THE B.R.D.C.’s 500 MILES RACE
R. T. HORTON AND J. H. BARTLETT (M.G.) WIN FINEST BROOKLANDS RACE FOR MANY YEARS AT 96.29 m.p.h.: RILEY SECOND AND TALBOT THIRD. RACE MARRED BY FATAL ACCIDENT TO CLIVE DUNFEE.
oNCE again the 500 Miles Race, organised by the British Racing Drivers’ Club, has proved to be the most interesting and keenly contested race of the year on Brooklands Track. Favoured by a fine day, the race attracted a big crowd, who were provided with the spectacle of 34 cars, nearly all capable of over 100 m.ph., fighting a long and chequered battle for victory—indeed we can safely say that we have never seen such large groups of fast cars on the track before.
Unhappily, the day was marred by a fatal accident to Clive Dunfee, on the 8-litre Bentley entered for the race by Woolf Barnato. Clive Dunfee was a popular member a few years ago of the victorious Bentley team at Le Mans and at Brooklands and his death will be deeply regretted by his many friends in the motoring world. Our readers will join us in offering our sincere sympathy to his wife and relatives.
For a whole week before the race practicing was carried on in full swing by many of the competitors, among the first arrivals being Count Czaikowski on his 2-litre Bugatti. It was hoped that two Alfa Romeos would start for the race, with Nuvolari and Borzacchini as drivers, but unfortunately a hitch occurred in the arrangements, and the cars were nonstarters, leaving Count Czaikowski the sole foreign representative. One accident happened in practice, the Invicta entered by Dudley Froy crashing badly in the hands of R. S. S. Hebeler, who was fortunately only slightly injured. After a steady downpour all day on Friday, the weather cleared up on Saturday morning, and although the sky was still overcast when the 750 c.c. unblown cars were sent away at 11 o’clock, there was every indication that the rain would keep off for the rest of the day. The only non-starter in this class was the M.G. entered by J. R. Jeffress, which was not ready in time for the race. This left five
cars on the line, of which four were M.G.’s, the remaining car being the extraordinary little Austin entered by V. W. Derrington. At the end of the 1st lap the order was, N. Black, G. Wright, S. W. B. Hailwood and G. Balmain, on J. G. C. Low’s car, all on M.G.’s, while the little Austin came trundling along in the rear. This order was not greatly altered for some time, although Low succeeded in passing Hailwood.
Half an hour later, the field was enlarged by the start of the ” blown ” 750’s, and immediately the pace grew hot. There were 5 Midgets against 3 Austins, Willis’s ” beetle ” Austin being a non starter. Everyone anticipated a great scrap between the two single seater M.G.’s, driven by G. E. T. Eyston and R. T. Horton, and at the end of the 1st lap, Horton led, followed by J. D. Barnes (Austin), D. G. Evans (M.G.), L. P. Driscoll (Austin), G. Duller (Austin), G. E. T. Eyston (M.G.), E. R. Hall (M.G.) and D. N. Letts (M.G.). So it was going to be a real M.G.—Austin tussle, with both makes in great form. Incidentally, it was good to see George Duller at the Track again— perhaps it is a sign that he will compete regularly once more next season.
Then the unblown 1,100’s, all Rileys, were given the word “Go,” and 8 more cars were added to the number of cars whining their way round the Track. At the end of lap 1, the order was C. S. Staniland, C. R. Whitcroft, ” J. Phillip,” F. W. (” Freddie “) Dixon, A. F. Ashby, W. A. Cuthbert, C. G. M. Boote and H. G. Dobbs. Then came sensation, for on the next lap the car entered by A. G. Miller, and driven by “J. Phillip,” came into his pit suffering from some trouble with his spare oil tank, which was taken out. Other early pit visitors were Dobbs, who changed his plugs and E. R. Hall (M.G.), who cut away some of his radiator cowling in order to cure a mysterious boiling defect, and Boote, who came in after a quarter of an hour badly overheating. The blown 1,100’s were started with
the unblowu l litres, the only absentee being R. J. Munday. (Thomas Special). First round was W. E. Humphreys on Widengren’s Amilcar, the one-time property of Miss Macona.chie, while Outlaw’s 4-cylinder Maserati could not be persuaded to start, and was left on the line. The next starter was Count Czaikowski, the sole entry in Class E, and he quickly set up a great pace, driving with great confidence, and having told his pit staff that he hoped to drive throughout the race single handed. Ten seconds later the 4 Talbots left and the track became fuller than ever.
