V.S.C.C Silverstone Meeting (April 19th)

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With 150 entries ranging from a Chummy Austin to the 10½-litre Delage the first Vintage S.C.C. race meeting of 1969 was a complete success, which good weather and prompt organisation endorsed. There was a good deal of frenzied work going on in the Paddock beforehand, however. Giles’ G.N. broke the crank of its A.B.C. engine, Rankin ran No. 1 big-end on the Merlin crank of his Riley 9 Special and towed it home to Hampshire, where a “cooking” engine was installed. Symondson’s Type 57S Bugatti had water in its cylinders, and Cameron Millar was running his 250F Maserati, as his 8CTF has cracked blower casings. Loss of compression caused Palmer to retire the Targa Florio Mercedes. In contrast, the President’s 1918 Straker Squire slept peacefully under a rain-cover, looking rather like a semi-inflated barrage balloon . . .

The first 5-lap handicap was an absolute walk-over for Barbet’s “limit” 1929 Chummy Austin, which, aided by this generous handicap. twin carburetters with rampipes, hydraulic brakes, and 15 in. front, 17 in. rear Pirellis, won by 34.4 sec. from Martin’s Austin Nippy, which was 9.2 sec. ahead of Hornby’s Grasshopper Austin—the handicappers were caught napping! Mrs, Pilkington’s Alfa Romeo made fastest lap, at 65.34 m.p.h., but with a lap to make up on the winner, this was of no avail. There was a much more stirring finish to the next 5-lapper, Crocker’s “outsize” Lagonda Rapier, rebuilt since its Oulton Park crash, just winning, with Fowler’s 1933 Le Mans Aston Martin coming through to second place between Crocker and Elliot-Pyle’s blown Lea-Francis. Newton’s H.R.G. had back-axle dance and Johnston changed gear in mid-Woodcote to keep the revs up on his odd-looking V12 Lagonda. The Carbodies Railton went on fire, but the flames were quickly extinguished.

The next 5-lap handicap was also exciting, Clark’s smart ex-Bira 3½-litre Bentley tourer, screen flat, motoring unconcernedly in the lead for three laps. It was then overtaken by Knight’s 12/4 four-carburetter Riley Special, now with a new body, but fuel starvation set in and the Bentley took the lead again at Becketts, to win from Martin, who was driving the Spa Aston Martin very quickly indeed from scratch. Upston’s Frazer Nash tail-slid Woodcote into third place, having caught Eaton’s 2-litre Frazer Nash, Pilkington’s Alfa Romeo having retired on the previous lap when in third place.

Those who kept lap-charts knew that Farquhar’s ex-Dixon Riley 9 took the lead from Clarke’s “quite standard” Ulster Austin on lap 7 of the 10-lap Melville and Geoghegan Trophies Race for vintage sports cars, to win at 66.1 m.p.h., and that Footitt’s A.C./G.N. took second place from the Austin on the last lap, after going round at 76.57 m.p.h. Things then really warmed-up, with the 15-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race. Corner’s 3-litre G.P. Aston Martin led all the way, making fastest lap at 89.06 m.p.h., and Boorer’s Lotus, in second place, could do nothing about this. But there was excitement when Merrick, in Murray’s E.R.A., was seen to be holding third position in front of Lord Clysdesdale’s 250F Maserati, Cottam’s Connaught, Millar’s 250F Maserati and Crabbe in his immaculate red 1934 2.9-litre 8CM Maserati, etc. Merrick held this place for eight laps and put the pre-war lap-record to 84.88 m.p.h. before the magneto seized and sheared the drive. Waller (E.R.A.) eventually moved up past Curtis (E.R.A.) and Crabbe to finish sixth behind Millar, taking the pre-war prize. Opposition from Brewer’s 2½-litre G.P. Aston Martin was absent, because it joined in a lap in arrears, having been delayed in the Paddock while gearbox trouble was sorted out. A Cooper-Bristol had broken a stub axle and V.S.C.C. officials were worried about these cars—certainly the Club should support heavier metal. The 10-lap 1908 G.P. Itala Trophy Race promised even more intense racing, with Kain, Corner and Moffatt doing battle in single-cam 2.3 blown G.P. Bugattis. Kain had tuned his by fitting new bonnet straps and Moffatt was in St. John’s car. Unfortunately a leaking petrol union caused Kain to non-start. In the opening stages Moffatt came right up alongside Corner at Woodcote, but the latter drew away as the race progressed, to win by 29.8 sec., making fastest lap at 79.08 m.p.h. It was good to see Williamson finish third in the big Delage, especially as a new head gasket had had to be made for No. 4 o/s cylinder before the race. The leading Bugatti drivers were certainly trying hard, tyres protesting, but perhaps Moffatt is unused to such huge tyre—he was on 19 in. instead of his customary 710 X 90s!

A most enjoyable day’s sport concluded with three more 5-lap handicaps. In the first of these Merrett in Clutton’s Type 43 Bugatti won from Fowler’s Le Mans Aston Martin; and Masters’ PB M.G. Special, hotly pursued by Crocker’s Lagonda Rapier. Morley’s fast 4½-litre Bentley Special took the next race from Merrett in the Bugatti, which hadn’t been rehandicapped, third place going to Waller’s scratch ERA., which came up strongly on the final lap, catching Freeman in the quick 2-litre Aston Martin. The last race saw Eaton’s Frazer Nash take the lead on lap 4, from scratch, and win from Flitcroft’s Riley, with a happy Sandy Skinner in third place, the Phoenix-G.N. having lasted the distance, obviously cured of the fuel reluctance at the twin float chambers of its single S.U. which feeds the J.A.P. engine, that had bothered it in practice. It is on a methanol diet these days. Altogether it was a splendid day, with several vintage Scott motorcycles mingling with the varied cars in the Paddock. Among the latter, Clifford’s Riley was an interesting newcomer; it has a 2.1-litre 8/90 Riley V8 engine with four S.U.s in a chassis consisting of a 12/6 Kestrel front-end but underslung at the rear, a 12/6 Kestrel front axle and radiator, an Alpine prop.-shaft, and a 12/4 back axle. A lever on the pre-selector quadrant labelled “Hood” and a “Holdtite” rubber on one of the pedals give the machinery an air of mystery and the body is nicely made. Alas, a cracked head made it a non-runner. Another interesting special was Robinson’s 1935 Alvis Firefly with an Arnott blower puffing at 5 lb./sq. in. and a 4.5-to-1 axle ratio, but this, too, was a non-runner.—W. B.

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We do not know whether any records will be broken at the V.S.C.C. Speed Trials at Curborough on May 11th, but one has surely already been established—the pre-war admission charge prevails, 5s. per car, including all occupants. This venue will be used on May 18th by the Bentley D.C. and Lagonda C.C.

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