Lap Records Fall at Castle Combe



The Final Castle Combe Race Meeting, held in glorious autumnal weather by the Bristol M.C. & L.C.C. on October 3rd, was notable for excellent racing, a record crowd, judging by the congestion at the exit afterwards, many new class lap records, a new circuit record of 89.77 m.p.h. established by Ken Wharton (B.R.M.), who beat Gerard’s old E.R.A. record by 3.52 m.p.h., and a nasty accident involving Stirling Moss. 

The informal yet efficient organisation, Bristol-fashion, and a sensible commentary by Wilfred Kay and Derek Burston, ensured the success of the meeting. Several races had seriously depleted “fields” due to non-starters, but this is to be expected in the autumn and did not races at Brooklands’ club meetings in the nineteen-twenties often have a mere trio of runners and still draw a crowd?

The course had been resurfaced at the approach to Quarry Corner, but was loose and still far from smooth. A grandstand now graces the starting area and the circuit, of 1.84 miles to a lap, has much affinity to a genuine road course. It is indeed an excellent venue and we hope it will continue to flourish under the enthusiastic landowner, Mrs. K. R. Maurice, next year.

Racing on October 3rd opened with Heat 1 of the Formula III race, over seven laps. Don Parker’s Kieft got away smartly and he led all the way, averaging the excellent speed of 78.41 m.p.h., to finish 12.6 sec. ahead of A. Loens on another Kieft-Norton. He, too, had held his place throughout, but for third position there was a stern tussle, Fenning’s Staride-Norton passing Tom Clarke’s C.B.2-J.A.P. on lap six, only to be re-passed before the finish. Ebdon’s Iota-Norton ran badly, to finish last, and Spiers (Cooper-J.A.P.) tended to run wide at tricky Old Paddock Bend. Parker lapped within 0.77 m.p.h. of Moss’ class lap record.

The second heat followed, Gerard getting away first, and Leston, from the second row of the grid for once, passing him to lead on lap one, until Moss took the lead at Tower Corner. Thereafter Stirling never lost his advantage and he won at 78.91 m.p.h., breaking his own class lap record by 0.61 m.p.h. — the first to fall on this pleasant afternoon. It now stands at 81.19 m.p.h. Leston (Leston) came in second, but 11.6 sec. behind, and Gerard (Cooper) was third. On the second lap T. J. Bennett lost control of his Cooper-J.A.P. at Old Paddock Bend. It rolled right over and only then half-threw the driver out. He quickly got up, but it seemed he must be badly hurt. Fortunately, after abrasions had been dressed by the doctor, who was soon on the scene in his Jaguar, Bennett was able to sit in his battered car and be towed to the Paddock — a lucky man.

The Sports Cars over-1,500 c.c. scratch race, over 10 laps, followed. This was a Reg Parnell walk-over, his DB3(S) Aston Martin, the car which won this year’s Empire Trophy Race, pulling out an ever-increasing lead over Salvadori in the Gilby Engineering Co.’s 2-litre Maserati, a car similar to, but neater than, the DB3, Maserati having introduced this all-enveloping, bulbous bodywork. Parnell averaged 81.43 m.p.h. and handsomely split the old class record, jointly held by Ian Stewart (Jaguar), H. A. Mitchell’s Frazer-Nash, and Oscar Moore’s H.W.M.-Jaguar — the DB3(S) added 3.01 m.p.h. to it.  A long way behind these two up-to-the-minute sports/racing cars, Wharton in a centre-seat Kieft-Bristol held third place for seven laps, until passed by Graham Whitehead’s original-type DB3 Aston Martin, which a lap earlier had passed Head’s Type C Jaguar and a lap before that had disposed of Mitchell in the works de Dion Manx-tailed Frazer-Nash. Wharton’s Kieft held fourth place to the end.

The Formula II 20-lap (36.8 miles) scratch race promised well, but suffered from a lot of non-starters. Moss’ Cooper-Alta being unready he ran a Cooper-J.A.P. 1,100, which seems a rather improbable mount with which to take on Connaughts in a circuit race. Salvadori led away in the works carburetter-less Connaught, but Stirling was in second place ahead of Gerard’s Cooper-Bristol and Gould in his Cooper-Bristol, followed by Tony Rolt in Rob Walker’s Connaught mit carburetters. On the second lap Gerard had passed Moss’ Cooper-J.A.P. and Rolt had taken Gould, to hold fourth place, Salvadori still comfortably in the lead. Going into Quarry Corner on the third lap it seemed that Gerard altered his line slightly on the bumpy surface and as his Cooper-Bristol slid Moss had to move over to avoid him. Rolt had closed right up and his Connaught struck the Cooper-J.A.P., which rolled over, throwing Moss out. He apparently scrambled up and ran to safety but was quickly removed in an ambulance to Bristol Infirmary, suffering a broken knee-cap, broken collar bone, abrasions and shock — an unhappy ending to a not very successful season. Rolt was unhurt, his car only slightly damaged, but he was out of the race — hard luck after the crash the previous weekend at Goodwood, which wasn’t his fault either. The blow from the Connaught obviously impressed Moss, for he was reported by the Sunday Express as saying it weighed 3 tons.

