THE ESSEX SIX HOURS ENDURANCE RACE. ITALIAN DRIVER WINS PREMIER AWARD. BIRKIN WINS THE BARNATO CUP.
EXCELLENT weather conditions helped to make the Essex Six-Hours Race the success it undoubtedly was, and a considerable crowd enjoyed a fine day’s sport. The entry of forty-six provided a very representative field, with an international flavour, as Italian drivers were competing on Alfa Romeo cars, Campbell and Lord Curzon were on Bugattis, an AustroDaimler team was entered, and a German entry was present in the big 36/220 Mercedes. There were few non-starters, notably Miller’s second entry—the Delage to be driven by Clowes, the fourth Alfa Romeo, Leitch’s four-seater Lea-Francis, and Major Harvey .on his Alvis.
The start proved highly diverting to the spectators. L. Headlam, on the saloon Alfa Romeo, was off first, followed almost instantly by the Bentleys, Rubin, Barnato and Birkin getting away in that order.
Lord Curzon followed, and then Mason’s AustroDaimler led the ruck.
The beginning of the race was sensational. Much had been expected of the Mercedes, and it was with some astonishment that we realised the car was the identical machine road-tested by Motor sport last month, with some 25,000 miles, without an overhaul, to its credit. Miller made a very late start, being well back in the crowd, lying about twenty-fifth as he passed the stand. At the end of the first lap, Lord Curzon led Campbell, and a length behind him—the Mercedes! This seemed too much to expect from a cold engine, and the jubilation of the Mere. supporters was changed to consternation when the German car blew up on the next lap, and pulled in to its pit. Frantic work was done, and after a quarter of an hour the car carried on, smoke belching from the louvres and surrounding the driver with a pall of blue fumes. Miller completed nine laps intermittently, and gave it up, the trouble proving to be a hole in a piston, owing to hitting a valve which had warped through the inner valve spring breaking. Thoroughly hard luck for this marque.
Meanwhile, Campbell had taken the lead, hotly pursued by the Bentleys, with Lord Curzon falling back. Particularly noticeable at this early stage was the splendid running of the Rileys—especially S. C. H. Davis —and the Alfa Romeos. Signor Ramponi was evidently going to live up to expectations, for he looked easily the fastest through the banks, and his little car was lapping at rather more than seventy-three.
Another early retirement was the Lagonda entry, F. King driving. This was particularly bad luck, as the trouble was eventually traced to a lump of brass in the carburettor which must have been there when the instrument was fitted. This put the Lagonda hors de combat on its third lap. Lord Curzon’s supercharged Bugatti was the next to fall by the wayside, his trouble being ignition, and he retired after sixteen laps. After doing twenty laps, R. R. Jackson had trouble with his Frazer Nash. Capt. Frazer Nash, on the other car of this marque, stopped in front of the stands on his 21st lap, but afterwards got going again. At the end of an hour four cars were out, and Campbell was leading Barnato, while a lap behind came Birkin, two AustroDaimlers, Clark on an 0.M., and Ramponi leading the smaller cars. Jack Dunfee on No. 25 Alfa was tucked in behind Hayward on the big Excelsior, and these two thundered round and round lap after lap, never varying their positions by more than a yard at a time. The Excelsior was altogether an impressive spectacle, being tall and cumbersome in comparison to the smaller fry. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring sight of all was the Alfa Romeo saloon handled by Headlam, as it swept through the sand banks by the stands. The car rocked to the full extent of its springs, and it appeared that he must shed a tyre on each lap. Headlam’s small boy passenger seemed extremely apprehensive, and clutched the window frame with determined grasp. R. F. Skelton.’s three litre Sunbeam was disappointing, and, while not being particularly fast, spat and misfired from the first lap. The H.E. driven by Clease was going
extremely well, despite the nasty metallic sound of its exhaust.
