As quite a lot of people took us to task for our analysis of the European sports-car races of 1951 we are shy of race-analysis. So we do not propose this year to draw conclusions about the more impressive American Sports-car races of 1951, as last year we did of the 1950 races in the USA. But we do intend to briefly review some of these races, remembering that the regulations governing sports-car events in the USA are still fairly fluid—although Alec Ullnum and the SSC of A are doing the spadework towards standardisation— and that driving ability varies probably more than is the case in Europe.
On April 1st the California SCC and SCRA held its second meeting at Palm Springs, using a 2.3-mile circuit of camp roads and dispersal strips at the Airport. After TD MGs had wiped up the 11/2-litre race—as well they might as the sole opposition was one Singer—the big event, for blown cars up to 3 litres, unblown up to 8 litres, was run over 65 laps, or 1491/2 miles. Thirty-one started—a fine mixed field of Ferrari, Alfa-Romeo, Simca, Allard, Jaguar, MG, Crosley, Riley, etc. Over 6,000 spectators saw the red 2-litre all-enveloping Ferrari of Jim Kimberley, driven by M Lewis, win from J Armstrong’s Cadillac-Allard, with Robinson’s Jaguar XK120 third. Another XK120 and a high-boost TC MG followed the placemen home.
The meeting gave rise to troubles we have known here—difficulties of crowd control, poor PA, lack of control at the pits, absurd refreshment prices—and they, too, used straw bale markers. The regulations, too, caused bother, a Citroen being deemed non-sports but an Austin A99 getting by—a matter Road and Track obviously thought unfair. Phil Hill’s 3.8 Alfa-Romeo lost a wheel, the blown Crosley overturned (Sand, not straw !), another Crosley seized-up, a Brooklands Riley Nine lost its throttle linkage, the Singer had worn out its brakes in the smaller race. Barlow’s 1,112-lb Simca broke its transmission, the Altemus Special, with “banking wheels,” caught fire, an Allard threw a rod, the Edwards Special, with Ardun ohv V860 engine, lost all its water after momentarily passing the Ferrari, and a Cadillae-Allard had gearbox trouble and pinked about in “high” until the pistons packed up. The Austin A90 coasted in sans brakes and transmission, a J2 Allard with GMC Six engine never got more than four cylinders firing, and the Cannon ran a bearing. Expesive ! A happy incident occurred when Armstrong, munching an apple, came across a worm, took the escape road and still bit head off worm … A Cadillac–Allard made fastest lap.
The 40-lap Argentinian General Peron GP for sports cars over 11/2-litres had a Le Mans-style start. Press photographers met with a cold reception from the police and quite rightly went on strike. Fitch’s Cadillac-Allard won after Fred Wacker had spun his Cadillac-Allard while in the lead, ending astride a straw bale. He continued to second place—he had made fastest qualifying time in practice. Fitch set a lap record for sports cars. Third place went to Schroeder’s Le Mans Delahaye, followed by a Healey.
Pebble Beach happened for the second year, over 25,000 people watched, and the 48-lap, 100-mile Cup Race was for Sports-cars rather than production cars. Bill Pollack’s Cadillac-Allard won from Armstrong’s Cadillac-Allard, with Breeve’s Jaguar XK120 third, Hill’s Alfa-Romeo fourth. The winning Allard, in its first race, had a “full-race” Cadillac engine bored out to 6 litres. Armstrong’s had a standard engine, Lincoln gears and Columbia shock-absorbers : he put its top speed as 110 mph, when the hydraulic tappets began to pump up. The Kimberley Ferrari overturned and a V8-powered MG “lost a spindle.” Concours d’Elegance was won by a blue Mk VII Jaguar.
At Bridgehampton Tom Cole won in his Chrysler-Allard, from Goldschmidt’s Cadillac-Allard and a 2.3 Ferrari. But at Elkhart Lake the Cunninghams played with the field. Fitch led for all but two laps, winning at 80.82 mph, and for those two laps it was his team-mate P Walters, in another Cunningham, who was out ahead. This Cunningham subsequently ran a bearing but Walters took over Briggs Cunningham’s car, to finish sixth. Second place went to M Graham’s Cadillac-Allard, at 80.3 mph, in spite of many wild moments, and Phil Hill’s ex-Silverstone Jaguar XK120, now with wire wheels and special all-enveloping body, was third, at 70.35 mph, free from brake fade and winner of its class. It was followed in by another ex-Silverstone XK120, and Bill Spear’s 4.1 Ferrari “America.” A Ferrari and Barlow’s simca won the smaller classes.
