Rumblings, May 1950

Task Completed
If the Editor of Motor Sport looks particularly carefree this month it will be because he has at long last, completed his history of Brooklands Motor Course, which has been on his mind and conscience for the past three years or more. The entire work covers some 800 pages, the 300,006 words having been written in long-hand in the style of the best period-historians. Over 200 photographs, most of them hitherto unpublished, were dug out for purposes of illustration, some being acquired by a stroke of good fortune when Boddy came by a happy chance upon some property which had been stolen from the Brooklands Clubhouse during the war and which he was able to recover from police custody by presenting a decent sum to police funds. The “Story of Brooklands” has been issued by Grenville in three volumes. The first two, telling how Brooklands Track was built so courageously by private enterprise in 1906/7 and of the early struggle to establish it, and of the cars, both famous and obscure, which raced there up to the nineteen-thirties, are well known to most of our readers.
This third volume carries the story from 1933 until that last fateful meeting on August Bank Holiday, 1939, when, just as in August, 1914, for history repeats itself, war took precedence over motor racing. There is a rather sad Epilogue describing how Brooklands was lost to us after hostilities ceased, and the very last picture in the book shows the Members’ banking overgrown with shrubs and weeds. But the happier bulk of this unique book tells of the active days of the later period of Brooklands’ racing, describing in detail such classic long-distance races as the J.C.C. International Trophy, B.R.D.C. 500-Mile Race and British Empire Trophy, the Campbell Trophy, the 200-Mile Race, and many others. Frequent reference is made to technical details of the cars and anecdotes relating to famous personalities recalled. Official B.A.R.C. lap-speeds are freely quoted and such outer-circuit cars as the V12 Delay, Barnato-Hassan, Bentley-Jackson, Pacey-Hassan and John Cobb’s Napier-Railton come in for a great deal of the author’s attention. John Cobb, holder of the lap record at 143.44 m.p.h., himself contributes the Foreword.
Altogether this book covers a vast amount of ground, and as books go to-day is remarkably good value for money. The publication date is May 26th and orders should be placed now, through your book-seller or direct from the Grenville Publishing Co., Ltd., 15, City Road, E.C.1. The price is 12s. 6d., or 13s. post free, and the edition will be strictly limited.
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The very warmest congratulations are due to Peter Douglas Conyers Walker on his appointment as co-driver with Raymond Mays of the B.R.M. No other British driver has been so honoured since Mercédès-Benz took Dick Seaman into their Grand Prix team before the war.
Walker, who is 37 and married, developed an interest in motor racing while still at school and teamed up with Peter Whitehead to race first a “Brooklands” Riley, later an 1,100-c.c. Alta. They then acquired a B-type E.R.A., and Walker’s daring tail-sliding tactics thrilled the crowd, usually at sprints, whenever he drove it. Other cars he has raced include 2-litre Alta. 4CL Maserati, and, of course, the E-type E.R.A., which he coaxed into being almost a racing car, last season.
His courage and skill with these cars made his selection as a B.R.M. driver an obvious choice, and when Motor Sport described the car itself last January we bracketed his name with those of Gerard and Rolt as a likely choice.
When a contemporary wrote-up Walker last year it seems to have thought otherwise. Peter was described as saying, “I know very little about motor racing,” and it was stated “he puts too much store by the privateer’s freedom to cock a friendly eye at discipline” to drive in a team. Also, according to that writer, “few well-known British drivers are less-experienced than Walker,” and he was said to “prefer hill climbing to road racing’ because there isn’t time to blow up’,” his read-racing philosophy being quoted as “Have-a-go-and-if-it-busts-it-busts . . . !”
Walker is a farmer by profession, doing his farming on 600 acres at Shobdon mechanically. His pre-war motor-racing record includes third place with Whitehead in the 1936 Donington G.P. in the E.R.A., and taking the Campbell circuit lap record at Brooklands in 1937 at 73.26 m.p.h., also in the B-type.
Since the war he has made the difficult E-type E.R.A. motor really well at Silverstone and Goodwood and has done exceedingly well in sprints, notably when he made f.t.d. in the rain at Prescott in the E.R.A. at the 1948. International Meeting, his first experience of the hill, and when he was placed fourth, and first in his class, at Shelsley Walsh, beating the 1½-litre record, also in 1948, on his first appearance at this hill since 1934.
At Goodwood in 1948 he was second to Poore’s 3.8-litre Alfa-Romeo in the over 1,450-c.c race; still in the B-type E.R.A.
