Motor-Cycles Faster than Cars up Shelsley Walsh

E. Lyons (498-c.c. Triumph) clocks 39.44 sec.; Raymond Mays (E.R.A.) 39.57 sec. A very instructive invitation meeting. John Bolster makes fastest “unblown” time.

For the first time since 1912 both motor-cycles and cars competed at a Shelsley Walsh meeting. On October 5th Leslie Wilson and the Midland Automobile Club invited selected car drivers, motor-cycle riders and combination manipulators to compete at the famous hill. They were not in direct competition, but everyone seemed to regard them as such, and a plaque was offered for f.t.d. in any category. Generally, the motor-cycles were faster than the cars-and they looked safer and more efficient. Ernie Lyons and the twin-cylinder Triumph actually clocked f.t.d. in 89.44 sec. on his first ascent, beating Mays’ black 2-litre E.R.A. On his first run Mays went beautifully, but in changing gear halfway up the finishing straight, he knocked his ignition switch off. He got the engine going, again in an instant, but ruined, his ascent – 40.73 sec. His second run was clocked at 39.57 sec., .13 sec. slower than Lyons. Lyons fell at, the “S” on, second run, but was quickly on his feet again, amid loud applause. He did not continue. The third runs of these two were done over a wet road – Mays doing 46.02 sec., Lyons 50.52 sec. In the wet the three fastest cars – Mays’ E.R.A., Abecassis’ “3.3” Bugatti, and Gerard’s E.R.A.- averaged 47.8 sec., whereas the equivalent motor cycles – Lyons (Triumph), Lockett (Norton) and Frith (Norton) – averaged 50.71 sec. But on actual fastest runs these three cars averaged 40.33 sec., whereas the motorcycles did 39.98 sec. Thus the two-wheelers have come out on top – and with very little practice, most of them seeing the hill for the first time on the Friday.

The course record did not fall, Mays being unable to get near his pre-war figure of 37.37 sec. But John Bolster, whose “Bloody Mary,” aged as it is, has never gone better, made best unsupercharged time. He actually beat Wilkinson’s unblown record, but as queer subdivisions are used for Shelsley records, and “Bloody Mary” is obviously a “Shelsley Special,” John cannot claim this as a record. The new motor-cycle records are: Solos up to 350 c.c., P. Goodman (Velocette), 42.66 sec. Solos, unlimited, E. Lyons (Triumph), 39.44 sec. Sidecar machines, J. Becton (Norton), 49.21 sec.

At this October climb considerable improvements were evident and organisation was of the strictest-even to tickets for claiming one’s run and arm-bands for each competitor. The car park problem seemed completely solved by W. H. Owen, and there was now a tarmac path up the hill for spectators. So that there was evidence that the high charges of the earlier meeting at least benefit spectators in due course. But Shelsley is still a very expensive meeting; getting two persons and car in, buying a programme, and entering the “S” enclosure, absorbed 30s. The programme wasn’t too well arranged, and why a biography of motorcyclists only under the heading “To-day’s Drivers”? The times were announced very promptly, the programme was run through very slickly, and the only bad delay was caused by complete failure of the mains power supply – for which you cannot blame the M.A.C.! All in all, this was a good meeting. Alan Hess did his stuff for the B.B.C. in a fine new box, Graham Walker’s commentary was excellent, and the daily paper reporters in the Press tent dutifully got to their feet to watch Raymond Mays.

The paddock offered a whole lot of snooping. We learned that in practice Mays had clocked 39.16 sec., and Lyons 39.96 sec., and Abecassis had got up in 41.26 sec. Work was in progress on Harrison’s Riley back-axle; the car has a new frontal aspect and used single 6.50 by 19 rear tyres. Mays was suffering from ‘flu. His E.R.A.’s engine was in “Concours” condition. Bolster had a neat positive-stop gear change on “Mary,” with ratio-indicating pointer alongside. As usual, his white-overalled mechanics got quietly on with their preparation. John had 4.00 by 19 comp. single rear covers. Peter Monkhouse was resetting the throttles on Salvadori’s Riley, being troubled by suction holding the slides shut, and he was using twin 4.50 by 19 rear tyres. The “3.3” Bugatti sported a new radiator stoneguard, Carr’s Alta a rev.-counter on the off side of its aero screen, above the cockpit. The Mercury-Special, still with G.N. bevel-box and springs and a m/c battery between the driver’s legs, was handle-started. It ran on twin 4.75 by 18 rear tyres, whereas Abecassis had 4.75 by 19 twins, Yates’ Maserati 5.00 by 19 twins. The Spider relied on single 5.00 by 16 rear tyres, with 4.00 by 19 covers on the front. The Becke had competition rear tyres. Geoffrey Taylor practised late after over-coming fuel pump trouble on the Alta, and Woodall’s Frazer-Nash was a nonstarter, as a piston collapsed. Parnell’s Delage was also absent. Freddie Dixon was interested in Lyons’ machine, and Langton has thoughtfully brought a spare J.A.P. engine. Wood had a mudguard collapse at the “S” in practice, bringing him off the Erswood and splitting his 3.25 by 19 rear cover. Lyons’ famous Triumph had a standard, not alloy, barrel for this party, and a new sprint tank. Langton ran his dirt-track job, while Goodman, Lyons, Daniell, and Barnett had alloy wheels. Mort had brought his Triumph down from Scotland – it is a sand-racing job, mostly standard, but with twin carburetters and a sprint tank with the oil-pressure gauge on the side; it was running on “dope.” Berry changed his engine sprocket. Lyons’ Triumph rose and fell on its telescopic forks as the engine was “blipped.” Taylor’s sidecar suspension consisted of a Norton spring heel brazed to the chassis.

