Matters Of Moment
Lancia Wins The Monte Carlo Rally
Any disappointment that Britons feel that this year's comparatively easy Monte Carlo Rally was won by an Italian car can be tempered by the knowledge that the victorious car is one of the more roadworthy and technically-advanced modern high-performance vehicles and that Louis Chiron, who drove it, is one of France's most popular racing drivers.
In hoping that Britain would accomplish the "hat-trick," following the all-English victory by Sydney Allard's Allard in 1952 and the success of the Dagenham-built Ford conducted by the Dutch driver Gatsonides last year, we should not be petty over the fact that a Gran Turismo 2 1/2-litre Lancia Aurelia is a very potent motor car and that protests were entered by some on the grounds that an insufficient quantity of this model had been built to comply with the regulations.
In a rally won primarily on the 164-mile regularity test in the Maritime Alps and on the final "race" over the difficult Monaco Grand Prix circuit, Chiron drove with his legendary smooth competence and Lancia have commenced the new season with another impressive display of long-distance reliability. The severe weather somehow missed the rally but even under the easy conditions prevailing not every competitor found the going plain sailing. An Austin, it seems, succumbed early with engine trouble, a Daimlier with similar in all peculiarities; in all 16 cars retired, numbering two Simcas, two Sunbeam-Talbots, two Lancias, an Austin, a Volkswagen, a Panhard, an I.F.A., a Morris Minor, a Riley, a Jowett Javelin, an Alfa-Romeo, a Humber and a Renault. Many of these failures to reach Monte Carlo were due to crashes. Such a misfortune befell Gogf Imhof, for his Humber skidded on a patch of ice and went into a ditch. His front-seat passenger was the well-known B.B.C. commentator Raymond Baxter, who received some nasty cuts. Later he told us that on one occasion, when he was driving, he turned to Imhof, who was immersed in maps and slide rules, and asked where they were, to which Goff replied that he hadn't the foggiest idea, as he was busy planning the Tulip Rally! We have this foresight in ensuring that he masters the route of the Tulip wasn't responsible for this sudden termination of Goff's Monte Carlo!
Here we would like to pay tribute to the splendid work of Raymond Baxter and his colleague Brian Johnston in getting first-rate news of the rally over to these who, like ourselves, were not privileged to be on the Continent with the competitors. Baxter, in spite of the Humber's accident, duly arrived at Monte Carlo in another car and in his penultimate broadcast brought Louis Chiron to the microphone — no one who heard this broadcast will forget the charming sportsmanship of the veteran French racing driver in requesting that his colleague, C. Basadonna, be included in the congratulations — as Chiron said, if he drove the Lancia his companion "drove the watches."
Certainly there could hardly be a more popular Continental winner than Chiron. And if he drove an Italian car, France was well placed in the 1954 Rally, with the 1.3-litre Peugeot of P. David and P. Barbier in second place, the 748-c.c. Panhard of A. Blanchard and M. Lecoq third, and fourth and fifth positions occupied by 748-c.c. Renaults, with another little rear-engined Renault not only seventh but winner, in the hands of Mme. M. Pouchon, aided by Mlle. L. Renaud, of the Coupe des Dames.
This is a convincing Continental victory on the part of cars, diverse in engine size, but all of them vehicles which we hold in high esteem.
British cars were not prominent this year in the final results, nevertheless credit must be given to Adams and Titterington for being in the lead until the final test with their Mk. VII Jaguar and for subsequently finishing highest of all the British entrants, that is sixth.
Sheila Van Damm was faster in the "Monaco Grand Prix" than Mme. Pouchon's Renault but her Sunbeam-Talbot could not hold the flying French lady on handicap. As some recompense for our poor showing this year, British cars occupied the 6th, 8th, 13th and 15th places in the best, fifteen, Sunbeam-Talbot secured the Charles Faroux Team Prize, and B. Proos-Hoogendijk's car of this make the Concours de Confort. Leslie Johnson was particularly deserving of sympathy, for after a very fast drive over the Col des Leques he collapsed, became unconscious, and had to be taken to hospital — as someone said, surely a Sunbeam-Talbot is not all that exhausting to drive fast! Fastest time in the regularity section was made by Moss (Sunbam-Talbot), in spite of a visit to a ditch, at just under 40 m.p.h.. Gatsonides (Ford Zephyr) was second fastest, but Chiron — not called "The Fox " for nothing — decided on one kilometre a minute and kept to it.
