THE 500-MILES RACE AUSTIN SEVEN WINS AT 83.41 M.P.H. BENTLEY AVERAGES 112.12 M.P.H.
ON its introduction last year, the British Racing Drivers’ Club 500 Miles Race proved that we could in this country, stage the fastest long distance event in the world. This year, on the 4th of last month, in spite of vile weather conditions for the first half of the race, all previous speeds were once again surpassed, and the Bentley driven by Dr. Benjafield and E. R. Hall, put up the astounding average of 112.12 m.p.h. fot the 500 Miles to finish second. The speed of the winning Austin Seven, slriVen by S. C. H. Davis and the Earl of March, was 83.41 m.p.h. which would seem almost incredible if we had not already got used to the amazing capabilities of this little engine.
Steady rain, and a sky which spoke of worse to come, welcomed the drivers at the start, and it was at once evident that the ” 750’s” were going to be very difficult to catch. Their speed would, of course, be quite unaffected by the wet, though it made things remarkably unpleasant for their drivers, but the bigger cars, capable on a dry day Of lapping at about 130 m.p.h. were heavily handi. capped. To attempt such speeds on a wet track, and in such bad visibility, would have been merely foolhardy, and it was known that Birkin and the other big ears would be taking things comparatively steadily unless the weather cleared up. At 10.30 a.m. the flag fell for the
” 750s” and the ” O.C. fireworks ” in the background did his stuff witn the maroon, and the ” 500 “had begun. The works team of orange Austins-started off lapping at 83 m.p.h. which must have been rather a shock for some of the teams of bigger ears waiting at the start, as it was evident that this was no flash in the pan, but the speed they were witting to hold for the whole race. No. 1, driven by Sammy Davis took the lead from the start, and the works entries drew steadily ahead of the rest. There were, however, some very fine speeds being put up by some of the tmsupercharged cars, E. F. Philips on a B.C. Special and P. Brewster, of motorcycle racing fame, on a very ordinary looking, but vet y fast Austin were holding over 75 m.p.h. The first serious excitement was caused by Brewster who got into a terrific skid at the fork and gyrated merrily towards the pits, almost wiping up an official who was standing out on the track. flow ever. he came to rest without upsetting, thanks to the slippery track, and was pushi.il gdf again. The pace soon began to tell, and Phillips was an early caller at the pits with sonic bother in the transmission department. The uni versal joint appeared to be tightening up, but after a liberal injection of grease he continued. The trouble, however, was not to be so easily dealt with and he was in again later with the offending mechanism giving off a
” hot smell,” and giving rise to a certain amount of badinage about ” cuts off the joint,” etc. At 11.9 a.m. the 1100 c.c.’s joined in, but the amazing performance of the Austivs overshadowed some of the larger cars completely, and the ” 1100’s ” as a whole proved a very unlucky class on this occasion. ” S. Bird ” was, however, upholding the Riley colours effeeti velv and was lapping at 93 m.p.h. which was certainly rather a bold effort for such a long distance race. .Ashby, who is usually. among the fastest of the 1100 c.c. had had very bad luck, as on the previous afternoon he had broken hi S crankshaft, which would be enough to make most people give up the idea of starting at all. Not so Mr. Ashby, however, and by working all night with his trusty band of mechanics, the engine was stripped, a damaged rod and piston were replaced, and an old crankshaft, which had seen much worthy service in the past was fitted in pla.ce of the broken one. This enabled them to get their car to the start, but effects of not b2ing able to bed things down gently and at their leisure became evident. Shortly after the start he had to come in for a general ” rim over ” of all bolts on the engine, and. later his gallant effort was brought to an end by the crankshaft breaking again. R. ‘1’. Horton’s T.T. Riley ran a big-end as did Stanard’s car of the same make, and the 1100 c.c. cha.1
lenge was therefore confined to ” Bird’s” Riley.
