THE EMPIRE TROPHY AT DONINGTON
SEAMAN WINS A HARD-FOUGHT FIGHT ON HIS MASERATI, WITH FAIRFIELD (E.R.A.) CLOSE BEHIND. “BIRA” PROMINENT IN EARLY STAGES. MONOPOSTO ALFA-ROMEOS DROP OUT WITH MECHANICAL TROUBLE The British Empire Trophy race, organised at Donington over 100 laps of the 2.55 mile circuit, proved a most exciting and successful curtain-raiser to
the season’s long-distance events. ” B. 13ira,” by dint of highly-exciting driving, held the lead on handicap with his E.R.A. for the first forty minutes, then his place was taken by R. J. B. Seaman driving an ex-Whitney Straight Maserati linered down to 2.7 litres. Fairfield then _came through and led the field for 1i hours, only to relinquish his lead after a neck-and-neck struggle with Seaman.
There was a spirited duel between C. E. C. Martin and Chris. Staniland, both driving rnonoposto Alfas. Both of them were eliminated with mechanical trouble after Staniland had worked his way into second place. As was expected, the small cars had no chance once the Grand Prix stuff got into its stride, but Kenneth .Evans lay second for the first half-hour on his M.G., and pronounced himself thoroughly satisfied with the new double-camshaft head.
The starters were as follows :— Group A 746 c.c. M.G. Midget(8) — Connell, Evans and
1,087 c.c. Riley—P. Maclure. Group B
1,986 c.c, Riley—Dixon, Dobbs and Von der Becke.
1,496 c.c. Riley—Austin Dobson. 1,496 c.c. Frazer-Nash(8)—Fane, D. Aldington and
Jucker. 1,486 e.c. E.R.A.(8)—Pairfleld, Paul, “Bira,”
Benjatleld and Black.
1,496 c.c. Masent1(8)—Rayson.
1,400 c.c. M.G. Magnette(8)—Parnell. • Group C 2.3-litre Alfa-Romeo(8) — Powys-Lybbe and
2.6-litre Alfa-Romeo(8)—EverItt and Rose.
2.3-litre Bugatti(8)—Brocklebank. Group D
3.3-lltre Bugatt1(8)—A. H. L. Eccles. Cold wet weather had prevailed during most of the period set aside for practising. On Friday, which was dry but intensely cold, Staniland, on the monoposto Alfa, and ” Bira ” tied for fastest lap with a time of 2 mins. 10 3/5 secs. ” Bira shot backwards off the road at Coppice, without harming him
self or his car, and Dixon followed suit later on.
During the winter months a great deal of work has been carried out round the course, making it better both for drivers and spectators. The starting area has been doubled in width, a paddock is now provided close to the pits, just behind the straight leading down to Starkeys, and the surface of this straight is now greatly improved.
The onlookers were always well cared for at Donington, and almost every part of the course can comfortably be seen by the general public, but the provision of four foot-bridges spanning the track has made it even easier to move from point to point. With an exciting race in prospect it took more than a biting east wind to keep race-fans from coming to Donington, and by one o’clock a tremendous crowd of cars and spectators were gathered together in the spacious acres of the Park. In a short time the.racing cars began to make their appearance on th_e starting line, swathed, as were the drivers
and mechanics, in a variety of coats and rugs. First to go off were the three M.G. Midgets and Maclure’s 1,100-c.c. Riley. Kenneth Evans was first away, but was overhauled by the Riley after a couple of laps. There were car-splitting noises as Group B, with E.R.A.s, FrazerNestles and the bigger Rileys, got away, with ” Bira ” in the lead, and roaring in a lower pitch as Seaman, on the Maserati, and Everitt, on Wilkins’ 2.3 Alfa, struggled for the advantage. The wind and the passage of the cars were already loosening the top-dressing of the newly-laid surface of the track, and Martin and Staniland could scarcely be seen as they started off on their monopostos. In a few laps each of the groups settled down to its own private struggle for supremacy. Amongst the small cars Maclure had the legs of Evans, but was forced to drop out later with some trouble in the cooling system. ” Bira ” not unexpectedly headed Group B, but was pursued by the one and only Freddy Dixon. How he managed with an unsupercharged car is still as great a mystery as ever, but his controlled sliding of the corners must save valuable
time. Behind him came Pat Fairfield, steady and fast. There was quite a number of drivers making their first acquaintance with new cars in this meeting, and Norman Black, judging by the way he slid off the road at Red Gate Corner had not gained complete mastery of his E.R.A. Brocklebank, on a 2.3 Bugatti, was another driver who seemed a little anxious on the corners.
