RECORDS FALL AT SHELSLEY WALSH
NOT for a long time has such a magnificent entry been received for the Shelsley Walsh hill-climb as the array of racing cars which assembled in the famous Worcestershire orchardcum-paddock on Saturday, September 30th. In this rural scene the fastest Grand Prix machines were ranged, Whitney Straight’s Maserati, Earl Howe’s Bugatti, and the Hon. Brian Lewis’s Alfa Romeo ; Shelsley specials’ such as Dick Nash’s ” Spook ” and Peter Skinner’s special Morris Minor ; and an impressive display of Bugattis, M.G.’s, Austin’s, Rileys, Frazer Nashes, and sundry fast touring vehicles. Many drivers were making last-minute adjust
ments to their cars, in contrast to Whitney Straight, whose Maserati and Magnette were neatly covered from wheel to wheel with tarpaulins.
Meanwhile the usual tremendous crowd was toiling up the hill, this time by a new path which avoided the cross-over at the beginning of the wood. For some unaccountable reason this route seemed steeper, although the only difference from the previous path lay in the fact that it was on the right-hand side of the road instead of the left. The weather, although grey and overcast, was for once behaving itself.
The M.A.C. pride themselves on being punctual, and sure enough E. R. Hall played his usual part of ” opening ” the hill with a neat climb on his Midget in 50.2 secs., promptly at 1 o’clock. Hall is a good man to start the programme, for his driving shows the crowd just what a skilful climb should be, fierce acceleration, a slight slide on the corners, and plenty of power from his twin-rearwheeled M.G. Midget. Again, the starting ” pips ” were heard on the loudspeakers, followed by a terrific roar as Peter Skinner got away from the line on his special Morris Minor. The little supercharged engine screamed up to an incredible pitch on the gears, until the car reached the famous” 5″ bend. With complete confidence Skinner held the Morris, disappeating up to the finish leaving an excited chatter of admiration from the crowd. Everyone looked at the scoring-board, and in a moment the numbers were put up-time 46.4 secs.. a wonderful effort !
None of the other 750’s’ got anywhere near this time, in fact none of them beat Hall’s 50.2 secs. L. P. 1,riscoll, driving one of the racing single-seater Austins was the best with a time of 51.6 secs., but his car was misfiring slightly on the last straight, as was the sister car handled by J. D. Barnes who took 57 secs. R. R.
Jackson (M.G. Midget) did 52.4, R. T. Turner (Austin) 53.4, W. T. Platt (M.G. Midget) 54.2, the Marquis of Belleroche, with his stub-tailed Austin, 55 dead, and Miss E. V. Watson brought her Midget up smoothly in 60.4 secs.
The first climb of the 1,100 c.c. brigade was made by E. J. Moor, whose “Wasp III” was an appropriate specimen of the Shelsley specials which generally run in this category. Literally pulsing with the stacatto beat of its two-cylinder engine, the Wasp got up in 48 secs., good going. But the Horton Special, driven by its designer, was a shade faster and clocked 47.6 secs., its supercharged Alta engine making a most hearty crackle. The ” ‘liger III” was another trembling machine, time 51.8 and then the announcement that John Bolster was on the line made everyone expectant of . . . they knew not what. An almost audible sigh of relief went up when it was seen that he was taking no chances with the corner on which he overturned so spectacularly at the last Sheisley meeting. But he was not slow, and considering the extraordinarily hunched position the design of the Bolster Special forces him to adopt, his performance in recording 47.6 secs. was amazingly good. His acceleration up the straight to the finish was terrific.
Lick Bolster’s G.N. was not quite so fast, but was equally well handled, his time being 49 secs. exactly. Unlike most ” Shelsley Specials” the G.N. (Martyr) driven by J. A. Thompson was fitted with a well-finished body, painted blue ; time 53 sees. Again E. R. Flail came up, this time on a Magnette, and made the best time in the class so far in 47.4 secs. F. W. ‘Axon was disappointing with his T.T. Riley, the gear ratios being unsuitable for the hill. Miss P. Altham, driving Whitney Straight’s M.G. Magnette, was still more unfortunate for her car came to rest between the bends amid much spitting-back and general misbehaviour. She reversed and descended the hill. Mrs. Wisdom was another victim of unsuitable gearing, for her Magnette (the actual car driven by Nuvolari in the T.T.) could do no better than 55.6 secs. A. A.
Rigby’s Magna was misfiring, and then Von der Becke (Riley) and R.. R.. Jackson (M.G. Magnette, with full equipment) both made exactly the same time in 50 secs. dead. Fastest time in this class, however, was made by R. T. Horton with his dark-red M.G. Magnette. He was quite the quickest through the bends, and a cheer went up when his time of 46.0 secs. was announced. The Class was completed by J. Justice, whose J.A.P. Special was in its usual sulky state and refused to complete the climb.
