Recounted to the Editor in a recent interview
I think that George Harvey Noble has every right, with the late J. G. Parry Thomas, to be remembered as “Mr. Brooklands”. He spent so much time at the Track at Weybridge that he had to give up two lucrative businesses. He raced a great variety of cars there, did almost daily stints of test driving, and knew every bump and contour, curve and angle of the old Motor Course and the tricks which paid off when “having a real go” round the outer-circuit.
Consequently, I found that the session I had with Mr. Harvey Noble last January, at his house in the fashionable area of Hove, with a very acceptable break for lunch at the Langford Hotel, whose proprietor, Mr. Greville Doswell, is an enthusiastic reader of Motor Sport, was a memorable occasion, brought to a conclusion all too soon, when I had to motor nearly 200 miles home through the night.
I started by asking Mr. Noble how he became interested in Brooklands. “Well”, he explained, “I was born in Huntingdonshire and went to school at Wellingborough”, where he and a fellow pupil read avidly the racing reports in the weekly doses of The Motor and The Light Car & Cyclecar, which caused his friend to invest a small sum in an AV Monocar; Harvey Noble had an AJS motorcycle at the time and was determined to change this for a car when he left school. It was when travelling to Bournemouth to spend the holidays there with his widowed mother that the young Harvey Noble first saw Brooklands from the train and thereafter always hung out of the carriage window to watch any racing cars which were circulating over the scarred concrete.
When Mrs. Harvey Noble went to live on the South Coast her son was enrolled at Brighton Technical School, where he met the young son of G. L. Baker. Mr. Baker, later to race his boat-bodied Minerva very successfully at the Track and win the very last race ever held there in his multi-carburetter, straight-eight Graham Paige (Motor Sport, April 1969), was then a very keen public-enclosure spectator at BARC meetings and the two boys used to be taken to Brooklands in the back of Mr. Baker’s first Minerva tourer.
When Harvey Noble attained the age of 17, in November 1927, his trustees were prevailed upon to provide him with his long-awaited first motor car. It was a Gordon England Cup-Model Austin 7, with wheel discs, a Brooklands exhaust system terminating in a fish-tail, and, later, two aero-screens. A car to delight any youngster’s heart!
The following year this Austin was entered for such competition events as an 18-year-old was eligible for, like local trials, the Lewes Speed Trials, etc. Inevitably it overturned on one occasion but, says Harvey Noble, “that didn’t trouble anyone very much in those days and some boys put it back on its wheels and I drove on”.
In 1929 the Austin was changed for a 1927 12/50 Alvis Beetleback, in which Noble drove in some more speed trials, JCC events at the Track and various Club trials, including the then-famous Brighton-to-Beer. He obtained a further taste of speed when this very excellent Alvis took part in the Brighton Rally, which embraced a timed run up a private road leading to Brighton racecourse.
Seeking something faster, Harvey Noble invested, in 1930, in a GP Special Salmson with the pressure-fed crank and four-speed gearbox. It had the fabric-covered racing body which, of course, broke off at the tail, which was thereupon sawn off and the spare wheel accommodated on its now blunt end, but it was “a jolly good motor car” used for many Brooklands events and in speed trials. In the 1932 LCC Relay Race, for instance, it was in V. W. Derrington’s Salmson team along with Derrington’s car and the supercharged model of C. S. Dickson-Geertz, this team finishing second, at 76.09 m.p.h., and there is a picture of it very “sideways on” on the road section of a JCC High Speed Trial at the Track.
