Gerard's old E.R.A. wins an epic Charterhall International Trophy Race, beating B.R.M.
A very big crowd attended Scotland's first International Motor Race at the Winfield Joint Committee's Charterhall Meeting on October 11. Even bigger crowds are likely to attend the 1953 fixtures of this organisation, for the efficient arrangements, lack of "red tape" and the outstanding excellence of the racing are what the spectating public looks for.
The weather was cold but dry, the 2-mile circuit bumpy in places but embodying a long straight, two slow and three fast corners. Farina set the fastest lap, at 85 m.p.h., before the Thinwall Ferrari broke up. An amusing feature of the day was the arrival in the Paddock of many Thinwall Special supporters, adorned with bright rosettes, of which Farina wore one on his duffle coat and was highly amused by the whole affair. The Thinwall supporters were anxious to see the Italian driver beat the B.R.M.s. In this they were disappointed, because the Ferrari broke its final drive—let us hope Mr. Vandervell soon finds some new parts—but Bob Gerard's old E.R.A. which has never gone better, made amends for them !
The Scots like their races on the long side, so proceedings opened with a 20-lap race (all were scratch events, those for sports cars with a Le Mans start) for sports cars up to 1½litres. J. F. Gibbons' Rover Special led for two laps, after which Dick Shattock, on holiday in the North with his Lea-Francis-engined R.C.S. Atalanta and naturally doing some racing at the same time, went ahead. Gibbons retook the lead on lap four but the R.C.S. passed it again and led comfortably thereafter, winning by 20.4 sec. at 86.55 m.p.h. Ian Hopper's Hopper Special had been holding third place but a big-end melted after 10 laps—maybe the oil was too thin even for the Scottish climate! That put Ian Sutherland's TC M.G. momentarily in third place but this car also retired, and J. N. Lawrence's Cooper-M.G. occupied third place behind the Rover Special thereafter. Ted Lund's M.G. fell sick. Schellenerg's neat, Dixon-like, long-tailed Riley Nine spent too much time gyrating early in the race to come into the picture, and Carnson's fast 1½-litre Riley was only seen during part of the race. Brearley's Jupiter was outclassed.
After this a fine field of unlimited sports cars ran over the same distance. Clearly "Wilky" Wilkinson has laid an expert hand on Ian Stewart's Ecurie Ecosse XK120C Jaguar, because, try as Moss did in Wisdom's XK120C, Ian won—a popular win—by 15.6 sec., averaging 77.5 m.p.h. and setting fastest lap, at 79.4 m.p.h. Salvadori kept third place for Baird's 2.7 Ferrari although hotly pursued throughout by Wharton in the Mk.II Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash. This was a stirring race, and Scott-Russell drove splendidly to keep one of the Mk.1 Frazer-Nashes ahead of Holt's XK120C Jaguar. The XK120s of Mort and Bill Dobson had a slight head-to-tail collision, without stopping, but in a field which ranged from XK120C to 30/98 the standard of driving was notably high.
Another splendid race followed—Charterhall really did provide them!—the Formula II race over 40 laps. A silence in memory of John Cobb preceded it and was reverently observed by all save those warming up their cars, who were unaware of what was happening—a pity the silence was not timed for when they were on the grid, when all engines would have been cut.
Wharton led away in his Cooper-Bristol but after a lap Poore had the low, compact Connaught in first place. Wharton held on determinedly and led again on laps seven and eight, after which Poore repassed him. Alan Brown had been running third in the Cooper-Bristol, some way behind the duellists. Alas, Wharton retired on lap 10, and Moss now came up into second place in the G-type E.R.A.-Bristol. This held from lap 10 until McAlpine's Connaught passed Stirling on lap 16. Mike Oliver now ran fourth with the third Connaught, so E.R.A. was the meat in the Connaught sandwich. Brown meanwhile fell back and the Cooper coasted in on lap 33 with its inside badly mixed up after the timing chains had come adrift.
The remainder of the race was enormously exciting because Oliver clearly decided that a 1, 2, 3 victory for Connaught would be a Good Thing. He pressed Stirling harder and harder, sliding snakily on his corners in the effort and, after another car had made it inexpedient to go by the E.R.A. at his first attempt, he took his chance out of Paddock Bend on the very last lap, and that 1, 2, 3 finish belonged to Connaught. Fine show, Mike! Poore averaged 80.89. McAlpine 80.09 and Oliver 79.93 m.p.h.. 34.6 and 6.6 sec., respectively, separating the three green cars. The timekeepers presented Tony Gaze with fastest lap, but, as he was in a 1950-type H.W.M. and was never in the picture, this can be discounted, splendidly as Tony drives.
Kenneth McAlpine deserves every credit for sponsoring work on the Connaughts which has brought them to their present eminent position in British Formula II racing. Poore drove very neatly, shifting himself in his seat after the Paddock Bend bump each lap, where the Connaught's wheels left the ground, whereas those of Moss' E.R.A. did not. Oliver finished with the carburetter cowling loose and petrol seeping out of it.