The 1,500 c.c. class brought the first sensation of the day. Raymond Mays was the first to climb, and as soon as his Special Riley appeared up the straight to the bends it was obvious that an outstanding ascent was being made. The power developed by the specially supercharged and tuned engine was astonishing, even the twin-rear-wheels having difficulty in finding a grip on the road. Add to this, the usual Mays exhaust-note and you can picture the fine spectacle his climb made. Fast as he was, few people were really prepared for the news shown on the board a few seconds later—the amazing news that Von Stuck’s record of 42.4 secs. in 1930 had at last been beaten ! Mays’ time was 42.2 secs., and when he descended the hill immediately afterwards the crowd showed their excitement with a fine round of applause. For some time people could do nothing but talk about the new record, with the consequence that one or two good climbs were passed almost unheeded. Comdr. R. T. Grogan got up with his supercharged Frazer Nash in 50.0 sees, misfiring near the finish, T. S. Pothringham (Bugatti) in 47.8 secs., W. E. Harker, on the’ Special’ of his own make, in 52.4 secs., and R. H. Eccles showed what a fine driver he is to climb in 48.6 secs. with an” unblown” Frazer Nash. “A. Vincent” jumped the starting-line with his Aston Martin—result, no time given. A magnificent ascent was made by F. J. Fielding, on a beautifully finished Bugatti with twin rear-wheels. His car was really fast, and Fielding handled it splendidly throughout, as his time of 45.2 secs. proved. J. C. Davis had a recurrence of the misfiring trouble with his G.P. Delage, bad luck after good times in practice, and C. S. Staniland came up with one of the T.T. 6 cylinder Rileys in 50.0 secs. There were quite a number of these cars, driven by Harold Goodwin (53.4 secs.), Miss D. C. N. Champney (53.4 secs., a good show) and S. H. Newsome (55.8 secs.). F. S. Barnes turned out with a new Singer Special, a neat green two-seater, with cowled radiator, and climbed in 53.4 sees. Moor’s “Wasp IV” proved to be an old Brescia Bugatti, and took 55.0 secs. J. D. Jevons found another snag in his Bugatti “The Snag.” I be magneto packed up in practice, and after working nearly all night on the car the wretched instrument failed again just before the start. Then came a perfect example of the quiet, unspectacular climb which can so often be really fast. Miss Sedgwick left the line with her standard unsupercharged Frazer Nash. Her acceleration was good, but being quiet did not look outstanding. She took the $ ‘ bend with hardly a trace of slide,
looking the picture of nonchalance, correcting skids before they were skids, all with a complete absence of fuss and importance. Her time of 49 seconds must have caused many competitors to bow their beads in shame, and beat Mrs. ‘Wisdom’s previous Ladies’ Record, made with a supercharged Frazer Nash, by a clear second.
The class closed with a terrific climb by R. G. J. Nash with his famous Anza.niNash, “The Spook.” Nash has never made a better run up the hill he knows so well. His handling of the car was a sight to behold, both between the bends and up the bumpy stretch of road to the finish. His time was 43.0 secs., second fastest so far. Noel Carr made a clean climb in the
2 litre class with his Bugatti in 47.4 secs. the only other competitor being J. A. M. Patrick, whose touring 1,750 c.c. Alfa -Romeo clocked 54.6 secs., in spite of the gear lever jumping out of engagement on the second bend. The 3,000 c.c. division was opened impressively by Earl Howe, with his glistening blue Alfa Romeo 4 seater, but his time of 47.6 secs. was bettered by the Hon. Brian Lewis on Noel Rees’ similar car, who climbed in 47.0 sees. The next entry on the programme was the main reason for the migration of enthusiasts from obscure parts of England to Shelsley Walsh that day. If Whitney Straight could beat Caracciola’s record at Mont Ventoux by 40 seconds, there was no reason why he should not beat Von Stuck’s record at Shelsley. As this had already been beaten by Raymond Mays, the question now was “Can he still further improve on the time for climbing 1,000 yards with an average gradient of 1 in 8.907 and two sharp and several minor bends ? ” Anyway, here was Straight on the line, ready to supply the answer. ” A perfect
getaway” so we were told by the announcer at the foot of the hill, and in less time than it takes to write, the black and silver Maserati was hurtling towards the first bend of the ‘S.’ Straight held on till the last possible moment, stood on everything, and went round with only a slight tail-slide. Full-bore between the bends caused the car to leap forward as though it was on the level instead of climbing a gradient of 1 in 6. With the briefeit of cutting-out Straight man-handled the car round the second bend, chewing steadily the while, and with a final rising roar, car and driver accelerated away to the finish. All eyes were turned to the score board, as the boy-scouts hoisted the numbers Forty . . . One . . . Point Pour! ” Amazing ! ” ” What a driver ! ” ” Did. you see his wheel-spin.” “One second faster than Von Stuck I”
Now it was Mays’ turn again, this time with the Villiers Supercharge. But fast as Mays drove—and he equalled Von Stuck’s previous record—he could not get down to Straight’s time, but it was a wonderful climb, nevertheless. A. H. L. Eccles (Bugatti) got up in 46.6 secs., L. G. Bachelier (Bugatti 4 seater) in 49.0 secs., and the Austrian, Frankl (Bugatti) in 45.6 secs. The latter said he was using his first rim as a sort of preliminary spin. Earl Howe had his revenge on Brian Lewis when his Bugatti climbed in 44.0 secs. against the Alfa’s 44.8 secs., and the class was closed with a quiet, well judged ascent by Miss Barbara Skinner with her Morris Special in 53.2 secs.
