” BIRA ” MAKES HIS BOW
VICTORY IN IMPERIAL TROPHY RACE AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE WITH HIS E.R.A. THE LAP RECORD SET
TO 58.63 M.P.H. BY ARTHUR DOBSON (E.R.A.). EXTREMELY CLOSE FINISH. THE last meeting of the season at the Crystal Palace had a hang-over, as it were, of the glamour of Donington the previous Saturday, because Dick Seaman was to do an exhibition run with a Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz and the Road Racing Club had contrived to obtain the entries of Count Trossi, Count Lurani and L. Villoresi, of the Scuderia Ambrosiana, with Maseratis. Actually, we expected Villoresi to drive in place of Lurani, but all three Italian drivers came bringing the cars in O.M. vans, Trossi driving a four-cylinder, Lurani a fourcylinder with quarter-elliptic rear suspension, and Villoresi a ” six,” similar to those which Austin Dobson introduced to these shores. Some 25,000 to :30,000 spectators duly attended. ” Bira ” and Mays were expected to have a great tussle for the closing points for the B.R.D.C.. Gold Star, but very unfortunately Raymond’s 1,100 c . c. E.R.A. blew up in practice on the Thursday. On that day one of the Italian Maseratis seemed to worry Lurani, while the very cheery and down-like head mechanic provided a great turn attempting to start his refractory Hillman Minx. Dick Nash only put in a few laps With the Frazer-Nash-Union Special, while Trossi seemed as fast as Arthur Dobson. Seaman was out with the ” Mere.” but was not opening up, though getting plenty of
wheel-spin, the little Austin all but holding him. Afterwards he was photographed in the car alongside the Hon. Mitchell Thomson’s 1903 Sixty Mercedes. To return to race-day, the first heat was ten laps, or twenty miles, with the class system of handicap. Hadley led away in the Austin but had plug trouble and retired after one lap, while Brooke’s M.G.7Riley was running badly. .Maclure’s unblown 2-litre Riley Six then led, followed by .Sinclair’s Alta that led lap 2, Lurani’s Maserati, DObS011’S E.R.A. and Whitehead’s E.R.A. Maclure drove magnificently and actually broke ” Bira’s” lap record, establishing a new record at 56.47 M.p.h. There was then no catching Maclure, who started rather better than Dobson, though the latter’s old, white E.R.A. ran the Riley close and set the lap record to 58.63 m.p.h. Lurani’s Maserati, definitely too low-geared for
the course, in spite of the short straights, retained third place, and Whitehead finished fourth, with Robin Hanson’s Maserati Six behind him. Maclure averaged 56.59 m.p.h., Dobson 56.55 m.p.h. and Lurani 55.05 m.p.h. Dobson re-broke the lap record on lap six, setting it at 57.92 m.p.h. and at 58.63 m.p.h. on
lap 7. Sinclair’s 1,100 c.c. Alta went out with big-end trouble and Villoresi coasted to a standstill round Fisherman’s Bend. Madure continued to put up his speed with the astonishing unblown Riley, doing lap 8 at 58.06 m.p.h. The finishers got £25, £20, £15, £10 and L5, respectively. In the next heat, over the same distance, and similarly handicapped, a fine battle waged between Charlie Martin’s E.R.A., ” Bira’s ” E.R.A. and Count
Trossi’s four-cylinder Maserati. Goodacre’s Austin made the most of its start and led until the last lap but one, when Trossi lay second, having passed Martin very skilfully on the inside at Stadium Dip half-way through. ” Bira ” got into fourth place on lap 3, and Trossi finally won, at 57.24 m.p.h., followed by Martin at 57.12 m.p.h. and ” Bira ” (E.R.A.) at 57.06 m.p.h., with Goodacre’s Austin fourth and Aitken’s Maserati Six fifth. Ian Connell’s E.R.A. retired early with cylinder trouble, and Nash dropped out on his sixth lap after skidding right round at the Link the previous lap. Trossi’s best lap was in 2 nuns. 4.3 secs., compared to Dobson’s record lap of 2 min.s. 2.8 secs.
