MOTOR RACING AT DONINGTON PARK SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENT BY DERBY AND DISTRICT M.G.
THE undoubted and widespread public interest in road-racing which exists In Great Britain has brought into existance several schemes for building private tracks, but the honour of first making one of these into an accomplished fact falls jointly to Mr. J. G. Shields, the owner of Donington Park, and the Derby and District Motor Club, who organised the racing there on March 25th. Some of the events were poorly supported, largely through difficulty in getting before the meeting particulars of the programme, but the general success of the meeting was undoubted, and any future fixtures will be eagerly awaited. Donington Park is a short distance from the Ashby-Nottingham road, not far from where this crosses the main London-Leicester-Derby road, and about 10 miles from the latter. It is rather interesting to note that 12 miles further up the Trent lies Drakelowe, where the A.R.A. had hoped to lay out a track, and
Gopsall, which has been acquired by a syndicate who also hope to establish roadracing there, is twenty miles south of the first-mentioned.
The Hall, formerly owned by the Earls of Huntingdon, was used during the War as a place of detention for German officers. It was acquired by Mr. Shields and turned into a hotel. The accommodation is comfortable and cheap, and as the course is only half-a-mile away, competitors found it a great convenience. Two years ago the Derby Motor Club suggested that a road-racing course could be laid out in the Park, and this was contrived by using parts of the existing drives and farm roads. A number of successful motor-cycle meetings were held there, and it was decided to improve the track so that it could be used for car-racing. The roads
were eveiy where widened to about 20 feet, and surfaced with tarmac. The circuit measures 21 miles in circumference. From the start it runs down
hill for 150 yards, then rises sharply to Hairpin Corner, which is actually a turn of only 45 degrees. Not being banked on the inside, it caused some excitement when taken too fast and Templer (Fraser Nash) during practise shot along for twenty yards with his off-side wheels a foot in the air. After negotiating a bridge, the cars wind up through a wood with a sharp right hand bend, then up a quartermile rise to Coppice Corner, a right-angle turn.
Immediately after the corner the course runs for thirty yards between some farm buildings, and passing is not allowed. Then follows a half-mile straight, leading into an S-bend, then another straight descending towards Starkey’s Corner. At the end of a fast section, and without walls to give an idea of its curvature, this corner was the scene of some exciting moments. Another short straight brought the cars to Red Gate Lodge to enter another wood, in which the course bends round again towards the finish. A winding down-hill section completes the circuit. The spectators in the enclosure could see this last section and as far as the hair-pin, and the results were announced at several points by loud-speaker. The provision of a scoreboard would further improve matters, and will doubtless be erected for the next meeting. Vantage points on every part of the course, except where it passes through the woods could easily be reached and a large number of people had parked their cars at Starkey’s Corner.
Saturday, March 25th, dawned a perfect day, and from eight o’clock onwards the air was disturbed by exhaust notes of varying character. After a very good breakfast we set forth to inspect the course and to watch the practising, which began at nine. The paddock presented the usual scene of attivity, and everyone seemed well pleased with the course. One or two people shot off the road, but all on the open parts where misjudgment meant nothing more than running on to the grass. The surface was well finished, but was unfortunately covered with fine sand, applied to protect the road material when it was drying. It caused some discomfort in the earlier races, but dispersed with the
passing of the cars. Warning signs were erected at the principal corners, which were well protected with sandbags. Marshalling was efficient, and spectators were kept off the course by wire fences. The organisation in fact was sound. Proceedings opened at 11 a.m. with a preliminary talk by Sir George Beaumont,
who explained how the scheme had come into existence, mentioning that laying out the track had cost £12,000 and that the organisers were happy in bringing into existence the first licensed motor track in
England. Col. Lindsey Lloyd for the R.A.C., spoke with satisfaction about the sporting nature of the track and hoped that it would meet with the support it deserved.
