THE FUTILITY OF SPECIAL TESTS AND A SUGGESTiON FOR RALLY PROMOTERS
Road races, ” Mountain ” circuit races, speed hill-climbs and, to a lesser extent, speed-trials, undeniably test those qualities of .a car that are of vital importance in ordinary fast road driving. The same cannot be said of the circus-like tests that figure at the finish of our big rallies, at club meetings at Brooklands, and in certain trials. The reason lies in the distances between obstacles being far too short. For example, in the test that should have been held on the seafront at Hastings at the conclusion Of the R.A.C. Rally, the maximum length of run was 200 yards, and in the hill test 100 yards, the latter distance also applying to the test staged on the Thursday. At the J.C.C. Brooklands Rally the ” MonteCarlo ” test, which was also used as a means of elimination in this year’s Monte Carlo Rally, involved an uninterrupted run, allowing for braking, of less than 218 yards, although the ” Wiggle Woggle ” embraced a more useful length of 327 yards on one uninterrupted run. We maintain that on these shorter runs cars cannot reach really high speeds and that acceleration up to a reasonable cruising speed and braking and cornering’ from sueli speeds simply does not figure in such tests. If this is doubted, let it be borne in mind that in the first Hastings test a time of forty seconds was slow, likewise a time of forty-five seconds in the second R.A.0 test, and these times included mancmivres that necessitated runninc, to the car, some reversing, and a complete slob, in each case. Even cars of the calibre of the 41-litre Bentley or 4i-1itre LagOnda ask somewhere about half this time in which to reach a speed of
70 m.p.h., which is around the pace that we feel should be achieved in these tests if they are to be an informative test of different cars. We cannot even agree that rapid gear-changing, good clutch action, and so forth are emphasised by such tests, because shortcomings in this respect can be largely masked by brutal handling, which is possible in a brief run but which might not prove quite so satisfactory if it had to be resorted to throughout, shall we say, the 400 miles of the TT. race. The only praiseworthy feature of these circus-tests seems to be the emphasis laid on brisk restarting from rest, which is a vital matter in this Belisha regime. But, generally speaking, we believe that far better results of considerably enhanced value could be got by substituting a simple restarting from cold test, a slow-running test, and a speed hill-climb along a course where the corners would impose a natural test of road-holding, gear-changing, braking and acceleration to cruising speeds.
If this is impracticable, at least let the distances between obstacles in these pylon-dodging parties be increased, that cars will work up a decent gait before having to brake and man ectivre. If this is done, a system of average time, with award or penalisation in accordance with -corresponding competitors’ times, would level thingsup satisfactorily as between sports and utility cars, and in the more important events the proportion of 1937 models competing would keep up the standard of performances. Actually, an idea we should like to see developed in future rallies is that of hav ing some trials-type hills in one district, ,a speed trial at someone’s private grounds in another, a speed hill-climb (perhaps at Shelsley) and a slow-running and speed test (say at Brooklands), all linked by road sections of 200, 300 or even 400 miles. Such a rally would constitute a remarkably fine test, giyeita reliable marking system, it would be a competition of intense interest to the competitors, and it would attract public interest over a wide area. Arrived at the finish, the traditional coachwork competition and beer-parties could still be staged, together
with that starting-from-cold test. An cAamination for car condition we do not advocate for reasons outlined in the Hastings Rally report. Incidentally, in the Hastings Rey one car had a device that switched an the starter and released the brake when the driver’s door was opened, special gear-gate stops were in evidence, and some of the American cars had starter switches combined with their throttle pedals—things that would be unnecessary if the circus element were to be decreased. In connection with the foregoing, it is interesting that the Bugatti Owners’ Club ” Monte-Honiton-Carlo ” Rally always concludes with a speed hillclimb which constitutes a good all-round test of speed, braking and acceleration, etc., while we believe that in the forthcoming Blackpool Rally, a special test and regularity test will figure in the road section. The Scottish Rally, of course, embodies one special test a day, but the road section in this case is punctuated by a rest each night, which is not quite the same thing.