The 20th International British Empire Trophy Meeting
Moss wins with works Aston Martin and equals Gerard's record
Held on April 12th at its now traditional venue, the most excellent 2.76-mile road circuit at Oulton Park, Cheshire, the 20th International British Empire Trophy race provided an unexpectedly easy win for Stirling Moss, in a works-entered 3.9-litre DBR2 Aston Martin, after mechanical trouble had eliminated the only effective opposition at a crucial stage in the race. In second place, at the wheel of a similar, but higher-geared and subsequently less agile DBR2 (also works-entered), came Tony Brooks and third position was taken by Archie Scott-Brown, who took over Bruce Halford's Lister-Jaguar after the works car was put out with defective steering. During the meeting a new sports-car lap record was achieved by Graham Hill driving the latest 1,960-c.c. Team Lotus 15 and was subsequently equalled by Moss when he was being pressed by Cliff Allison in an identical Lotus during the final.
This is Stirling's third British Empire Trophy victory—he won in 1951 with a Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash at Dundrod and again in 1956 at Oulton Park, this time using a Cooper-Climax which means that he has equalled the record of Rob Gerard (an observer at last month's meeting) who brought his incredibly fast 1-1/2-litre supercharged E.R.A. first past the flag at Dundrod in 1947, 1949 and 1951, in the days when the B.R.D.C. organised the race for single-seaters.
During its chequered history this race has undergone many changes of style and this year we saw yet another method of classification. Three 20-lap heats were run off for cars up to 1,100 c.c., 1,101 to 2,000 c.c., and over 2,000 c.c., respectively, but instead of arriving at a General Classification on a basis of times put up in the heats, as happened last year, the first three finishers in each heat plus the next nine fastest finishers regardless of engine capacity took part in a 25-lap final. This would seem to be a far more satisfactory arrangement, as weather and track conditions could well alter between the running of the various heats, although as it happened on this occasion the sun shone with unabated vigour throughout the period of the meeting.
A formidable collection of sports cars assembled in the paddock for the Friday practice session, which took place in dry but extremely cold weather, much to the consternation of the carburation experts. Cars in the up-to-I,000 c.c. category were in the majority, no fewer than 33, including 23 Lotuses, contesting the 27 positions available on the starting grid. Team Lotus was there in force, with cars for Peter Ashdown, Keith Hall and Alan Stacey (all Mark Xls); private entries included J. Campbell-Jones, Tom Dickson, Alex McMillan, Len Gibbs and several more, other strong contenders for class honours being Keith Greene in the Gilby Engineering car, Innes Ireland (entered by Major R. C. Robinson, although Ireland himself entered two other Lotuses), and Ron Flockhart driving for the John Coombs Racing Organisation.
Lotus supremacy was challenged by five cars of the works Elva Racing Team, to be driven by R. Mackenzie Low, John Muirhead, Chris Bristow, John Brown and Ian Raby and by a trio of Tojeiros –– a works car for R. J. W. Utley and private entries by Alan Eccles and Chris Threlfall.
The 2-litre class was not so well subscribed, although two Team lotus 15s, with the 1,960 c.c. version of the Climax engine, were obviously strong contenders for an outright win. In fact, only one car appeared for practice and Graham Hill and Cliff Allison had to embark on a lightning number-switching act in order to complete their qualifying laps. A third Lotus 15, but with the 1-1/2-litre engine, was entered by the Coombs stable for Roy Salvador to drive—this being the car that Hill drove so spiritedly at Goodwood the previous weekend. Gordon Jones, Tony Marsh, M. G. F. Dickens and J. W. Higham were present with Mark XI Lotuses, Brian Naylor had his 1,993-c.c. Maserati-engined J.B.W. ––car that embodies a considerable amount of Hornsey thinking –– John Horridge was a late arrival in a Lister-Bristol and Jon Fast brought along two 1,490-c.c. Oscas from Sweden, the second car being for John Higham.
In the unlimited category, the works Astons were supported by the privately-entered 3-litre DB3S models of Graham Whitehead and John Dalton, whilst Lister fortunes were in the hands of Bruce Halford and Peter Whitehead and, of course, Scott-Brown in the works car. Duncan Hamilton, Peter Blond, J. Sieff and J. F. Clark all had D-type Jaguars and John Bekaert and Roy Bloxam were using the same power unit in H.W.M. chassis. A measure of foreign competition was welcomed in the form of two 3-litre Testa Rossa Ferraris, entered by the Equipe Nationale Beige and driven by Alain de Changy and Freddie Rousselle.