Meanwhile cars were warming up in the Paddock and shortly afterwards took their places at the Start. The first race was for supercharged or unsupercharged cars up to 850 c.c. There were four starters, Turner on an Austin having the best position, then Barnes, Hall and Evans on M.G.’s. The first two got away well, then Hall and Evans after some trouble in starting. The first time round the Austin was well in the lead, snaking as it came down the slope to the start, then Hall and Evans, the unsupercharged car having been passed by the other two. This order continued for some laps, the Austin’s brakes making curious noises as it approached the hairpin corner. Hall at first could make no
impression on the leader but by the fifth lap he was noticeably closer. His lapspeed had risen to 57.6 m,p.h. which was faster than that of Turner, and he passed him on the straight before Starkey’s Corner. Turner continued to make great efforts, coming down the hill with more snaking but was obviously slowing, and Hall was able to ease down a little. Evans was no longer in the race. A trail of steam came from the Austin’s radiator vent.
Hall came over the line with a 21 seconds lead, the Austin suffering from a seized blower and coasting in. Evans, who had started off with very little oil pressure had apparently thrown a rod and arrived pushing his car, which had a nasty rent in the crank-case.
850 c.c. Supercharged or Unsupercharged.
1. E. R. Hall, 746 M.G. Midget s/c, 23m. 192/5g.
2. R. P. Turner, 747 Austin s/c, 23m. 40 2/5s.
3. J. D. Barnes, 746 M.G. Midget, 27m. 7 3/5s. Winner’s speed, 56 m.p.h. There were eight starters in the next race, for 850 c.c. supercharged and 1,100 c.c. unsupercharged cars, and it was run in two heats. Three Rileys and a Singer faced the starter, and Baker on. the latter was the first away, followed closely by Ward and Freddy Dixon, who tried to gain the lead before reaching Hairpin Corner. The next lap he was in the lead but then failed to appear. C. A. Richardson (Riley) was also missing and for some time only Ward and the Singer, which was travelling well, were in the running Dixon toured along the top stretch with a very smokey exhaust, and after replacing plugs set off at a great pace. Some excitement was cause by the Singer leaving the road and turning round at Starkey’s Corner, only avoiding the sandbags by a violent application of
his brakes. Apart from this lapse, he drove a sound race, and finished very creditably only two minutes behind Ward.
After a luncheon interval, which gave the increasing spectators a chance to refresh themselves and to admire the country-house setting in which the meeting was being held, the second heat took place.
Two Rileys, E. R. Hall’s M.G., and Langley’s Singers were the runners. As in the last heat, the Singer was first away, closely followed by Rayson’s Riley. Hall, whose car last valuable time
in all the events by slow starting, was 15 seconds behind, and brought up the question of whether a better arrangement in future events would be to allow the start to be made with engines running and drivers seated as at Brooklands.
Rayson knew he had to go all-out to keep the lead, and held first place for the first three laps, and Gibson on the other Riley reached third position by passing Langley just after the Hairpin. Hall was driving all he knew, and was steadily closing up. Gibson in the excitement of the chase spun round and went on to the grass at Starkey’s,. and Hall with a great effort overhauled Rayson at the same place. The corner seemed to have a fatal attraction for Rileys and next lap Rayson left the course there. He buckled a wheel and lost valuable time, while Hal/ put up his fastest lap so far, approximately 59′ m.p.h. With Rayson far
behind and Gibson retired he was able to ease up, and received a round of applause as he crossed the line an easy winner.
Shortage of time did not allow the winners of the two heats to run off a final, so the winners of the event were decided on their times.
850 c.c Supercharged and 1,100 c.c. Unsupercharged• FIRST HEAT.
1. E. N. Ward, 1,089 Riley, 25m. 4 2/5s.
2. J. R. Baker, 972 Singer, 26m. 55 2/5s. Winner’s speed, 52.3 m.p.h. SECOND HEAT.
I. E. R. Hall, 746 M.G. Midget s/c, 23m. 37 2/5s. 2. E. K. Rayson, 1,089 Riley, 24m. 16 3/5s. Winner’s Speed, 55.16 m.p.h.
1. E. R. Hall, M.G. Midget.
2. E. K. Rayson, Riley.
3. E. N. Ward, Riley.
The third event, for unsupercharged 850 c.c. cars only attracted two starters, which was a pity, as the two drivers made up for the poor support by the keenness for their scrapping. Langley, driving a Montlhery M.G. got away in front of Hudson on ,a J.2., but the latter did his best to make up time by cornering in a spirited fashion. His shock-absorbers did not seem. tight enough, and he was quite disturbing coming down to the enclosure. The struggle went on until the sixth lap, when Hudson’s engine gave up the unequal task and he coasted in, leaving Langley unopposed.
