Veteran to classic: ERAs in Thailand (cont'd)

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board the Bank of Bangkok’s former Royal Barge which glided up and down the river while the drivers polished off a substantial feast.

The air force transported the cars the 100km or so to Pattaya, while everyone else went in coaches driven by Thai army personnel. Some of the drivers were of the opinion that the coach drivers were frustrated racers, but there were no casualties. The Montien Hotel put up the rooms once again, providing a relaxed atmosphere under the sun.

This local circuit is a fairly new affair, recently renamed after the late Prince Bira. Only 2.41un in length, it is a mixture of Cadwell Park and Donington with tight turns and undulating sweeps. The drivers were let loose in Toyota road-cars on the Thursday and had an hour’s free-for-all in their own cars on the Saturday morning. Other than complaints about the heat, the only mishap was to Fitzpatrick’s T35B which suffered Bugatti brake-judder followed by a seizure to the front offside drum which broke the back-plate, bent the steering arm and track-rod, and sheared the brake cable. . . ugh!

3011 was not running very well either, with misfires and refusal to rev. Investigation of the large SU showed it to have a kilo weight on top of the piston/needle assembly to reduce initial flutter. Although the ERAs usually find this helps, its removal turned out to be an improvement. In fact 3011 had a couple of excursions onto the highway and might have inadvertently broken the Thai Land Speed Record at the same time! Anthony Mayman had come over to relieve Tony Stevens of the command of Isis Delage-ERA, so Tony busied himself as the official scrutineer instead.

The first of the two 10-lap races was predictable enough, Felton being led away by Bill Morris, Lindsay and Sweet, with Llewellyn and Mayman in pursuit. Felton soon established a lead, and the interest then centred on the two ERAs and the MG having a marvellous ding-dong, with the Llewellyn T51 and the Delage trailing behind.

Felton came home in front of Morris and Sweet, with Lindsay fourth and Llewellyn fifth. Mayman was sixth but he had discovered that the Delage-ERA weighed in at 963kg, whereas the Tipo B was nearer 750kg. 3011 was next followed by the first of the Aussies, John Ould in the TB special with Lane’s T51 behind.

Many of the crowd had come to see “Romulus” as well as the races, and Narisa was greeted by a huge ovation when she drove him around the track for a couple of demo laps. She was not supposed to go too quickly, but had obviously got the hang of things and left the pace car way behind. If anyone was still in any doubt as to the popularity of Romulus and its driver, this was dispelled by their total disappearance after the run, submerged in cameramen.

The second 10-lapper was as good a fight as one could wish to see in any class of motor sport. It was thought that Felton would not have too much trouble, but he did. Morris, Lindsay (suffering from a cracked rib) and Sweet all drove exemplary races with little more than a second between them. This was no pose or parade, but proper unarmed combat! The television had the good sense to cover both heats live, and, when this heat overran its time, the news started late, which does not happen very often in Thailand.

The crowd, pits, and spectating generals were all on their feet as, on the last lap (though Rodney says he thought it was the ninth), Hanuman got alongside the Alfa at the end of the pits; as the Alfa went a few feet wide he nipped in, and then went like the wind to take the flag by half a second. The duelling Lindsay and Sweet finished within half a second as well, with Llewellyn a lonely fifth.

Overall aggregate put Felton first in 26min 51.46sec, Morris second in 26min 56.38sec, Lindsay third in 26min 58.44sec, Sweet fourth in 26min 58.98sec, and Venables-Llewellyn fifth in 27min 56.85sec. The way the latter driver drove his machine was an object lesson, and it is no surprise he wins the Williams Trophy so easily!

It all came to an end with plenty of first-class champagne being sprayed about. Happy public, happy television, happy sponsors (who had “milked” the events well), happy Press and happy drivers — could one ask for anything more from our favourite sport? Alain de Cadenet