Matters of moment, March 1955

British Sunbeam wins the Monte Carlo Rally

There are “tougher” rallies than the Monte Carlo, the Liege-Rome-Liege and the Alpine for example, and luck plays it’s part in all rallies, and, in the great winter event more than in most.

It cannot be denied that only a good touring car, in the best sense of that term, can win the Monte Carlo Rally, although other good cars may be eliminated through no fault of their own. So all praise to the Rootes Group, whose Sunbeam Mk. III saloon, driven from Oslo by the Norwegian drivers Per Mailing and Gunnar Fadum, won by a clear 24 points. This Sunbeam was not one of the Rootes blessed team entries but a private entry, handled by men who understand how to cope with secret checks. Sunbeams also won L’Equipe Challenge Trophy for the Best Aggregate Performance by three cars of the same make (Mailing, Harper, Miss Van Damm).

So the Rootes Group has every reason to be proud of its products, which, in an event characterised by severe weather conditions, particularly for the Glasgow starters, a secret section in the mountains, an acceleration, reversing and braking test, a high-speed tour over 180 miles of difficult hill roads, and a race around the difficult Monaco G.P. circuit, have got off to as good a start of the 1955 rally season as National Benzole’s, Mr. Mercury’s arrow or Regent’s hare.

The winning Sunbeam used Champion sparking plugs, Mintex brake linings, Lockheed brakes and Tyresoles.

That second place was taken by a diminutive Dyna-Panhard, driven by G.Gillen and R.Dugat from Monte Carlo, is proof that air-cooling, front-wheel drive and a small engine are no detriment to effective winter competition motoring, while the excellence of the Type 220 Mercedes-Benz is emphasised further by H. Gerdum’s and Dr.J.Kuhling’s third place in one of these cars, starting from Munich. The winning Sunbeam lost 405.936 marks, the Dyna-Panhard 430.625 marks, the Mercedes-Benz 442.667 marks. Motor Sport does not propose to mention the innumerable winners of minor awards which come in the category of Punch’s Most-Polished Hub-Caps Class (which, you may remember, was won by the Stormgarm “Whirlwind” on Swell oil), because doing so detracts from the publicity value of the main successes, which the marques of Sunbeam, Dyna-Panhard and Mercedes-Benz so richly deserve.

Sunbeam further enhanced their victory by the winning of the Coupe des Dames with Sheila Van Damm in her Sunbeam, which was placed 11th in general classification and wrested this coveted award from Mme. Pochon’s Alfa-Romeo and Nancy Mitchell’s Daimler—a magnificent drive, which Anne Hall and Francois Clark shared. They started from Munich.

It is significant that this year several manufacturers either sponsored or assisted entries, notably Armstrong-Siddeley, Aston Martin, B.M.C., Daimler, Ford, Jaguar, Standard and the Rootes Group from this country. This is indeed excellent, because there is no better publicity for motor cars in all the world than success in competition events, appropriately advertised, nor is there a better way of discovering faults which may lie dormant in one’s products.

In having manufactured the outright winner of the Rally, the winners of the Aggregate Team Prize, and also the first British car to win the Coupe des Dames since 1932 the Rootes group gains well deserved publicity for its consistantly-effective Sunbeams. As we have observed, four of Britain’s “Big Five” entered cars for this year’s rally. (Vauxhall being the abstainer), but apart from Rootes, only Ford got anywhere near home and even then G.Burgess’ Ford Zephyr, the first British car to finish, in fourth place, arrived with only middle speed in it’s gearbox. In the twenty highest-placed cars, there were two Sunbeams (1st and 9th) and three Fords (4th, 12th and 14th), the last driven by Sydney Allard, 1952 winner, who declared publicly that the Zephyr Zodiac he used this year had insufficient performance, but the B.M.C. and Standard-Triumph entries were nowhere.

The Aston Martin DB2/4 handled by experts Gatsonides and Becquart was placed seventh, beaten by a Lancia Aurelia (winning marque last year) and another Type 220 Mercedes-Benz, and a Mk. VII Jaguar was eighth, Jaguar (Adams, Vard and Appleyard) also taking the Charles Faroux Challenge Trophy Team Prize. from D.K.W. and Sunbeam, slightly marred because Ian Appleyard’s Mk. VII lost a core-plug in the Circuit of the Mountains and was described as looking more like an atomic explosion than any car before or since. But then, even the winner, Mailing, changed a fanbelt before this test, most expeditiously they said, in 40 seconds! And some reports suggest that the Sunbeam’s engine was pretty tired at the end.

Finally, W.M.Couper and P.Fillingham (Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire) won the Concours de Securite Routiere et Confort, British cars, indeed, taking all the main “comfort” prizes. Note, and not incidentally, that standard-class cars beat ” tuned-class” vehicles.

Comparatively easy this year’s Rally may have been over some routes, but that lessons remain to be assimilated before next year’s event was evidenced by the casualties of 1955. To quote at random, reports spoke of Standard Vanguard running a big-end before Doncaster, Nancy Mitchell’s Daimler lost all but one of the Daimler’s wheel-studs during the Circuit of the Mountains, there was the Jaguar core-plug, and the astronomical engine revs. of Burgess’ Ford Zephyr as it was diced round the Monaco circuit in second gear. Meikles Ford Consul blew a gasket before Lille, an Austin A30 and two Standard Tens were also out before reaching Lille, a Ford put its fan into its radiator, Reg Phillips’ Ford temporarily lost its overdrive due to the solenoid switch freezing up, the Neil sisters’ Standard Vanguard retired with lighting trouble, Peter Collins’ Aston Martin suffered a puncture in the course of the Circuit of the Mountains and the hydraulic jack was found to be u/s., the engine of a Porsche sounded very odd towards the end, Gatsonides’ Aston Martin had lost performance by the time he came to lap the Monaco circuit, so that he kept behind a Porsche and a Salmson, and many cars arrived almost sans brakes, including Adams’ Mk. VII Jaguar and Couper’s Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire, etc.. etc.

Out of 319 starters 48 retired.

After which, isn’t it nice to know that you can go along to Devonshire House and, for £1,127 (inclusive of p.t.), order a Sunbeam Mk. III saloon like that in which those Norwegians won the Rally, completing the Circuit of the Mountains without losing a single mark ?

Racing in England again.

The 1955 racing season commences in this country on March 26th. On this date the B.A.R.C. will hold its first Members’ Meeting at Goodwood, with scratch and handicap races for sports cars, points scored in these races counting towards the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy.

On the same day the Snetterton M.R.C. has a race meeting at Snetterton circuit for F. III racing cars and sports cars, with the possibility of a Formule Libre race. A match race between Lotus and Lister sports cars may be a feature of this meeting.

Although not a race, the weekend of March 26th/27th will see the V.S.C.C. Pomeroy Trophy Contest run off, with headquarters in the Brackley area and tests, including a one-hour High-Speed Trial at Silverstone circuit on the Saturday.

We commend these Sussex, Norfolk and Northants speed events to you, as marking the end of a hard winter. Give them your enthusiastic support, boys and girls !