The pace never slackened at Charterhall, for next came a 25-lap Formula III race, equally, as exciting as the others. Bob Gerard got his Cooper-Norton off smartly and led away, only to spin off at Paddock Bend and lose half a lap. John Coombs led, but only by a length at most, mostly by a mere foot or so, from Moss in his Cooper-Norton. The Beart-tuned engine kept Coombs ahead, but only just! He would glance back, always to find Stirling right on his tail. What the outcome would have been we shall never know, because after 20 laps, after being pressed particularly mercilessly by Moss, Coombs had the unpleasant experience of losing a rear wheel, which luckily missed the crowd but dented a Morris Eight as if it were cardboard! Moss spun in avoiding Coombs and Eric Brandon, who had been sitting some way behind in third place, went on to win, by 6 sec., from Moss, who restarted, Loens' Kieft-Norton taking third place. Brandon averaged 73.9 m.p.h. and Moss made fastest lap, at 76.9 m.p.h.
So we came to the last race, the 40-lap Daily Record International Trophy for Formule Libre cars—which included several sports cars! Richardson had contrived to fit a huge blower very neatly to the E.R.A. engine of his R.R.A. but was finding the boost rather high. Only two B.R.M.s ran, as Mays had let pass an opportunity to drive the third, which remained in its van.
Vandervell was confident of success for Farina. Everyone had a surprise, therefore, when Bob Gerard's evergreen 2-litre E.R.A. not only out-accelerated the field from flag-fall, but led the first four laps. Ken Wharton, lying third behind Farina, decided this state of affairs had existed long enough and slammed the B.R.M. past both E.R.A. and Thinwall Ferrari, only to spin round at Paddock Bend on lap five in the process. He restarted with his back tyres almost alight, having kept his engine going, in third place ahead of Peter Walker's Cooper-E.R.A., Parnell's B.R.M. and Bira's O.S.C.A. Parnell now faded away and Ken was B.R.M.'s sole hope. What followed will live in motor-racing history and be talked of when you and I are in our bathchairs. Farina, in the wonderfully sleek Thinwall Ferrari, took the lead on lap seven, only to retire with back-axle failure on lap 10. So Gerard was back in the lead, pursued by Wharton. Getting 6,200 r.p.rn. out of his old E.R.A. along the straights and fairly throwing it round corners, Bob also accelerated better from the corners than the B.R.M., so that he kept nicely ahead, while many of the onlookers smiled a deep, deep smile.
Gradually, of course. Wharton's superior speed along the straight told and he closed the gap, low dark-green car chasing tall, lightgreen one. After 17 laps the length of the straight separated them. By 23 laps, the gap was about four or five seconds. On lap 27 the B.R.M. went to the front but, undefeated, Gerard hung on, actually running level with Wharton along the straight, and repassing momentarily out of Paddock Bend. It was thrilling, dramatic, enormously satisfying, to see these two skilled, popular English drivers duelling on two such dissimilar cars. Whether Raymond Mays found it so satisfying we do not know. For just as it seemed Bob must take second place, Wharton spun again, this time at Tofts Trim Bend before the straight. He was quickly on again but too late—but one lap remained and he failed to catch the fantastic old E.R.A. by 5.4 seconds. Gerard averaged 82.4 m.p.h. to Wharton's 82.2 m.p.h. Immense! We only hope this victory, the greatest in Gerard's successful career, will help Joan Gerard, who has been ill since August and wasn't at Charterhall, to get well. Bob's charming cousin watched him win. After the race Gerard stood for nearly an hour signing autographs (Mays also signed a few) and making characteristically modest remarks, while his mechanics quietly put away a car which is a model of how to prepare racing machinery.
This great E.R.A./B.R.M. duel stole the race, but it is pleasing to note that the veteran Frenchman Rosier was going far better than he did at Goodwood, his blue 4½ Ferrari taking third place, 20.3 sec. behind the B.R.M., at 79.8 m.p.h. The final result of this astonishing race (bravo, Bob Gerard!) was :—
1st: F. R. Gerard (E.R.A.), 58 min. 17.2 sec. 82.4 m.p.h.
2nd: K. Wharton (B.R.M.), 58 min. 22.6 sec. 82.2 m.p.h.
3rd: L. Rosier (Ferrari), 58 min. 42.9 sec. 79.8 m.p.h.
4th: Walker (Cooper-E.R.A.)
5th: Cabantous (Talbot)
6th: Thompson (Connaught)
Fastest lap: Farina (Thinwall Ferrari), 85 m.p.h.
We floated in the comfort of a Ford Consul to the truly excellent racing at Charterhall. This car is extremely spacious for a 1½-litre, goes round corners much better than is suggested by its comfortable suspension, and with its smooth steering and easy gear-change, is effortless to propel. It proved able to average nearly 42 m.p.h., putting almost 50 miles into the "best" hour along lorry-bound A1 and gave 22/23 m.p.g.—W. B.