Slippery Lappery

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Bill Boddy

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The forecast said rain, and rain there was! So during the Shuttleworth & Nuffield Trophies Meeting at Donington Park on September 19, finale of the 1987 VSCC racing season, spins and wild slides at the chicane provided additional entertainment. Most older cars used to oversteer, but many owners have since made them understeerers, as the slippery conditions clearly demonstrated . . .

The Brooklands Society Trophy eight-lap scratch race came first, in which the Bentley-Royce V12 was never really challenged, although Burrell’s useful lead was eroded somewhat by Simon Smith in dad’s Super Sports Frazer Nash (now with 1.8 litres of Meadows power), with Spollon’s 21/2-litre Riley settled in third place. Dunham’s famous ex-Brooklands Alvis displayed vast understeer and Brownridge nearly lost his Wolseley Hornet at the chicane, where Clement’s Riley went straight on due to violent front-axle tramp. Burrell finished first, but was penalised for jumping the start and was relegated to third place behind Smith and Spollon — the Frazer Nash had lapped quickest, at 72.12 mph, but was only 0.3 seconds ahead of the Riley as they crossed the line.

The rain then set in, as A Smith’s 4.3 Alvis took a five-lap handicap from White’s A7 and Rowe’s Lagonda Rapier. Cook’s monoposto A7 span away its chances, stopping with radiator steaming.

In the John Holland ten-lap scratch race, deteriorating conditions did not deter the two drivers whose machinery one would expect to be very difficult in the wet. I refer to Six Harper in the Morgan Aero three-wheeler and Peter Morley in the 24-litre Bentley-Napier.

Morley, arms going from lock to lock through the chicane, drove splendidly; the aero-engined giant lead all the way, but was hotly pursued by the tiny Morgan, which displaced Dick Smith’s Frazer Nash after half distance when this other chain-driven car began to emit smoke and only just managed to take third place, in a “photo-finish” with Threlfall’s Ford oval-track racer. Meanwhile, Morley had won by two seconds from the Morgan, the best lap-speeds 64.17 and 64.23 mph respectively. John Howell in the 3-litre Sunbeam (substitute for his 16-cylinder T47 Bugatti) managed to pass Roger Collings in the 3/41/2-litre Bentley, but not Hine’s similarly-engined Bentley.

Threlfall led away in the following five-lap scratch race, but after a lap Stretton’s MG KN Special had it all buttoned up, pulling out a comfortable lead over Sparrowhawk’s big Alvin, which needed points in the MOTOR SPORT Trophy and had taken the McDowell by lap three. They finished in that order, with the other, very noisy, KN MG of Summers fourth and the rather flat-sounding Avon-Bentley fifth. Holdsworth held the wildly understeering and seemingly out-of-control Giron Alvis with skill, but Roberts could get no speed out of his TT Replica Frazer Nash.

The Pre-War S & N Trophy race was a miserable affair due to the conditions but Felton in the 3.2 monoposto Alfa Romeo built up a very considerable lead on lap one and had it all his own way thereafter, winning by 6.9 seconds from Sir John Venables-Llewelyn in his ERA R4A. Behind them came Brian Classic in ERA R2A and Bill Morris in ERA R12B — the latter finishing third only to be excluded because his helpers had given him a push-start after the one-minute signal. Classic, driving neatly, took the Nuffield Trophy as his was the first 11/2-litre car home, Ludovic Lindsay in Lady Lindsay’s ex “Bira” ERA “Remus” coming in 15.9 seconds behind.

Interest was increased by the brave appearance of Narisa Chakrabongse in her ERA R2B “Romulus”. In this her first race she was lapped twice by Felton as she drove discreetly at the back of the field, with a fastest lap of 52.23 mph. Let us hope the sun will shine when Narisa takes ERAs and other historic cars to race in Bangkok this winter, in memory of her late father Prince Chula, and his late cousin Prince “Bira” who, of course, raced “Romulus” and “Remus”.

In difficult conditions, Felton lapped Donington at 70.32 mph and averaged 68.89 mph, never putting a wheel wrong.

In the handicap which followed Brough’s Riley had wilder and wilder slides, and it was the turn of Harper’s Morgan to go straight on at the chicane, though he recovered quickly. After the credit laps had been taken into account, Brough had won from Smith’s 4.3 Alvin and Twelvetrees’ Riley.

The Allcomers’ twelve-lap scratch race, still in the wet, saw Bill Morris in the ERA “Hanuman” streak past John Harper’s Cooper at the start and drive a truly magnificent race. Making up for his previous disqualification, he kept his pre-war car ahead of the low-hung post-war F1 car for seven exciting laps before dropping back. Harper had reckoned without Felton, however, and at the end of lap eight the Alfa Romeo took up the pre-war versus post-war challenge and went past to win by 0.5 seconds, at 68.49 mph. His best lap was 71.61 mph (1.29 mph quicker than in the previous S & N Trophy race), whereas Harper’s best was 70.60 mph. Bill Morris took a very well-deserved third place behind Harper, nicely ahead of Sir John Venables-Llewelyn, whose ERA had taken him wide at the now very slippery chicane on the home run. The HWM-Jaguar spun off.

The John Goddard Memorial handicap used credit laps, and was won by Toone’s 1750 Alfa Romeo from Fox’s Delahaye and Guy Smith’s potent 31/2-litre Alvin-powered Frazer Nash — dear old Frank Lockhart lapping quickest in the venerable Rover (63.71 mph).

Brough then took another handicap race from Twelvetrees and Corliss’ A7 Ulster, the winner clocking 60.64 mph, and the racing closed with Martin Morris’ son Miles winning the final scratch matrix ERA R11B (best lap 68.54 mph) from Colborne’s 6CM Maserati and Gibbs in Charles’ C-type Connaught.

It only remained for the Ford Trophy of FoMoCo (and £150 prize money) to be presented to J Brydon, who had driven his Speed 20 Alvis to all his races and for Mrs Winifred Boddy to hand the MOTOR SPORT Cup (with prize money totalling £325) to an appreciative Rodney Felton, who had that damp afternoon improved his pointage to 101, against Sparrowhawk’s tally of 93. WB

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