THE FOURTH R.A.C. RALLY
A STRENUOUS ROAD SECTION PRECEDES FINAL TESTS AT EASTBOURNE—” GYMKHANA TESTS” SEED OUT THE UNSKILFUL—HANDSOME CARS IN THE COACHWORK COMPETITION. OF the 281 competitors who set out at the end of last month to take part in the R.A.C. Rally, 36 failed to arrive at their destination, and 51 more were penalised for late arrival at controls en route or in the Examination for Condition which took place at the end of the thousand-mile journey, which had to be covered by all cars at an average speed of 26 m.p.h. ,
The Eastbourne Rally differed from the three previous ones in that there were no “winners.” Instead, lie cars were classified according to their rated horse-power and whether they were open or closed, and the 33 per cent, most highly placed in each group received First Class Awards, the next 33 per cent. Seconds and the rest Third Class or” bronzes.” To qualify for the first two, incidentally, the car had to come through the road section and the final examination on arrival without loss of marks, putting a heavy penalty on a scratched wing or a damaged side-lamp.
This alteration to a Trials sytems of award detracted somewhat from the interest of the Rally as a means of comparing individual cars, but as there was no inducement for the trade to prepare and enter specially prepared cars, the private owner for once felt that he was competing with cars of characteristics similar to his own.
Two factors combined to make the road-section more difficult than in former years, namely the 30 m.p.h. speed limit and the fact that the routes from all but one starting point included a strenuous and to most of the drivers, unknown section along the Welsh coast.
As to the first point, many of the routes passed through the industrial areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Those who by those behind schedule at the first check. Drivers who disregarded the traffic regulations found themselves in observed the limits strictly, and the great majority did, found themselves falling well behind the set speed, calling for
full throttle driving on the smaller cars when the restricted areas were left behind. Fortunately for them the rules differed from those of the Monte Carlo Rally. In the R.A.C. event, marks are only lost car trouble with the police, who were active all over the country, their ” successes ” including bagging a score of cars on the
road coining out of Newcastle, and traps on the Sea Front at Llandudno, the latter effort particularly uncalled for after inviting the R.A.C. to arrange their routes to pass through the town. There was considerable activity in other parts of Wales, in Sheffield, a fruitful spot near Pangbourne, and a final effort by the Sussex police just outside the boundaries of Eastbourne. However, competitors did not allow themselves to be too downcast by the new motoring misfortune. Nigel Holder drove round the country in his Bentley with an alarm clock close at hand, hoping to ” gong ” policeman on bicycles, but unfortunately the species seemed quite extinct. Humphrey Symons solemnly lapped a memorial in Stratfordon-Avon until the driver of a pursuing police car gave up the chase, while other drivers just slowed right down to ten miles an hour when followed by members of the motorised force, giving them clearly to understand that they had no intention of contributing to the local funds. To those who were visiting Wales for the first time the steep and twisting climb and descent from Llandudno to Dolgelley came as a real surprise, comparable almost to some of the lesser Alpine climbs. Those who covered this part of the route in the daylight hours made their way south in cheerful bands, driving in glorious sunshine, which made up for the discomforts of the earlier hours. Comic relief was provided by two men in an Austin who had taken a string of sausages with them and proceeded to stop and cook them at the summit of the pass. Unfortunately, their enterprise was not rewarded as the sausages proved uneatable and had to be thrown down the mountain-side. Corn petitors from Edinburgh, Harrogate, Liverpool and Yarmouth, all had to pass over this section of road by night and they had a different tale to tell, having difficulty in finding their way on the winding
roads, on which there were few signposts.
Fine weather and bright sunshine were experienced almost everywhere during the daytime, but there was widespread fog at night, stretching all along the South Coast and from Hings Lynn south to Eastbourne. Several crashes occurred as the result Of bad visibility, Charles Follett’s Alvis was completely wrecked when his spare driver ran into a Stone wall at a sharp corner not far from Truro and another Alvis, stationary this time, was run into from behind by an S.S. to the detriment of the latter car, while an Aston Martin driver avoided sharing the same fate by careering off the road up a bank. Mechanical troubles were not unknown, even to such experienced drivers as the Hon. Brian Lewis. whose new short-chassis S.S. suffered from clutch trouble, making it impossible to complete the road-section on time. Another sufferer was Miss Allen, whose A.C. disintegrated its water circulation system. The drivers of a Wolseley which started from Liverpool reported fitting a new gasket and two big-ends en route, some other car was seen in the Newcastle neighbourhood with its gearbox in small pieces on the road, while there were the usual tales of burnt out dynamos and elusive ” shorts” Which just shows that the modern car still requires a cer tam n amount of attention before undertaking a thousand mile journey.