The pits were still busy. attending to the wants of E. R. Hall and Bootes’ Riley, while the little Austin driven by Derrington came in for more oil. Then the hooters’ burst forth once more ; a marshal carrying a large blue flag stepped out into the Track to warn cars coming into the pits that a car was about to start ; ” Ebby ” dropped his red flag—and Earl Howe’s green Bugatti, decorated with plaques from the German Grand Prix and the Klausen Hill Climb, leapt forward to join the fray. Finally the veteran Bentley, now fitted with an 8-litre engine and a neat grey body, set off in pursuit, with Jack Dunfee at the wheel. The track now presented a magnificent sight, bunch after bunch of cars coming by in tight formation, and it became apparent that those who were present would witness a really cla,ssic race. The pace was terrific, and caused many of the weaker competitors to call frequently at the pits. Freddie Dixon came in with shock absorber trouble on his Riley, and after having removed the tail of the car discovered that the rear brackets had all broken, and so retired. Eccles’ Maserati was suffering from various troubles, including a broken petrol pressure pump, and made several stops. The Aston Martin, driven by G. Manby-Colegrave was going badly, chiefly because of a steadily dropping oil-pressure, and after several stoppages, retired at 12.40 with a
cracked sump. Then Ashby’s Riley, that long, low, orange “flat iron,” with four carburettors, two on each side, came into the pits, missing badly, and after fitting new plug leads, resumed its normal pace, only to stop a few laps later with plug trouble.
With so many cars on the Track at the same time it was only natural that passing should occasionally be a matter of some difficulty, and this trouble was increased by the amazingly high speed of the small cars. A few competitors were warned by flag marshals that they were too high on the banking and for crossing the line at the Fork, but no one was stopped. Then came another retirement, D. 0. Evans (M.G.) who had been putting up a very good show for some time, lapping at around the 100 m.p.h. mark, and being third in his class behind Horton and Eyston. He stopped on the Railway Straight, and after investigation discovered that he had fractured a piston. Talbot’s chance of the Team Prize received a blow when RoseRichards, after removing the petrol tank, discovered that the chassis frame of his car had cracked near the shock absorber biacket, but he decided to continue slowly being forced to use only the auxiliary petrol tank. Then the Hon. Brian Lewis noticed a tremor in his steering on the single seater Talbot, and found that he had a fractured front hub, but after a brief stop was out again. The Rileys, some of the M.G.’s and Austins came in to refuel, while thbigger cars continued to lap at high speed, Count Czaikowski
recording a speed of about 118 m.p.h. with Earl Howe a little faster, and the Bentley which seemed to be over-oiling slightly, doing about 125 m.p.h. At 1.30 the order was :
1. R. T. Horton (M.G. 746 c.c. S.), 102.06 m.p.h.
2. G. E. T. Eyston (M.G. 746 c.c. S.), 101.33 m.p.h. 3. Count Czaikowski (Bugatti 1,990 c.c. S.), 117. 04 m.p.h. •
4. J. Dunfee (Bentley 7,963 c.c.), 124.35 m.p.h. Then came a most unwelcome retirement, Count Czaikowski’s Bugatti coming past the pits belching smoke from its bonnet and making as the official bulletin so aptly described it ” 210 note noises.” One of the official Rileys was in trouble, the car driven by Whitcxoft and Von der Beche making repeated pit stops for plugs and magneto, and to let some oil out of the engine. All the cars gradually came in to refuel and change drivers, while Hindmarsh’s Talbot retired with big end trouble—a most unusual thing to happen in a race to these notoriously reliable cars. Leaving the pits, we went over to the short road leading on to the track at the
end of the Members Banking, in order to see how some of the faster cars were taking the famous “bump.” The Talbots were all very steady, but’ we were astonished at the way in which H. C. Hamilton, who had now taken over Earl Howe’s Bugatti, was being thrown about in the cockpit. At times the unfortunate driver seemed about to part company with the car for good, but Hamilton was quite unperturbed by this lack of comfort, and proceeded to put in a lap at 126.09 m.p.h. Then we heard a shriek of tyres on dry concrete, and beheld Norman Black gyrating towards us at great speed. Finally the car slowed down and then went nose first smartly into the retaining wall of sleepers, and bollixed backwards. Black got out, and ran back towards the Members Bridge, gesticulating to some observers to pick up the petrol tank filler spout on the Trz.clz. which had caused him to skid. At 2.30 the order was :