The 1500 c.c. cars were now showing some real speed and Scott’s wonderful little Grand Prix Delage, driven in turn by himself and by Cobb, was holding over 100 m.p.h. though at first it was behind Spero’s Lea-Francis, whicb foi the first 100 miles showed a remarkable turn of speed and actually led its class. This was too good to last however, and Scott took the lead from him soon afterwards. The leaders in the race in the early stages did not, of course, convey any great meaning, as owing to their big start the” 750s” were bound to be leading in actual distance until very near the end whether they won or not, but the announcement that Davis was actually well ahead of his handicap showed that an Austin victory was extremely probable, if the little car could stand the terrific gruelling. By this time the rain had ceased and the rapidly drying track was giving the big cars, previously held up by the wet, a chance to make up.
By the time the whole entry had been despatched, there seemed to be quite enough cars on the track to give their diivers plenty to think of, tnough universal regret was expressed at the fact that the Maserati was a non-starter.
At fist it had been found, that owing to the car being constructed to suit the Monza track the weight distribution and steering were unsuitable for Brooklands. This was altered and the car was certainly very fast in practice (on a heard of 130 m.p.h. over the half-mile) but misfortune was dogging them and a porous cylinder head, which caused No. 5 cylinder to get filled with water caused its withdrawal, as no spares were availal le. The Talbots of which there were four in the race, three with the standard racing four-seater body, and one, driven by Earl Howe and B. B. Lewis, with a streamlined single seater were all going well and lapping in the region of 103 m.p.h. which for an unsupercharged engine Of only 21 litres is really wonderful. Their absolute
reliability in racing had been endangered on this occasion by trying out some new pistons, and Eaton had to retire owing to a seized gudgeon pin. The others, however, were going perfectly and steadily increasing their speed.
The old 2-litre racing Sunbeams were showing that although racing cars may, get written off, they do not fade away and Jack Dunfee was leading the 2-litre class on one of them, and actually going as fast as anything on the track, while Harold Bardy was putting up a fine race on another of the Sunbeams.
The terrible strain on a car of sonic hundreds of miles at this Speed on a none-toosmooth track, was having its effect throughout the entry. Although Davis’s Austin was going as well as ever his team-mates had had to retire, and the larger cars were also in trouble. The Bentley team was the last to remain complete, and the fastest of their team
proved to be the four-seater driven by Hall and Benjafield. Cobb on the little Delage, after holding A wonderful speed, came in to the pits with the front wheels leaning in at a horrible angle, the bolts holding the 3-piece axle together having broken. Work was immediately started to get the car going again, but the trouble continued and the car had to be withdrawn.
Birkin’s single-seater Bentley did not seem to be in very good form and was getting slower. Also George Duller, who was driving in turn with Birkin, seemed rnything but happy in the car, and held a fairly low seped. The fact that he had had a front tyre burst when all out in practice, and the resulting gyrations of the cat probably made him a little more cautious than usual.
The Bentley hopes lay with Penjafield, and he was driving a wonderful race in Hs endeavour to catch the flying Austin His car was a terrifying sight on the banking as he went higher and higher in his efforts to get a slightly better lap speed. He was lapping actually at over 120 m.p.h.. and bolding this speed continuously. The whole car wasabove the safety line, and recalled visions of the late Parry Thomas in his meteoric, shrub-clipping laps On the old Leyland Thomas. After a wonderful drive for over 300 miles, the effcrt of the brothers Dunfee was brought to a dramatic end. Clive came in to the pits to repair the steering column support, and also complained of binding brakes. After a brief look-over, he shot off again, but had hardly cleared the end Of the pits when his off side rear wheel, complete with axle-shaft, came away, and shot across the track in the path of the following cars. Davis, in the Austin, just managed to avoid it and it was whisked off the track in a moment. Meanwhile Dunfee had brought the car to rest on the brake shoes, at the side of the track, and Brooklands had claimed one
more victim in the struggle of metal against concrete.