By the time two hours were gone, Barnato’s Bentley was on its fifty-seventh lap, with Birkin on his heels a lap behind, then came Mason’s Austro, and Giullio Ramponi. R. R. Jackson’s Frazer Nash burst finally on his forty-seventh lap, W. B. Scott’s Bentley—the old “Number Seven “—went out with plug trouble on his thirty-seventh, and Lionel Martin (Riley) on his thirtyeighth lap.
Cornering past the grand stand was sometimes amusing and always instructive. Campbell was not particularly fast ; Ramponi’s Alfa seemed by far the fastest, but the front wheels of these motor cars dithered badly on the approach and the getaway. Headlam rolled worse than ever, the Excelsior only running him close in this respect. The Rileys were fast, but Wilkinson’s machine suffered from terrific front wheel flap immediately after the last turn before the stands. On one occasion Headlam’s saloon created a mild furore by approaching the first turn almost broadside, and only just got round.
After four hours the outlook was greatly changed. The only other Bugatti, driven by Malcolm Campbell, had developed trouble with its fuel pressure and forced a retirement. Davis was out with his Riley, Newman’s Salmson had given up, and the next retirement was Newsome’s Lea-Francis driven by Frank Hallam. This car had just come off the Members’ Banking and was travelling at a good eighty, when it burst into flames. The mechanic flung himself clear, and escaped injury, and Hallam was able to pull up and jump out unscathed. His chief anxiety was for the Pyrene brigade to arrive before twenty-two gallons of good fuel went up with a bang. Something was wrong somewhere, because the car was blazing for a good twenty minutes before help arrived!
At this point, Birkin’s Bentley had taken the lead, and Clease’s H.E. was pounding along in great style, rejoicing that both Bugs. were dead. Perhaps it was pure light-heartedness that caused the H.E. to fling away its spare wheel on the railway straight.
By four o’clock, barring accidents, it was obviously Birkin’s race, while Ramponi was far ahead in his class, being actually only three laps behind the Bentley. The Bentley team was running in close formation, the order being, Birkin, Cook, Rubin and Barnato, each separated by a lap. The Austro-Daimlers had been having bother during the afternoon, and ran some ten laps behind the Bentleys.
Ramponi was holding Barnato, and the other two Alfa Romeos ran steadily together ; a lap behind ran the surviving Lea-Francis. Mrs. Dyke’s Alvis was putting up a splendid show, having accomplished 135 laps in the five hours. Lt. Rooper’s car of the same make was running in company with Vernon Ball’s Amilcar on lap ’15. Peacock’s Riley was on the same lap, running well, but Wilkinson had dropped out. The other Riley four-seater driven by Eyston was a few laps behind, and right at the tail came Dingle’s little Austin Seven.
During the last hour there was not much incident to note, and we took the opportunity of watching the cars from the Byfleet bridge. The Bentleys were running strongly, and the Austro-Daimlers, which seemed so much faster on acceleration after the turns, were unable to lessen the Bentleys’ lead on the straight. The Alfa Romeos were especially steady, travelling half way up the banking. Vernon Ball’s Amilcar was beginning to flap at the rear, Peacock’s mechanic was observed, by the aid of glasses, to be prone on the bonnet at the beginning of the straight, fastening the front number plate, what time the driver grasped his ankle, and drove with the other hand.
Back at the stands we saw the Sunbeam. describing .arcs of a circle in negotiating the turns, and almost turned completely round. just before the end, Ramponi burst a tyre while accelerating under the foot-bridge, but he carried on, performing wonderful skids on the top corner. He completed the lap, and changed his tyre at the pit; there were strange tales afoot after this of the Italian hurling jacks into the pit, together with strange oaths, what time the pit attendants took cover from the bombardment.
And so the race drew to a close, beneath a threatening sky and a hint of thunder. At five minutes to five the chequered flag was lowered, and then the maroon banged ; the race was over. The results are as follows :
MINIATURES NEWS, November 1967
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