VSCC Italia Trophy Silverstone meeting
The vintage SCC racing season commenced in cold, fine weather over the Silverstone Club circuit on April 16th. With big crowds, an increased entry, and "new" cars, success was assured. Arriving in the comfort of a BMW 528 I noticed a certain blue Alvis and a certain red ERA prominently parked, and knew I was in the right place. Further assay, Bill Morris was changing a cracked head on the ERA "Hanuman" and Tony Jones' ex-Tim Carson 30/98 Vauxhall had been on fire.
After the traditional 40 Minute High Speed Trial (27 starters, 7 qualifiers, including Di Threlfall having her baptism in Barry Clarke's Ulster Austin) and a reception by courtesy of Lord Montagu and Vintage Tyre Supplies, the racing started. Incidentally, Vintage Tyre Supplies had their beautifully-painted 1923 Model-T Ford truck present, on 30 x 3 1/2 front, 32 x 4 1/2 rear Dunlops. This is its addition w their Morris Commercial van.
The Appleton Special (Maserati chassis, Riley engine) came through on the last lap to take the first 5-lap Handicap from Bianchi's Alvis Special (Silver Eagle chassis, 3 1/2-litre engine) by a narrow margin, with Liddell's 1918 ex-Brooklands Straker Squire third. Middleton's nice 1929 4 1/2-litre touring Bentley then pulled off a 5-lap Scratch race, chased by a 2-litre Sports Aston Martin and Collis' Speed-20 Alvis. Then the real racing happened, with the 15-lap Allcomers' Scratch Race. Willie Green in Anthony Bamford's 1958 lightweight 250F Maserati was tipped to win and he did, with a lap at 89.61 m.p.h. But it was an exciting race, because Chris Mann was driving the 1953, blue, ex-Cameron Millar 250F Maserati calmly and with notable precision, deservedly taking the "Driver of the Meeting" Award, and when Green ran wide at Becketts on hip 3 Mann took the lead. After that Green made no mistakes and won at 83.83 m.p.h. Simon Phillips was making a great fight in third place, in his 5971 Cooper-Bristol, until he ran into the back of the HW-Alta at Woodcote on lap 11. Thereafter he fell behind the leaders and retired when the accelerator pedal broke off. This was just as well, because a steering arm had been cracked in the shunt (these frail "modern" cars!) This let the Hon. Patrick Lindsay into third place, in the first of the pre-war cars to finish, a magnificent drive in his ERA "Remus".
A less-hectic 5-lap Handicap saw Tom Threlfall come through to win in his prototype 8-cylinder, Lancia "Shortastura" of Lambda-like lines, from an Austin 7, and Whale's Anzani Frazer Nash which Threlfall had taken on the inside round Woodcote.
The 10-lap Scratch Race for the Itala and Napier Trophies (Edwardian and Vintage racing cars) promised well. Willie Green was now driving Bamford's immaculate 1927 straight-8 supercharged Delage, Kain was in his well-known Type 35B Bugatti, and Morley in that great attraction, shs 24-litre Bentley-Napier. The Napier-"Lion"-engined giant was unchanged from last year except for re-lined brakes and Morley reminded me that it is under-geared for the course, even on its 7.00 x 19 Dunlop rear tyres. When the flag fell it was Kain who shot away, the blue GP Bugatti fairly screaming round. Harvey Hine in his 3/4 1/2 Bentley was second, and Morley nowhere, while Green's French-blue Delage had fluffed-out on the warming-up lap. It transpired that Morley had not at first got both magnetos functioning. Playing with the ignition-switches, he made them both cut-in after some three laps and his big car then set about demolishing the field. He made equal fastest-lap with Kain, at 77.8 mph, but the Bugatti was much too far away to be caught. However, Morley passed the Hine Bentley on lap 8 and they finished in that order, the Bentley-Napier lapping Nutter's 8-litre Bentley touring car. Russell ran an 8-litre Bentley with a single-seater body that had won the approval of Rivers-Fletcher, but it retired. Nigel Arnold-Forster at last appeared with his 1912 chain-drive 5-litre Bugatti with replica Garros body but unfortunately it shed its n/s front wheel and hub. So the Napier Trophy went to the indefatigable Straker Squire.
Three more races were on the card but mechanical mayhem was decimating the fields. Piston troubles were prevalent and Barber's SS Jaguar had so many belts depending from crankshaft pulley to blower that the former had been pulled out of line. Gunn's blown 850 c.c. MG made a fine job of winning another 5-lap Handicap, from a BMW and Woodley's 4.3-litre Alvis Special. Then Warrington, lightly dealt with by the handicappers but going faster than before, won another of these races in the Appleton Special, pursued by a snaking Anthony Blight in sports Talbot BGH23 until Dan Margulies in the 4CL Maserati swamped him. Kain ran home in third place. It was now that we saw Lindsay's Multi-Union, second-fastest car round Brooklands, in a race for the first time since before the war. It looked very Mercedes-like but was apt to be twitchy and go onto seven cylinders, as it had at the Track in Staniland's hands. It was now, also, that we saw Sam Glutton leaving in the 1908 GP Itala to return to the IoM, this great car having contributed its quota to the Edwardian racing aided by 6.5o x 20 Goodyear Hi-Miler back tyres.
The last race, a 5-lap Scratch affair, saw Bianchi win convincingly in his Alvis Special, from Woodley's Alvis Special and the Lea-Francis SS. It had been an afternoon's racing fully up to VSCC standards, with some interesting cars competing, including the beautiful 1924 200 Mile Race Alvis, the s.v. sand-racing Riley, a slow but authentic-looking ex-"Goldie" Gardner 746 c.c. MG Midget, FWD Alvis and Citroen, and both the Chawner and the Malyan GNs; but again the 8CTF and Type 34 Maseratis were absent. W.B.