Mercedes and Maserati matters

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148

Sir,

I am glad to have Mr. Walsh’s assurance that the Mercedes driven by Caracciola at Shelsley Walsh was an SSK, but Mr. Walsh has got his other facts quite wrong. Earl Howe’s best Mercedes time was not his 46.8 sec., equal to Caracciola. Lord Howe achieved 46.2 sec, in 1934 in that same car, though it was his long chassis SS.

One tends to forget how very fast the “old man” was, a veritable charger. In the first -Shelsley Walsh meeting in 1932, when he was in his 46th year, he made fastest time of the day in his Type 51 Bugatti, beating all the regular hill-climb aces.

Mr. Walsh is wrong also in suggesting that Sir Henry Birkin did not own or drive a Maserati until his fatal drive at Tripoli in 1933. I well remember his first drive in the 2.3 GP Maserati at Brooklands in 1931. The article by Philip Turner recalling Clive Gallop’s delivery of that car from Italy is absolutely correct. In those days I spent a lot of time at Brooklands and was a Pit Marshal at the LCC Relay Grand Prix and I remember that just before, or after, a practice session for that race Clive Gallop appeared in the paddock with that Maserati for Birkin for testing. Birkin arrived in his Speed Six Bentley; typically he was clad in immaculate light grey flannels and checked sports jacket and wore a matching cloth cap. Somehow or other he could not find his white racing overalls and racing helmet; there was much rummaging around in the back of the Bentley. No, Gallop had not got it, either. Tim Birkin was getting rather cross; apparently it was someone else’s fault ! Anyhow Birkin set off round the Track in the Maserati, wearing his checked cap back-to-front ti Ia Etencelin, and with his flannels tucked into his socks. He only did a few laps and did not seem too happy. I came up to the car when he returned to the Paddock and remember him climbing out of the cockpit saying with his typical stammer “Ddddam ddddirty car-llllook at my ttttrousers!”

Not the easiest person to get on with, a bit spoiled I suppose, utterly charming when everything was right, but very easily put out. I was down at the Track some days later when he first raced the “Maser”, at an ordinary BARC meeting. He was very much on form and looked and drove like everybody’s hero, a new Mountain Lap Record-75.21 m.p.h.

To supplement my memory on all these things, I have checked the precise dates and times from Bill Boddy’s “Brooklands” and Austin Mays’ “Shelsley Walsh”, as to get history right is so important!

Kineton A. R. RIVERS FLETCHER