At that time these 1,100-c.c. Salmsons were quite prominent at Brooklands, Jack Bartlett’s having taken the Class G Mountain lap-record from Sammy Davis’ Riley 9 and Miss Naismith’s blown car winning a Ladies’ Race with a lap at 91.38 m.p.h. Noble drove his grey car very consistently over both circuits, his car restored to something of its original appearance, by fitting an aluminium tail from a Grand Sport Amilcar. All the while he was gaining valuable experience, and when Dickson-Geertz entered his s/c Salmson for the 1932 BRDC 500-Mile Race and asked Derrington who would co-drive, he was referred to Noble. Noble was able to assist by lending items of pit equipment, the wheels from his own Salmson, etc. While warming up before the start of this arduous race the Salmson’s rev.-counter drive broke, which was a bad start. The owner went off but was soon at his pit, violently ill from the bumpy ride. Vomiting, he indicated to Noble that the car was “all yours”. Things were all right until the pipe to the oil-gauge broke, this instrument being rather a luxury in a Salmson, incidentally. Noble was soaked in oil but at the replenishment stop they were able to flatten the pipe to stop the seepage. Resuming, the steering column suddenly became detached from the scuttle and Harvey Noble tiller-steered to his pit. As he went out again he looked up from inspecting the instruments, to discover that he was about to run into a fallen tree. Clive Dunfee had crashed in the Bentley and the tree was being used by officials to help remove his body.
Going too fast to dodge, Noble ducked down and drove through the branches, expecting the Salmson to overturn. He got through without harm but was obliged to come in again for foliage to be plucked from the radiator cowl and the shock-absorbers to be hammered straight. What he didn’t know was that the tree had cracked the car’s sump. Remember, the oil-gauge was out of commission and there was no rev.-counter, so George was “playing it by ear”. A lap later there was “a monumental bang”, as a rod broke and wrecked the engine… That was the end of a ride which Noble recalls as “wet and filthy”, his worst ever!
Out of disaster came good, however, because he bought the car for £100 and gave Alec Francis the job of rebuilding the engine. Bartlett had just obtained some very special internals for his Salmson, so Noble was able to buy the old special rods, etc. from that car and Humphries supplied the body from Widengren’s Amilcar Six, which was being converted into a single-seater. The car was prepared in Brighton and in 1933, on its first appearance, the resuscitated grey and black Salmson won its race, a 3-lap Mountain Handicap at the Opening BARC Meeting, lapping at 67.72 m.p.h., to finish a couple of seconds ahead of Appleton’s Bugatti, past which Noble had just squeezed by going outside it, very close to the Vicker’s sheds, at the Fork, having made up six seconds handicap on the 1 1/2-litre car. A week later Harvey Noble drove a De Soto in the RAC Rally, which finished at Hastings, an agreement he had come to with Michelin, who wanted to test some experimental tyres. These were so experimental that they only had four, so Noble carried no spare! The De Soto took it in its stride, apart from the Autovac drying up on full-throttle hills, but as Noble was signed-up with Dunlop for racing, negotiations had to be somewhat cloak-and-dagger!
Here I will digress to remark that up to the war Harvey Noble favoured Chryslers as road transport. In those days many people ordered a new car at each Olympia Show, so plenty of year-old used cars got into the hands of the better dealers. George used to make the rounds of his friends in the Trade and pick the Chrysler of his fancy, including, on one occasion, a very nice Redhead, with Hoyal fabric body. They made excellent tow cars, had good hydraulic brakes, the earlier models external-contracting, and were exchanged annually, a used Ford Eight or Ten being acquired for winter pub-crawls. It was the De Soto which towed the blown Salmson to Brooklands.
The twin-cam Salmson was rather congested, with two 18-mm. sparking plugs per cylinder to be allowed for in a 62.2-mm. bore engine and was prone to crack its head. This happened in the India Trophy Race and again in the Relay Race, when Noble teamed up with two MGs and finished eighth, at 81.17 m.p.h. Invited to run the Salmson at an experimental “dirt-track” meeting at Layham’s Farm, Noble had a field-day, the car’s solid back axle suiting the “Mountain-mile” course, so that its standing-start lap was quicker than the former lap record and it won a handicap, a scratch race and then the Bluebird Trophy event. At the subsequent prize-giving a fine party developed, from which Noble emerged in the early a.m. laden with silverware, to find his Chrysler frozen solid! The Salmson ran in the Brighton Speed Trials, tieing with one of Whitney-Straight’s girl friends who was driving his MG Magnette. It could lap the Brooklands outer-circuit at nearly 91 m.p.h.