Sixteen cars lined up for the twentylap final, also handicapped, but on a different time allowance. Goodacre built up a very useful lead with the Austin from Brooke’s M.G.-Riley, Stuart-Wilton’s Qtype M.G. and Smith’s M.G. Magnette. The three Italian Maseratis were with ” Bira’s ” and Martin’s E.R.A.s in the front row of the next group, in which Hyde’s ex-Cholmondeley-Tapper 3-litre Maserati was easily outpaced. Arthur Dobson was behind, as grid positions, wrongly, we feel, were decided on practice times and not on lap times established during the heats, and passing is so difficult on the Palace circuit as to make this a matter of considerable moment. Martin did a lap in 2 mins. 3.8 sees., but eventually turned the E.R.A. round on his tenth lap and retired with gearbox trouble. Goodacre held his lead followed by ” Bira ” (E.R.A.), A. C. Dobson (E.R.A.), who made desperate attempts to pass coming down to Stadium Dip, Villoresi and Lurani. Trossi had trouble early on and retired. It was noticeable that ” Six “did not Stick down very well at the rear end, a trouble that is evident on the Maserati Sixes in this country, though Trossi’s car, with underslung quarter-elliptic rear springs, -not reversed as on a Bugatti, by the way, was more stable. On lap thirteen Goodacre spun round at Fisherman’s Bend, losing about 26 secs., and ” Bira ” came
by, to win at 57.8 m.p.h„ with A. C. Dobson’s E.R.A. right on his tail, only 0.3 of a second, or about half a length away, unable to get by at the final bend into the straight, especially as ” Bira,” going all he knew, floated outwards. Dobson averaged 57.79 m.p.h., and his new lap record of 58.63 m.p.h. remained unbeaten. Goodacre managed third place on the Austin at 55.04 m.p.h., Villoresi was fourth at 56.07 m.p.h., and Lurani fifth at 55.70 m.p.h. Peter Aitken also spun round at Fisherman’s, Bend. The Palace has a very queer surface, of a decidedly slippery nature, and one wonders what will happen if novice drivers are allowed to use it next year. ” Bira,” a very popular winner, was presented with the Imperial Trophy and had also conclusively won the 1938. Road-Racing Gold Star, so that he left this country, taking an E.R.A. with him, quite happily on the following Wednesday. We hope he and Prince Chula will be back by Christmas. Incidentally, the White Mouse equipe erected a portable covering behind” Bira’s ” pit as protection from the rain that fell during practice, though the day of the race was perfect. Some complaints were rife, notably that an extra charge was made to a new enclosure, the position of which prevented spectators from walking completely round. the circuit, as :advertised, and the loud
speaker commentary was awful. The speaker did not pronounce ” Mercedes ” correctly, so goodness only knows what he would have made of D.K.W. Seaman’s exhibition run was truly worth seeing, but he did not open out and wipe up the lap-record, being content to circulate at around about 2 mins. 4 secs. (best 2 mins. 3 8 secs.), though putting up this record might have been worth while to others besides Seaman and Mercedes-Benz, for the Palace is a very slow circuit. Peter Mitchell-Thomson’s ’03 Mercedes also obliged. The television went off very well, Seaman being duly “‘put over” after his demonstration. King Farlow and the Le Roy timing machinery functioned impeccably and the Press service was good, albeit one Bulletin gives the Lap Record to Percy Maclure instead of to Arthur Dobson I The general opinion seems to be that the circuit is too wiggly in places and could well be wider, with something done to the surface. Unfortunately, it seems doubtful if much can be done in the way of improvements, because apparently Harry Edwards expected an attendance of around 70,000 souls per meeting, instead of the very excellent 20,000 to 30,000 actually realised, and we believe that a loan is necessary if things are to continue next season. Personally, we have thoroughly enjoyed the meetings at the London road circuit, even though the ” at
mosphere ” can never be likened to that at Brooklands and Donington, and the racing thereat was a pleasant surprise. Future success undoubtedly depends on how much prize money is forthcoming next season—it has been generous, this year— and what dates are allotted to the R.R.C. in the 1.038 Fixture List, for only names like “Ella,” Mays, Dobson, Martin and Madure, etc., will draw big crowds. Nevertheless, if Harry Edwards opens shop again we would like to see some Club Meetings at the Crystal Palace, assuming that they would not bring the noise-nuisance problem to a crisis.