1. G. E. T. Eyston M.G. 746 c.c. S.), 100.51 m.p.h.
2. R. T. Horton (M.G. 746 c.c. S.), 97.46 m.p.h.
3. Sir M. Campbell (Riley 1,087 c.c.), 100.01 m.p.h. 4. Cyril Paul (Riley 1,087 c.c.), 100 Clive Dunfee on the Bentley came into
the pits and changed his off side front wheel, and once more took up the chase, lapping at about 127 m.p.h. Soon after, he got into a terrible skid in trying to pass another car on the Members Banking, the front wheels went over the edge, and the great car became completely uncontrollable. Snapping off small trees at the edge of the track like matchwood, the Bentley eventually came up against a stout tree, rose up in the air, and hurling the driver, a wheel and parts of the car on to the track, disappeared over the top, to come to rest a total wreck on the Paddock road. Poor Dunfee was instantly killed.
For some time his death was not officially announced on the loud speakers, but when at last the sad news was broken to the spectators, everyone stood bareheaded for some moments in silence, while the rest of the cars continued their regular high speed without diminution.
More retirements were announced, the 6-cylinder Riley finally going out with a run big end after many pit stops, and Earl Howe’s Bugatti retired with a leaking petrol tank caused by one of the rubber buffers coming away and allowing the differential casing to come into contact with the tank.
Horton, after a bout of misfiring, was going well again now, and began to regain his lead, especially as all was not well with Eyston’s car, which finally retired with piston trouble. Retirements came thick and fast, and the race began to live up to its ” expensive ” reputation, Ashby’s Riley, Derrington’s Austin, Outlaw’s Maserati, and Whitcroft’s official Riley all falling by the wayside. At 3.30 the order was : 1. B. Lewis (Talbot 2,965.5 c.c.),
2. R. T. Horton (M.G. 746 c.c. S.), 95.41 m.p.h.
3. C. Paul (Riley 1,087 c.c.), 100.11 m.p.h.
4. Sir M. Campbell (Riley 1,087 c.c.), 99.41 m.p.h. The end drew near. Lewis’s Talbot, now driven by Cobb, was leading, but as the car had been 300 r.p.m. down all day, it was by no means a certain winner. Added to this Horton began to put on speed, so it was very problematical who would win. Even the announcer himself was quite in the dark, for it came as a great surprise to everyone when the chequered flag was finally waved to the little red Midget, and Horton came up the Finishing Straight to endure “ordeal by ‘mike.'”
Second came Cyril Paul and “J. Phillip,” on the Riley entered by A. G. Miller, and third the wonderful single seater Talbot, Cobb at the wheel.
Horton has finished up the season splendidly, with the 750 lap record and the ‘ 500.” As to the M.G. Midget, how can one possibly add anything to the plain facts ?
1. M.G. (746 c.c. S.), R. T. Horton and J. H. Bartlett, 55. 42m. 13 secs., 96 29 m.p.h.
2. Riley (1,087 c.c.), C. Paul and “J. Phillip,” 55. 46m. 58secs., 99.61 m.p.h.
3. Talbot (2,965 .5 c.c.), Hon. B. Lewis and J. R. Cobb, 5h. 47m. 43 secs., 111.60 m.p.h.
4. Riley (1,087 c.c.), W. A. Cuthbert and C. W. !gentles, 97.41 m.p.h.
5. Riley (1,087 c.c.), Sir M. Campbell and C. S. Stainland, 97.4 m.p.h.
6. M.G. (746 c.c.), /SP. Black and R. Gibson, 83.35 m.p.h.
7. M.G. (746 c.c.), G. W. J. H. Wright and W. M. Couper, 83.15 m.p.h.
8. Talbot (2,965.5 c.c.), J. S. Hindmarsh and H. F. Wolfe, 103.76 m.p.h.
The winning car was equipped with : Dunlop tyres, B.P. fuel and K.L.G. plugs.