Thus the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. It was won on Michelin tyres which are as excellent as the motor, car to which they were fitted. Marchal lighting equipment. etc., and certainly by a very fine motor car in the hands of a capable professional, to which Chiron's splendid handling of the Lancia in the final test set the seal. It was no fluke, for Louis also won the Mont Agel hill-climb which followed the rally. Ribena (which excellent drink three drivers took neat, judging by a photograph in a Ribena advertisement) and perhaps Horlicks helped some competitors.
For the record we append the results. The British competitors in the first fifteen were: Adams/Titterington(Jaguar), 6th; Vardi Jolley (Jaguar), 8th; the Reeces (Ford Zephyr), 13th; Harrison/Phillips (Ford Zephyr), 14th; Moss/Scannell (Sunbeam-Talbot), 15th.
1st. L. Chiron(C. Bassadonna (Lancia).
2nd: P. David/P. Barbier (Peugeot).
3rd: A. Blanchard/M. Lecoq (Panhard).
Coupe des Dames: Mme. Pouchon/Mlle. Renaud (Renault).
Charles Faroux Trophy (best nominated team): Sunbeam-Talbot.
"L'Equipe" Trophy (three best cars): Renault.
Concours de Confort: P. Hoogendijk (Sunbeam-Talbot).
Class winners: Over 1,500 c.c.: Chiron (Lancia).
1,100.1,500 c.c.: David (Peugeot).
750-1,100 c.c.: P. Metternish (Porsche).
Up to 750 c.c.: A. Blanchard (Panhard).
Road v. Rail
During the Great Freeze-up of late-January and early-February British Railways seemed to become inexcusably disorganised. One morning, although no snow had fallen in the night and main roads to London were usable with only a medium of care, trains on a main line 36 miles from Waterloo were an hour behind schedule. When our train did arrive it halted on the centre track and passengers were invited to climb down onto the local line and be hoisted up into the carriages, to the detriment of dignity on the part of the elderly, nylons on the part of the girls, and the personal cleanliness of all concerned.
Having attained the carriages, they were found to be entirely devoid of heat on a weekday morning when the temperature was below freezing-point!
Meanwhile, those running cars were well on their way to the Metropolis, in most cases comfortably warm, their health unimpaired, their tempers unfrayed.
If railway fares are again increased, as seems inevitable, the day may yet dawn when personal transportation by motor-car, in spite of the savage petrol tax and high insurance charges, will actually show a saving, at all events where several persons share the vehicle on daily business journeys. The sensational fall in secondhand car prices, to which the Sunday Express gave prominence on January 24th, will be a contributory factor.
After our bitter experience as railway travellers in an English winter, we can only remark "the sooner the better"!
A New Manager Of The R.A.C. Competitions Department
Following the retirement, for business reasons, of Col. F. Stanley Barnes, Manager of the R.A.C. Competitions Department, this position will be occupied from April 1st by Dean H. Delamont, who was formerly Col. Barnes' second-in-command.
Delamont has an excellent knowledge of the organisational side of competition motoring and is also an engineer of repute who has been closely associated with some important Formula III projects on the design side. He is rugged of build, his broad shoulders well able to bear the many burdens which fall on those who control competition motoring in this keen and overcrowded island. We have always found "The Dean" helpful, yet capable of stern unswerving judgment when such is called for, while his sense of humour matches that of contemporary competitors.
Therefore, in bidding au revoir to the Colonel, we welcome "The Dean" to this important new post.
Moreover, Hamish Orr-Ewing becomes his second-in-command, already well conversant with the workings of the R.A.C. Competitions Department.