Shortly after the start of practice two things became quite clear. The first was that the existing sports-car lap record, set up in 1956, by the late Benoit Musy in a 3-litre Maserati at 1 min. 56 sec. (85.69 m.p.h.) and equalled last year by Archie Scott-Brown in the Lister-Jaguar, would, given fine weather on race day, be well-and-truly broken. The second was that anyone who was incapable of lapping in under two minutes stood little chance of reaching the final.
Not surprisingly, Scott-Brown recorded the fastest time, and driving with incredible verve he succeeded in taking no less than 6 sec. off his previous best time, his lap in 1 min. 50 sec. corresponding to a speed of 90.36 m.p.h. Moss tried both works Astons and recorded 1 min. 51.4 sec. with the faster car and 1 min. 52.2 sec. with the other, Brooks doing 1 min. 53 sec. and 1 min. 58.4 sec.. respectively, before both were brought in with mechanical bother. The Moss car had broken its bevel box, and as only one spare was being carried of each ratio, Brooks' car had to be left with the higher gear which, on the Oulton Park circuit, precluded the use of fifth speed. A dropped valve on the slower car meant that an all-night session was in front of the Aston Martin mechanics. Of the other unlimited-class contenders, Halford recorded an excelleet 1 min. 54.8 sec. in the Lister, Hamilton I min. 55.4 sec. in the Jaguar, Graham Whitehead 1 min. 56.2 sec. in the DB3S, Peter Whitehead 1 min. 57 sec. in the Lister and Blond 1 min. 59 sec. in the Jaguar.
In the 2-litre class, the hard-worked Lotus 15 went round in a resounding 1 min. 52.6 sec. in Graham Hill's hands and 1 min. 54 sec. when driven by Allison, but of the others, only Salvadori and Naylor were able to break two min., with laps in 1 min. 54.6 sec. and 1 min. 57.6 sec.. respectively.
The superior roadholding of the lightweight machines showed up to advantage on the Oulton Park circuit and no fewer than six of the 1,100 c.c. cars were timed under the two-minute mark— Hall at 1 min. 54 sec., Dickson 1 min. 56 sec., Stacey 1 min. 57.6 sec.. Campbell-Jones 1 min. 58.2 sec.. and Ashdown and Ireland at 1 min. 59 sec.
Friday was a troublesome time not only for the Aston Martin mechanics, for the practice period had brought its usual crop of difficulties. One or two Lotuses were being converted back into four-wheelers after hair-raising incidents on the track; the rear-end of Bekaert's Speedwell Stable H.W.M. was being examined carefully after it had reversed through the Castrol sign at Old Hall Corner, as a result of grit getting into the driver's eye (several photographers caught the car during its gyrations—a situation that the local daily press were not slow to exploit !); the Elvas were suffering from cooling problems, Duncan Hamilton was one of several suffering from a shortage of brakes, and so it went on. However, when the time came to form up on the grid on the Saturday, there were very few vacant places.
Needless to say, Heat 1 was dominated trom start to finish by Lotuses. With Hall, Dickson, Stacey and Campbell-Jones on the front frow and Ashdown, Ireland and Flockhart immediately behind it was an open race to the first corner, but Stacey scrambled through to lead by feet from Dickson, Hall and Campbell-Jones, the remainder in a tight bunch jockeying for position all the way to the Esso hairpin. At the end of the first lap Stacey and Hall had pulled away from the field, Dickson and Campbell-Jones were locked in close combat, and Ashdown was pulling away from Flockhart in fifth position. Ireland, Bristow and Brown were all early visitors to their pits and Eccles aud Blumer were soon out with mechanica trouble.
Hall was tucked well into the slipstream of the leader and on the third lap he forged ahead, whilst on the next round Dickson ran out of road at Old Hall and retired, letting Raby up into sixth place in the leading Elva. The other team cars were not doing at all well. Mackenzie Low having joined Bristow and Brown at the pits with overheating trouble and Muirhead had bent his car in an off-the-road excursion, later to be black-flagged for loose bodywork. Elva hopes were finally crushed when Raby had a "moment" at the back of the circuit and lost five places before regaining the track. At half-distance the order was Hall, Stacey (6 sec. behind), Campbell-Jones, Ashdown (resplendent in the latest-pattern "space-ship" helmet), Flockhart and Greene. Thereafter the race pattern was settled and the only changes to the leader board occurred when Campbell-Jones overdid things going into Druids' Corner on lap 15, and retired without injury, to let in Michael Taylor, and on the final lap when Taylor caught and passed Greene to take fifth place by a second. Hall recorded the fastest lap at 1 min. 54.8 sec. (86.58 m.p.h.) and lapped Taylor; the first six cars completed the race at an average speed in excess of 80 m.p.h. and thereby seemed to have a reasonable chance of reaching the final.
