To find this year’s Autosport Series-Production Sports Car Champion, Snetterton circuit staged a Three-Hour Race on October 12th, between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m.,necessitating some 2½ hours of night racing. With a fun fair, bands, barbecues and a firework display the Norfolk course was transformed into a vest-pocket Le Mans.
Fog caused practice to be curtailed but excellent weather prevailed on race-night. In spite of rather casual organisation — spectators with lighted cigarettes were able to get into the pits — no accidents happened, while the series-production sports cars proved notably reliable and “Mr. Lucas” well up to the job of lighting their way in the darkness.
With seven non-starters who didn’t turn up for practice, eliminating some interesting cars, 23 cars remained. Six were Lotus-Fords, all having Buckler close-ratio gears, Coakley and Lawry using Ford heads, Prior an Aquaplane, Walker a Willment, Parkes and Barnard the Elva o.h. conversion. Parkes and Walker had tail-finned bodies. Dixon, MacKenzie, Randall and Fitzwilliam/Carnegie drove M.G.MGAs, the last-named the 1956 winner of the Championship, with normal brakes. Dixon’s had twin Marchal Majestic spot-lamps. Goddard-Watts had a 328-c.c.Berkeley with Lucas Le Mans lamps stuck up on stalks. Its compression-ratio was up to 8.5 to 1. Ford ran an Elva-Ford with two tiny headlamps.
In the over-1,500-c.c. class, Rudd was much fancied with the A.C. Ace-Bristol, with disc front brakes, Bekaert his C-type Jaguar, Dalton his disc-braked Austin-Healey 100S, Hanson a sister car, with dome extensions over its lamps, Cutler a Healey Silverstone, Wilcocks, North and Taylor Triumph TRs, Wilcocks’ with an odd nose-cowl over the headlamps and central spot-lamp. Hassell drove an A.C. Ace-Bristol, Kellett an Austin-Healey and Bond the ex-Utley Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash.
When the flag fell Walker’s yellow Lotus was left stationary as the others performed a Le Mans start in the dusk, Barnard’s Lotus leading Rudd and Hanson. Walker received a push start and was penalised one lap.
Rudd’s A.C. led all the way, losing only a minute and not its lead when it paused for water. Dalton held second place until, in the last hour, Bekaert’s Jaguar speeded up and passed him, the Austin-Healey then never quite able to retrieve its earlier advantage. Walker washed out his penalty to run up to fourth place, winning the 1½-litre class and the Championship, in which Rudd was runner-up.
The Fitzwilliam M.G. lost much time at its pit with suspected fuel starvation, a fresh set of plugs failing to effect a cure. Parkes drove his Lotus fast into second place but the gasket failed and after a gallant attempt to finish, a new gasket being fitted in 16 min. 40 sec., it was eventually retired with an exhaust valve failure. Prior’s Lotus had already retired with big-end trouble and Kellett’s Austin-Healey was thought to have enlarged big-ends, but after taking on oil it continued. The third retirement was Coakley’s yellow Lotus, which had shed a wheel in practice, had no rear lamp, and in the race suffered from clutch slip.
Hassell’s A.C. had a rear wheel disintegrate at Coram Corner; he drove in on the brake drum and another wheel was fitted, but the fuel tank was damaged, necessitating frequent refuelling stops.
The race concluded with only three retirements out of 23 starters — an excellent display of reliability. Night racing has considerable appeal and someone should find it worth while to set about organising a 12-hour race, say from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., next year. Barnard’s Lotus and Bond’s Frazer-Nash enlivened the latter part of the evening with a duel, to the eventual advantage of the Lotus. The Berkeley not only finished but did so ahead of the sick Austin-Healey, which was pushed over the line, and three-wheeled A.C. — excellent publicity for this British key-ring sports car. The official results were not released until 1¾ hours after Rudd had crossed the finishing line.
1st: K. Rudd (A.C. Ace-Bristol) 234.137 miles 78.05 m.p.h.
2nd: J. Bekaert (Jaguar C-type) 229.989 miles 76.36 m.p.h.
3rd: T. Barnard (Lotus-Ford) 228.244 miles 76.08 m.p.h.
Up to 1½-litres and Autosport Champion: I. Walker (Lotus Ford).
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