Educated at Eton, Orr-Ewing is no "desk-driver." A keen vintage man, he drives his 4 1/2-litre Bentley in club races and speed events with an elan which must be seen to be fully appreciated. He is thus able to "meet the customers on their own level" and his charm of manner proves a great asset to the smooth running of the Sport when delicate decisions have to be made.
With Dean Delamont and Hamish Orr-Ewing at the controls the future of the Sport is in able hands and may well be the answer to those who, in recent years, have called for a practical approach from younger men to the many problems involved.
It is an unfortunate fact that there exist in this, as in other countries, people who cannot mind their own business.
When police teams appeared in the Monte Carlo Rally it wasn't long before questions were being asked in high places as to why a British police car and three police drivers were allowed to undertake the rally, and whether they did so in official duty time.
In consequence, I am informed on good authority that the Humber police crew in this year's Monte Carlo Rally had to use their summer leave to go and met the expenses of competing from their own pockets, although the far-sighted manufacturers of the Humber assisted by providing the car free and a small cash subsidy in addition.
You and I might have thought that, even with the present shocking increase in crime, one police car and three policemen could be spared from England for three weeks each winter, considering the prestige to Britain that the presence of a sober black Scotland Yard Humber at Monaco implies, and the vastly better relationships between the motoring public and the mobile police that result from police participation in competition events — this improved relationship can be traced back to the excellent idea of the Bentley Drivers' Club to compete against the Metropolitan Police Motor Driving School at Hendon, and cannot fail to be consolidated by a police entry in such a publicised contest as the Monte Carlo Rally.
But a taxpayer sought to decry the idea via his M.P. and now Messrs. Skeggs, Teer and Shillabeer have to forgo their summer vacation, enter privately, and find their own finance to undertake a worthwhile job which might very well receive official sanction and support. So absolute has official sanction been forced to become that I am told that had the exceptional weather conditions this year threatened to delay the return of these sporting police drivers by so much as a day they would have left the car and flown to England, again at their own expense.
Now the busybody taxpayers are active again. This time the object of their anxiety is Mike Hawthorn's exemption from military conscription. In the House of Commons on February 2nd Mr. K. Thompson, Conservative M.P. for Walton, asked how Hawthorn "is able to escape his call-up responsibilities." "It would," he said, "be an offence against mothers of decent boys if Hawthorn escaped call-up." The facts seem to be that when he commenced motor-racing Hawthorn's enlistment notice was cancelled, quite legally, because, as a five-year engineering student, he was entitled to deferment. His papers have not been re-issued since he joined the Ferrari team — in which he is, surely, still an "engineering student"!
If, now that Hawthorn has become Britain's No. 1 Grand Prix driver, officials re-issue his call-up papers and lurk about waiting to serve them on him, a sense of proportion would seem to be sadly lacking. There are in the world only about a dozen individuals, perhaps fewer, who have the skill, technical knowledge and dexterity to win the French Grand Prix in a modern Grand Prix racing car. Are engineering students of greater importance to the nation's well-being and prestige? Whether Authority likes it or not, mechanised sport has gained enormously in popularity since the second World War and is fast gaining nation-wide importance, even in this country, which has never taken kindly to open exhausts and fast cars. We doubt whether, in the present day and age, any very loud public outcry would follow official exemption of Hawthorn from compulsory military service — least of all from the "decent boys" quoted by politician Thompson as being, very vaguely it seems to us, involved.
After all, Hawthorn is not shrinking from danger and exertion — he risks more and endures as much in the course of one close-fought race as the average National Serviceman does during two years' call-up. Nor can it be argued that we are depriving the services of a promising young man, along with those three policemen who might so usefully officially be excused normal duties each winter for the harder task of competing in the rally. For a first-rank Grand Prix driver is surely at least as well adapted, by reason of his physical condition, split-second reactions and technical "harmony," to enter the R.A.F. at any moment of his career as most National Servicemen are at the close of their two years' compulsory training. Mr. Thompson should ask himself whether he is not taking life a little too seriously. When there really was a war on, hundreds of able-bodied young men did superficial desk-jobs in the Ministries of Aviation and Supply and could not, save in isolated instances after a superhuman struggle, gain a transfer to the Armed Forces. This scandalous waste of man-power in war time is another aspect which makes a haggle over Hawthorn's peace-time call-up childish and unbalanced.
