VSCC race season opens at Silverstone

The Vintage SCC’s first race meeting of 1983 was run off in summer-like sunshine at Silverstone on April 16th. Before it opened with the customary 40-minute High-Speed Trial, we were treated to a most interesting Parade, organised by the VCC of GB, of some very varied veterans, and to Richard Goode’s extremely-polished aerobatics display in his 210 m.p.h. (300 m.p.h in the dive) Pace ‘Spirit monoplane.

The first race, a 5-lap Handicap, was won by Westbrook in McCombe’s Riley 12/4, which blipped its way round Woodcote, Cooksey’s Montlhéry MG Midget being second, ahead of another Riley 12/4 driven by Ricketts. It was nice to see Parkinson’s Brooklands-model Riley running with full road-equipment, including full windscreen, and Hancock circulating in the Fiat Balilla that OAP-racer Le Strange Metcalfe used to drive at Brooklands. Roger Collings had bigger sprockets on his 1903 Mercedes, and a credit lap, but to no avail . . . 

Next came the 10-lap GP Itala Trophy Race for pre-war racing cars. It was highly exciting. Kain led lap one in his Type 35B Bugatti, pursued by de Cadenet in Margulies’ 26M 2½-litre Maserati and Mason in his Type 35B. Lap 2 saw de Cadenet take Kain as they went into Woodcote corner but the Bugatti repassed along the straight, after which Mason also got past the Maserati, to lead it by about half-a-length, only to have de Cadenet go ahead again at the end of the lap 4, until Mason overtook him on the inside at Woodcote. By this time Kain, driving with calm skill, was in command, but de Cadenet again took Mason, sliding the Maser as I never recall seeing it used at Brooklands! 

Meanwhile, as the de Cadenet / Mason duel continued, Kain drew further away, to win by 8.3 sec. By lap 8 Mason had got the measure of de Cadenet and they finished in that order, with Horton’s 35B Bugatti in fourth place. Behind this group J. I. Cheyne was leading a subsidiary race in the Halford Special which, try as he might, Sir John Venables-Llewelyn couldn’t catch, in his 35B Bugatti, Cheyne later receiving the “Driver of the Day” Award. Venables-Llewelyn’s Bugatti, being non-supercharged, gained the Lanchester Trophy. 

To cool us off after all those thrills there was another five-lap Handicap, of which Stretton’s Super Sports Frazer Nash gained possession on the penultimate lap, winning from Brydon’s Speed 20 Alvis, with Judy Hogg in the Ulster Aston Martin making a bid for women’s lib. with third place. The unfortunate Mann, who had led for the first two laps, lost a place when he crashed mildy at Woodcote in his Triumph Southern Cross on the run-home, suffering slight cuts. 

The heat was on again for the 10-lap Haggar Allcomers’ Pre-War Scratch Race. The Hon. Patrick Lindsay turned out in an immaculately rebuilt ERA “Remus”, following its last season’s Oulton Park accident, and he was opposed by most of the ERA contingent and Willie Green in Lindsay’s ERA-Delage. All eyes were on Lindsay, as he worked swiftly through the field in R5B from a poor start. By the end of lap 4 he was second to Mason in ERA R10B, Pat Marsh who had been in that place in ERA RIB having retired on lap 4 with vanished oil-pressure. Lindsay now set about challenging Mason but as “Remus” took Woodcote on lap 7 traces of smoke were evident and by another circuit had developed to massive proportions, the cockpit enveloped in a blue oil haze, with smoke pouring out behind. Yet “Remus” actually led Mason into the corner. The scavenge-pump was giving trouble, and on the corners oil-pressure was absent. Any other driver would have given up. Not Lindsay! The pedals were by now slippery and Mason passed and drew ahead. but Lindsay contrived to hold second place, 6.9 sec. behind Mason and ahead of Black’s Tipo B Alfa Romeo and Margulies’ 4CL Maserati, the 2-litre ERA having made fastest lap, at 86.4 m.p.h., the oil smoke disappearing by the last round. Green had the water-pump gland give out on the ERA-Delage and retired, as did Bill Morris in ERA R12B, but P. A. Mann in R9B came home ahead of St. John’s Type 51 Bugatti. First vintage (did you guess?) was Footitt, in the AC/GN, from Russell’s 4/8-litre Bentley.

The next event was a processional six-lap Scratch affair, Summerfield’s Avon-Bentley lapping at 75.28 m.p.h., never in doubt of victory. This interesting blown 4½-litre-engined car was chased discreetly by Spollon’s 4¼ Bentley and Dunham’s hoary 12/70 Alvis, and the remainder of a big field. 

So to the 10-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race, with Neil Corner hastily having the plugs changed in the 1960 3-litre Dino Ferrari before coming out to do battle with such redoubtable opposition as Willie Green in Halford’s Lotus 16. A dozen non-starters at least made the race easier to follow. Corner did not have the satisfaction of leading the opening lap, because Green streaked past him on the inside at Woodcote. However, Neil got by, to lead by about half-a-car’s-length the next time round. But Willie was trying very hard, going over the kerb as he clipped Woodcote on lap 3, and by lap 4 he was leading again, and it was all over for the Ferrari, as the lighter Lotus drew steadily (if that applies!) away from it. Third-place car for three laps had been Chris Mann’s Lotus 16 but it ran wide at Woodcote to retire with an obscure engine complaint. That let Harper’s D Type Jaguar-engined B-type Connaught with the all-enveloping replica body up a place, way back. That was the finishing order, with a separate race going on behind them, led by Cottam’s 250F Maserati, from MacPherson’s Mk. 2 Cooper-Bristol and Pilkington’s Talbot Lago, after the Hon. A. Rothschild, having put on full F1 kit, had retired when his 250F Maserati apparently broke an oil-pipe on lap 7. Lindsay had failed to run this time, and the pre-war category was won by Black’s Alfa Romeo, which had lapped at 82.11 m.p.h. Green beat Corner by 3.1 sec. 

Two more 5-lap Handicaps rounded off a very excellent day’s racing in the best vintage and classic tradition. Zeuner, having complained about his former handicap, must have been a bit red-faced when his Type 37 Bugatti led the first of these easily from lap 3, with Goodman’s Brooklands-model Riley and Gunn’s Q-type MG Midget fighting for second place, from the same handicap, the former first over the finish-line by 0.1 sec. The Attenborough Special had reappeared after a long absence, but retired. The final race reflected the general excitement of the afternoon, when we saw Footitt and Spollon pass one on each side of Woodley’s Alvis Firefly at Woodcote in a bid for second place, which went to the AC/GN, Guy Smith’s 3½-litre Alvis/’Nash having won, and Cottam having netted 4th place after a lap at 86.01 m.p.h. in the Maserati, although we gather he thinks a Connaught handles better. 

Non-runners had included Arnold-Forster’s big Delage with no sparks, Howell’s Type 45 Bugatti which had seized-up, Mason’s 250F Maserati that preferred functioning on five cylinders, Bamford’s ERA R4D with piston trouble, Lockhart’s Rover with a damaged crank, and Obrist with a bad shoulder, while neither Walton’s Connaught nor Colborne’s 6CM Maserati had recovered from Brands’ blow-ups. — W.B.