Burton’s 1927 Bentley Wins the Itala Trophy Race, Spero’s 1934 Maserati the All-Comers’ 10-lap Handicap, and L. S. Richards’ Riley Special the Motor Sport Trophy Qualifying Race
Cold weather but excellent racing marked the opening of the Club Season at Silverstone with the V.S.C.C. Race Meeting on April 6th. Because petrol is heavily rationed in peacetime Britain, this meeting took on greater importance than in other seasons with a very full calendar — not that any shortage of fuel was reflected by an excellent entry for the ten races or the surely record spectator support.
Practice saw the unfortunate demise of Walker’s well-known 1929 4½ Bentley with serious “mechanical detachments” and some damage to Barber’s Frazer-Nash when it overturned at Becketts, luckily without particular injury to its driver or to the sort of “elephant child’s” trunk that contrives to keep oil in the crankcase of its Anzani engine.
In the opening 5-lap handicap Sq.-Ldr. Lisle’s 1927 Grand Sport Amilcar with four-branch outside exhaust system led away and stayed ahead for three laps, before Bradley’s 1923/8 3-litre Bentley went ahead to lead until “swamped” in the run-in by McClure’s 1929 polished aluminium stark two-seater 4½ Bentley, which won from the 24-sec. mark at 66.84 m.p.h., with Eastick’s two-seater “oversize” 1930 4½ Bentley second, Bradley third. It was a fine finish, with Burton’s scratch Bentley leading the next group, some distance behind Bradley — what a Bentley benefit! Freeman’s 2-litre Aston Martin made fastest lap. Smith drove a shortened twin-cam Sunbeam two-seater with an unusual radiator, but it suffered, as we all do, from shortage of petrol.
This result seemed happily appropriate, because just before this race started Mrs. McKenzie had unveiled the scrutineering bay in the Paddock which has been erected in memory of her late husband. L. C. McKenzie, the great Bentley engineer. Organised by the Bentley Drivers’ Club, members and others contributed £600 to the McKenzie Memorial fund and the resultant very tasteful and useful scrutineering bay is a fine tribute to “Mac’s” conscientious scrutineering at countless race meetings. After an explanation by Stanley Sedgwick, a further tribute was paid to “Mac” by Forrest Lycett, whose famous 8-litre Bentley stood as silent witness to “Mac’s” ability. Incidentally, it is a tribute to Lycett that on this bitter day he had driven to Silverstone in his open 4½-litre Bentley.
To revert to the racing, another 5-lap handicap for faster machinery came next, with Stuart’s ex-Gerard E.R.A. on scratch, giving 5 sec. start to W. F. Moss’ E.R.A. “Remus,” Sowman in Spero’s ex-Bira 3-litre Maserati and Wilkinson in the ex-Shawe-Taylor E.R.A. Stuart weaved his way past most of the slower stuff but his E.R.A. was not on its best form, and Moss won in his smart blue ex-Bira car at 77.81 m.p.h. from Mudd’s ex-Chiron Scuderia Ferrari Monza 2.6 Alfa-Romeo, which had four piston-type rear shock-absorbers. Sowman, who seemed to find the Maserati a handful, was third, Stuart fourth, while Moss did fastest lap at 79.3 m.p.h. Day’s 1925 3-litre Bentley had a wonderful exhaust system, four external pipes going into a vast cylindrical silencer set transversely under the centre of the car.
The third 5-lap race was a scratch dice for vintage cars and showed the merit of Burton’s 1927 4½ Bentley four-seater with four-seater body and four outside exhaust pipes. It led all the way, to win at 70.01 m.p.h., pursued by McDonald’s 1927/30 4½ Bentley and Eastick’s Bentley — the shadow of “Mac” was never far away at this particular V.S.C.C. meeting. Burton did fastest lap, a shade slower than Freeman in the first race. McClure drove splendidly, too, and Harris’ handling of his 1929 twin-S.U. four-speed Austin Seven was quite outstanding, so that Binns’ Brooklands Riley Nine could make no impression on it — but, much as we admire the driver’s ability we dislike vintage cars that run on castors. F/O. Blanford’s 1929 blown 1,750-c.c. Alfa-Romeo four-seater looked smart but wasn’t smart enough to hold Heap’s four-Amal 1930 Riley Nine Special. Harris deservedly won the 1,100-c.c. class, Chaffey’s 1925/8 3-litre Bentley the 1,101-1,300-c.c. category.
Sedate sight in the next 5-lap handicap was Austin’s 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I, a beautiful blue tourer with aluminium wheel discs, which went quite fast once it had got warm and obviously possessed excellent brakes. However, it was not long in the picture, Newman’s very brisk 1932 3-litre Invicta tourer dominating the race until caught on the last lap by Mudd’s Alfa-Romeo, running stripped, and Bradley’s Bentley. Mudd averaged 68.38 m.p.h. Wilkinson’s E.R.A. made fastest lap at around 70 m.p.h.