Brooklands racing had been great fun, especially as many of Harvey Noble’s close friends were fellow competitors; Baker was now racing his sleeve-valve Minerva there, his son had previously raced a San Sebastian Salmson. But in 1934 a newly-acquired garage and filling station occupied the subject of this interview, to the detriment of his motor racing. He was, in any case, a busy person, who in the years just prior to the war hunted with the Southdown, rode his horses in gymkhanas, played squash, enjoyed speed-boats (of which he has owned three) and played football, until a broken cartilage stopped both riding and ball games.
The call of the racing game proved too strong to resist for long, and in 1935 Noble was back, having bought Noel Carr’s supercharged 2-litre straight-eight GP Bugatti, an ex-Chiron team-car. He eventually entrusted its preparation to Robin Jackson, at his Brooklands establishment known as “The Robinery”, believing “there was no-one better”. Harvey Noble considers that R. R. Jackson was the greatest ever carburation expert where supercharged engines were concerned, just as Freddie Dixon was the greatest with unblown carburetter tuning.
The Bugatti, which had the early alloy-spoke wheels with detachable rims, was “an awful mess—the camshaft timing was one-tooth retarded”, but after its complete re-build in Noble’s garage in Hove, it was tested on the road between Devil’s Dyke and Henfield, to which it was towed in racing trim and where there wasn’t sufficient distance to get into top gear, the Bugatti doing just on 100 m.p.h. in 3rd gear. Noble was signed-up with Esso, Reg Tanner, their Competition Manager, becoming a great friend of his, who would stay at Noble’s house in Hove while calling on local racing drivers to arrange their annual contracts. The Bugatti lapped at 121.18 m.p.h. at the BARC August Meeting, gaining Harvey Noble his 120-m.p.h. badge, and at the 1936 Easter Meeting improved this to 124.82 m.p.h., when finishing second to Mrs. Briggs’ Riley 9, to which it had given 54 sec. start in two laps, being, in fact, on scratch. Indeed, it was an alarming race for Noble, because he came upon a bunch of slower cars high on the banking—”they were like a shower of confetti”— and had to slide the car down to pass below them at 120 m.p.h. as there was no other way through. This cost him the race and he was called before the Stewards, who asked “Have you any complaint?” Noble knew they were anxious to obtain evidence against the driver of an MG Midget who habitually drove too high, so he replied “Yes. I didn’t win the race!”, passing it off as a mild criticism of the handicapping. But “Dunlop” Mac was furious, saying it was “road racing— and the tyres won’t stand it”.
Later in 1936 Noble drove for Donald Maclean (later the spy who defected to Russia) when that entrant was told he was insufficiently experienced to race at Brooklands—he had only just started competition work, driving in the MCC Edinburgh Trial—after entering an MG Magnette in an August Long Handicap. Noble’s own MG was not ready, but he got Maclean’s round at over 108 m.p.h. without having so much as sat in it beforehand. Another drive in a car he was unaccustomed to happened at the Lewes Speed Trials, where Noble competed with the 10 1/2-litre V12 Delage then owned by Gerald Sumner. Noble recalls that “as the brakes didn’t work very well they took the chain off the entrance to the escape road before I started, but I got round the top bend all right”. He also drove the Bugatti and his new MG.
The MG was to become very famous. It was the ex-Dudley Foliand Midget which had been crashed at Donington, endowed with a Zoller-blown engine, as described in Noble’s own words on pages 314-316 of my “History of Brooklands Motor Course”. It was towed to the 1936 Southsea Speed Trials behind another of Noble’s Chryslers— an Airflow saloon—”you couldn’t give them away but they had o/d and very full equipment”—and beat Hadley’s practice time, so that the works Austin had to be unloaded from its van for another attempt, or there would have been a lecture for Bert from “Pa” Austin! The next day fuel getting into the air-pressure gauge and upsetting the reading caused Noble to pump the tank up insufficiently, so that the engine cut out before the end of the course, losing him several class wins, although after the trouble was discovered he won the 2-litre category, in a 750-cc. car!
