Berthon and Mays


It isn't often I would correct Rivers Fletcher on motoring topics but I must show him the black Bag and his number when he states Raymond Mays refused to carry Peter Berthon as passenger in the Southport sand races.

In "Split Seconds" Mays describes the 1928 100-mile race at Southport and refers to Berthon's discomfort at 120 m.p.h. after he last his goggles and had no aeroscreen either. Ironically this race produced a tragic example of what Mays feared could happen to a passenger on the right-hand corners when May Cutiliffe's Sunbeam rolled twice throwing out the crew the second time round, her father riding passenger was killed.

In the race Malcolm Campbell's 1 1/2-litre Dclage led for 70 miles with Mays' Vauxhall Villiers lying second and the Sunbeam third. But then the Delage was retired with axle trouble. Came drama β€” as the motor scribes used to say β€” the Vauxhall went on to three cylinders but Berthon said "keep going". The Sunbeam was closing rapidly and approaching a corner Mays says β€œthe Sunbeam shot by at terrific speed" and overturned when May Cunliffe locked over, he attributed this to the front wheels sticking in the ruts. Conjecture may be idle, but from photographs it appeared the Sunbeam took too wide a sweep thus building up a bank of sand at the tvs rear wheel.

Having won the 1428 race Mays returned in 1929 for the 100-mile and again carried a passenger, presumably Berthon. On this occasion they both wore crash hats. After an early struggle with Thistlethewaite's Mercedes and Dan Higgins' Talbot, the Vauxhall retired with misfiring. A photo in the pits before the race shows a mechanic with all the jets out for inspection, so retirement was Nrhaps anticipated. No mention ctf this race is made in "Split Seconds". Again a car rolled at a corner but this time Percy Stephenson put his 747 c.c. Austin back on its wheels and continued.

Whilst making his "Pit Stops" Rivers also referred to the grotesque modern bone dome inflicted on Vintage and Classic drivers. Not only do they look absolutely dreadfulbut they are dreadful to wear. For a start they are far too heavy for an old-car driver, 6 or 7 lb. of weight thumping your nut as the car bounces from bump to bump. stuck out in the airstream, is hardly conducive to comfort.

The bone dome is constructed for F1 drivers and is no doubt splendid for demolition work on wire fences, fence poles, and various bits and pieces that tend to fly off F1 machines. Weight is no problem as the driver lies on his back with the helmet propped up against a padded cell. If you roll a Vintage car you will, with luck, stay with it holding the steering wheel and perhaps be baled out if it rolls twice. Whichever occurs you do not want your head to receive a clout from the road akin to a blow from a sledgehammer β€” which is what the bone dome trunmitts. A lighter helmet with absorbent properties is needed, a view confirmed by Stirling Most writing in Autocar for January 21st 1978.

Hampsthwaite, Yorks.
Anthony Brooke