and other memories of the “good old days.” By
Prof A. M. LOW, A.C.G I., D.Sc.
FEW things annoy me more than the open-air fiend who makes a point of his adherence to historical and barbaric methods of sport. He, or worse still she, will slap you on the back in the middle of a cold morning and talk brightly of football, tobogganing, and blood. It is easy to understand after a few minutes conversation with this species how it comes that the French typified the Englishman’s comment, ” It is a fine morning, let us kill something:”
I suggest in all sincerity that the vast majority of alleged sports are mere excuses for the obtaining of business under the guise of the amenities of social life.
Now motor and mechanical pastimes are totally different. They are more developed from the days of woad and skins. It is interesting to talk to a racing man in the automobile world for he has the same experience of human nature, the same irritating difficulties to overcome, which are thrown into his path by chance, and above all he is employing his intelligence to conquer something of far greater standing than an attenuated dog or a pathetic rabbit.
It seems to me that motor racing on sea, land, or air has all the advantages of other games without their inanities and artificiaay. Most competitions which are designed to demonstrate brute force are obviously remnants of the days when preparation for war was considered useful.
The engineering enthusiast is a man who would rather despise the possession of wiry legs or exaggerated biceps for he would tell you that by the product of his own intelligence he can greatly surpass the performances of either of these bodily items.
Mechanical sport is extraordinarily useful. It is due almost entirely to the racing motor cyclist that the modern aeroplane won its conquest of the air. The engine of many a famous ‘plane is little more than that of a motor-cycle multiplied by an odd number of cylinders ; the motor unit of a fast Diesel ship resembles nothing so much as a motor-cycle over-head valve engine seen after a dream that Brooklands had been lapped at one thousand miles per hour by an engine which has fired once in. the process. On any Sunday afternoon it is possible to see innumerable motor-cars upon the Portsmouth road. (Indeed
Prof. Low is Chairman of the Junior Car Club, Vice Pres. and Vice Chairman Auto Cycle Union, Vice Pres. British Motor-Cycle Racing Club, Chairman Motor-Cycle Tech. Committee R.A.C., Pres. Surbiton Motor, Club, Pres. S.E. Centre A .C. U., and S.W. Centre A.C.U. He has judged the T.T. and the Six Days Trial for many years.
little else can be seen in these days of charabancs and R.A.C. Inns). On all these cars exists a collection of ideas which serve to-day to transport Dick, Tom and even Harry when yesterday front wheel brakes, overhead cam shafts and aluminium heads were the cynosure of all eyes at the preparations for a race.
I believe that the reliability of taxicabs is attributable to racing, and I would dare to suggest that the alleged superiority of many French motor-cars was largely due to the racing experiences which their drivers could enjoy while our authorities were wallowing in red flags and police.
I have little patience with those who explain each year that speeds have reached a maximum and that racing has now become dangerous. There is no such thing as maximum speed for if you plot a curve indicative of T.T. time, Brooklands laps, or the average speed from London to Brighton after midnight, you will find that it has risen steadily for a decade and that this happy tendency is far more likely to continue than to stagnate.
The only difference between ourselves and Man Friday is that we act, think, and travel more quickly. No one wishes to secure safety at the price of speed. Everyone is willing to pay in order to save a few moments on the Atlantic crossing just as a newspaper will go to unlimited expense in order that by direct competition it may race pictures to the spot a few minutes before its rivals.
There is a moral due to that fact for time is one of the very few facts of which we can hold any feeling rather than an opinion. The test of these telegraphed pictures is a test covering every detail of production, distribution, and reading. This is the very reason why it is not sufficient to fasten an engine upon a bench and to say “Horse power is now at a maximum, we shall win the race, our machine will please the public.”
There are countless details of frame, balance, brakes, vibration, carburation and ignition which may all give service under laboratory conditions but which at speed will fail in half a lap. It is not absurd to push an inlet pipe or to discover a cam which a tappet will follow when springs are hot if by an amendment of this design Jim Jones can be given a motor which will stand ill usage and which will perform its 5,000 miles at the equivalent of 50 miles at speed in the hands of a Denly or a Davis.