Having sold his business interests in 1933 to concentrate on racing, Harvey Noble now gave up his garage for the same reason. He had decided to almost live at Brooklands, close to such friends as Charles (“The Duesenberg”) Brackenbury, Dixon and Charles Mortimer and took a permanent room at “The Ship”, where he was well looked after by the proprietors, Henry and Hilda Crane. The drill was to “tune” cars for R. R. Jackson, Noble’s contribution to such tuning being to spend all day test-driving racing cars, using to the full his now intimate knowledge of the outer-circuit. He would start the day with a breakfast of kippers and milk laced with whiskey to prepare his stomach for the Track. They would push-start from the slope down from the Members’ Bridge, and Noble would do a warming-up lap, a fast timed lap, then a lap in which the engine would be cut at full-bore, so that Jackson could check the state of the plugs. Then it was into the next car, to repeat the process. Lunch would be taken in the Club-house, after a session with George the bar-steward, with the famous Brooklands treacle-tart to “lay the dust”. The time passed quickly, and each evening there was a big dinner to eat at “The Ship”, prior to more liquid refreshment, when Brackenbury’s Fiat 500 or Noble’s current Chrysler would be put to good use.
Harvey Noble says that the fastest part of the Track was coming off the Byfleet banking. Possessed of an excellent memory, which he still retains, George could easily memorise the positions of all the needles on their dials, when testing in quick succession the little MG, the big Bentley-Jackson, an Alta and the Bugatti, for instance; although in his MG they were arranged to all indicate vertically if everything was in order. He also knew every bump in the Track, where to brace himself, hold his breath, when to relax, even ease his grip on the wheel for half-a-mile along the Byfleet banking, and was never happier or more relaxed than when driving round Brooklands. At this very intense period in his racing career Noble drove any car offered to him for fun, not payment, but would take half the prize money if any were won, while after Lord Nuffield pulled MG out of racing MG’s sponsored his exploits with the special Q-type.
This silver and black single-seater, running on Esso “R” fuel with additions, pulled a 4.5 axle ratio, equal to 133 m.p.h. at 7,200 r.p.m., and Noble would take it to 8,000 r.p.m. on the Mountain course “when in a hurry”. It won the 1937 Whitsun Long Handicap, from Couper’s Talbot, lapping at 116.36 m.p.h. In August 1937 it took the Class H lap record from Dodson’s twin-cam works Austin, at 122.4 m.p.h., a record which was never beaten. It was then prepared for the BRDC 500-Mile Race, the plot being for the driver to remain in the cockpit throughout. An auxiliary oil supply was rigged up, to feed the sump via a float chamber, and oil-cooler, mirrors, etc., were refitted. At the start Noble accelerated so fast that he had to run along the grass to avoid the large bunch of cars in front, being unable to slow sufficiently with rear brakes only, but finished the first lap in third place. Then plugs began to oil-up and one lap was even done on soft ones, to try to clear the engine. Jackson then diagnosed that the oil level was upset on the bankings, causing the float to replenish the sump unnecessarily, causing a rise in level on the straights. The sump was drained and refilled less enthusiastically and the MG pressed on, as all the Austins were out, and it was lapping at over 120 m.p.h. at the end of the race, but by then was too late to qualify as a finisher.