Thursday morning saw the 241 survivors converging on Eastbourne, once more in brilliant sunshine, and after passing through the Final Check on the sea front were directed to the Coach Station, where the cars were parked in the open. Proceedings opened on Friday with a Starting Test for which the time limit was five minutes and only five cars failed to respond. Then came the two Eliminating Tests. The first of these took place on Granville Hill, a. road on the outskirts of the town with a reputed gradient of 1 in 6 and a tarmac surface, on which
the course was outlined by wooden beacons and ” kerbs ” of iron . From a standing start on the gradient the competing cars had to run up the hill a distance of fifty yards, reverse back through a gap to the other side, and then continue on for a further 55 yards to the finishing line.
The test was a fair and comparatively simple one calling principally for a welltuned engine, a gear-box with a suitable ratio and powerful brakes to control the tar when backing downwards across the hill, and the majority of drivers came
through it successfully, though few of them took full advantage of the width of the read when stopping preliminary to backing through the gap, while -others lost time by using reverse and then being unable to engage first gear. With such a large entry it is difficult
single out individual performances, especially when no official times were published, but one of the fastest ascents must have been that of H. Parkinson on a supercharged N Type Magnette, who made full use of his self-changing gear-box and shot over the finishing line with spinning wheels and some detonations as one or more plugs cut out higher up. Another small car which made an excellent perforniance was the If-litre Singer driven by A. G. Imhoff which came within 4/5 seconds of the fastest time. The VS Fords were impressive and quiet, and much steadier than the various American closed cars against which they were competing. The 3i-litre Bentleys acquitted themselves with their usual effortlessness, while a high 61-litre saloon, driven by R. D. Gregory, showed that there was life in the Old Brigade as well.
The only car to run back into the barrier was J. A. Driscoll’s Standard, though an Ulster Medd Aston Martin stalled at the critical moment owing to a high bottom gear and lost a little time, and Thomson on an open Railthn also ” lost his prop ” at this point. The Lagonda Rapier coup& driven by Lord Walpole, sounded very feeble and only completed the climb with difficulty, unlike another of our motoring peers, Lord Waleran, who placed his Ford de Luxe very neatly just through the gap and shot away with the minimum of delay.
The Test on the Parade.
The second test was more complicated, and found out the weak points of a large number of cars and drivers. It consisted of a 75 yard run up the Promenade to
the beginning of the reversing bay, through which the car had to be backed for some 40 yards. This brought the car opposite a second gap through which the original stretch was reached, and from there, there was a run of 200 yards to the finish. Drivers suffering from stage fright found the backing far from easy. Two of these courses were laid out alongside one-another, and cars were dealt with as fast as they arrived from the first test. As might be expected, large saloons with streamlined tails, especially those American vehicles with soft suspension were at a great disadvantage in. the backing section, though much of the difficulty could be overcome by a competant driver, as was shown by Thatcher, who took his Airflow Chrysler through without touching anything. Symons was chary of damaging the bodywork of the beautiful 3i-litre Bentley saloon entered by Jack Barclay, while Nigel Holder made a particularly good showing on a car of the same make, coming within two seconds of the fastest time in his class. He was obviously much aided by the excellent visibility
afforded by his car. Kingston Whittaker’s Railton, fitted with a drop head body and a tiny rear window was at great disadvantage from this cause, but made up on acceleration. Of the large open cars a smart blue-and-grey Bentley, driven by Miss Watson received welldeserved applause, and Dobell and Mann were excellent with their Lagonda Rapides, though the latter came within an ace of hitting the “kerb.” Gootnick found his magnificent two-seater Mercedes rather long for the gap and was greeted by the fatal clang of falling pipes. Other drivers made much worse jobs of it, and we noticed amongst others, H. M. Trickett in an Austin 10 who ignored the reversing altogether, Miss Joan Richmond who did the same thing, and
then nearly ran over a group of officials, and Wells in a Riley, whe knocked down obstacles and missed his gears. The streamlined Tracta., driven by Commander Graham White, must have been awkward to manage as louvers are used instead of a rear window ; in the excitement of the moment the car stalled and refused to start for some time.
The smaller cars, of course, were much easier to handle and two closed cars which made rapid evolutions were a Rover, driven by Burden who kept his tongue out during the critical moments and Captain Fitzmaurice’s Airstream Singer. The open cars cf this later marque scored their usual success, some of the fastest being F. S. Barnes, Langley and Eason Gibson, while Parkinson’s
blown M.G. and the neat unblown ones, which Miss Doreen Evans and D. G. Evans have been using lately in reliability trials, also nipped through at commendable speed. Ma,nby Colegrave was handling the first of the new Squire cars and though he was rapid on the straights, got involved with a ” kerb ” on first having to back. Brian Lewis had a similar experience on the S.S. 90.
To determine the awards, the cars were divided into eight classes, up to 8 h.p., over 8 to 14 h.p., over 14 to 20 h.p., and over 20 h.p., with separate groups for open and closed cars. The marks gained in the two tests formed a very fair basis of comparison between the various cars and the R.A.C. is to be congratulated on a splendidly organised competition event which satisfied everyone who took part in it.