W kv cannot we have a team of British racers, produced by a combination of the finest brains in the industry, and driven under the leadership of Captain Campbell ? ” asks the writer of this article, who contends that the genuine racing car has been stifled by standard car races in this country.
/_ T is now so long since this country produced a real gotten that it ever did. Yet this is hardly a fact to be accepted with complacency, and it racing car, that most people seem to have forwould be as well to look into the cause of the complete change which motor racing has lately undergone and ask ourselves what end will be achieved.
Among the year’s list of British races, there is only one, the British Racing Drivers’ Club’s 500 miles race, which is open to any class or condition of racing car. All the other events are for standard types of cars which must be available to the public, and which are subject to so many restrictions and regulations that many possible entrants are prejudiced from the start. If they wish to try out some modification before giving it to the public, they may be excluded altogether through inability to convince the stewards that the alteration is one which would be normally made by anyone to increase performance, and so they will have spent time and money to no purpose.
There are, of course, two sides to the question of standard car racing, and when the R.A.C. Tourist Trophy was revived in 1928 in its new guise, the immediate result was excellent.
Makers raced their sports models, stiffened them up and made them more reliable, and definitely “hottedup “versions became available fitted with the numerous racing gadgets and accessories which the amateur requires for competition work as much as the professional driver, but which he had previously had to get as extras. In this way the standard products of today have been tried and proved, and brought to a fair pitch of reliability and performance, but progress is slowing down. As a means of comparing existing British models, the big standard car races, Ulster, Phoenix Park, and the Double-Twelve, are unsurpassed, and should be retained; but as a means of intensive research in the hitherto unexplored fields of design, they are practi
cally useless. For real development it is essential to encourage races for cars in which the designers are given a free hand. To avoid the building of useless monsters, have a restriction on size, just as the Grand Prix races of recent years have had an engine size limit of 1,500 c.c.
People may hold, in fact many do, that standard car events will gradually develop the right type of car without the expense of designing special racers. They also say that the public are not interested in races for “specials,” and, that therefore this type of event is of no advertising value to the manufacturer. Both these contentions show a deplorable narrowness of vision. On the continent there are plenty of races without restrictions other than engine size, but British cars are rarely seen in them. Recently Capt. Birkin very sportingly entered one of his 4i litre supercharged Bentleys in the French Grand Prix, and by careful preparation and removal of superfluous weight, followed by wonderful driving in the race itself, finished second. That is, however, only one individual effort, and does not alter the fact that in all the great continental races, British cars are conspicuous by their absence.
The reason is not hard to see. There are no cars made in this country to-day which are capable of competing in the smaller classes with the products of Italy and France. It is in these small classes, that is 1500 c.c. to 3000 c.c., that there is a great demand among sporting motorists for a British car Our fastest cars are too large and heavy for an intricate road course, as was shown in Ulster this year. The winning Italian team were holding their own on a scratch basis with British cars of twice their engine size, and when their handicap was taken into account they were virtually unchallenged. It is not that we have not the designers or the drivers in this country to produce and pilot a winning marque. It is that the standard sports cars of our continental rivals are still being developed from the victorious competitors in the Targa Florio and the other great road
races ; while our own cars, apart from detail improvements, are developed from racing cars now almost forgotten.
Our fast cars are too big, and our small cars are too slow, but it is not the fault of their makers. They are building cars to comply with regulations xv.hich prevent real enterprise, and just as bricks are difficult to manufacture without straw, so real progress in motor cars must depend on unrestricted competition and research.
The recent 500 miles race showed how the evolution of the genuine racing car has been stifled by the standard car races of the last few years, and also, what is of far greater moment, the fact that the sports models of to-day, even when freed from every restriction in the matter of tuning and equipment, and stripped to the last ounce, are no faster, if as fast, as the veteran racers of a few years ago. W. B. Scott’s Delage, although compelled to retire near the end with broken bolts in the 3-piece front axle, due probably to fatigue in the course of a long and successful career, was the fastest 11-litre car on the track that day. There were no 2-litre cars which could bold the wonderful old racing Sunbeams, one of which finished third.
In the bigger class we can do better, and a 4i-litre Bentley in the hands of Hall and Benj afield finished second at over 112 m.p.h., a higher speed than has ever been achieved in any 500 miles race on any track in the world, and proved that for a straightaway race in this class Britain leads. S. C. H. Davis and the Earl of March, by bringing their supercharged Austin home at over 83 m.p.h. for the distance, showed again that no car in its class, racer or otherwise, can hold the little Austin. These are two extremes however, and between exists a gap which no British racing car can fill.
The Racing 2i litre.
For every man keen on competition work who wants, or can afford a big car, there are many whose thoughts are concentrated on something in the region from 1500 c.c. to about 4-1itres, and for a racing car of this size their thoughts immediately travel to Molsheim or Milan. How eagerly we used to wait for and devour details of the latest Sunbeam and Talbot racers in the good old days. Then there were no complicated handicaps to
confuse the followers of the sport, but a real battle between evenly matched teams of the finest machines that engineers could build. Yet, what is going to happen in a few years time ? The old racers will have gradually faded into oblivion, and our standard car races alone will not develop any new types. Owing to the ridiculous way the authorities have always cramped motoring in this country, in spite of its being our most flourishing industry, we cannot have real road races in England ; but the prestige of the motor trade on the continent largely depends on our being able to compete with success in their races. If this country could win the Taro Florio, the resulting kudos all over Europe would be worth far more than the cost of building the successful car, while to run at all, and show ourselves in the same class as our rivals would be a great thing for British cars abroad. Perhaps Ireland or the Isle of Man may come to the rescue and provide a race under conditions which will encourage our manufacturers to build some real road racers, and also persuade our continental rivals to come over and compete in force.
A Sound Suggestion.
If our manufacturers consider the cost of building special cars too great, why cannot we have a team of British racers, produced by a combination of the finest brains in the industry, and driven by a team under the leadership of Capt. Malcolm Campbell, without doubt our finest and most experienced racing driver, to represent Britain in the great races of the year ? Italy has produced the Maserati as a government-backed racing car, so why should not our motor industry do likewise ?
The project would require tact, enterprise, and above all a spirit of team-work, but given these, and they are available in plenty, we might once more see this country taking its rightful place in the great sport of motor racing, and a revival of the type of racing to which the modern sports car owes its present efficiency. The technical results could be pooled among the group responsible for the racers, and would be of immense value. The idea seems workable, and it is evident that unless something of this sort is done the medium sized sports car, of which we can still produce some very fine examples, will gradually drop behind its foreign rivals.—B.