At the 1937 Autumn Brooklands Meeting the MG gave Noble his “most exciting race ever”. It was the Motor Show fixture and the evening before, as one of the guests-of-honour at the MG CC dinner, Noble had had a merry time. Race day dawned “with a monumental hang-over”, not improved when the girls of the party were caught up with at Thatcher’s “Marquis of Granby” in Esher and pints of Pims drunk. They left half-an-hour before the start of the first race, knowing that Jackson would have the MG ready. Coming out for the Second October Short Handicap, in which he was on the same mark as Couper’s famous Talbot BGH 23, Noble “hardly knew one banking from the other”. But the fresh air suddenly made him feel 100% fit and he held the bigger car for a time on get-away. It then got into top and pulled away, whereupon Noble slipstreamed it, nearly lost the green car (his s.s. lap was 0.65 m.p.h. slower, at 103.76 m.p.h.), got right up behind it again and held on. Bits of concrete flew up, smashing the MG’s screen and radiator guard, but for 2 1/2 laps Noble was sucked round by Couper, six feet or so off the Talbot’s tail. They both came very high off the banking for the last time but Noble slipped down to pass below. Couper came up very fast, however, for the Railway Straight finish, and most onlookers thought it was a dead-heat. In fact, the verdict went to the MG, by a 1/5 sec., at an average of 113.4 m.p.h. It had lapped at 120.88 m.p.h. Afterwards Cobb offered his congratulations, saying Noble’s tactics in beating the bigger and slightly faster car reminded him of how Parry Thomas used to drop off the banking and win from the inside. So it was off to the bar for some happy celebrating…
The MG’s supercharger was stripped at the end of each season and rebuilt by Jackson’s mechanic, “Curly” Skelton, who put in new ball-races throughout and very accurately assembled it, which was expensive but effective, as it never gave any trouble and blew at 28 lb. The car’s special phosphor-bronze head was claimed by Nuffield’s in 1938 as a pattern for that used on Major Gardner’s 200-m.p.h. six-cylinder MG engine, and then unfairly sold to Humphries for £20, so Noble had to resort to an iron head. But the car continued to motor very well, being 3rd in the First March Road Handicap and winning the Second March Road Handicap at 67.34 m.p.h., with a lap at 69.4 m.p.h., now fitted with front-wheel brakes. It eventually blew up in a big way when going for the Class H hour record. The engine locked up on the Byfleet banking at 130 m.p.h., even the diff. bolts being stretched before Noble could find the clutch pedal. The back wheels bounced furiously but fortunately the car remained straight. Then, “its handicap being spent”, it was sold to J. H. Samuel.
Noble drove one of Jackson’s two Altas, the red 1 1/2-litre, in the 1937 Coronation Mountain Handicap, finishing third from the 8-sec. mark, after lapping at 73.38 m.p.h., and he sampled Jackson’s green 1 1/2-litre Alta in the 3 1/2 lap event on the outer-circuit the following year. It was much faster than anticipated so that the race leader was in sight a lap from the finish when “there was a puff of blue smoke and it seemed prudent to lift off”—the valve springs had broken, after a s.s. lap at 109.46 m.p.h. compared to Couper’s winning Talbot’s 103.33 m.p.h. Noble also acted as second-driver to Aitken’s 1 1/2-litre Maserati in the 1938 JCC 200-Mile Race but it failed to finish.
When Bowler built his 4 1/2-litre Bentley-engined Bowler Hofman Harvey Noble was interested but found that the springs were so solid they didn’t function as such—”even on a warming-up lap it bounced and at 80 m.p.h. you were out of the seat”. After removing some spring leaves matters improved and Noble could drive it without anxiety, lapping in a race at 122.67 m.p.h. at the Dunlop Jubilee Meeting. When tuning the Bowler-Hofman one quiet day, two of the maintenance staff took some wood and iron seats from the Paddock to the Public Enclosure, via the Vickers’ entrance, crossing the Track to the “Chronograph Villa” entrance. These seats were carried on the famous BARC’s Morris Commercial Truck, and being long seats made it necessary to leave the tail-board in the horizontal position. Unfortunately these two boys did not realise that a car was on the Track, and when they stopped to lock the gate after them, they left the truck broadside across the Track with the end of the tail-board about six feet from the gate. At that moment Noble came off the Byfleet banking and across Vickers at something between 118 and 125 m.p.h. to be confronted by the truck. It was impossible to do anything about the situation, so he steered through the almost impossible gap, the two near-side wheels passing under the tail-board, which missed decapitating him by about ten inches. He didn’t go much on this at the time, but when the two offenders came round to his tuning bay to apologise, they were so shaken that he only had the heart to tell them never to do such a thing again and to forget the incident. The Bentley-Jackson was another thing altogether. It was that much heavier and, Noble says, “I could only just hold it flat-out. Another one m.p.h. going onto the Members’ banking would have been impossible it was so heavy to handle, and after a time I would drop 3 m.p.h. a lap”. After a Gold Star race in this car Noble’s arms were so cramped they rose up automatically and had to be massaged.
