MOTOR RACING IN THE ISLE OF MAN
NOT quite” thirty years on,” but what -a series of changes has taken place in the world of motoring between these dates ! The Gordon Bennett Races which began with the century had in six years developed monster cars, the biggest of them propelled by engines of 120 h.p., carried in flimsy chassis, machines which were obviously of no direct use in furthering the advance of touring-car design. In 1905 the Royal Automobile Club decided to organise a race which would effect this latter object, with the title of Tourist Trophy Race. The laws of England prevented such a race being held on the public roads and so the Club was glad to accept the invitation of the Government of the Isle of Man, which had also permitted the holding of the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trials in its territory, to hold the T.T. Race there in September.
As usual, there was a rule setting forth the maximum and minimum weights of the cars, which had to come within the limits of 2,250 and 2,550 lbs., and to get down to these figures all sorts of methods had to be used, most of which at once took away from the value of the race as a means of developing the touring qualities of the cars entered. Drilling the chassis was usual, but in many cases small tyres had to be used, mudguards and other parts of the car removed, cardboard bonnets fitted, rope substituted for the brake rods, and even the hub caps replaced by cloth covers.
A False Prophecy. The wheel base had to exceed seven feet, and the winning car managed to accommodate a four-seater body on a chassis only eight inches above the minimum. Imagine a top-heavy structure on a chassis about six inches longer than the J.2 Midget and one gets an idea of the
• typical touring car of the day. The famous critic of the time who declared that he low built racing machines and the Lormal touring vehicle were totally differe nt, and it must be remembered that the ‘rolseley Beetles and such cars were low e, gen according to our present-day stanct -ads, was not exaggerating. His prolecy that the low car would never find fa your was as wide of the mark as any fa recast could be. . A third regulation designed to exclude tin racing car was a petrol allowance of
22/ miles to the gallon. Gear ratios of 1.5 were quite common, and free-wheeling down hill was the rule, while the passengers were often chosen for their strong lungs, as one of their duties was to blow the last drops of fuel from the tank !
The course used was the long one over which the Eliminating Trials had been run, Douglas to Castletown, north to Ballacraine, then following the route used at present to Ramsey, and back over the Mountain Road to Douglas. The finish was arranged on a piece of rising road immediately after Bray Hill, to prevent cars whose fuel was exhausted from being able to coast over the line.
The cars were sent away one at a time at minute intervals from a side road just above Quarter Bridge. The Hon. H. S. Rolls who was No. 1, was also the first to encounter trouble. A loose nut which had somehow found its way into the gearbox got amongst the pinions and wrecked the mechanism completely. Another car which fell out early was Downie’s Argyll, which rammed the Ballasalla corner, while Amott, whose Minerva was greatly fancied, was delayed by petrol feed trouble.
On the Mountain the surface was greasy, and on the lower part of the course a dust-laying compound had been used rather freely, but the faster cars, notably P. Northey on a Rolls-Royce were making good progress, and of the late starters the Vinot and Arrol-Johnson were obviously doing well.
High speed was already showing up the weakness of the touring cars, and Bennett, driving a Cadillac came to grief at what is now called Creg na Baa corner, through the failure of a wheel, and the six-geared Vauxhall left the road for the same reason. Lee Gullies’s, driving a Darracq, hit the cottage above Keppel Gate and bent his front axle.
Victory for Arrol Johnson. Napier on the Arrol Johnson was now three minutes ahead of Northey on the Rolls, but he lost all his advantage when his silencer fell off and had to be secured. Northey by virtue of his early starting number finished first, and reports of Napier’s progress failed to come in. Sud
denly the squat aluminium bonnet of No. 42 was sighted and the Arrol Johnson hummed over the finishing line, winner by less than two minutes. Its last lap was made at the record speed of 38 m.p.h., not a very high speed by modern standards, but excellent for those times, taking into consideration the shape of the bodies, and the handicap of limited petrol. Napier averaged 33 m.p.h. for the course.
The Arrol-Johnson was specially built for the race, and had a two cylinder engine with the bores set across the frame. There were two pistons per cylinder, and the charge was compressed and fired between them. Rods and links communicated the motion of the pistons to a four throw crankshaft. Low tension ignition was used, and the engine speed was controlled by a governor, which regulated the lift of the exhaust valves.
The chassis was quite low built, and had wire wheels and internal expanding brakes.
The Rolls-Royce and the Vinot, on the other hand were standard cars with normal four cylinder engines. The Rolls had a geared up fourth speed, the Vinot merely a normal three-speed box.
Later T.T. Races.
The same type of race was run in 1906 and 1907, but in the following year the T.T. was freed from restrictions other than a minimum weight limit while the bore was not to exceed 4 inches for a fourcylinder car, and proportionately less for a greater number of cylinders. The race was held again in 1914 and after the War in 1922, for cars up to 3 litres and then lapsed until run under different rules at Ulster in 1928.
Fashions in car races change according to the wishes of the manufacturers. The Grand Prix period after the Wax was dominated first by the Sunbeam-TalbotDarracq teams, and then by the 1/ litre Pelages, and only wealthy firms with a fund of racing data could hope to compete successkully. Touring car races then became the vogue until the battle of Bugatti and Alfa-Romeo brought racing cars into prominence again.
