High speed trials

Author

Bill Boddy

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High-Speed Trials, in which competitors attempt to match average speeds set by the organisers (as distinct from racing), are an excellent way of learning the speed-game, as the VSCC recognises by holding such an event at its first Silverstone meeting each year.

The idea is not new, the Junior Car Club and the Motor Cycling Club having held similar trials at Brooklands before the war. The former ran an ingenious one-hour run for cars up to 1500cc, and it is rather interesting to compare the speeds expected in the last vintage year with those set by the VSCC today.

The JCC stipulated 33 mph for 750cc cars, 35 mph for those up to 1100cc, and 38 mph for 1500cc class competitors. The VSCC is seemingly more lenient, asking 21.4 mph from 750cc cars, 22.5 mph for opts 1100cc, 24.6 mph at 1101-2000cc, 26.8 mph at 2001-3000cc, and 27.9 mph for competitors of over 3000cc, if my sums are correct (PVT cars have to go correspondingly quicker to get an award). However, two compulsory artificial pit-stops are required of VSCC drivers and their pit-crews — another excellent way of learning about motor racing!

The Silverstone Club Circuit used by the VSCC, with its Copse, Beckett’s and Woodcote corners, is probably faster than the track-cum-“road” course devised by the JCC: although cars would have been flat-out, or as near to it as deemed necessary, along the Finishing Straight, round the Byfleet banking and down the Railway Straight until it was time to brake for the narrow gate into the Paddock return road, there was a 15 mph speed-limit on the road part near the Members’ Bridge and no passing to the start of the 1-in-4/1-in-5 Test Hill descent (since Brooklands never closed, the Members’ Hill being a popular venue for young chaps and their girls during the evenings, how the JCC persuaded the authorities to place the aerodrome and Thomson & Taylor’s works “out of bounds” during the event is a mystery!).

In spite of this, passing was not unknown on the twisty road bit and someone always skidded into the hedge. In 1930, two A7s and a Derby exceeded the speed-limit, and others were excluded for stopping in this nostopping area!

The JCC gave standard awards to those who qualified, “golds” to those who exceeded the set speeds by 20%; the VSCC is lenient in giving awards for lower than the required averages if no-one in the class achieves them. In the 1930 JCC High-Speed Trial “golds” were gained by six A7s, including Elwes’ blown car and the “hot” Chummy of George Chaplin, eight MG Midgets (one driven by CGH Dunham, another by the Earl of March), three Riley 9s, three Salmsons, two Amilcars, Bugatti, Aston Martin, Frazer Nash and Lea-Francis, and standard awards by an A7, two Standards and a Windsor. But retirements numbered four A7s, an Amilcar, MG Midget, Triumph, Riley 9, Aston Martin, Lea-Francis and Standard.

At this year’s VSCC Run a Bentley, a 12/50 Alvis and two Brooklands Rileys qualified among the pre-1931 cars, and two Frazer Nashes and a Riley 9 retired.

The MCC High-Speed Trial was run over Brooklands’ outer circuit, an opportunity for a glorious bit of flat-out motoring for those who disregarded theses averages. Fastest on this 60-minute run in 1930 was CH Wood’s 61/2-litre Speed-Six Bentley at 91.38 mph, followed by Lord de Clifford’s Lagonda Rapier at 82.04 mph. But the officials insisted it was not a race!

So, you see, even High Speed Trials have their niche in history. Perhaps realisation of this might increase entries next year? WB

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