Seaman and Everitt had outdistanced the rest of Group C, and the Maserati was steadily gaining ground on the Alfa. There was a really thrilling duel between Martin and Staniland. Martin had contrived to gain a lead of 30 yards and from his expression at the wheel, was needing every effort to maintain his advantage. The order at 2 o’clock was as follows :
“Bira” (E.R.A.). 67.05 m.p.h. Evans (M.G.). 66.95 m.p.h.
Seaman (Maserati). 67.05 m.p.h. Dixon (Riley). 67.03 m.p.h. Everitt (Al(a-Romeo). 66.08 m.p.h.
This list was certainly something of a surprise, for no one expected to see a small car figuring in the first five, while the single-seater Alfas (Eccles’ 3.3-litre Bugatti was obviously not so fast as these) were not on the board at all. Smoke began to come from the exhaust pipe of Martin’s car and Staniland pulled up till he was only 11 lengths behind. Then Martin pulled into the pits, and after a prolonged consultation, retired. The oil-scavenge pump had ceased working and the whole engine was filled with oil. Thus one of the cars which was expected to do great things disappeared early. Martin’s car was far from being the only one in the pits. Von der Becke had been in to take on water, and numerous other cars came in on the same errand— presumably their drivers had overestimated the cooling effect of that east wind. The Frazer-Nashes seemed similarly afflicted and then Jucker, on the gold-painted single-seater, charged off the road at Coppice. He got going a5.1,nin, only to come unstuck at Starkeys,
where he retired with a blown gasket. ” Bira’s ” speed remained absolutely at 2.30, showing that there is method in his rather disturbing driving technique, but it was not fast enough to keep Seaman at bay. The Siamese driver then lost five valuable minutes changing plugs and adjusting the curburetter. Dixon shot another of his ” surprise packets ” by now appearing in second place. We were then regaled by a catalogue of skids, Evans at the Hairpin, Dobson and Dobbs on Rileys at Coppice, and Rayson, who had an anxious moment at some unspecified spot. The Frazer-Nash camp was thoroughly in trouble to-day, Fane, on the single-seater, experiencing transmission trouble and being pushed by a fainting crew of mechanics in an effort to get restarted while D. A. Aldington cried ” brakes ” and ” water.”
At 2.52 Dixon came in to refuel and handed over to Wal. Handley. Our intrepid ex-motor-cyclist pulled out with the greatest coolness right in front of Staniland on the Alfa, and what was more, the Riley’s acceleration was sufficient to prevent a collision from taking place. Staniland by now was travelling really well, and one’s respect for the Riley grew as it appeared on two laps still in front of the Alfa. Next time round the Alfa came round alone. The Riley had got into a skid at the Hairpin, right under Staniland’s wheels, shot off the road and turned over twice. Handley escaped with slight injuries to his face, but a later examination at the Derby Hospital revealed injuries to his back which will disable him for some time to come. A report then came in from Coppice of an exciting moment at that point. ” Bira ” slid backwards into the sandbags and stalled his engine and Austin Dobson (Riley), Rose (Alfa) and Benjafield (E.R.A.) all arrived at the same spot in quick succession. Just as they were trying to sort themselves there was a squealing Of brakes dust as Eccles put tphee phenomenal n al avoidances h The Leader Board some striking changes. as follows:—
Fairfield (E.R.A.). 65.62 m.p.h. C. S. Staniland (Alfa-Romeo). 60.57
Seaman (Maserati). 65.38 m.p.h.
Ruse (Alfa-Romeo). 64.24 m.p.h.
