Vintage Le Mans
Oh dear, did three nasty gentlemen beat D.S. J.’s old travelling companion Stirling Moss at the Le Mans 50th Anniversary race! Whilst it is well known that attack is the best form of defence, I really do think the reasons given in his European Letter in the September issue for not reporting the event rather feeble — perhaps the fact that he wasn’t there would have been more truthful. I am sure he had good reasons for being elsewhere but he could hardly have stayed away because he knew in advance that the race was going to be won by “Silverstone VSCC Racers” when the Delahayes, on paper at any rate, should have had a good chance of winning — certainly I did not expect to beat them.
Had the first three cars been the type of VSCC special that bore no resemblance to any of the cars that actually competed at Le Mans, D.S. J.’s comments would have been valid. But this is hardly true of the winning Bentley which, for all the miracles of lightening which Hamish Morten has achieved, still looks like a Bentley and was driven to and from the circuit with two passengers and a considerable amount of camping equipment. Admittedly it goes a great deal faster than Bentleys have any right to do but I am sure this added to the crowd’s pleasure. Anyway there was a good selection of other Bentleys present.
Anthony Blight’s Talbot BGH 2.3 also goes very fast, but then it always did. I believe it lapped Brooklands at very nearly 130 m.p.h. in 1937 or thereabouts and it certainly wasn’t doing as much as that down the Mulsanne straight, so it is rather silly to suggest it is a “special” constructed to win VSCC “free-for-all” races. At any rate the car looks completely original, was also driven to and from the circuit with a full complement of passengers and luggage, and I do not imagine more than a handful of the spectators would have been able to distinguish between it and the Talbot toss whose Le Mans performances it was commemorating. Finally, my own BMW 328. Since D.S.J. was the author of the “Profile” on this model, I find it all the more surprising that he could disparage it as a special. He must have seen the car in the Paddock many times at Other meetings and would therefore know that the body is completely standard and that it has original wheels and the right size tyres. Moreover the car is, if anything, actually heavier than standard and is not a lightweight version like, I believe, his own competition 328. He must also know that this model in standard form was road-tested by AutoCar in 1937 and produced a 0 -60 time of 9.5 seconds. The team cars at Le Mans in 1937/39 were considerably faster than this and I do not suppose for a moment I could have kept up with them. How is my car then not representative of cars that actually ran at Le Mans in those years? It is identical in appearance to them and has no more (and probably less) performance. Furthermore, if it was built to win VSCC races as stated, I can only say it has been singularly unsuccessful to date, since it has never won a single VSCC race. The final straw was the reference to Silverstone which it thoroughly dislikes and I have never been able to get below 1-20 there. I am sorry that it does go faster than the Lagonda in which D.S.J. was pictured in the September issue but that is only a re-enactment of history!
Letchampstead. S. F. Phillips.
(Interesting, too,. that, while some people point out that the Morten Bentley is non-standard in having a 4.1/2-litre engine in a 3-litre chassis, that is exactly what Bentley Motors used at Le Mans in 1927. But why did Morten’s road-equipped Bentley leave Prescott on a trailer? — ED.)