iyston’s Bentley, after considerable bother and emission of smoke finally packed up altogether, while flirkin, who had taken over again from Duller, was doing his best to make up for lost time. The car was definitely in trouble however, calls at the pits became frequent, while the exhaust note became more uneven, until it eventually sounded more like a motor cycle engine with its staccatto beat, than the steady drone of a 4-cylinder. The result was not much longer in doubt, and after running for 6 hours at record speed, the chequered flag was hung out for the little Austin. Benjafield’s Bentley thundered, into second place, at 112.12 m.p.h., the highest speed ever achieved in a classic long-distance race, while the third car was the 2-litre Grand
Prix Sunbeam driven by Purdy and Cushman, which at 104.75 m.p.h. just beat 13. C. Lewis’s Talbot. Talbots finished 4th, 6th and 7th, all at over 100 m.p.h. which performance is even more remarkable when it is considered that only 9 cars completed the distance within the time limit, although 8 more were running at the end. A specially fine effort was that of Hindrnarsh who drove his Talbot singlehanded and without a stop for the .entire distance, at an average speed of 103.52
m.p,h., and anyone who has experienced for even a few laps, the shaking up which the track gives to both car and driver, Will realise the endurance required for such a performance. Another driver who preferred to handle his oar without a reserve was .Charles Brackenbury, who although compelled to drive in a bedroom slipper owing to a boil on one foot, kept going cheerfully for 167 laps, and was still running at the finish.
Benjafield was lucky to avoid delay near the end, as on completing a 14:p after he had finished, a. tyre tread stripped with a report like a gun, and pieces of rubber flew as high as the top of the Vickers heds as he roared by.
Although the 500 miles race was Only run last year for the first time, it has already become one of the events of the season, showing clearly enough that there is a big demand for events open to any class of racing car, and. the British Racing Drivers’ Club are to be congratulated on their enterprise, and also on the excellent organisation of the event.
1. The Earl of Mardi and S. C. H. Davis, 747 c.c. Austin (S), 6 hrs. min. 13 secs 83.41 m.p.h.
2. J. D. Benjafiekl and E. R. Hall, 4,398 c.c. Bentley (5), 6 hrs. 7 mins. 34 secs. —112.12 m.p.h.
3. H. W. Purdy and 14.. Cushman, 1,988 c.c. Sunbeam (S), 6 hrs. 17 mins. 23 secs. —104.74 m.p.h.
4. The Earl Howe and B. E. Lewis, 2,276 c.c. Talbot, 6 hrs. 18 sums. 42 -Sees, 104.26 m.p.h.
5. B. P. Twist and R. C. Portet, 1,097 c.c. Amilcar (S), 6 hrs. 20 mins 4 secs. —88.16 m.p.h.
6. J. S. Hindmarsh, 2,276 c.c. Talbot, 6 hrs. 20 mins. 44 sees. =103.52 m.p.h. 7. T. E. Rose-Richards, 2,276 c.c Talbot, 6 hrs. 29 mins. 47 sees. =100.4
8. R. S. Stewart and C. R. A. Grant, 1,752 c.c. Alfa-Romeo (S), (3 hrs. 34 mins. 36 sees. -,98.91 m.p.h.
9. H. R. S. Birkin and G. Duller, 4,398 c.c. Bentley (8), 6 hrs. 38 mins. 51 secs. CLASS WINNERS,
H. (750 c.c.) Earl of March and S. C. II. Davis (747 c.c. Austin, S). .
G. (1,100 c.c.) B. P. Twist and R. C Porter (1,097 c.c. .Amilear, 8).
F. (1,500 c.c.). No finishers.
E. (2,000 c.c.) J. Dunfee and C. Lunfee (1,988 c.c. Sunbeam, S).
P. (3,000 c.c.) Earl Howe and d B. E. Lewis (2,276 c.c. Talbot).
C. (5,000 c.c.) J. i. Benjafield and E. R. Hall (4,398 c.c. Bentley, 8). The following were still running when the race came ‘to an end :—R. T. Horton (1,089 c.c. Riley), 27 laps ; V. S. Balls (1,097 c.c. Amilcar, S), 75 laps ; J. R. Jeffress (1,481 c.c. Alfa-Romeo), 169 laps; W. B. Scott (1,486 c.c.Pelage, S), 164 laps.; H. C. Spero (1,496 c.c. Lea-Francis, S), 90 laps ; C. Brackenbury (1,496 c.c Bugatti),167 laps ; R. F. Oats (1,991
0.M., S), 177 laps ; P. Bamber. (5,954 c.c. Lelage), 17 laps. (S denotes supercharger fitted.)