The First Easter Outer Circuit Handicap of 1939 “was a race which started in the bar at ‘The Ship’ four days before it was run!” Noble was on scratch in the 6 1/2-litre Bentley-Jackson, giving Brackenbury, who was driving that very good blown eight-cylinder 2-litre Bugatti of A. P. Watson, a start of 6 sec. Both drivers were sure they could win. They discussed it in the bar for round after round. On the Bank Holiday they were so keen to get to grips that they raced out of the Paddock and treated the warming-up session as a race in itself, going the long way round at full chat, to the bewilderment of a friend and spectators who were watching from the Byfleet bridge and couldn’t understand how the back-markers could already be in the lead. Both cars were rather warm when flagged away! The Bugatti opened with a lap at 104.41 m.p.h. Noble did 107.1 m.p.h. but couldn’t get past Brackenbury. He tried to go by on the inside. No good! He was on full opposite lock anyway and a tread went on an o/s front tyre. The Bugatti broke a piston and the Bentley-Jackson thundered home in second place, 1 3/5 sec. behind H. J. Aldington’s BMW, having lapped at 129.36 m.p.h. Noble was penalised an extra 3 sec. behind scratch in the next race…
Another outer-circuit car which Noble drove was the Hon. Peter Aitken’s blown single-seater Frazer Nash—”you needed two laps to get it on four cylinders, it then went like a bomb for a lap, but was impossible to steer”. In the Second August Long Handicap this caused Noble to wave Duller’s Duesenberg by on the inside; Duller liked to pull off the Members’ banking early so this didn’t bother him—the Frazer Nash was lapping at 112.17 m.p.h. to the Duesenberg’s 134.24 m.p.h.
Noble drove the Watson Bugatti, “a very well-balanced car”, as deputy for Brackenbury, after Phoenix Park, and shared the Hon. Peter Aitken’s 328 BMW—”a nice car”—in the 1938 Donington TT. “Shared” is perhaps a misnomer, because he says he was half asleep in the pit after a Dunlop party the previous night when it began to rain. Aitken disliked racing in rain, so after only 20 laps came in and handed over. As Noble left the pits the BMW spun round for no apparent reason. He hoped the spectators hadn’t thought him big-headed, like an ice-skater testing the rink. When the car slid again before braking for Melbourne Corner it “seemed a bit unfair”. It went backwards onto the grass. It then spun at Holly Wood and was almost rammed by Morris Goodall. Noble drove in heavy rain for four hours and was “feeling a bit tired”, when again the BMW refused to steer, going up a bank and stopping, on the last lap. Noble persuaded the marshals they had better move him, put in 2nd gear, and restarted on sooted plugs, to finish 13th. Ernie Neale, Aitken’s mechanic, took over to drive the car to a garage, ready for its owner to take it home in the morning, and hadn’t gone far before a back wheel fell off. The car had wheels held on by centre-lock nuts but instead of splined hubs the drive was taken by five tubular studs. These had sheared, so that on the over-run the wheel was unscrewing itself, resulting in the car’s previous mysterious behaviour…
I asked Harvey Noble about the Bimotore Alfa Romeo, with which he hoped to attack the Brooklands outer-circuit lap record. His answer was prompt: “It was never any good. That’s why Nuvolari refused to go on driving it and Ferrari sold it.” Its twin engines and triple prop.-shafts resulted in odd geometry of the back suspension and the back wheels steered the car. “If you came off the Members’ banking early you shot towards the fencing; if you came off late you shot to the inside of the Track, although it was never easy to predict which lock would correct this and the entire Byfleet banking was taken in a series of wild swerves. It was the only car I couldn’t drive flat-out at Brooklands. I had to cut out going on to and coming off the Byfleet banking and sometimes even when coming off the Members’ banking.” When Noble was driving this difficult car on the Campbell circuit it once spun to the left when accelerating away from The Motor bridge, went up the straight backwards, and slid to the top of the Home banking, from where Noble had a good view of the other cars passing below him, before he could