The second 2-litre Lotus Fifteen was duly completed on the Friday night and on the starting grid for Heat 2 there was the unique sight of three cars on the front row all with the registration number 007 MH painted on the bodywork! Hill had the new car and was in pole position, Allison the hard-worked practice car and Salvation the 1-1/2-litre model; Naylor in the J.B.W. completed the leading quartet.
The start was tremendous, with Allison taking a narrow lead from Hill as the cars streamed into Old Hall Corner, Salvadori third, then Naylor, Jones, Marsh, Higham and Horridge. As the leader passed the pits at the end of the first lap he had pulled out a lead of about 70 yards over his team-mate, probably as a result of a looser engine, with Salvadori well back in third place but still well ahead of the remainder of the field. It was clear from the start that the first three cars were seconds faster than the others and the heat rapidly became two races in one. The main activity occurred within the second group, Jones squeezing past Naylor on the fifth lap and Horridge retiring up the escape road at Cascades shortly after taking Higham's Lotus.
Up front all seemed serene, with Hill running about 3 sec. behind Allison and the same distance in front of Salvadori. Then, at half-distance, the second Lotus tore into the pits and the bodywork was lifted, to reveal a sparking plug with a hole through the middle. A replacement was fitted but Hill had lost 3 min. before he was away, over two laps behind the leader. Only retirements ahead of him could give him a place in the Final now, but he set about reducing the arrears by completing a series of record laps, shattering Hall's short-lived record and leaving a time of 1 min. 50.8 sec. for the opposition to ponder over. In so doing he annexed sixth place from Jon Fast's well-driven but comparatively slow Osca and narrowly missed taking fifth place from Marsh. Although Hill was out of the Final, his performance promised well from Allison in the similar car, provided the Lotus had not been overworked already. Only Allison, Salvadori, Naylor and Jones completed the 20 laps at a speed over 80 m.p.h.
Scott-Brown v. Moss augured well for Heat 3, as it would continue the contest that was left unresolved at Goodwood when the Lister's steering became unmanageable. On the grid, Stirling discussed first-corner tactics with Archie. Whether the latter was in agreement or not it is difficult to say because at the fall of the flag the Lister simply streaked away from the line and had a clear lead within 100 yards, and as they went out of sight towards Cascades the order was Scott-Brown, Moss, Halford, Blond (from the third row!), Brooks, Hamilton, G. Whitehead, Dalton and P. Whitehead. At the end of the lap Brooks had passed Blond but otherwise the order was unchanged and the Lister's lead was already well over 100 yards! This was a truly scorching pace, with the Lister spinning its wheels out of the corners as Archie corrected the inherent oversteer, and simply hurtling down the straights leading to and from the Esso hairpin. At first it seemed that Moss could do nothing about it and at five laps he was still 5 sec. behind, but gradually the gap started to close, and passing the pits for the tenth time the Aston was only a couple of lengths behind. Braking later for Old Hall, Stirling closed right up, and on the downhill entry to Cascades took the inside of the corner. Halfway round the Aston's nose was in front, but on the exit Archie, on the outside, had a lead of half a length. Neck and neck they went towards Island Bend and gradually Moss pulled ahead, until, at the end of the lap, he was clear by more than 2 sec. Meanwhile, news came through that Bloxam had crashed at Lodge Corner on the first lap and was dazed and shocked, the H.W.M.'s wheelbase having been somewhat shortened, and Peter Whitehead gave up at the pits suffering from the effects of exhaust fumes from a broken tail-pipe.
Having been passed, Scott-Brown appeared to be slowing a little, possibly to save his car for the Final, but on lap 14 he was missing and there followed the alarming news that the steering had gone again and the car had spun off near the Bailey bridge, but that Archie had succeeded in missing everything that mattered and was quite unhurt. The remainder of the heat was an anti-climax and Moss slowed down to win from Brooks, Halford, Graham Whitehead, Blond, Hamilton (the last three having a close-quarters battle for much of the race), Dalton and De Changy. The fastest lap, by Scott-Brown, was in 1 min. 51 sec. (89.55 m.p.h.).
As expected, an 80-m.p.h. finishing speed qualified for entry into the Final, which therefore consisted of six cars from Heat 1, four from Heat 2 and the first eight from Heat 3.