This incident let Gould into third place, pursued by Wharton, whose yellow-nosed Cooper-Bristol seemed off form. McAlpine, driving the carburetter-less Connaught Flockhart should have handled, retired with a run big-end, and Simpson’s Rover-B.M.W. was too sick to motor fast.

The race looked a walk-over for Salvadori and Connaught, but his car gave trouble after six laps, and Gerard again found himself leading a race on sheer driving merit and proper car preparation. On this seventh lap Wharton made a splendid effort and took Gould going into Old Paddock Bend, but Gould’s Cooper-Bristol was more than a match for his and this up-and-coming West-Country driver finished second, well ahead, but 33.8 sec. behind the flying Gerard, who raised Salvadori’s old Ferrari class lap record by 1.54 m.p.h. So a race that should have been Connaught’s became a Cooper-Bristol walk-over. Leston’s Cooper-J.A.P. 1,100 retired.

In the absence of Moss, Don Parker had a walk-over in the final of the Formula III race, run over 10 laps. He averaged 78.87 m.p.h., but although in his first race he had shown signs of setting a new class lap record later, his best lap was actually at 80.4 m.p.h., or 0.79 m.p.h. slower than Stirling’s new record. All through Leston pressed Parker hard, and as the Kieft-Norton crossed the line under the chequered flag the Leston-Norton was a mere 0.2 of a second behind! Moreover, 0.8 sec. behind came Andre Loens’ Kieft-Norton to take third place. What a finish!

The Formule Libre racing cars were a motley “field” on account of non-starters but no one cared, least of all Raymond Mays when the thrilling sounds of Wharton’s B.R.M. sang round Castle Combe. He led all the way, driving magnificently, to break Gerard’s E.R.A. lap record by no less than 3.52 m.p.h., leaving it at 89.77 m.p.h. His 15-lap average was 87.49 m.p.h., in itself higher than the former lap record. What a shame Hawthorn and the Thinwall Ferrari were not present — although we are not suggesting that Hawthorn should show up at minor meetings. Gerard came along gallantly in his famous E.R.A. but could not so much as keep Wharton in his sights, finishing 28.8 sec. behind the yowling B.R.M. This B.R.M. victory reminded one of a famous court jester reduced, in old age, to playing small parts at children’s parties. Gould upheld the promise he has shown all this season by leading Tony Rolt to third place — indeed, his Cooper-Bristol was only 0.8 sec. behind Gerard’s blown 2-litre E.R.A. Rolt’s Connaught did get by Gould on lap 11, but by lap 12 Gould had re-passed. Graham Whitehead’s E.R.A. slowed to a crawl after six laps and Ross’ 6C Maserati boiled—not, perhaps, because it was going so slowly!

There remained the 1,500-c.c. sports car 10-lap race, and a race this was. There was a Le Mans-style start, in which Jim Mayers got off first in his Kieft-M.G. A lap later the determined Gammon in his M.G. was leading Mayers but one of its sorely-tried wire wheels collapsed and after three laps Gould led in his Cooper-M.G. Mayers was back in the lead on lap seven, after Gould’s M.G. engine seized up and he had coasted off the course at Tower Corner. Behind Cliff Davis in his Cooper-M.G. (Joy 500) was just leading Chapman’s Lotus, the latter closing up on corners and looking a shade the more stable of the two. Thus they finished, Mayers gaining a much-needed win for the Kieft at 74.05 m.p.h., 8 sec. ahead of Davis, who led Chapman by a mere second. Mayers broke Davis’ old class lap record by no less than 3.26 m.p.h., leaving it at 78.85 m.p.h. Steed’s J.A.G. went onto the grass several times at Old Paddock Bend, and the obviously home-built Parven of J. A. E. Parker trailed a tail panel on the ground.

Thus ended an excellent meeting. The course patrol cars were a Bentley Continental lent by Bentley Motors Ltd. (who, seem shy of letting Motor Sport test it!) and a diesel Borgward Hansa 1,800 lent by Coventry & Jeffs, Ltd., of Bristol. — W.B.