To require a racing driver of 24, in the full flight of his career, to retire from his profession for two years is to jeopardise his future, for everyone knows, or should be told, that the modern Grand Prix driver is at his best under 30 and that if Hawthorn had to return home for two seasons, Ferrari, who is providing him with the best possible training for winning untold prestige for his country in the future, one hopes at the wheel of a British car, would be unlikely to keep his place vacant against his return.
Yet, if the taxpayer busybodies shout loudly enough Hawthorn may be compelled either to cut himself off from his own country, his parents, his home and friends, and reside in Italy or we shall lose, as a driver, our most successful Grand Prix exponent of the present time and the third Englishman to win the French Grand Prix.
If you are an enthusiast you will have nothing to do with Walton's anti-Hawthorn agitation.
With the great increase in road rallies, with which we can couple night trials, point-to-points, treasure-hunts, and the like, it seems at the expense of mud-trials, it is of the utmost importance that organisers and competitors, in particular the latter, take especial care to avoid over-fast driving and inconvenience to the public. It would be a thousand pities if any action were taken to curtail or stop rally-type events from being held. But in a National Calendar crowded with competitions of this sort we cannot emphasise too strongly that great care must be exercised.
We were disturbed to learn recently that in an afternoon event run by a comparatively small club three accidents occurred in which five of the competing cars were involved and, in addition, three complaints of dangerous driving (not necessarily substantiated) were lodged with the police in respect of this event.
To the credit of the organisers it should be said that the regulations governing the competition in question emphasised that dangerous driving would not be tolerated. The fact remains that accidents happened.
In another recent event, covering some 500 miles, 90 cars started and only ten finished, the remaining 80 being involved in accidents. In this case ice on the roads was to blame and the high accident rate did not involve other than the competing cars. Even so, the aggregate insurance claim for this one rally must, at a modest estimate, have reached £2,000; which is not the way to lower insurance premiums.
So, you see, it is very important to drive "safety-fast" in road contests; in addition, do your very best not to inconvenience any other road-users, do not make unnecessary noise or fail to dim blazing lights at appropriate moments, remove competition numbers as soon as you finish or when you retire, if you are compelled to do so, and be polite, even under stress, to any police who inquire "What are you up to?"
Organisers can do a great deal of good by not putting a premium on speed in point-to-point and treasure-hunt types of event and of always allowing generous time-allowances for all road events. It is impossible, even so, to obviate speeding in such contests on the part of those who get lost or delayed in looking for "clues" or "treasure" and thus require to make up time. But a severe loss of marks or even disqualification for dangerous driving or breach of the Highway Code, with sufficient marshals to enforce such rules, can go a long way towards keeping quick driving within the limits of "safety-fast."
The police in all districts involved should, of course, be informed of such events and their advice followed to the letter. If possible, at all events of the smaller type, competition numbers should not be displayed.
Reverting to the common-sense advice that competitors should display competition numbers only during the event, removing or covering them at all other times, perhaps calls for some qualification. The accident-free fast driver has been known to ask why he mustn't carry such numbers quite openly; he is one of the most heavily taxed pleasure-seekers in the country, he is infringing no law in having "racing numbers" on his car and their presence will not make him accident-prone. Quite true. But human nature being what it is, in a country which thinks Ascari is an opera singer and where the B.B.C. still refers at times to the Monte Carlo Rally as a race, it is psychologically better not to be misconstrued as a "racing motorist." even if your driving is essentially safe. In the eyes of lots of busybodies or merely misguided folk all sports cars spell death and destruction and those with "racing numbers" inevitably so. It is true that we are savagely taxed and have every right to use our cars, sports or saloon, for pleasure or business, competitions included, and that we expect, and should demand, fair play and courtesy front the police. But when driving in road competitions, do play the game, for it is far better to be safe than sorry, and rallies are very much in the official eye at present.
