ‘professional’ basis and is established as a successful venture or at least pays its way.”
As we see it, the Duke of Richmond and Gordon is taking full responsibility for the preparation of the circuit and its amenities, leaving Mr. Morgan to manage the racing for him thereat as, before the war, the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club ran the racing at Brooklands for the owners of the Motor Course. Nothing could be happier or promise better than that, for the Duke knows exactly what motor-racing entails and more about race-organisation and the running of a successful race-course than most people. And John Morgan is a born organiser, with a fine record to his credit. Nevertheless, it must not be overlooked that the Club, of which he is Secretary, has a big preponderance of sports-car owning and sports-car-minded members, who, with the advent of Goodwood, saw hopes of a resumption of the High-Speed Trial, one-lap sprints and short handicap races with which the J.C.C. served them so well before the war. Much of the Junior Car Club’s reputation was built up on such essentially sports car races as the Production Car Race, Sporting Car Race,”Double Twelve” and 1,000 Mile Race. Moreover, if the tradition of the recently-adopted initials B.A.R.C. is to be carried on correctly, sports-car races cannot be entirely ignored, for right up to the last season before the war sports-cars ran in Brooklands races and certain events were set aside for them. Over and above these thoughts, it is open to debate whether the sight of the Jaguar holding off the Healeys at last year’s Goodwood meeting wasn’t just as enthralling a spectacle to many of those present, particularly to J.C.C. members, as the sight of Parnell’s latest Maserati leading home an aged E.R.A. And the picture of Goodwood that appeared more frequently than any other in the popular Press was surely of a gentleman being spilled out of his sports-car.
We agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Morgan’s desire to make Goodwood racing a convincing success, and we are confident that he will do so. But we feel, too, for the ordinary Club member urgently desiring to race — as distinct from sprint — in his ordinary, not necessarily so slow, sports motor-car.
We know that to-day’s B.A.R.C. has full regard for the varied interests of its large membership, and we suggest to it that at least an occasional sports-car race at Goodwood would not come amiss, and might even play a part in putting British cars in the limelight. The Club states that it hopes to offer some consolation to the ordinary enthusiast by introducing regular practising facilities at Goodwood. But what on earth will there be for them to practise for if no races for their cars are to be held — unless in preparation for other club’s races at Silverstone and elsewhere?
Motor Minded B.B.C.
It is most satisfactory to observe trends which suggest that the British Broadcasting Corporation is at long last becoming motor-minded. In the news feature on the evening of January 29th very reasonable reference was made to the Monte Carlo Rally and an effective obituary to the great French racingdriver Jean-Pierre Wimille was broadcast, the value of Wimille’s victories to French prestige and the fact that he ranked equal in the national estimation to France’s greatest boxer and swimmer being very clearly stated. The Brussels Motor Show was also covered, while earlier, reports had been given of the interim stages of the Rally, including a conunentary from the Dinard before it left Folkestone. A few days later Mr. Stanley Barnes, Manager of the R.A.C. Competitions Department, gave a talk on the recently-concluded Monte Carlo Rally, and Mr. St. John Nixon was allowed a surprising five minutes in which to describe to listeners the Thousand Mile Trial of 1900, and Edge’s 24-Hour Record attempt made at Brooklands in 1907.
The B.B.C. has already promised a better broadcast commentary on this year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone than it was able to arrange at short notice last year. We can assure all those responsible for these motoring features that they are appreciated — and sadly missed if they do not occur as anticipated — by a far larger number of listeners than the B.B.C. seems to have bargained for in the past.
Easter Monday, etc.
Everyone (except those urgently seeking a race in a sports-car) looks like getting very good value from the B.A.R.C. at Goodwood on Easter Monday.
The races, for racing cars only, will comprise a 12 1/2 mile 500-c.c. Scratch Race, the 12 1/2 mile Lavant Cup race for supercharged cars up to 1,100-c.c. and non-supercharged cars up to 2 litres, the Chichester Cup race over the same distance, for supercharged cars exceeding 1,450-c.c., the invitation 25 mile Richmond Trophy race for Formula I cars, all the foregoing being scratch events, and such 12 1/2 mile (5 laps) races as the entry, which will be individually handicapped, demands. Tickets can be booked now from the B.A.R.C., 55, Park Lane, W.1, and covered accommodation for 6,000 spectators will be available.
The B.A.R.C. also announces that its International Jersey Road Race will start at 8 p.m. on April 28th. Entry forms are ready and accommodation should be booked now. Further good news is to the effect that part of Silverstone circuit is now available, through the R.A.C., for testing and for club meetings. This news arrived as we were closing for press, but the fees laid down by the R.A.C. are quoted elsewhere in this issue.