The Cunningham success at Elkhart Lake was consolidated when Walters won at Watkins Glen before 150,000 spectators—only about 10,000 fewer than trek to Indianapolis. The Watkins Glen GP [which shouldn’t have been called a GP and, although an International fixture, was by invitation only—Ed.] was over 15 laps, or 99 miles, instead of 30 laps and 198 miles, because, alas, the huge crowd was getting out of hand. The winning Cunningham set fastest lap at 80.5 mph and was followed home by the Cunningham of Fitch with Spear’s 4.1 Ferrari third. Cunningham’s Cunningham fourth and Sabol’s Chrysler-Allard fifth, ahead of Harris’ Cadillac-Allard. Wacker’s Cadillac-Allard was the only car out of’ 33 starters to really challenge the three Cunninghams and the Ferrari but it was hampered by Hydramatic transmission, which caused such wild cornering that it was flagged in, although it had run third for a few minutes earlier on. The 72.6mile 11/2-litre race was a victory for G Weaver’s Le Mans Jowett Jupiter. which beat Viall’s Lester-MG and Koster’s HRG, winning at, 68.95 mph.
These Cunningham victories are perhaps significant, and the news that these cars now have a four-speed in place of three-speed gearbox, light alloy disc wheels in place of wire wheels, and are lighter than before, adds interesting speculation. Will they atone for last year’s debacle at Le Mans this year ?
The Third Palm Springs 65-lap Cup Race was won by D Parkinson’s rebodied Jaguar XK120 (you wouldn’t recognise it) from a V8 60-powered TC MG and another Jaguar Special. Graham’s Cadillac-Allard led for eight laps, then retired with back axle trouble. A Nash-Healey cornered too fast and overturned. Barlow’s Simca won the 11/2-litre race, after many stops for oil. The Kurtis met six Jaguar XK120s in the production car race but had brake trouble and a novice driver. One XK120 also retired with its brakes gone completely. The 11/2-4-litre race was interesting because one of the new 1,500-cc Singers beat the TD, another of these Singers being third. A Cooper-Jap was demonstrated during this race and left the sports cars in one lap ! Again the crowd got out of hand.
At Reno, where the Reno Chamber of Commerce and the SCCA rum a road race in October, Pollack’s 6-litre Cadillac-Allard of Carstens had the necessary speed, but was hard pushed by Hill’s Jaguar XK120 until Hill’s car lost its oil-pressure relief valve. Parkinson’s alloy-bodied XK120 then took second place, although suffering from brake fade, which he hopes wire wheels will cure. The Edwards Special was third, these cars all winning their classes, in company with a Crosley, a Morris, Barlow’s Simca and a TD MG.
In the Convair Trophy race a Mk II TD MG beat Koster’s HRG, and another Mk II TD in the 11/2-litre race (won at 54.3 mph), and the Miller Trophy, for the big cars, was won by Fitch’s 2-litre Ferrari at 58.2 mph from an XK120 and Cunningham’s Ferrari. Both races were over 94.8 miles. Detroit VIPs watched the performance of the Cadillac engine in Goldschmidt’s J2 Allard but after lapping at 62 mph the rear Panhard rod came adrift after 19 laps of the 60. Interesting special here was D Ash’s, with TD MG. frame and front end, Mercedes-Benz 170 swing rear axle, BRM-like body and TD MG engine over-bored to 1.440 cc and with 9 to 1 cr. This and a Lester-MG held the XK120s.
That seems to exhaust these hardfought shorter races. We refrain from analysis but note that J2 Allards, either Cadillac or Chrysler-engined, won four out of the eight big-car events. At times the Allard chassis has proved unable to withstand the power developed. which is not surprising, as most Americans modify their engines and get considerably more than the 160-180 bhp of the standard power units, Carstens’ Cadillac engine has been enlarged from 5.4 to 6-litres. No doubt the J2X Allard will gain even greater esteem in this year’s USA races. Besides these circuit races, there was that great Mexican 5-day race which the “works” Ferraris wiped up very neatly from a Chrysler, and an Argentinian “Mille Miglia” of over 75 hours’ duration, won by a Ford coupe.—WB.