Capt. Malcolm Campbell on the future of Speed and Motor Racing. (In an Interview).
IT is rather difficult at this stage in motoring history to give any definite views on speed and its future, or to embark on prophecies with/any degree of confidence.
At the moment all our ideas regarding motoring and the possibilities of speed are in the melting pot. Preconceived notions have been proved valueless, and to-day we stand on the threshold of the unknown ; we are entering upon a new era of motoring development.
When the attempts were first made on the world’s land speed record, unknown conditions had to be faced, and no data were available for use of designer or driver as to factors encountered at 200 miles per hour.
When the attainment of this tremendous speed was first contemplated, it was declared to be, if not impossible, at least almost suicidal. But both Major Segrave and myself achieved this speed with comparative ease. The machines were designed for this particular end, and it was known that the engines would develop sufficient power. The unknown factors were wind-pressure, steering and the effect of side winds on the car travelling at this hitherto unheard of velocity.
Major Segrave and I approached the problem from different angles. An inspection of our cars would show our varying ideas, for where Major Segrave used colossal engine power, I employed roughly half as much. My Bluebird was very much smaller than the Sunbeam, and was streamlined on quite different lines, and my disposition of the radiators—working in a vacuum created by the speed on aerofoil principles—and my using a fin were quite novel departures in automobile design.
The American, Mr. Ray Keech, went a different way to work again, and used a tremendous power to overcome or dispense with streamlining as we know it, and, as we have seen, succeeded in raising the speed by half a mile per hour.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty to be overcome at these phenomenal speeds—which will soon become things of the past—was that of steering. Major Segrave had great difficulty during his record run employing ordinary steering gear. I used the Manes principle, with duplex control, and this probably saved my life, for I was able to correct a terrific skid at about 220 miles an hour! I am quite certain that this
method of directional control, together with the tail fin, tremendously increased the stability of ” Bluebird” at these speeds.
My sensations at 207 miles an hour ?
I hardly know. My whole mind was concentrated on the task in hand, and my faculties were so rivetted on one problem—keeping the Bluebird on her course— that I had no time for outside impressions. The wind, of course, forced itself upon my notice, and I have never conceived such a tremendous pressure of air, which was like a solid thing, and I was thankful for the foresight which enclosed me in the cockpit.
I scarcely noticed the exhaust noise, and the whole run was one tremendous sweep over the sand which I hardly felt, with a hurricane wind seeking to wrest the car from my control. During the skid, which was probably set up by a soft patch of sand, I must confess to a momentary qualm, but before I realised it, I had straightened out, and was roaring onwards down the course.
I am convinced that Bluebird, under proper conditions, could travel twenty miles an hour faster, with equal comparative safety, as in order to break Major Segrave’s record I did not have to travel fiat out the whole way. I, am not yet resolved as to the place, but I am determined to recapture the record for England. I shall use the same engine, and only minor modifications to the Bluebird itself.
The limit of speed is, in my opinion, by no means reached, although it must be in sight. Ten years ago 200 miles an hour would have been declared fantastic and impossible ; who, then, shall declare 250, or even 300 miles, an hour, beyond the bounds of possibility ?
Regarding the future of motor racing, I think the coming racing car will have a medium capacity multicylinder engine, with supercharger, and much greater attention will be given to streamlining, transmission and weight distribution. Traction or propuslion is a coming question, and four-wheel drive and steering is not an unforeseen development.
I hope the day is not far distant when we shall be able to run road races over English roads, when the greatest of all sports may be indulged in over our own roads, and we shall no longer suffer under the present great disability regarding motor racing.