Seaside Speed

The Vintage Sports Car Club achieved another ambition on October 4, that of holding a seaside speed-trial.

In the 1920s and earlier, a great many seaside resorts attracted visitors by having such events on their marine promenades or on the sands. Weston-super-Mare, now just off the M5, started in 1913 (with a one-mile sand speed-meeting, at which Hands’ 25/50 Talbot made FTD) and it was here the VSCC went for its first seaside sprint. It was made very welcome by the Woodspring DC, and the Burnham-on-Sea MC which ran the main event, sponsored by Honda agent The Hutton Motor Co.

The 1/2km standing-start sprint was run over the slightly-curved Marine Parade, and an electronic time-recorder was a much-appreciated feature at the start-line. Cars ran singly and there were virtually no delays, although each of the 91 entries had two runs.

Jaye’s Attenborough Special seized its blower-drive in practice but frantic work produced a cure, and it then made FTD in 15.65 sec, beating Bill Morris in ERA “Hanuman II” by 0.74 sec. Among the non-starters was Sweet’s MG (which DSJ was to drive), its owner not having time to comply with the ridiculous silencing regulations now insisted on at sprints; but David Roscoe lent Jenks his 4.3 Alvis instead, 3500 rpm in the gears sufficing from the big engine. Practice saw the Djinn laid on its side for repairs (but it non-started) and the JAP engine removed from the Morgan/GN.

VSCC President Roger Collings opened the course with his 1912 Brixia-Zust, carrying the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. If the sea was far distant the weather was warm, and a spacious grass paddock had been provided, the whole atmosphere pleasantly informal.

Racing began with the up-to-11/2-litre sports-car class, which Selwyn-Smith’s Interceptor Frazer Nash won from Hall’s Riley Sprite. In the over 11/2-litre sports-car category not only did Birrane’s 1928 41/2-litre Bentley notch up another overall vintage class-victory, but it also made fastest vintage time, in 19.45 sec — too much for Matthews’ Delahaye 135’s 19.63 sec. Of the more specialised up-to-11/2-litre sports-cars , Whenman’s blown MG won, at 21.4 sec, from Keen’s Lagonda Rapier (its supercharger fed by a SU carburettor) with 22.49 sec. Best vintage car was Owens’ A7.

The well-supported class for special big sportscars saw Summerfield’s evergreen Avon-Bentley win easily (16.56 sec) from Spollen’s blown 2.7-litre Alfa Romeo (18.48 sec), with fastest vintage time going to Grant-Peterkin’s 3/41/2 Bentley (22.75 sec). Both DSJ and Roscoe were quicker than Chant in the other 4.3 Alvis “Brutus”, the former by 0.01 sec.

There was a speed trap in operation, terminal pace varying from 42 mph for an A7 to 76 mph for Whenman’s MG (DSJ had done 16.45 sec and 95 mph on his motorcycle that morning).

Of the small racing cars, Bill Morris in ERA R12B was quickest, chased by Gray’s Hardy Special (16.39 sec against 17.55 sec) but Gray was consistent on both runs, whereas Bill had a slow first run. The Morgan/GM “Salome” misbehaved for Footitt, having to be towed back, and was not in much better mood on Freddie Giles’ second run, but 22.76 sec on his first flight gave him the vintage section. Odell’s Riley was regarding the sands nostalgically, having raced on them many years ago.

Lord Raglan, with the only Bugatti present, his red T51, ran second to FTD-man Jaye in the Historic Racing Car class with 16.67 sec; Martin Morris, sans bottom gear on ERA R11B was just 0.14 sec slower. Ghosh in the rebuilt TT Vauxhall won his section (19.70 sec, after a notably consistent show in which a mere 0.07 sec separated his times) while Danaher clocked 19.84 sec in the impressive 5.1-litre Delage “La Torpille”, although outclassed by Spices’ Alvis Speed-20 and White’s 2-litre Dixon Riley. Which reminds me that after an exciting tow to this venue in the Butterworth Special behind its owner’s 41/2-litre Bentley in 1949, we arrived at our hotel at midnight, just in time to see two waiters escorting Freddie Dixon out of the back door — the party was over!

Reverting to 1987, the Veteran and Edwardian class had 19 entries, of which Wooley’s 1907 28/60 Mercedes two-seater won on handicap from Sally Collings on the 1903 Mercedes — the latter having seized its new pistons in practice, necessitating removal of the rear cylinder block in the paddock. Cecil Bendall’s side-radiator 1903 1.9-litre Renault 10/12 was third on handicap after failing on its first run. Quickest, in fact, had been Roger Collings in Liddell’s Straker Squire (23.36 sec), from his daughter on his Mercedes (25.99 sec) and Nick Ridley in his beautifully-restored 1914 TT Sunbeam (26.54 sec) wearing the correct registration number DA 5770 and running-in its new crankshaft.

Gordon’s Grannie A7/JAP represented the sprint specials, doing 25.78 sec after he had wrestled it into bottom gear, and an interesting car was Moores’ 1932 TT Vernon-Crossley (27.83 sec).

A splendid event, which must be repeated annually! WB