The 1 1/2-litre cars opened proceedings. Gerard, sliding his E.R.A. into the “S” and showing fine acceleration, clocked best time, his first run taking 41.69 sec., which he improved to 40.76 sec. Shawe-Taylor, on the Ansell E.R.A., just touched the bank out of the “S” and snaked to the finish on his first run (41.65 sec.) and went on to the grass in starting on his second attempt (41.92 sec.). Connell (E.R.A.), using single rear tyres, was very fast, keeping close in at the “S,” his times being 41.61 and 41.24 sec. There were quite a few incidents. On his second run Brooke got his front wheels well up the bank leaving the “S,” which put the Brooke-Special into a wild slide. The Becke mis-fired on its first run, but was beautifully handled thereafter, to clock 46.35 sec. Williams took an altitude record up the inside bank at the first corner of the “S,” and the Alta all but overturned, before falling back on to the road and, eventually, accelerating away. The driver sobered up thereafter. Hampshire (Riley) smoked a cigarette on both runs – a practice the R.A.C. should rule out. Apart from the safety aspect, imagine Hobbs combining his centuries with enjoyment of the fragrant weed! The Appleton-Special cut right out in the “S” on its second run and came to a standstill, the Martyr was slow, but Dowson was very quick in the Lightweight. The Spider asked lots of road, and Davenport clocked 44.98 sec. on his first run.

Came the 350-c.c. motor-cycles. Goodman’s Velocette was fastest, in 42.66 sec., after doing 42.67 sec. on his initial ride. He gave a perfect exhibition of how to do it and, indeed, the faster motor-cycles looked safe and most pleasingly under control. Burnie’s Norton was runner-up, in 43.94 sec., his second run being slower, possibly because of front-end bounce. Elliot (O.K.) was ragged and had tail wag, and Taylor (Norton) seemed to expect to encounter a concealed turning or something. Wood threw his Velocette where he wanted it on the corners.

Carr opened the 2-litre racing-car class with much tyre scrub and wheel flap, the Alta doing a rousing 41.98 sec., which was later improved to 41.74 sec. in spite of some fluffing. Taylor’s Alta, tending to slide viciously, couldn’t better 42.3 sec. Mays cut on his first run, then established fastest car time in 39.57 sec. just as the rain came. Bolster came wide from the “S” to snake to the finish, holding 2nd the whole way on a most hectic run to the line-a fine show. Harrison (Riley) entered the “S” fast, but had poor pick-up, Cowell (Alta) was polished but slow, and Monkhouse, in the Salvadori Riley, had a bad front wheel slide at the “S” and was slowest in his class.

The 500-c.c. motor-cycles were, generally, most impressive and beautifully handled. Lyons, falling on his second run, set f.t.d. in 39.44 sec. on his first. Both Broughs and Marshall’s V-twin H.R.D. were out of form, Frith (Norton) had his front wheel in the air for some distance, and Berry used lots of revs., even though the Brough was sick, and held a nasty slide. Lockett and Daniell (Nortons) were good to watch, in contrast with Bevan (D.M.W.), Beischer (Norton) and Langton (J.A.P.), who “footed,” Beischer having fine acceleration, however, and Langton bouncing to aid grip. Foster, on Roland Motors’ Norton, stood up on the rests getting away, and used a middle course through the “S.”

Of the racing cars over 2,001 c.c., Abecassis did all he could with the “3.8” G.P. Bugatti. (He ran it because his Alta was over for the Paris race.) Taking a wide swing into the “S,” momentarily hitting the inside bank, then accelerating a snaking course to the finish, he clocked 40.66 sec. on his first run, Mays’ E.R.A. being the only car to beat him. Rain ruined his second run, but after a bad slide George turned up the taps in spite of hedging and ditching then being in operation (49.91 sec.). Bear made two typical Bugatti ascents in the Type 51, missing towards the end of the first, very steady indeed in the wet on his second. The Mercury-Nash, smelling of hot American power plant, was handled neatly in the dry, but was a handful in the wet. Evans was a busy man in the “2.9” Alfa-Romeo (41.08 sec.), but it died before the finish on its second ascent (54.68 sec.). Newsome experienced vicious slides in the Jaguar, Johnson’s sports Darracq was very neat but not rapid enough, and Yates was slower still in the Maserati. The Triangle boiled on the line on its second run.

Next the sidecar outfits tried the hill. The antics of Taylor’s passenger caused much mirth amongst the car-spectators, quite unnecessarily, as this was one of the neatest ascents. Beeton’s Norton won from Horton’s Norton. Collins’ Velocette was very slow.

After this the three fastest cars, solos and sidecars ran again for special awards. The set-up was rather complex, because if a competitor beat his previous times the new time counted, but if he did not, his best class time was counted. Further, competitors could not win these plaques for fastest ascents and also win their class, so that Mays, doing 46.02 sec. on his third run, was declared fastest car, but removed from the 2-litre class, although Abecassis, who did 47.86 sec. on his third run, was given the M.A.C. Challenge Trophy for second fastest car time and also unlimited racing-car class-winning award.

We have outlined in the text who was fastest class by class and give below a complete list of times. We again timed competitors through the “S,’ and the instructive figures obtained are given within brackets after the appropriate runs: –

Thus ended another post-war Shelsley, and cars left the parks to form that wonderful procession through MartIey and Worcester. The motor-cycle boys look forward to a special motor-cycle meeting in 1947. They needed more practice this time, and say the Nortons suffered loss of pick-up due to T.T. carburetters and megaphone exhausts. Lyons had standard Amals on the Triumph. Solo riders need a spring hub on the final straight.