Racing Cars Again At Castle Combe
Leston's Cooper 1,100 Beats the Water-Cooled Racing Cars. Gammon's "Homemade" Lotus-M.G. Vanquishes Latest Sports Connaught. Salvadori's 2-litre Maserati Shows the Way Home to the Ecurie Ecosse 3 1/2-litre XK120C Jaguar
Racing cars appeared again to herald the start of the 1954 season at the splendidly-run meeting of the Bristol M.C. & L.C.C. at Castle Combe on April 3rd. The programme opened, before a sizeable crowd of keen spectators, with the first of two 7-lap (12.8 mile) heats for Formula III machinery. All races were from scratch.
R. G. Bicknell in his Revis-Norton with its front wheels enclosed by the nose of the body led at first, then Don Parker got his Kieft-Norton in front. These two went at it hammer and tongs, Bicknell re-passing on the last lap to win at 78.3 m.p.h. Meanwhile E. Fenning's Staride-Norton had come up into third place.
In the next heat, Bueb's Cooper-Norton had no difficulty in finally keeping Leston's Cooper-Norton at bay, but D. Taylor (Staride-Norton) pressed Leston hard for third place. Bueb averaged 75.62 m.p.h. Clive Lones, T. Bridger and T. J. Clarke were amongst the retirements.
Later in the afternoon the first ten from each heat fought a 10-lap (18.4 mile) final.
Bicknell, in yellow jersey, led all the way, to win at 77.75 m.p.h., lapping at 79.42 m.p.h. Don Parker, coming up fast, had a shocking experience when the steering of his Kieft failed and he went through the barrier in front of the timekeeper's 'bus by the start. He was luckily unhurt and only mild injuries were sustained by those onlookers who were in his path. Bueb held second place, Lewis-Evans (Cooper-Norton) shook off Leston for third place, and at the tail end of the field A. V. Cowley (Cooper-Norton), D. G. Walker (Kieft-Norton) and D. Taylor (Staride-Norton) indulged in a fine dog-fight, Cowley finally passing into the lead, taking Taylor very close on the inside at Old Paddock Bend.
1st: R. Bicknell (Revis-Norton), won by 17.4 sec., at 77.75 m.p.h.
2nd: I. Bueb (Cooper-Norton).
3rd: S. Lewis-Evans (Cooper-Norton).
Fastest lap: R. Bicknell, 79.42 m.p.h.
Sports cars up to 1,200 c.c. now came out for a 5-lap (9.2 mile) race. Geoff Tapp drove calmly and rapidly into first place after two laps, which sufficed to dispose of W. Cleave's Morris Special. He won at 65.46 m.p.h. in his Buckler Special, which has a Ford Ten engine with Aquaplane camshaft. A Riley also disposed of the 1,086-c.c. Morris before the finish. Sleeman's Austin A40 sports, hood erect, was not quite last — the tail-ender was J. B. Oliver's L.R.G. trials special. H. MacDowel, in a new Lotus Mk. VI and ghost-clothes, was fourth.
1st: C. Tapp (Buckler Special), won by 7 sec., at 65.46 m.p.h.
2nd: G. Akroyd (Riley).
3rd: W. Cleave (Morris).
Fastest lap: G. Tapp, 67.85 m.p.h.
Sports cars up to 2,500 c.c. next ran a 7-lap race. The, first lap saw Gammon in his astonishing Lotus-M.G. ahead on acceleration but soon Salvadori was past in the Gilby Eng. Co.'s 2-litre Maserati, which then proceeded to run away from the field. Gammon, back wheels spinning even out of the faster bends, was a very sure second, Rogers, who is showing exceedingly forceful form in the ex-Crook Cooper-Bristol, was third, although he snaked about a good deal and nearly lost it on Old Paddock Bend on lap one. Coombs, who should have been well up, finished a bad fourth in the beautiful-looking 1954 sports Connaught, and R. C. R. March was content to tour in his 16/95 Alvis, which is what the Editor calls an "early-morning" car.*
1st: R. Salvadori (Maserati). won by 21.6 sec.; it 79.42 m.p.h.
2nd: P. R. Gammon (Lotus-M.G.).
3rd: A. T. L. Rogers (Cooper-Bristol).