Immediately Scott-Brown arrived back at the pits in the passenger seat of Hamilton's Jaguar, Halford sportingly offered him his car for the Final. In due course the stewards agreed and the line-up on the grid became Moss, Brooks, Allison and Salvadori in row one; Hall, Scott-Brown and Stacey in row two; Whitehead, Blond, Hamilton and non-starter Ashdown (a suspected holed piston) in row 3; Naylor, Jones and Dalton in row four; and, at the rear, Flockhart, de Changy, Taylor and Greene.
This time it was Moss who was in a hurry, and he arrived at Old Hall Corner a clear two lengths ahead of Brooks, Allison, ScottBrown, Salvadori and Stacey, in that order. Lap two and Allison had taken Brooks and was off after the leader, while Stacey came to an abrupt halt, having over-revved the engine due to a sticking throttle. The controllability of the Lotus was telling and in five laps Stirling's 5-sec, lead had been whittled down to less than half. The fight was on in earnest! Driving the large car right on the limit, Stirling started to gain two or three yards a lap, and his greatest worry was to avoid being baulked by slower cars, for Allison would be past in a flash on this slowish circuit. Equalling the new lap record of 1 min. 50.8 sec., he began to extend his lead until by the 15th lap he was 7 sec. ahead of the Lotus, Brooks another 10 sec. behind in third place, followed by Scott-Brown (obviously not too comfortable in the strange car), Hall and Hamilton. Meanwhile, Salvadori had retired with an overworked hub-race.
Then, once again mechanical trouble took the spice out of the race—Allison was forced into the paddock with lack of oil pressure, giving Moss a walkover win. He was immediately slowed by Reg Parnell, and while Hall and Flockhart brought their Lotus Elevens in with broken gearboxes and Blond retired with a slipping clutch. Brooks likewise was given the "EZE" signal. Moss crossed the line 20 sec. ahead of his team-mate and only Archie Scott-Brown was on the same lap at the finish. Hamilton, leaving behind him a trail of smoke through using pistons without scraper rings, was fourth, and Naylor just beat Jones into fifth place. Dalton was seventh, Greene eighth, de Changy, in the rather unstable Ferrari, ninth and Michael Taylor 10th and last. Taylor, however, was a lucky man. His Lotus was the only finisher to qualify for the description "All British" and as such became eligible for the £100 award presented by Joseph Lucas Ltd. It would seem that the fitting of Weber carburetters can at times be a distinct disadvantage! – J. B.
A day of drama at Brands Hatch
Although the majority of the leading British drivers were engaged at Goodwood on Easter Monday, there was no lack of drama at Brands Hatch on the same day, when the British Racing and Sports Car Club ran their traditional Bank Holiday meeting.
In the sports/racing class Elva appeared likely to challenge Lotus supremacy but Raby's new works car retired when in the lead due to shortage of fuel, thereby letting Stacey in a Team Lotus through to win. Somewhat unpolished and untidy driving, with inevitable results, characterised the "Junior" F. III event, whilst at least one of the "Seniors" appeared to prefer stock-car tactics. A humping and boring episode involving the Coopers of Cowley and Parker was a disgrace to motor racing and rightly drew the black flag after three dangerous incidents. F. III is as dangerous as any other form of racing, as a fatal accident in practice served to prove, and there is no room on the track for bad blood or uncontrolled tempers.
In marked contrast, the saloon-car events were entertaining, and the performance of Pathfinder-baiting A35s most enlightening, whilst the Formule Libre race proved that even the skill of Bill Moss is insufficient to overcome the handicap of vintage-type suspension on a tight circuit, when the opposition includes the latest in British ultra-lightweight sports/racing cars.
Most impressive of the series-production sports-car drivers was Hayles, who succeeded in placing his M.G.-A in front of A.C.-Bristols, TR3s, Austin-Healeys, Mark VI Lotuses and others, and, but for lack of acceleration on the straight would have passed an Austin-Healey 100-S as well. And when a car blocked his path he waited untiI it was safe to pass rather than bulldoze his way through and, if necessary, nudge the driver off the track.—J. B.
Police entry wins Bentley D.C. Eastbourne Rally
C. T. Jackson, of the Metropolitan Police Motor Driving School, driving a Wolseley 6/90, won this year's B.D.C. Eastbourne Rally.
1st: C. T. Jackson (1956 Wolseley 6/90).
2nd: R. T. F. Hare (1937 Lagonda Rapide).
3rd : R. D. Gregory (1928 4-1/2-litre Bentley).
Team Award: Jaguar Drivers' Club.