E.R.A. WINS THE EMPIRE TROPHY RACE VICTORY FOR RAYMOND MAYS WITH THE 1,100 CM. CAR AT 62.96 M.P.H.
The B.R.D.C. opened the British racing season with the Empire Trophy Race at Donington on April 10th, when the race was attended by a crowd variously estimated at from 12,000 to 15,000, a larger attendance than Donington has ever had before, and a very fine augury for the 1937 season. A very fine entry was obtained, but unfortunately some of the most interesting cars were non-starters, as seems
inevitable in any motor-race. Austin Dobson had come to the conclusion that Donington is no place at which to extend the bimo(ore Alfa-Romeo, P. Wirnile was too busy at Mont1hCfry with the Grand Prix Bugatti to put in an appearance, the French Talbot had not turned up, Lord Howe’s E.R.A. was not ready in time to run, likewise Mrs. Dobson’s Riley and Sinclair’s 1,1(10 c.c. Alta, while two of the 11-litre Maseratis and A. F. Ashby ‘s Ferrari Alfa-Romeo were :additional non-starters, However, the reserves were called in and quite a fine field came out for this handicapped contest over eighty laps, equal to approximately 204 Miles. Raymond Mayswith the 1,100 c.c. E.R.A., Pat Fairfield with the 1i-litre E.R.A., both with the new torsional independent front suspension, ” B. Bira ” with the 2.9-litre Maserati with which Seaman had won the race the previous year, using 2.6-litre cylinder blocks, and Hans Ruesch with the 8-cylinder 3.8 litre Alfa-Romeo with which he and Seaman had won the 1936 Donington Grand Prix, were sharing the attention of the onlookers. Heavy rain that morning cleared before the start and under a threatening sky cars parked and spectators slithered on the slim y fields, the grandstand at Starkey’s slowly filled and the Alma& aeroplane sought a landing ground. As 2 p.m. approached the cars were lined up before the pitS, which had the name of each driver and car clearly displayed, and above which flew the flags
of the contesting nations. work was going On beneath the bonnet of ” Bira’s ” Maserati until nearly time to start, and Querycoe stalled the engine of Peter Aitken’s 11-litre Maserati and seemingly punched in a gear very brutally to restart, but Ruesch’s Alfa-Romeo stood majestically alone.
A. C. Dobson’s E.R.A. was pushed to the line by a band of enthusiasts, ” Bira’s” Maserati was cranked furiously and finally given a push-start and a Standard saloon full of humanity set off round the course, while ” Ebby,” Reynolds and Charles Follett strolled up to the start together, as the sky took on a thundery hue.
At last the flag fell, and the little fellows left in a bunch, except Mrs. Petre’s Austin, pushed in reverse to start, and C. H. Manders’s R-type M.G. Midget which had oiled its plugs and was firing spasmodically. Hadley also had a bit of bother with the Austin and got away from behind the line as the other babies were released. Meanwhile A. C. Dobson’s E.R.A., in the next group, had been run back from Its place on the line for an examination of the engine. j list then the rain descended in torrents, which must have sold quite a few more grandstand tickets and which was beastly for the drivers. Down to Starkey’s came the group of small cars, blowers whining and spray flung to high heaven, and passing the pits the order was : Dodson (Austin), Maclure (Riley), Hadley (Austin) with Kenneth Evans (MG.) just moving past him, followed by Mrs. K. Petre, whose Austin came to rest at its pit to have a stuck throttle dealt with, trouble which had caused Mrs. Petre an exciting moment at Starkey’s. Mrs. Petre left as the 1,100 c.c. groups went off, Manders getting away as well
with his M.G., nearly two laps behind. Meanwhile Hadley was in at his pit for carburetter adjustments, the engine being run fast, then ” blipped,” and the car soon dispatched. As the bigger cars came round Parnell’s silver, double-camshaft MG. led from Raymond Mays (F: R A ). W. Hughes (1,087 c.c. MG,), W. F. Wilkinson (Riley) and Faulkner (M.G,). Only a few moments before the big fellows left the rain became appalling, ” Bira ” sheltering beneath a ” Bira-blue ” umbrella with mouse designs thereon and Ruesch’s Alfa remaining in its shroudings of tarpaulins, while even Brackenbury, in C. E. C. Martin’s Alfa-Romeo, also got what protection he could. Brackenbur3r and” Bira “were creeping forward noticeably on the line and got away together, the Alfa-Romeo showing the better acceleration. Ruesch left in a jerky display of acceleration. On lap five the unfortunate Schell was hit in the eye by a stone, his injuries being sufficiently severe to justify the retirement of the Delahaye on the next lap, which indicates the value of ;tppointing a reserve driver. Cotton’s Riley left a smoke trial round the Starkey hairpin and Aitken brought in his Maserati because his goggles were hanging down his bark. A. C. Dobson’s E.R.A. :appeared light at the front end. The next retirement was that of Mrs. Petre’s Austin, the carburetter needle of which broke after seven laps. The spectators who had picked Starkey’s as a vantage point had much to interest them. On One lap Scril)bans cornered his E.R.A. slowly in the middle of the road and Evans passed him, then Aitken (Maserati) treated Dodson, who was following, to a display of sliding, while Ruesch, dosing