860 c.c. Unsupercharged.
1. A. H. Langley, 746 M.G. Midget, 25m. 7 1/5s. Speed, 52.3 m.p.h. Event Four, for unsuperchaxged
litre cars, was the most popular race of the day, and the organisers made the successful experiment of starting seven in each heat. In the first batch all except Appleton’s Bugatti got away well, but the latter was soon on the heels of the pack and! passed two, only to come in at the end of the first lap with. the expensive story-no oil pressure ! The bolts on one big-end had stretched owing to excessive revving.
The three leaders-Casswell (Frazer Nash), Ward (Riley) and Powys Lybbe on a 12-60 Alvis-were well ahead of the field on their first lap, and the same three led on the second circuit, but the Alvis had gone up a place, and Templer (Frazer Nash) was closing up on the leaders. The cornering at Starkey’s Corner was very fast and Casswell regularly touched the grass edge there and was also sliding at Red Gate Lodge. However, he made no
1,500 c.c. Unsupercharged.
3.0. Casswell, 1,496 Frazer Nash, 24m. 11 3/5s.
2. A. Powys Lybbe, 1,496 Alvis, 24m. 48 4/5s.
3. E. N. Ward, 1,089 Riley, 24m. 51 2/5s.
I. K. Hutchison, 1,496 Bugatti, 22m. 47 4/58.
2. F. W. Dixon, 1,089 Riley, 231u. 10 3/5s.
3. J. Eason Gibson, 1,089 Riley, 24m. 20 1/Ss. Winner’s speed, 57.55 m.p.h.
mistakes, and the same three retained their positions a long way ahead of the remainder of the cars.
Dixon was obviously out for blood in the second heat and he led from the first, followed at hundred yard intervals by Hutchison on his red Bugatti, and Jucker on a Frazer Nash. Dixon was extremely fast on Starkey’s Corner, Hutchison less safe and indulging in turf-cutting. However he was hot on Dixon’s tail, and the latter had to drive all out, in the third lap putting up a record of 59.3, and a lap later 59.5 m.p.h. The hot pace was sending cars off the road at various points and Jucker went off in the wood before Coppice Corner, losing his place to Gibson, and also doing a broadside at Starkey’s. The wood was also Dixon’s undoing and Hutchison slipped by him. However with a” come on lads, give us a push” he was in pursuit again, and momentary misfiring of the Bugatti at Starkey’s nearly let him past. Hutchison now seemed to have the hang of the course, however, putting up the record time of 60.3 m.p.h., and drove magnificently, and Dixon was unable to catch him.
The winners of the final were once more decided on time.
1. K. Hutchison, Bugatti.
2. F. W. Dixon, Riley.
3. G. Casswell, Frazer Nash. There were only two starters in the next race, E. R. Hall on the Midget, and R. T. Horton who was driving the Magnette which won the Mont des Mules Hill Climb at the conclusion of the Monte Carlo Rally. Horton took the lead from the first, and though Hall made superhuman efforts to
catch him, it was evident that the larger car had something in hand all the time.
1,500 c.c. Supercharged or Unsuporcharged.
1. R. ‘1’. Horton, 1,086 M.G. Magnette s/c, 22m. 59s.
2. E. R. Hall, 746 M.G. Midget s/c, 23m. 5 4/5s.
The last race, for all-comers up to 1 litres produced a new entry in the shape of R. R. Jackson, whose Midget must be about the noisiest car ever made. However the noise availed him nothing, as he made a bad start. Horton took the lead with Rayson in pursuit, but Dixon passed him after Coppice Corner. Horton was drawing away from Dixon until the fifth lap, when he did not appear. He had retired before Coppice Corner with clutch trouble, the Midget type clutch fitted to his car, which was the first Magnette made, not standing up to the power of the larger engine. Rayson meanwhile struggled to overtake Dixon again, but the black car kept its position and finished 300 yards in front.
Up to 1,500 c.c., any trim.
1. F. W. Dixon, 1,089 Riley, 23m. 51 1/5s.
2. B. K. Rayson, 1,089 Riley, 24m. 5s.
3. R. R. Jackson, 746 M.G. Midget sic, 24ru. 48 2/5s.