Powys-4bbe (Alfa-Romeo). 64.22 m.p.h.
Consistent fast driving at the same speed as the Maserati had put Fairfield at the head of affairs, and the lightness and handiness of the E.R.A. were going to make it a hard car to catch on the Donington Circuit. Staniland was beginning to run to form, while Rose’s 2.6 Alfa and Powys-Lybbe’s 2.3 were veterans which were springing a surprise. The order did not remain long unchanged. Rose’s Alfa developed trans and a cloud of in a series of and cut through at 3.30 showed The order was mission trouble after a strenuous tussle with ” Bira ” on his E.R.A. ; the latter, incidentally, made frequent stops at the pits trying to cure a loss of pressure in the petrol feed and so lost any hope of keeping within the first half-dozen. Shortly afterwards Staniland pulled into his pit and di opped out of the struggle with a cracked differential casing
Attention was thus focused on the two leading figures, Fairfield and Seaman, who were now, at 3.45, less than a lap apart. Seaman started to put on speed and reduced Fairfield’s lead of 1/ mins. by 5 secs., by 10 secs., by 2 and by 3 until at 4 o’clock he had brought it down to less than half-a-minute, Fairfield’s speed, according to the scoreboard, did not increase at ail. Was he saving his engine for the last thirty laps?
At 4.3 Seaman came in and some very snappy pit work took place, replenishment of fuel and oil taking only a minute. Ten minutes later Fairfield pulled up, took on fuel only, and was away in 45 seconds. With less than a minute to make up and over an hour to run, there appeared
little doubt that Seaman would catch the flying E.R.A. Fairfield had, however, , no intention of giving up without a struggle, and doing all he knew on corners and straights alike, was still 20 secs. to the good with twenty-three laps to go. Seaman was up against a driver as imperturbable as himself, and only by speeding up the Maserati could he get the lead. A few laps later Fairfield got held up slightly behind three other E.R.A.s driven by Bira,” Lord Howe (second driver to Benjafield) and Norman Black, while the Maserati was showing a bit more pep at the corners. Next time round there were only 7 seconds between them, with Howe keeping well over to give Fairfield every chance. Another lap and the black car was only two lengths behind as it passed the stand
and Seaman finally overhauled Fairfield as they shot together away from Red Bridge towards the Old Start. So ended a most exciting duel. The leading pair slowed considerably when once Seaman was settled in front, while Everitt remained settled in third position, though a skid he had at Starkeys came near to removing both him and Fairfield, who was following up behind, from the finishing list. Scraps between Powys-Lybbe and Hamilton on Alfas, another broadside at Red Gate. by Norman Black, and a fair amount of pit ‘N. ork filled in the time until the finishing marshal unfurled his chequered flag. The B.R.D.C.’s venture of turning their Empire Trophy race into a road event, or as near as we can get to one in England, had been an unqualified
success, and everyone who braved the cold of Derbyshire was well satisfied. All that is now required is a wider exit to the main road, to overcome that hourlong struggle down to Castle Donington and freedom !
I. R. J. B. Seaman (2.6-litre Maserati) 54m. 16s. 66.33 m.p.h.
2. P. G. Fairfield (1f-litre E.R.A.) 3h. 54m. 58s. 65.62 m.p.h.
3. W. G. Everitt (2.6-litre Alfa-Romeo) 3h. 59m. 13s. 64.92 m.p.h.
4. Cyril Paul (1f-litre E.R.A.) 4h. 3m. 20s. 63.35 m.p.h. 5. A. Powys-Lybbe (2.3-litre Alfa-Romeo) 4b. 3m. 67s. 63.64 m.p.h. Finished Outside Time Limit
6. A. H. L. Eccles (3.3-litro Bugatti) 4h. 4m. 4s. 64.47 m.p.h.
7. N. Black and T. H. Wisdom (11-litre E.R.A. 4h. 5m. 408. 63.52 m.p.h.
8. Dr. J. D. BenJafield and Lord Howe (a-litre E.R.A.) 4h. 5m. 608. 62.70 m.p.h.