Last year he got the same car into second place behind Parnell’s Maserati in the Richmond Trophy, went very fast in practice for the British G.P. in the E-type, finished fifth in the B-type in the Empire Trophy race, was again second fastest, to Allard, at the June Prescott meeting, only 0.29 sec. below the course record, was third fastest at Rest and Be Thankful, was second in the Silverstone Production Car Race in an XK 120 Jaguar, behind Johnson, and then got the E-type home fifth in the final of the International Trophy, beaten only by Ascari, Farina, Villoresi, and de Graffenried, after being fourth in his heat. At Prescott’s International climb he won the 1½-litre racing-car class in the B-type with 2-litre engine, he was second at Craigantlet, fourth at Bo’ness and made f.t.d. at Luton Hoo. At the September Goodwood meeting with the E-type was beaten only by Parnell’s Maserati in both the Woodcote Cup and Goodwood Trophy races, also being third from scratch in one of the handicaps, in which he made the fastest lap, at 87.8 m.p.h. By the time these words are in print he will again have pitted the E-type against Parnell at Goodwood.
Everyone who saw Walker’s cheery good sportsmanship, the sheer fun he got from his driving, after these 1949 duels with Reg. Parnell, will find this spirit infectious and will wish him well in his important new calling.
It is pleasing to learn that as further drivers for the B.R.M. are needed Mays intends to give youth a chance. The announcement of Peter Walker’s appointment concludes: “It is resolved to engage other drivers as soon as a team of cars is ready, and further, in the future, it is Raymond Mays intention to devote himself to the finding and training of young drivers, and to sprint events and hill-climbs in his own car, rather than to take part himself in Grand Prix racing. He feels that there is much talent to be found amongst some of the young car drivers and motor-cycle riders of to-day, and it has always been his hope to be in a position to give a chance to younger men.”
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The Bugatti Owners Club’s series of speed hill-climbs at Prescott have attained a leading place amongst sprint events on the British calendar. Their meetings are splendidly organised, extremely friendly and attract good, fast cars. Last year, on a sunny day when one of the big meetings was about to commence, we were profoundly impressed by the colourful Prescott scene, the green of grass and trees in sharp contrast to the multi-hued racing cars in the Paddock and the vivid blue-and-yellow club colours on the timing hut and elsewhere. What an opportunity, we felt, for the colour-ciné enthusiasts . . . Charming ladies are on duty in this timing hut, before which you find pots of beautiful flowers, there is a simple wooden footbridge over the course with its sinuous bends, the cars assemble in an orchard-paddock, times are promptly announced after each ascent, and somehow the Prescott police and marshals seem especially friendly.
In many ways, a Prescott meeting is the ideal introduction to motor sport for the wife or girl-friend who knows it not. You can get close to the course at any one of a big variety of vantage points, usually there are no irritating delays between ascents, driving styles can be studied to perfection, and the whole setting is delightful, the hill being located in a particularly charming part of England. Refreshments are available, and you can picnic by your car in another orchard which serves as a car-park, in view of the starting line.
The first meeting this year, so far as the public is concerned, will take place on May 20th, starting at 2 p.m. Prize money exceeds £100, with £50 and a silver cup for fastest time. The sports car and racing car engine capacity classes recognised in previous years will be run off, together with others for Formula I, Formula II and pre-1915 cars. The hill, which is half a mile long, is situated near Cheltenham, Glos.
The Bugatti Owners Club also announces an interesting series of races to be held at its Silverstone meeting on June 17th. In the morning there is to be a handicap for sports cars, of about 1½ hours’ duration. In the afternoon will come a race of about five laps for Bugatti cars, a race for standard saloon cars handicapped on a capacity basis and possibly on a price basis also, and a race of about 20 laps (all laps are of the Club circuit, of course) for Formula II racing cars. Altogether this is a more ambitious project than the usual run of club meetings and the standard saloon car race, in particular, is likely to become an annual fixture of some importance. The saloons really will have to be very standard and already entries of M.G., Riley, Morris, Allard and Bristol have been promised. Organisation is in the capable hands of L. J. Roy Taylor, and this is a closed invitation meeting to which certain other clubs are invited. Make a note of the date—June 17th!
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The B.R.M. will be watched with great interest when it makes its public bow on a demonstration run at Silverstone on May 18th. Rumour, however, has it that the car will not be really extended on this occasion. What a pity B.R.M. prestige would go up by leaps and bounds if the car could get near to, or break, the Silverstone lap-record, which stands at present at 1 m. 54.6 sec., equal to 98.85 m.p.h. (shared between “Bira’s” Maserati and Ascari’s Ferrari, during last year’s International Trophy race). It may, of course, be lifted higher during practice for the G.P. d’Europe—100-m.p.h. laps are spoken of in some quarters.