The remainder of the first runs were confined to cars of from 3,001 to 5,000 c.c Fastest was J. W. Whalley on his smart 4 seater V8 Ford in 53.8 secs., and good climbs were made by W. Esplen (4i litre blown Bentley), and Dr. R. A. Beaver, G. Warburton, R. Hughes, G. T. P. Way and P. H. Jacot (30/98 Vauxhalls).
As the cars returned to the start, coming down the hill more or less rapidly, Leslie Wilson, Secretary of the Midland Car Club, jumped down into the road just as Straight appeared. He gave the driver a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, thereby symbolising the action that some 15,000 spectators would like to have done. After an interval, all those who had bettered 60 seconds on their first run were allowed another attempt at reducing their times. Of the 750’s Hall for some reason or other did not run. Peter Skinner’s time was exactly the same, a tribute to consistent driving, R. R. Jackson clipped off 2 seconds, and R. F. Turner made the
best Austin climb of the day in 48.4 secs. In the next class the Horton Special got down to 47.0 secs., and “Tiger III” to 50.0 secs., but the real surprise came when John Bolster took his Bolster Special up in 45.8 secs., winning the racing class. This is magnificent going for a car developed from “spares,” so to speak, and puts Bolster in the very front rank of hillclimbing drivers in this country. It is safe to say that, given the opportunity, John Bolster will one day do big things in the motor-racing world. R. C. Bolster, Von der Becke, R. R. Jackson and R. T. Horton (Magnette) all made exactly the
same time as on their first runs, the latter making the fastest sports car time of the day in 46.0 seconds. Raymond Mays could not repeat his first run with the Riley. He was noticeably slower through the bends, and his total time was 44.6 secs. Grogan got down to 47.4 seconds, while other ” improvements ” were T. S. Fothringham, 46.6; W. E. Harker, 50.6; C. S. Staniland, 48; and S. H. Newsome, 51.0 secs. Miss Sedgwick, by really superb driving, yet apparently without any effort, lowered her time to 48 secs. Last to come up was R. G. J. Nash, thoroughly determined to improve on his previous 43 secs. He ap
proached the ” S ” at a colossal speed, and by fine driving succeeded in getting round. But he was left with an incipient series of skids, and in opening out his car swung to one side, and on the counterskid the near side front wheels climbed the bank. The car nearly upset, and came to a standstill, so Nash drove down again to the start with the sympathy of the crowd with him.
Noel Carr made a fine climb in 46.4 secs., being particularly slick through the bends. Earl Howe, on the 4 seater Alfa was 2 secs. slower. Whitney Straight again ! A good many people thought he would be content to call it a day, but not so Straight, who proceeded to knock off .2 secs. from his previous time and reduce the record to the amazing figure of 41.2 secs. At this stage of the second run we took some handtimings of various cars from a point below to a point above the ‘ bend. Fastest of all were Whitney Straight and Noel Carr, with 6.8 secs. Then came R. T. Horton (both on the Horton Special and on the Magnette), Grogan, Fielding, R. H. Eccles, and Earl Howe (Alfa Romeo) with 7.2 secs. E. J. Moor, Von der Becke, Harker, Miss Champuey and Miss Sedgwick all took 7.4 secs. Brian Lewis on
the 4 seater Alfa took 7.6 secs., and Raymond Mays (both Riley and Villiers Supercharge), J. V. Bolster, J. A. Thompson, T. S. Fothringham, C. S. Staniland, and F. S. Barnes all took 7.8 sees.
Raymond Mays was 1 sec. slower on the Villiers Supercharge on his second run, Earl Howe (Bugatti), 2 secs. faster, and Brian Lewis (Monza Alfa Romeo), correspondingly slower. Prankl’s Bugatti packed up between the bends with misfiring, much to the driver’s disgust.
Definitely the best Shelsley in many years-, both in its first-class entry and faultless organisation.