roll down and resume practice. He always regretted not being able to do a lap at over 140 m.p.h. in this car, but although he spent a whole month at the Track, driving it every day except on Sundays, this odd Alfa Romeo, with its two 2.9-litre straight-eight engines, thought to be the one timed at over 200 m.p.h. in Italy, refused to be tamed, by the only driver brave enough to persevere with it. All manner of mods. were made, to no avail, although Noble saw the equivalent of 164 m.p.h. on the dual tachometers along the Railway straight, managed to hold the brute when a tread came off, and lapped in the region of 139 m.p.h. in it. But “it was like walking a tight-rope”, and poor Austin Dobson who had visions of dominating Brooklands with this 5.8-litre monster, after the problem of fitting it with the official silencers had been solved, had to be content with a pathetically pedestrian Class B Mountain lap-record. Incidentally, although each engine could be hand-started independently, Noble preferred to get the front one going, warm everything up, and then start the back engine by engaging the dog-clutch, controlled by a hand lever, which coupled the two power units.
Noble persuaded Aitken to convert the useless Bimotore into the single-engined Alfa-Aitken, which he entered for its distinguished owner during the 1939 season. He also drove Sumner’s red supercharged 1,087-c.c. MG, in which he took a third place in the August Road Handicap. In the last but one Brooklands race Noble lapped at just over 131 m.p.h., in the Bentley-Jackson. Another twin-engined car for which Noble “had plans” was the 186-m.p.h. Land Speed Record Sunbeam “Silver Bullet” but Dixon disposed of it to someone else.
George Harvey Noble may not have won as many “pots” as some but he enjoyed every aspect of Brooklands, on and off the Track, and had an intimate and professional knowledge of how to drive fast cars on all its circuits. As emphasis of his track-craft, on one occasion he had paid his half-a-crown for an extra half-hour’s practice in the Bugatti at the end of a winter day (the sum was supposed to cover the gate-keepers’ overtime on such occasions!) when the fog came down. Noble was unperturbed and continued at full speed, while a very worried Clerk-of-the-Course sent the Bentley fire-engine round in the reverse direction in an attempt to bring him in. On another such occasion the half-dollar had been paid to Percy Bradley, who was unaware that Prince Chula, also wanting more time for Bira to practise on the Mountain circuit, had paid his dues to Secretary Skinner. Frightened officials were frantically calculating when the Bentley-Jackson and the ERA would coincide, head-on, at the Fork, while warning flags were being put out, as George recalls with a wry smile all these years later…
Harvey Noble loved every minute of it, the racing, the parties, the pranks, the endless testing and the daily striving after mechanical improvement and driving perfection. Racing apart, he has had some interesting road cars, including a couple of SSIs, one blue, the other red, which had formed a red, white and blue trio in Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus—Noble bought them from dealers and never did find the white one. Then came those reliable Chryslers, one of which ended broadside-on against a pile of concrete mistaken for snow at the Fork one night, when George was going home rather quickly and attempting to out-corner Brackenbury’s Fiat Mouse, this exit being used because the tunnel was blocked with snow. After the war there was a 3.8 Jaguar kept for six years, “a beautiful car”, and a well-liked Ford Capri 2000. His present car is a mustard-yellow BMW 2002, and Mrs. Noble has a Mini. Although he now likes to winter abroad, he says he will never fail to return to England and he has been known to brave the November elements to accompany his friend Pickles Knight on the Veteran Car Run on his 1904 De Dion Bouton, a car which has successfully taken part in 23 of them, starting in 1946. He also helps to organise local motor gymkhanas, assisted by his wife, and is always pleased to “talk Brooklands” to those of his friends who knew him in the pre-war racing days.—W. B.
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