The Formule Libre racing cars now had a 10-lap race. Regrettably, Salvadori did not appear in the 1954 G.P. Maserati. Les Leston, perhaps aided by a chilly, cooling wind, led all the way, never challenged, in his Cooper-J.A.P. 1,100. J. D. Lewis, in the ex-Shawe-Taylor 1 1/2-litre E.R.A., was second for three laps, then L. Thorne, in the Ecurie Ecosse Connaught, passed him. After six laps Leston had lapped R. Gibson's Cooper-Bristol.
On the last lap but one a very nasty incident involved Lewis, happily without disaster. He went onto the grass after Quarry Corner and the E.R.A. spun. It just missed a plough standing on the edge of the course on the inside, just missed a head-on crash into a second plough similarly placed, but caught this with its tail, which was badly crumpled. Lewis continued as far as Old Paddock Bend, unaware of the extent of the damage or that fuel was gushing from the crumpled tank, until the engine stopped and he pulled off onto the outside of the road. After a short rest in a doctor's Jaguar he was none the worse for a nasty experience — but why didn't the Stewards have those ploughs removed before racing commenced? George Abecassis in the sports H.W.M. (XK120 engine), which he is to drive in the Mille Miglia, thus took third place.
1st: L. Leston (Cooper-J.A.P.), won by 9.4 sec., at 80.68 m.p.h.
2nd: L. Thorne (Connaught).
3rd: G. Abecassis
Fastest lap: L. Leston, 82.18 m.p.h.
The unlimited sports-car race lacked several promising runners, including Sopwith's Sphinx and Carnegie's J2 Allard. A very exciting race developed, nevertheless. James Stewart led nearly all the way in the Ecurie Ecosse XK120C Jaguar, using all the road at Old Paddock Bend, with Salvadori pressing him mercilessly in the green Maserati. On the straights the Jaguar pulled well away but on the corners the Italian car was always close behind. Then Salvadori closed the gap all the way round and on the last lap, as Stewart slid out on Old Paddock Bend, he bravely took the more stable Maserati through on the right. Stewart appeared to anticipate the cars touching, changed his line slightly and lo! — the Jaguar went off in a wild slide far away on the grass on the inside, sliding round twice. Stewart promptly turned, drove back onto the course and got home in second place before Abecassis in the H.W.M. could catch him. But Salvadori's dashing strategy gave him the race in the far smaller car by a comfortable margin.
A remarkable happening was seen at Old Paddock Bend on lap three, when P. Ravenshaw and T. Bridger, both driving XK120 Jaguars and indulging in a duel, spun together, but in opposite directions, very close, a complete revolution each, on the road, to continue in the same stations as before! H. R. Bond was slow in an XK120 Jaguar with screens erect.
1st: R. Salvadori (Maserati), won by 21.4 sec., at 80.29 m.p.h.
2nd: J. Stewart (Jaguar).
3rd: G. Abecassis (H.W.M.).
Fastest lap: R. Salvador; and J. Stewart, 81.78 m.p.h.
In the last race, over seven laps, for 1 1/2-litre sports cars, Peter Gammon excelled himself, leading comfortably all the way, in his Lotus-MG., so that Coombs and the new Connaught were quite outclassed. J. Fiander drove the ex-Threlfall Tojeiro-M.G. fearlessly into third place, disposing of R. D. Steed's J.A.G.-M.G. before it went off at Quarry Corner. Tapp led the 1,100-c.c. contingent in his Buckler and some 1 1/2-litre cars as well, including the Cuff, which appeared to stop for another supply of fuel to be turned on.
1st: P. D. Gammon (Lotus-M.G.), won by 11.4 sec., at 75.44 m.p.h.
2nd: J. Coombs (Connaught).
3rd: J. Flander (Tojeiro).
We would like to congratulate the Bristol M.C. & L.C.C. on a very pleasant meeting and offer thanks to the young lady who so promptly issued the full results afterwards. There will be a National Meeting at Castle Combe on August. 28th — make a note in your diary NOW. — W. B.
* "Early-morning" car — a car better suited to recapturing the atmosphere of the old days on deserted roads in the early a.m. than driving at modern race meetings.