The G.P. Itala Trophy Race of about 17 miles, for vintage racing cars, had a field of 13 and the exhaust noises were really splendid. The race was not resolved until the last lap when, although Burton’s astonishing Bentley retained its all-the-way lead, to win at 70.78 m.p.h., Symondson came up strongly in Sir Ralph Millais’ red 1925 twin-blower 4-litre V12 Sunbeam to a well-earned second place, in spite of having to cut out early for the corners. It was splendid to see this historic Sunbeam going so well and had it not stalled at the start . . . Tozer’s 1927 Amilcar Six was a good third, ahead of McDonald’s Bentley, which Tozer had bravely beaten into Woodcote Corner on lap four. Rowley’s rare 1924/5 V12 2-litre G.P. Delage, with non-vintage i.f.s., went quite well but dropped from fifth to eighth place in one lap, and although Clutton drove a neat race in the 1908 Itala, from which this race derives its name, he couldn’t catch Day’s Bentley. The only other Edwardian was Dr. Pinkerton’s 1910 Fiat, with straps to hold its undershield in place, not much speed, but an exhaust bellow as considerable compensation. The V12 Sunbeam made fastest lap, at 74.22 m.p.h., a tribute to Symondson, who drove home in his beautiful 57SC Bugatti coupe. Tozer won on handicap, from Symondson and Burton.
Bradley brought his 4½ Bentley through from scratch with considerable spirit, to win the next 5-lap handicap at 66.2 m.p.h., from Thomas’ four-Amal 1934 Riley Nine and Le Clair’s 1933 Frazer-Nash. Bradley lapped at 68.91 m.p.h., cornering with skill.
Real motor racing characterised the All-Comers’ 10-lap scratch race, which Moss (W. F.) would have won if he hadn’t twice turned on the power of “Remus” too early at Woodcote and allowed the E.R.A. to gyrate. Many hearts are short of a beat because, on the first occasion, he did this in front of Spero’s Maserati, and was very nearly rammed amidships. Both times he kept his engine running, but could only finish third. Spero won a good race at 77.56 m.p.h., from Stuart’s E.R.A., the latter making fastest lap at 82.46 m.p.h. Wilkinson’s E.R.A. was a slowish fourth. We have an idea the winning Maserati uses Bardahl oil! Howell’s 1929 V16 sports Maserati failed to start, although it left afterwards under its own power.
Light relief was provided by the 5-lap Light Car Handicap. Hanlon’s 1929 two-seater Riley Nine came through from scratch to win at 50.32 m.p.h., after a lap at 52.72 m.p.h. Halkyard’s 1929 Austin Seven, the sort we have always called a “Chummy” but which a reader says the Austin Motor Co. says is a “tourer,” was second. It has twin horizontal S.U.s, piston-type front shock-absorbers, double brake cables and coil anti-bounce subsidiary springs at the back, but otherwise seems, and looks, pure 1929. Wood’s Riley Eleven coupe ran well to finish third. Hawksby’s white two-seater Humber Nine got tired.
The well-handicapped 5-lap Motor Sport Trophy Qualifying Race was a victory for L. S. Richards’ 1938 Riley Special, from the 35-sec. mark, which won fairly comfortably at 65.16 m.p.h. from Burton’s scratch Bentley, which this time lapped at 72.18 m.p.h., with R. P. Bradley’s 1930 Bentley third. The winning Riley has a twin-S.U. Riley Big Four engine with h.c. pistons, in a tubular chassis with i.f.s. composed of a divided Ford axle and Rover coil-springs, Rover steering, Ford-Girling front brakes, Riley-Girling back brakes, a 4.5-to-1 Riley back axle and a Jaguar gearbox. The body is from an Alta. The Editor of Motor Sport presented Richards with a cheque for £10, Burton with one for £6 and Bradley with one for £3, and their cars, together with those of the next three finishers, are eligible to compete in the Motor Sport Final, with £75 prize, at the end of the season.
Under lowering skies the meeting closed with a final 5-lap handicap, which Lockhart’s 998-c.c. Peugeot-J.A.P. led until the final straight, when M. J. Bradley’s 1923/8 3-litre Bentley and Cleaton-Roberts’ 1927 3-litre Bentley came past the scuttling V-twin. The winner averaged 62.33 m.p.h., but Richards, after making fastest lap at 64.32 m.p.h., ran a big-end on his previously victorious Riley Special. Williamson, in the 1908 Itala, was a good fourth.
We were too busy, and it was too cold, to do much about the many intriguing cars in the spectators’ car-parks, but a yellow Overland Whippet saloon was noticed and we had hardly recovered from the news that the recently-formed Amilcar Register has 60 cars on its books than a really beautiful, flaired-wing Amilcar Grand Sport arrived. Its justifiably-proud driver said it had had only two owners, has run only 10,000 miles, and was made in Italy, which its nameplate certainly confirmed. They say you learn something new every day and, after this, who are we to deny it? — W. B.