IT is the privilege of the writer of such a series of articles as this to hark back to past events instead of being up to date in the best snappy journalistic style, and so I make no apology for returning after a considerable interval to the Veteran Cars’ race at Brooklands on August Bank Holiday. The “Daily Sketch,” incidentally, who were the promoters of the race, called the participating machines “Old Crocks,” an appellation which offended a number of the drivers to such an extent that they altered the phrase on their number boards to “Veteran Cars.” Personally I am all in favour of” Veteran Cars,” and all against “Old Crocks,” but I consider that the “Daily Sketch” having presented a number of handsome prizes for the race ‘ was quite entitled to call the participating machines what it liked, and I suggest that it would be more tactful another time to persuade the organisers of their error before the boards were printed than go mucking about with the things provided by some people who were going to give
you £30—if you were lucky.
However, to regain the road, I was going to ask, “Who am I to criticise the Brooklands authorities ? “, and as, luckily, no one has got a chance at this moment to say” Who indeed ? “I can now, having apologised for my impertinence, proceed to do so. The point is that anyone who looks on at the antics of 35-year old motor cars thinks the whole thing frightfully funny ; but you start to drive one, and you will find that, confronted by a bucking tiller, which is held in hand Number One, and by a spark advance, mixture control, throttle, exhaust valve lift control, belt shifting control, five oil taps and a “side brake,” all of which have to be operated simultaneously by hands Numbers Two to Twelve, your sense of humour tends to desert you completely, and Life becomes a grim reality. Therefore it would be as well if at a place which takes itself so seriously as Brooklands, the old cars when they go there, should not first be lined up, quite pointlessly, against a wall, and then simultaneously be ordered to move out onto the track with no idea of destination, with the object apparently of making a Roman Holiday of” ancients” backing and filling, bumping each other and the retaining walls for the space of twenty minutes and the amusement of supercilious onlookers (who don’t know a centrifugal governor when they see one) on the Paddock Stand. Those of us who chose the wiser course and stood quite still, during this period, probably did not dare to stop our engines, for, remember, the majority of ancient motors are easier to start when cold than when hot. So we started in the race with the water boiling, an unfair handicap when you have got to face that long pull up at the end of the Finishing Straight.
On the way to Brooldands.
Incidentally the trials of the Start were not the only ones we had to face that day, for our efforts to reach Brooklands were beset with such difficulties as reminded one of motoring at an earlier day. The By ” BALADEUR “
veteran car was already at the Track, and we ourselves set out that Monday morning in a trusty Vauxhall, which might have been considered old, but for comparison with our “racer.” Of course we were. late starting and then the discovery of a flat tyre made us later ; in consequence we contented ourselves with mounting the spare and setting off, too busy thinking about how not to miss second on the quadrant later on than to worry about the Vaux. A few short miles from home, and a damned long one from the last village, the spare tyre ripped a hole six inches long in the cover. Investigation proved that we had not so much as a tyre pump with us, but not having seen the first tyre go down we decided that its puncture MUST be a slow one. It fell to my lot to walk back to the last village to borrow a pump. The way was long, the morning muggy, and that garage I had seen when passing through just before in the car proved to have been a mirage. Guided by an unerring instinct I transferred my attentions to the local place of refreshment. Once my powers of speech were restored I initiated enquiries for a tyre pump, and was advised by the publican to try the blacksmith’s, with lengthy directions as to where to find the smithy. Investigation, however, proved that the village forge was deserted, and I returned to regain powers of speech once more. The publican looked grave and remarked, a propos of the blacksmith, ” Ah ! he was very late last night to my certain knowledge.” Suddenly, however, a bright idea struck him. “That schoolmaster,” he said, with obvious contempt for learning, “he’s got a car ; maybe he’d have a pump.”
I. ! Felix
Ringings of bells and bangs on the school door for long elicited no response, although it really was by now quite a decent hour of the morning. At last the door opened and the schoolmaster appeared, wearing a pair of trousers over his pyjamas. “As a matter of fact,” he apologised, “I’ve only just got up ! “
Nevertheless he lent me his pump and I tramped back that weary mile to find that owing to the excessive camber of the road, the car had fallen off the jack. Somehow we got it on again, the tyre held air (just). The car set off for the garage in the next village, and I (with the pump) for the school in the last. I reached that next village still on foot to find the local garage solemnly considering how to mend a puncture. I walked most of the way to Brooklands that day. With regard to the veterans’ race itself it seemed to me a pity that none of the cars performing had ever been real racers in their youth. Shuttleworth’s pe Dietrich looks like one, but in reality it is a conversion. On the other hand his Panhard et Levassor which he ran at Brooklands a year or two ago I believe really started life as the racing car driven by Rene de Knyff in the Paris-Bordeaux
Race of 1899. A racing career stretching over more than thirty years must surely be unique for any motor car !
