R.R Mountford analyses the expenses which A.F. Rivers Fletcher incurred during a season’s sprint motoring last year with his unblown M.G. Magnette.
That motor racing is an expensive business is a generally accepted fact. Few people have published accurate figures of what it really does cost, while those who have, notably H.R.H. Prince Chula, have referred to full-scale Continental racing. Probably many drivers have been deterred from keeping accurate accounts of their expenses, from a fear that when set down on paper, what had been an unpleasant suspicion would become a depressing fact.
The author assisted Rivers Fletcher with his H.R.G. in 1946, and, together with Charles and Eva Meisl, joined Rivers and Penny again in 1947 to form a sort of amateur equipe to run his unsupercharged single-seater M.G. Magnette in the season’s sprint events. Right from the start a log was kept and in it was recorded every penny of expenditure connected with the car, together, of course, with full details of all the work carried out and performances in practice and in the events.
From the figures published below it will be seen that there is one obvious omission; the cost of the car itself. Here a fair amount of capital is required, since a car of similar type to the M.G. Magnette costs at the present time anywhere between £600 and £1,000. At first sight this may not seem much money for a car, but it must be remembered that being a racing car it can only be used for this one specific purpose and must therefore be an addition to one’s normal stable and it will certainly require the use of another car to act as tender and to tow it to and from racing meetings. If it is well maintained the value of a racing car these days at the end of a season will be substantially the same as at the beginning, and at the worst, depreciation should not amount to more than about £100. Another point concerns the cost of repairs. In this instance about 70 per cent. of the total was for labour, as all this work was done professionally by the Monaco people at Watford, and here it should be explained that Rivers’ connection with the engineering side of that company did not extend to the garage side of the business, so that all the work on the Magnette was done at a profit to the company, although he had the advantage of favourable terms. He also had the very considerable advantage of free expert tuning by Peter Monkhouse, while in addition the equipe put in about three hundred hours on routine maintenance and cleaning.
The log book shows that even in a programme of sprint events, quite a respectable mileage can be covered. On tow to and from meetings this mileage was 2,504; under power at low speeds totalled 167 — enquiries as to where this was done are tactless! At racing speeds the figure was 98, accounted for largely by the Gransden Lodge Meeting, and tests on various airfields. Included in this 98 miles were twenty-two climbs of Prescott, which accounted for about eleven miles. Finally, about five hours were spent warming the engine up with the car stationary.
Keeping a log has proved its value many times, for quite apart from the interest in looking back through its pages, it is of great help when revisiting venues to be able to check on previous information as to best shock-absorber settings, tyre pressures, and other information. The figures set out below are summarised under four headings and it will be seen that, although they certainly come to considerably more than the odd one-and-sixes that one might pay to watch football matches, they still don’t run to the dizzy thousands that the uninitiated seem to regard as inseparable from even the most modest motor racing.
Repairs, including replacement parts, is by far the largest group. It includes a complete strip and rebuild of the engine at the beginning of the season; a further overhaul after too many revs. had bent a valve and broken two piston rings; a respray to change the colour from black to pale blue; repairs and more repainting after Rivers had tried to mow down a large tree at Prescott; and also repairs to the fuel tank. This total also includes £5 5s. for the purchase of various hand tools, which should last for several seasons.
£144 12s. 1-1/2d.
2. Fuel, Oil, and Tyres.
The fuel used is Methanol-based and includes some benzole, acetone, nitro-benzine, petrol-ether, and Pool petrol. The cost of two new tyres and tubes is shown as experience indicates that a set of tyres should last for two seasons.
£16 0s. 6-1/2d.
3. Entry Fees.
These cover four meetings at Prescott, two at Shelsley, and one each at Cofton Hackett, Merston (two drivers), Great Auclum, Poole, Gransden Lodge, and Brighton.
£29 17s. 0d.
4. Hotels and Travelling Expenses.
The hotel and general week-end expenses can be made practically anything, bhut in this instance covers all hotel and incidental expenses, including drinks for three people, the author, Rivers and Penny — Charles and Eva Meisl always paid their own expenses separately, although they assisted with the car at all meetings. The fuel for the towing car was for a Standard Ten for about 2,500 miles.
£41 16s. 10-1/2d.
Total of above: £232 6s. 6-1/2d.