If we preach, we apologise, but we think that a word of warning is timely.
*With acknowledgment to the M.G. Car Company, Ltd.
A Costly Outing!
The B.R.D.C. has issued a stern warning that in future the most serious view will be taken if anyone forces an entry onto Silverstone Circuit for testing or "joy-ride" purposes, and states that vigorous, action will be taken against offenders.
It seems that this official warning is occasioned by an episode on November 14th last year, when two enthusiasts (or, in B.R.D.c. parlance, "trespassers") drove round Silverstone until stopped by the security police.
Legal action was taken by the B.R.D.C. against the offenders but this has been withdrawn following the receipt by the club and the neighbouring land-owner of full apologies from the two drivers, and a donation of £20 each to the Silverstone Parish Church and B.M.R.R.F.; in addition the club's legal expenses were met.
Trespass onto any racing circuit is an exceedingly serious matter. As the B.R.D.C. rightly emphasises, particularly at Silverstone, such trespass involves danger to persons, farm animals and vehicles, while the drivers themselves will find no assistance at hand should they upset, as when two lives were lost at Goodwood recently. The B.R.D.C. further suggests that, trespassers will cause damage to the track, but to anyone who has watched club race meetings there weekend after weekend throughout the summer this may seem an exaggeration, until it is remembered that a temporarily repaired or newly-laid surface could easily be damaged by a single car.
So those enthusiasts of November 14th were rightly made to feel ashamed of themselves, although we feel a remote pang of sympathy for them, because this probably innocent desire to motor fast in racing fashion — we are not in possession of the full facts, nor do we propose to ask for them — seems to have cost them in the neighbourhood of £50; and there was no starting money.
Without attempting in any way to excuse trespass, the present impermanent natare of our racing circuits is to some extent to blame. If "forcing an entry" means sliding aside a portable wooden barrier this may not seem a very serious act to those youngsters to whom motor racing is almost their religion. At Brooklands, although the grounds were open all day and all night for the greater part of the year, to trespass on the track itself would have involved driving over a deep ditch or lifting the car over 5-ft. high spiked iron railings if actually breaking down of fences or gates was avoided. Moreover, even on weekdays, paid club officials were on duty to advise and supervise users of the Motor Course.
Another advantage in those days was that trespass was unnecessary when testing became urgent or the desire to do a little motor-race practice too great to overcome, because Brooklands was available to non-members of the B.A.R.C. on almost any non-race day, on payment of 10s. for a car or 5s. for a motor-cycle. The absence of corners made use of the Motor Course comparatively safe even by the inexperienced in vehicles of negative braking power, and we do not recall a single fatality involving ordinary drivers or riders.
Even Brooklands had a case of trespass at times, from those who drove round at night behind the blaze of acetylene headlamps while they potted at rabbits, to the driver of a Ford V8 who drove onto the track while a J.C.C. One-Hour High-Speed Trial was in full cry, completed a few fast laps, then drove off the course, into the Paddock and on non-stop through the tunnel, to make his escape onto the public road before the officials had fully comprehended that he was not carrying competition numbers!
None of the foregoing excuses those Silverstone gate-crashers but it does serve to emphasise some of the difficulties and frustrations with which the enthusiast of today is beset.
Enthusiasm, even when misplaced, cannot he altogether despised and, so far as this unhappy B.R.D.C. episode is concerned, we cannot understand why the parish church benefited when surely the security police (Rootes or B.R.D.C.?) who so successfully "out. diced" the "dicers" were far more deserving of the conscience-money.
Flockhart And B.R.M.
The Owen Racing Organisation announces that Ron Flockhart will be second driver to Ken Wharton in the B.R.M. team for 1954, and he has joined Chas. Clarke & Co., Ltd., of Wolverhampton, as manager of their sports-car department to concentrate on the sale of the Healey 100. Chas. Clarke & Son, Ltd., has only recently been acquired by the Owen Organisation.