Vanwall Successes at Castle Combe
Harry Schell Wins Two Races for Vandervell and Sets Lap Record to 90 m.p.h.
The Bristol M.C. & L.C.C., at the Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire, achieved distinction on October 1st in having its International Race Meeting broadcast and televised. Although the works Lancia/Ferraris and Maserati had returned to Italy and Hawthorn was deemed too expensive in the ex-Bira Maserati, a good entry was obtained. The club, with its unspectacular but efficient organisation, sensible programme and excellent p.a. commentary, proved fully capable of putting over this meeting, and it was unfortunate that only a small attendance of spectators was present in the warm autumn sunshine. Mrs. Kathleen Maurice, who owns Castle Combe, also owns a Frazer-Nash fixed-head coupé, so the club operates in the right atmosphere.
October 1st was a day of records, Schell, besides winning two races in Vanwall cars, setting the lap record to 90 m.p.h., or 0.33 m.p.h. faster than the old lap record held by Wharton in a Mk. II B.R.M., excellent augury for Vanwall successes in G.P. races next year. Ivor Bueb won no fewer than three races in Cooper-Norton and Cooper-Climax cars, and Salvadori, without distinguishing himself otherwise, put the Castle Combe sports-car lap record to 85.58 m.p.h., 2.57 m.p.h. faster than Parnell’s former record, also in an Aston Martin DB3S. Jim Russell defeated Bueb in the second 500-c.c. race, in which Colin Davis put the F. III lap record to 84.71 m.p.h. in Beart’s Cooper-Norton, bettering Russell’s old Cooper record by 1.6 m.p.h. The new B.R.M. did not run, the Owen organisation bringing only their Maserati for Peter Collin to drive and a Mk. II V16 1½-litre B.R.M. for Flockhart. The former soon expired and the latter had to be content with following the second of Mr. Vandervell’s Vanwalls in the Formale Libre race, in which Gerard in his very fast Cooper-Bristol easily disposed of Leston, who was having his first taste of F. I racing in Moss’ Maserati.
First 500 Race — F.III Cars — 44 Miles
Colin Davis, who never quite seems to get there, but will, made a great bid to win in the Francis Beart Cooper, but after leading for three laps and putting the F. III lap record to 84.71 m.p.h., he was overtaken by a determined Bueb and finally lost a wheel, which injured a girl spectator. The same thing fell off at Aintree and no doubt Sammy has since had words with Colin about this.
Bueb looked to be established in the lead, but Jim Russell challenged strongly and led for six laps, was passed, regained the lead but, on lap 15, retired, Bueb then leading the race from Boshier-Jones and J. K. Hall. Don Parker, whose bolt has been shot since he left off his Beart tuning, held fourth place for some distance but was passed by S. Lewis-Evans and D. Taylor before the finish. Retirements included Lones, Brackenbury, etc.
Two-Litre Trophy Race — Sports Cars up to 2,000 c.c. — 36.8 Miles
A splendid field took the Le Mans start. Les Leston in the Connaught had the race absolutely in his wallet when the engine lost power, and he fell right back. In five of the 20 laps he had lapped back-marker Piper’s Lotus-M.G. but his lead evaporated after 15 laps and Bueb came home to his second win, in a Cooper-Climax, after a hard fight to pass Colin Chapman’s Lotus-Climax, which finished second, ahead of Salvadori in a Lister-Bristol — how these 1,100-c.c. Climax-engined cars travel! The race contained an imposing number of aerodynamic Lotus-Climax, seven in all, backed up by Lotus-Bristol, Lotus-Connaught and Lotus-MG. cars, of which Cunane’s cream Lotus-M.G. spun twice on the smooth grass at Old Paddock Bend, promptly resuming the race.
Second 500 Race — F.III Cars — 27.6 Miles
In this race Russell made no mistakes and his Cooper-Norton led all the way, Russell crouched over the wheel, while Bueb chased him, also crouched and looking sideways occasionally. Colin Davis, who had resumed four wheels, disposed of Parker’s Kieft-Norton in six laps and later Boshier-Jones also passed Parker.