with ” Bira.” did some rapid overtaking of Dreyfus’s Delahaye, to accelerate after Ole Maserati. Walker was getting fiercer and fiercer in his dirt-track tactics with Whitehead’s E.R.A, and most of the drivers had slides of some sort or another, though Dreyfus came round as if on rails, beautifully regular, and PowysLybbe looked essentially calm and safe in his .::,‘1-fa-Romeo, while Dobson and 11a( Wy ;:tpp,:•arcd to make excellent use of the Austin’s :stability in getting round Starkey’s. Evans was having a tough time driving the cut-down M.G. in the wet and Aitken had an evolution at Starkey’s that slowed him considerably. Things cheered up as the rain ceased, and the big cars became easier to handle on the still slippery road. Dodson had the brave little Austin in the lead, with Mays and Parnell worrying him on ‘handicap. Faulkner had dropped out with brake trouble On lap sixteen Dodson discovered that he needed more fuel and duly came into his pit for an examination of the situation. With the engine still running a mechanic commenced to fill the tank, and in a moment everything before the pit was a mass of yellow flame. Dodson struggled out of the cockpit and ran across the course, to roll in the wet grass before any help
arrived. Fortunately the damp grass did the trick and put out his flaming overalls and helmet. and Dodson was led to the ambulance tent suffering a bleeding nose where he had fallen, and bad burns. A broadcast appeal had to be made for the necessary first-aid materials and later Dodson left for Derby, whence he was joyfully sent back to the course by the hospital authorities. The fire raged fiercely in the road, and two pits had to be evacuated, but at last it was got under control. The Austin appeared to be undamaged, but there was again no co-driver to carry on. Maclure, driving bareheaded and without goggles in the unblown Riley, led at quarter distance, with Evans’s M.G. second and Mays third, until, on the twenty-eighth lap, the M.G. was abandoned on the grass by its pit, the fuel tank having split, which rendered things most exciting, especially for members of the E.R.A. Supporters’ Club in their special enclosure, though Fairfield’s E.R.A. was unexpectedly slow, Connell’s was misfiring, Tongue had fuel-feed trouble and Dobson and Scribbans were not having altogether good drives. Walker continued his fantastic tail slides out of the corners and Jucker pushed on manfully with a very sick Alta, which should have been most potent, judging by its performance in this condition. Maclure still led, with Mays now second and Parnell, rather irregular, third with the M.G. After twenty-three laps some of the heavier opposition faded as Ruesch retired with a faulty gearbox, the Alfa’s engine having
been out of tune for the last few laps. Ruesch, incidentally, was almost a nonrunner on account of a heated argument with the organisers before the race, when he found that pressure-refuelling was not to be allowed. Mays now came in to refuel, his stop being very brief, though sufficient to allow Parnell to move into second place. A big special funnel was placed over the E.R.A.’s tail, Mays was shrouded in a fuel-proof sheet and five churns emptied
in before fuel overflowed onto the tyres and road. Water had meanwhile been added and three mechanics push-started the car.
By half-distance Mays had made up for his stop and the leaders were Maclure (Riley), Mays (E.R A.). Parnell (M.G.).
On lap fifty-one Mays went through into the lead amid signs of great enthusiasm from those who could tell what was happening. Hereabouts Robin Hanson slid backwards off the road with the 1 i-litre Maserati, ending in a field with shoulder injuries and a slightly bent motor-car. Then Parnell slid at a bend, Dobson could not avoid him, and that put another Maserati out of the contest, while the M.G. had to have the near-side rear wheel changed, which took over a minute, and let ” Bira’s ” big Maserati up into third place. Five laps afterwards there was a stir as Mays drew into his pit, but only radiator water was needed and Maclure stayed in second place. At three-quarter distance Mays led from Maclure with ” Bira ” third. Cotton’s Riley, making horrible noises, retired with bad engine derangements, Hadley’s Austin was delayed by unexpectedly heavy fuel consumption, Scribbans’s E.R.A. Was dropping behind with continual misfiring, and Ian Connell’s E.R.A. experi enced mis-firing also, largely due to a leaking fuel tank, so that his pit held aloft a funnel to fetch him in and did snappy
work. Pat Fairfield and P. D. Walker were engaged in a very lively duel, that only ended when Fairfield came in for oil.
On its sixty-fourth lap ” Bira’s ” Maserati succumbed to the trying Donington circuit when the gearbox gave out, so that there was no further use for Prince Chula’s Siamese pit-signs and he at last had time to gulp down a drink as mechanics went in search of the Maserati.
Scribbans’s E.R.A. came in to refuel, took five churns, and got away ; A. C.
Dobson’s seemed very sick and was tried on the starting handle. Mays was now happily in the lead and although he seemed likely to come in again to his pit by his gestures, this did not prove necessary. So the little 1,100
c.c. gained a very popular victory, after a trouble-free run. The new braking system was subject to teething troubles and was not fully effective towards the end, but the new independent suspension was fully worth while. Mays averaged 62.96 m.p.h. Second came Percy Maclure, after a very fine drive with the unblown 1,100 c.c. Riley, at 60.67 m.p.h. Walker had worked creditably through to third place with P. N. Whitehea.d’s normally sprung E.R.A., to set the highest aver
age for the race, at 64.17 m.p.h. Pat Fairfield (E.R.A.) was fourth, at 63.72 m.p.h., and Rene Dreyfus, the Ferrari driver, gave a remarkably fine demonstration of steady handling, consistent cornering and reliability by bringing the unblown sports Delahaye home fifth, at 63.77 m.p.h.
Powys-Lybbe (Alfa-Romeo), Ian Connell (E.R.A.), R. E. Tongue (E.R.A.), W. Hughes (M.G.), R. Parnell (M.G.), H. L. Hadley (Austin) and P. P. Jucker (Alta) all deserve the credit due for finishing such a hard race—they were flagged off when Dreyfus crossed the line. Thus ended an exciting and instructive race with an extremely popular victor— an excellent opening for our 1937 season. E.R.A. carried off the team prize.