It has been my good fortune modestly to assist at trials of every description for over twenty years. I have seen disputes fought out on the track, carried to the bitter end at a Steward’s Meeting ‘and settled after two years by an engine designed for the one purpose of wiping the floor with a rival.
How well I remember Cyril Pullin after finishing the T.T. upon a belt-driven machine pushing wearily to the tent with a gaping hole in the side of a silencer, or so it seemed from a distance. I will never give a decision as to whether a violent kick successfully sealed the gap or not for I believe that not every point should be noticed by a really qualified observer.
I try to remember the amusing details of a six days trial in which an eminent rider whose name shall be barred insisted upon throwing a parrot out of the window of an hotel.
I have seen a rider finish a continental race in the full knowledge that much of the distance had been covered by rail, I have watched side-car passengers pouring oil into gashed. crankcases which were tied up with straps until the moment of official examination.
I have listened to innumerable noises behind hedges and from ditches, I have even been kind to competitors who see fit to tighten their cables before a brake test to a point when pushing a machine upon the level became an impossibility.
VERY HARD LUCK.
Perhaps Gus Kuhn had the unluckiest experience for after a trying six days of misery I noticed so many flies stuck to his crankcase that I suspected petroil lubrication. I was right. The oil tank had leaked badly into the petrol compartment.
In days when accumulators leaked through tanks, when machines had to be pedalled, when rear driven motor-cycles buck-jumped over bricks we used to argue as to the advisability of placing vaselene on contact breakers.
I have seen men argue as to the size of an engine which turned out to be over one centimetre in excess of its alleged diameter. The excuse of the rider who claimed that he was looking for a medal which he had dropped in the road when in fact he was waiting for the trade van behind the hedge to mend his frame was no better than that of a competitor in a foreign car competition who turned up with an obvious weld on his chassis and explained that he had been seeing some of the beautiful districts round about.
It has been my lot to travel in a judge’s car which was full of spares for one of the teams. I have seen three riders in succession win ballot for nos. 1, 2, 3, and yet I retain my interest in sport. Petrol consumption competitions provide much hu
mour to those who pour lubricating oil into air inlet pipes and who linger by the wayside to blow up bladders or to fill tanks with stones.
Probably the greatest humour lies with the rider upon the trial from which spares were prohibited. Every morning at the hotel could be seen parcels, socks and underclothing of course, until our friend walking with his parcel of collars and ties dropped it with a resounding thud of obviously plugs, valves and springs.
Brooklands has been responsible for much humour, but still more progress. Who could doubt enthusiasm after Mr. George Brough had landed—well, landed in such a manner that a mackintosh was necessary before he could approach the grand stand owing to the almost entire absence of nether garments, only to realise his quiet determination to win the next event.
It is not everyone who like Reuben Harveyson could hit the Brooklands saucer, bound over the edge and return to argue the merits of a sparking plug. Few followers of the hounds would like to drive half a lap with a leg on fire, and none of them would push a 300 lbs. machine from Governor’s Bridge to the finish in the Isle of Man until, like Cyril Williams they fought with the Marshals who tried to persuade him that he had won at last.
I have learned much of the philosophy of life from the tents which conceal the final examination and the weary competitors from the gaze of a public who have yet to learn the difference between one mile on the cinders and one hundred all out upon the road or track. .
I have seen people deliberately dive from a machine to avoid injury to a deadly rival. From my own car I have watched ladies dive into a hedge with an impression of celanese, and I also have damaged my George Brough from the flashing boiler of a steam driven twowheeler.
All this is real sport for it represents the advances made in one of the few trades in which Gt. Britain excels. It indicates far better than any collection of muddied oafs that the most dangerous and important sport of all is still safely in the hands of the finest set of men that any country could produce.
I am proud to say I have never been so foolish as to disturb myself over such nonsense as seems to break the heart of those who believe trade to be a crime. The genuine amateur is as difficult to find as a snowball in an exhaust pipe for he soon learns that a knowledge which enables him to compete with success is quite justy worthy of recognition. To-day I do my racing on the bench and through my microscope, but I would still be less interested to know that I could win a race for three legged men under artificial conditions, than by how many seconds, minutes, or hours per lap I fail to reach the time of Lacey & Company Unlimited.