Avon Trophy Race — F.1 — 101.2 Miles
Hawthorn (Lancia) and Flockhart (2 ½-litre B.R.M.) were not present but to make up for this Harry Schell drove a Vanwall and Gould had his early works 250F Maserati. Schell drove splendidly, leading all the way and putting ever more space between himself in the British car and Gould in the Italian one. Peter Collins did his usual meteoric drive, although unable to practice in the Owen-modified Maserati but it blew up on him after 11 of the 55 laps, when he was lying second, from the back row of the starting-grid; Gould now moved up, and behind him Gerard drove his over-bored Cooper-Bristol absolutely on the limit in third place, for he had had no great difficulty in disposing of Salvadori, in the Maserati, who is becoming erratic. Peter Walker was having gearbox trouble in Bob Walker’s Connaught, and no works Connaughts were running. Rosier’s blue Maserati tagged along in fifth place until the rear suspension gave trouble after 20 laps. The race then became a procession, with Schell demonstrating virtuosity, Gould being careful, Gerard going all out and Salvadori dropping farther and farther back. In the course of the race Schell set the lap record to exactly 90 m.p.h.
C. A. S. Brooks led the 2-litre contingent in the ex-Rob Walker F.II Connaught belonging to Riseley-Pritchard, ahead of Graham Whitehead in E. W. Dolt’s Connaught and L. Gibson in another F.II Connaught.
Invitation Sports-Car Race — Sports Cars up to 2,000 c.c. — 27.6 Miles
Colin Chapman’s Lotus-Climax led for two laps, then Bueb in his Cooper-Climax and Leston in the Connaught took advantage of a spin to go into first and second places, until the Connaught’s trouble returned and it fell back. Bueb drove splendidly, being especially neat, on a line all his own, through Old Paddock Bend, but Chapman recovered splendidly to come in second, after falling to eighth place on the third lap out of 15. Jopp’s Lotus-M.G. took third place, followed by Jack Sears’ Lister-Bristol. A closely-fought battle took place between Alan Moore’s Lister-Bristol, Emery in a Lotus-Climax and Dick Steed in yet another Lotus-Climax, Steed getting past both his rivals going into Tower Corner on the last lap, to finish sixth behind Leston’s sick Connaught.
Redex nternational Trophy — Unlimited Sports — 36.8 Miles
Here we had a very instructive race. Salvadori got well away ahead in the Aston Martin DB3S, proving that he still drives well when his car is taking him to victory. A vast distance in arrears George Ahecassis took the H.W.M.-Jaguar along in second place, with Louis Rosier’s blue Monza 750S Ferrari doing all it could to close, but always a corner loomed up and it failed to pass. This order looked like holding, but the Aston Martin retired on lap 18 at Quarry Corner, giving George the race, with the old French ace only 0.2 sec. behind him. By dint of a very courageous drive, Cunningham-Reid got home third in an old-style H.W.M.-Jaguar, passing Mackay-Frazer’s red Monza 3-litre Ferrari by sheer fast driving. Lones’ blue 2-litre Maserati, which had won its class in the T.T., challenged the big Ferrari seriously for fifth place at the end. Maude’s Milan-entered Gigi Plate XK120 Jaguar with C/I) modifications retired and after Mrs. Vickers had been baulked on lap one by Sargent’s XK120C-engined Jaguar she led him for m.ost of the rice, but at the tail .end. Surprisingly, Duncan Hamilton’s D-type Jaguar never got higher than fourth place and retired after Cunningham-Reid’s H.W.M. had gone by, and soon after Hamilton’s other D-type, driven by Head, also stopped, when in seventh place. Are they worn Out, Duncan ?
“Empire News” Trophy — Formule Libre — 36.8 Miles
Vandervell produced another Vanwall for Schell to drive and he ran right away, lapping only 0.25 m.p.h. slower than before. Flockhart came round in the lead on the first lap in Owen’s wailing Mk. II V16 B.R.M., but Schell forced his way by before Tower Corner. Leston was having a go in Moss’ grey Maserati but Gerard couldn’t be held off and after a prodigious run got by Leston on lap 13, after which Leston seemed to give up G.P. driving, falling farther and farther back. Gerard couldn’t, however, catch the B.R.M., which he has done before now at this circuit; Flockhart was changing up just as he went over the finish line on each lap. Richardson spun his R.R.A. at Tower Corner but was restarted by marshals and thereafter pursued Emery, who was noticeably sparing in “wheel-twirling” in the G.P. Erneryson.
Truly, it had been Schell’s, and Bueb’s, day.
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After watching the prizes being presented by the Bristol Club’s popular President, Dick Caesar, the crowds streamed happily away, no doubt with every intention of inscribing Castle Combe firmly in their 1956 diaries. A one-way traffic system, not subsequently signposted, led us home along delightfully deserted roads via Malmesbury, Cricklade and the outskirts of Swindon, but when we rejoined the Bath Road at Hungerford the race-traffic was still going through, from a noisy aerodynamic Lotus and Mrs. Vickers, now a passenger in her C-type Jaguar, to a young lady enthusiast alone in her Austin Seven Special. A fitting finale to a very full season. — W. B.