With the development of cars with superb brakes, low centres of gravity and the other advances which differentiate the old time racing car from the new,.
race organisers have ceased to trouble about making regulations to limit speed. The Development of round the town Racing Given cars developing the power and speed of modern “vultures de course,”
one has either to race them on a circuit like that of Rheims or Montlhery, or give them narrow and winding roads so that sheer speed is subordinated to acceleration and ease of handling. The latter type is exemplified in the original Round the Town race, the Grand Prix de Monaco, which was first held in 1929. The course is a littleunder 2 mileslong, the twostraight sections not more than quarter of a mile in length, and the remainder winding through the streets of the town. As a spectacle and as a test of car and driver this type of race is quite the equal of the old triangular course G.P., and events of a similar type are now run at Nimes, Nice, and latest of all at Pau.
The Manx course differs somewhat from those used in France, as it is almost 5 miles in length. Two thirds of this passes through the ordinary streets of Douglas with a good number of right angle turns, but there is a half-mile straight along the highest part of the course, while the Promenade is a mile long, so that really high speeds should. be reached. The Grand Stand will be situated just before the acute bend leading the cars back up into the town, and gear-changing and braking will be effected in full view of those who take seats there. A great many hotels overlook the course, and from their windows one will also be able to have an excellent view of the racing.
How to get to Douglas.
Douglas itself is little changed from the days of the Island’s first road-race, and is still visited by thousands who take their holidays there in August and September. The Steam Packet Co. run steamers from Liverpool, Heysham, Fleetwood, Ardrossan in Scotland, and Dublin. and Belfast, so there will be no difficulty in getting to the races, and the Company’s experience in dealing with rush traffic can be gauged from the fact that on one August Bank Holiday, no less than 44 vessels landed their passengers at Douglas. There is a great variety of accommo dation in and around the town. The best hotels lie either at the extremities of the two-mile long bay or along the Promen ade, while for those whose enthusiasm for motor racing is not equalled by the extent of their wealth, can stay at the smaller places and boarding houses, where the tariffs are surprisingly low. A host of
theatres and cinemas and other places of amusement afford entertainment in the evening.
Douglas is by no means the whole Island. Its thirty miles by ten of area is traversed by a number of excellent roads, the smaller towns are interesting, and the scenery is of the most varied character, the wildness of Scotland on the West Coast giving place to shady glens suggesting Devon as one descends the hills toward the East. Last but not least may be mentioned the fine natural golf courses, covered with the springy turf which one only finds near the sea. For those who can spare the time it is well worth taking a ten days’ holiday there, particularly with a car, though bus and train services connect the principal places of interest. It was called the Enchanted Island in the old days, and its glamour and its charm will not be lessened by the additional though strictly modern development of motor racing.
Mannin Moar and Mannin Beg Car Races.
The Regulations for the Douglas Car Races in July have just been, issued and copies may be obtained from the R.A.C. Pall Mall, S.W.1. All unnecessary restrictions have been cut out, and the arrangements should satisfy the most fervent Grand Prix enthusiast. It seems unfortunate that the first practise date should be so long before the actual race days, but presumably this was found necessary to avoid dislocating local traffic. The races are to be held over a 5 mile circuit on Wednesday and Friday, 12th and 14th July. The Beg Race, on the first day, is for cars with engines up to 1,500 c.c. uusupercharged and 1,100 c.c. supercharged, cars above those limits running on the Friday. Entries close on Monday, 15th May, and the fee is .£15 10s., which includes third-party insurance. Not more than 30 cars may start in each race, and if more than this number are entered the
Club will select the 30 most experienced drivers. The others will either receive back their fees or will be retained as reserves, in which case they will be allowed to practise on the course.
A Trophy will be awarded to the winner of each race, that for the Moar Race being presented by the M.G. Car Co. In addition, prizes of £200, £150, £100 and £50 will be awarded to the first four in each race.
The cars eligible must have two-seater bodies and carry mechanics. They must also have four-wheel brakes, bonnet straps, regulation raring number plates, and exhaust pipes extending to the rear axle.
The races are to be held over a distance of 50 laps. Any fuel may be used. Tools spares and supplies can only be kept at the pits.
Practising takes place on Thursday, 6th July and Monday, 10th July, between 10.30 and noon. Five laps must be completed.
The cars will be started in rows with engines running. The order will be decided by the speed which cars put up in practise, the fastest ones being in the front row.
Motor Cycle T.T. Races.
The usual three races, the Junior, Lightweight, and Senior, are to be held in the Isle of Man on the 12th, 14th, and 16th June. The starting time of the Junior and the Senior has been. altered to 11 o’clock, and the Lightweight race begins at 9 a.m. This allows time for a four lap Sidecar Race starting at 2.30.
Held previously in 1927 and 1928, the Sidecar Race as a spectacle was more even exciting than the Senior of that period. This year it is open to machines up to 1,000 c.c., and it is hoped that George Brough will drive one of the machines which bear his name, while anyone who ever saw Freddy Dixon’s banking sidecar in action will look forward to its reappearance.
The subsidy to foreign riders continues, but this year great care is being taken in selecting them, only riders approved by manufacturers being eligible for the grant. Overseas riders on British machines and foreign riders on their national mounts will add to the variety and interest of the races.