Oulton Park, April 6th.
In contrast with previous arrangements for the British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park, this year, the fourth occasion on which this race has been organised by the B.R.D.C., the trophy was awarded to the fastest driver of the day and not on a class handicap basis.
After some discussion the Club’s Committee decided to go ahead with the event in spite of the limited gate money expected on account of petrol rationing. Entrants agreed to accept prize money and expenses in proportion to funds received from paying spectators, and race-day did produce an ample number of customers in the public enclosures, as was witnessed by home-going cars in the evening.
The abolition of the qualifying heats and handicaps system simplified the running of the races, three events only being run on this occasion, all for sports cars and all of 25 laps’ duration. This saved handicapping difficulties and ensured that the drivers maintained maximum speeds wherever possible so as to gain a place and it also saved petrol. Handicapping no longer becomes essential when a 1½-litre car is just as fast on a twisting circuit such as Oulton Park as a large car, which cannot attain its top speed on the short straights.
The weather on both practice and race-days was excellent and there were no serious mishaps to mar the festivities.
Fastest times in Class A (up to 1,200 c.c.) practice went to Dickson at 82.15 m.p.h. and Hill at 81.47 m.p.h.; both were using Lotus models. In Class B (1,200-2,000 c.c.) Ron Flockhart led with a fastest lap of 84.95 m.p.h. in a Lotus, and Moore in a Lister-Maserati came next, with a top speed of 80.16 m.p.h. In the third class, for large cars, Archie Scott-Brown in his Lister-Jaguar clocked in with 85.69 m.p.h., followed by Roy Salvadori in the works Aston Martin at 84.23 m.p.h. A final practice period on the Friday saw the arrival of Colin Chapman from America, just in time for a few laps to qualify for the starting-grid position. During this period Stacey’s Lotus slid on loose gravel at Island Bend and hit a tree. The car never really reached the corner but took a direct line through it until colliding with the tree, after which it burst into flames. The fire was quickly extinguished and the driver was unhurt.
A tour of the Paddock at this time revealed the hundred-and-one adjustments that were being carried out to most cars, amongst them being Owen’s Cooper-Climax, which was receiving attention to its carburetters, and Archie Scott-Brown’s Lister-Jaguar, which had been entered for him by the Cambridge manufacturers, needed brake adjustments. The Lister-Maserati which he drove on previous occasions had been handed over to O. Issard-Davies. Archie also drove an Elva on this occasion in the small-car class but was not successful, having to retire with ignition trouble. Dalton’s Austin-Healey seemed to be minus camshaft and Dickson’s Lotus was without rear-wheel hubs. Baird’s Lister-Bristol developed a leak in its header tank and its owner returned home to carry out emergency repairs. The principal works team entered for this event, was the Aston Martin Equipe, now organised by Reg. Parnell (a previous winner of the British Empire Trophy) as Team Manager. Much speculation ensued as these cars were timed round the course as these factory-engined cars will be used this season in the World’s Sports-Car Championship events such as Le Mans. The Whitehead brothers were also driving their privately-entered Aston Martins, and of special interest was the works-entered 3-litre fuel-injection engine model, this car being fitted with the C.A.V. fuel injector pump and was driven on this occasion by Noel Cunningham-Reid.
The first race started promptly at 2 p.m., with Scott-Brown in the Elva and Hill, Hall and Dickson all driving Loti in the first positions on the starting grid. Graham Hill soon took over the lead and stayed there for five laps until Tom Dickson overtook him at Cascades. Archie Scott-Brown went round very seldom owing to ignition trouble in the Elva and he was forced to retire. Ron Flockhart held on to third place for six laps but he spun off at the bottom straight after Cascades, and, bouncing around in his seat, he appeared to be going into the water but at last he stopped facing the right way round. After a short discussion with the marshals he was pushed to the track and attempted to continue, but the suspension on his Lotus had broken and he too was forced to give up. Ted Greenall was another whose de Dion tube failed at Island Bend, allowing a rear wheel to depart from his car very smartly, and so depositing the whole ensemble in the proverbial ditch. Other drivers in difficulty were Eccles (Cooper), who stopped with transmission trouble, Higham (Cooper) was black-flagged for a loose undertray, and Austin Nurse retired with oil troubles. By the 20th lap Hill had regained his lead from Dickson and stayed to finish in first place. Dickson came second and Ashdown, also in a Lotus, third.
Class B, for 1,200-2,000-c.c, cars, started with Horridge (Lister-Bristol), Naylor (Lotus), Chapman (Lotus), and Flockhart (Lotus) on the front row of the starting grid. The first three laps saw Flockhart in the lead, but Chapman, sitting right on his tail, soon broke through and on lap four seemed set to continue for the remaining 21 laps. However Flockhart took over again and although Chapman fought hard to regain this position he had to resign himself to second place on this occasion. Naylor in the Maserati-engined Lotus kept a steady third place behind the leaders and reached second place for a few laps only. Both Horridge and Baird, driving Lister-Bristols, had to retire due to overheating. Baird’s radiator header tank split again and, to add further to his dismay, a lorry damaged the rear of his Lister’s bodywork in the Paddock after the race. Better luck next time, Mr. Baird! Final placings in this race showed that Ron Flockhart covered the 25 laps at an average speed of 82.55 m.p.h. to take first place, followed by Colin Chapman at 82.25 m.p.h.; Chapman also made the fastest lap, at 84.23 m.p.h. Frost was third in a Lotus entered by Mike Anthony. Allan Moore seemed a little unsure of himself at the wheel of the Lister-Maserati and had a private dice with Naylor until the latter went off the track on the top straight because of a burst tyre. Curious squeaking noises kept coming from this car as it went round, until it was found that something had been rubbing on the inside of the tyre, cutting the canvas all the way round until it burst.
Finally came the big race for sports cars over 2,000 c.c. capacity. At first it seemed that there would be immense competition for the leading places, with much changing about, but as the race settled down the principal drivers held on to their starting positions and finished in more or less the same order. Archie Scott-Brown very soon took over first place, leaving Roy Salvadori and Noel Cunningham-Reid in the Astons following in his wake. R. D. Steed found himself almost in the ditch at Old Hall Corner on the opening lap but just managed to steer the Cooper-Jaguar out in time. D. S. Shale dropped out with a similar car suffering from mechanical trouble on lap 16, and John Dalton’s Austin-Healey was seen to emit clouds of white smoke from its exhaust on the concluding lap. Dick Protheroe in a Tojeiro and Peter Blond in a Jaguar seemed to be keeping very close together indeed; so close, in fact, that the Tojeiro developed a dent in its rear!
So concluded another British Empire Trophy Race, the 19th of a series inaugurated in 1932 and run at Brooklands until the outbreak of war, after which it was revived in 1947 and run at Douglas, Isle of Man, until 1953, when it was brought to Oulton Park. The fastest lap on this day by Archie Scott-Brown, at 1 min. 56 sec., equalling 85,69 m.p.h., procured for him the trophy, and this he truly deserved for his faultless performance.
And so, to the accompaniment of rock-‘n’-roll music on the Tannoy, the audience struggled to catch sight of the valiant Bailey bridge which was relied upon to carry so many of them to the service roads. The organisers would be well advised to improve these execrable traffic arrangements for future events of this type unless they wish their gate money to be further curtailed through insufficient spectators.—I. G.