Consideration of this record leads me on to wonder what driver has had the longest career of active racing. I do not think that any Englishman can aspire to the honour for our famous drivers of the early days such as S. F. Edge and Charles jarrott, have long ago retired from the game. On the whole I should be inclined, while realising that I am very much open to correction, to give the palm to Christian Werner. Werner’s first ap pearance in a big race, to the best of my knowledge and belief, was in the NiceSalon-Nice race of 1901, which he won by covering the 244 miles at 36 in p h His car on that occasion was a 35 h.p. Mercedes, a name which had not been known
for more than a year or so, and the 35 h.p. model had a bore and stroke of 116 x 140 m.m. (5,896 c.c.), the new honeycomb radiator and a gate change. Werner at that time was acting as mechanician to Baron Henri de Rothschild, one of the most enthusiastic followers of the sport in the early days, and the owner or the car which Werner drove. The latter appeared again no longer ago than the year before last, when in company with Rudolf Caracciola, he drove the big supercharged Mercedes in the Grand Prix d’Endurance at le Mans. In the meantime he had won the Targa Florio, the most difficult of all races, in 1924. A racing career stretching over 30 seasons must surely be a record for a driver as well as for a car.
Christian Werner, however, would seem to be approached pretty closely in this respect by Arthur Duray, who appeared in the Belgian 24-hour race at the wheel of his little 1,100 c.c. Aries, also in 1930. I cannot recollect that Duray took part in a race in 1901, but he certainly started in the Paris-Vienna Race of 1902 at the wheel of an 18 h.p. Gobron-Brillie light car, having a 2-cylinder vertical engine with two pistons per cylinder, the upper ones working on a crosshead.
After that he appeared in almost every race of first-class importance. In ParisMadrid he was driving a 110 h.p. GobronBrillie, and on a car of the same type he took part in the French Eliminating Race for the Gordon Bennett in 1904. The next year he went over to De Dietrich, and on a 130 h.p. car of that make gained a place in the French team for the cup, finishing fifth in the race itself, his car carrying the number 13. He ran second that year in the Florio Cup at Bologna, and pulled off his big success by winning the Circuit des Ardennes in 1906. The Grands Prix of 1906, 1907 and 1908 all saw him at the wheel of his De Dietrich, he ran in the Vanderbilt Cup races in America of 1905, 1906 and 190/, and was fourth in the Targa Florio. of 1907. In 1911 Duray appeared in the Grand Prix de Prance at Le Mans on his 1.-,06 Grand Prix De Dietrich, the same year he took to voiturette racing and started in the Coupe de l’Auto with a 3-litre Excelsior. In 1912 he drove a 3-litre Alcyon voitur
ette in the Grand Prix, and in 1913 a Grand Prix pelage in the Grand Prix de France. He was the only member of the Delage team, which was using mechanically closed valves, to finish in the 1914 Grand Prix. He has taken part in a postwar Grand Prix, also, the 1923 race at Tours, when he drove one of the curiously streamlined Voisins ; and altogether his record must be, I should think, almost uniquely catholic.
Although he was born in New York, Duray is by origin a Belgian, a country which produced an extraordinary number of famous drivers in the early days. One has only got to mention Rene and Gaetan de Knyff, Baron de Caters, Barons Pierre and jean de Crawhez—and Camille Jenatzy to make this point quite clear.
What might have been.
Being within easy reach of London, Box Hill is an obviously popular resort for motorists, and in spite of the crowds generally assembled I frequently find myself heading in that direction on account of the real or fancied resemblance of the road on a miniature scale to the lower stages of an Alpine pass, which is -what represents my ideal of motoring. I can seldom go to Box Hill, also, without considering how ideal a course it would make for a speed hill-climb. The first hair-pin, at the end of a stretch of easy gradient, is of good radius, then the gradient stiffens, the second hair-pin is considerably more a
acute and is foll,wed by quite a long piece of straight, on which good speeds could be got up before the rather tricky right-hand bend in the wood near the top. The only objections are that there would be practically nowhere to park the competing cars at the bottom of the hill before their run up ; and that the road instead of being cut properly out of the hill-side, is on such a pronounced lateral slope that I have stopped before now to change a tyre with an imaginary puncture. However, as I suppose that there is not the slightest chance of being allowed to use the road for anything so immoral as a hill-climb, anyhow, these objections do not carry much weight ; and the most you can do is to drive up it behind a family party in an over-loaded popular small car, and think of what might have been.
The French, being undoubtedly the most happy-go-lucky motorists in the world, love, owing to the perversity of human nature, to consider themselves above all things ” pratique.” The other day I came across a delightful example of this fact in an old number of a French motoring monthly, of which the Editor had taken upon himself the task of congratulating the Mayor of Clecy on a highly ” pratique ” decision. I regret to say that until that moment I had never heard of Clecy, but reference to the indispensable Michelin guide informed Inc that it was in the departement of Calvados in the Province of Normandy, that the ” agglomeration” had 232 inhabitants, and that the Syndicate of Initiative was to be found at the Maine. (I also see that the HOtellerie du Moulin only charges 22 francs for lunch or dinner, but that it is given a star in the guide, showing that Bibendum ate well there. I have made a note of it.) Reference to the map shows me that eke), is on Route Nationale 162, which runs South from Caen, and is between Thury-Harcourt and Conde-surNoireau, half way up a long hill out of the valley of the Ome. As far as I can recollect the road does not carry particularly heavy traffic, and being distinctly twisty, is not particularly suitable for high speed. However, here is the Mayoral decree, which was so much admired by the Editor and which I have translated as literally as possible in order to lose the minimum of the bouquet of the original :— “In view of the circulation of vehicles, automobile and hippomobile, which has now become intense in the bourg of Clecy, it has been decided by the Mayor :—
” That no child under the age of five years shall be allowed to circulate in the bourg of Clecy, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or friend.
Any child found so circulating will be taken in charge by the garde-champetre, who will return it to its parent, guardian or friend, against whom a contravention will be addressed.”