Racing cars on the road

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They Did See Them
A selection from readers’ letters

“… travelling to Silverstone in 1954 for the Grand Prix in my J2 MG Midget, hood down, with my new wife I couldn’t believe my eyes, as use racing Brackley on the bend by the Saw Mills coming in the opposite direction were two Ferraris being driven by brown overalled mechanics at a very sensible speed. If I remember rightly they were the 625 models of 2½-litre of the period. I told my wife to snap them with the camera, which she did, only to discover later there was no film in it! I was very vexed, but how do you explain this sort of a miss to a new wife? We often now have a laugh about it.” — D. Brogden, Compton, Berks.

“I recall waiting in a traffic jam on the way to attend an early Silverstone meeting when the late Raymond Mays passed by on the right of the road driving R4D the famous black ERA. Two motorcycle policemen were in attendance. Before the war in Johannesburg I recall seeing an ERA being driven through the city on its way to the Rand circuit. The noise as it passed between office blocks was shattering. Once at Southport for the sand racing I remember seeing Freddie Dixon drive his 2-litre silver Riley along the promenade and down onto the sands to join in the Southport Hundred, which was already in progress. He drove straight onto the sand and joined in the fray.” — W. G. Bright, Winsford, Cheshire.

“In the late fifties, as a young lad, I cycled up to Silverstone for Grand Prix practice. The works Ferraris were billeted in a garage in Towcester and in the evening prior to the race I was there, watching preparation work, when one of the mechanics set off, across the A5 and down the back streets in one of the cars, the tacho seemingly on the stop! A local bobby went berserk and set off on his bicycle in token pursuit. How that exhaust bellowed in those narrow streets! We could hear the car returning down the A5 long before it came into sight — no sign of PC49 though. What a thrill it was later to be asked to help push the car back into its transporter. To actually lay hands on a Formula One car . . . “— Michael Wheeler, Southminster, Essex.

“I can recall seeing a pair of Ferrari Formula One cars disappearing rapidly down the A43 in the direction of Towcester from Silverstone after practice for, I think, the British Grand Prix in 1956.”— Peter Roddis, Alconbury Weston, Cambs.

“There was a long line of traffic stationary on the Brackley-Silverstone road and I was trundling along in the gutter on a push-bike. Sweet music rent the air as the three works Maserati 250F cars came by, driven on the wrong side of the road. I did not recognise the drivers and I suspect the mechanics were driving them to the circuit. Unfortunately it was not possible to photograph the cars as it all happened very quickly. I have many memories of watching racing cars since 1947, but this is one I am never likely to forget.” — Leonard Hemming, Cockfosters, Herts.

“About 1930 I saw what was certainly a 2-litre Grand Prix Sunbeam being driven very quickly along the A30 near Virginia Water. I did not see it for long, but long enough. It was painted green.” — Dick Chapman, Corsham, Wilts.

“I recall billowing a works HWM single-seater along the back road to Silverstone through Dadford on the way to the 1952 International Trophy meeting.” — David Venables, Hove, Sussex.

“When living near the roundabout end of Oyster Lane, Byfleet, I was woken up one morning, about 6 a.m., to the unmistakable sound of a racing engine. Staggering to the window and parting the curtains. I was rewarded with a glimpse of the then new Cooper Maserati Formula One car disappearing up the road towards the Canada Road factory having, presumably, done a lap of the roundabout. I suppose they had been burning the midnight oil and wanted to see how the car went. The occasion was the morning of the British Grand Prix at Brands in 1966, the first year of the 3-litre formula. — Gavin Stiell, West Byfleet, Surrey.

“I went to the 1957 British GP at Aintree, going up on an overnight train. As we arrived at Liverpool rather early in the morning, we had some time to kill. As we had a walk through Aintree. As we passed a side road, a mechanic driving a works Maserati pulled out into the morning traffic and drove off down the main road. A ‘noddy’ Policeman, sitting on his Vespa, nearly fell off with shock! I didn’t have a camera with me, of course.” — Charlie Tagg, Hampton, Middlesex.

“I remember as a young lad going to Rheims where some magnificent GPs were held. I was camping inside the circuit somewhere at the top of the hill before Thillois. One morning I was woken by a single-seater of unknown make howling up the road on full song, changing up two gears as it passed a very surprised Citroen DS19 and a Renault. An even more splendid sight, in 1961, was a shark-nosed Ferrari Formula One car, with mechanic in brown overalls at the wheel, being waved into the Rue d’Erlon by a policeman. The mechanic drove up the street, found a parking space by the kerb, leapt out and into the bar for a quick drink before driving off to Ferrari HQ.” — Edward Worswick, Clitheroe, Lancs.

“When we had International race meetings at Boreham airfield near here, quite a few cars were driven up the A12 from Chelmsford, especially the Talbot-Lagos. This was about 1951 but I regret I do not have any photos of them “— Brian Joscelyne, Braintree, Essex.