THIRTY cars all lapping at over 110 m.p.h. I Such was the fearsome spectacle envisaged by the entry list of the B.R.D.C. 500-Miles Race, which was held on Saturday, September 22nd, at Brooklands Track. Many people fore-told disasters and accidents of a magnitude never before experienced in this country, for the error of any one driver would be sure to involve cars following immediately behind. The
drivers of fleet ” 750’s” were advised to keep low on the banking, but this can be as dangerous as baulking by being too high, for a small car can easily get out of control in this way. That speeds were going to be phenomenally high was shown by the practis ing which went on during the preceding week. Whitney Straight turned out with the 4-litre Duesenberg, raced by the Scuderia Ferrari, and covered several laps in the region of 137 m.p.h. The Barnato Hassan, in the hands of Dudley
Froy, exceeded 130 m.p.h., and Freddie Dixon got round in his unblown 2-litre Riley at 125 m.p.h. ! The day dawned unpropitiously. The sky was just about as menacing as it could
be, and augured a prolonged downpour. Actually the rain held off until the whole field had been going for about half an hour, and then it turned from a faint drizzle into a heavy deluge. To crown the disappointment of the arriving specta tors, the Duesenberg was posted as a non-starter, owing to doctor’s orders forbidding Straight to drive. Actually
there were nine non-starters, J. G. C.
Low’s M.G. Midget, R. J. W. Appleton’s Appleton Special, H. L. Maddick’s M.G. Magna, E. R. Hall’s M.G. Magnette, C, Penn Hughes’ Aston-Martin, R. F. Oat’s Aston-Martin, the 2i-litre Maserati to be
driven by R. E. L, Featherstonhaugh and R. G. B. Seaman, Tommy If ann’s Hann Special, which failed to cover a qualifying lap at a speed of 100 m.p.h., and the Duesenberg. The first group started at 12 o’clock, and from then until 12.24 the track became steadily more populated with faster and faster cars. Most people made a good getaway, but Dixon was rather slow and Horton could not get his engine started until the rest of the cars had disappeared from sight. It was a pity
that such a fine field could not have been sent away en masse, but some of the groups were quite good to watch, especially the big cars, N. Black (2.3-litre Alfa-Romeo), R. Marker (Bentley) and O. Bertram (4.9′ Bugatti) were in front, with Froy (Barnato-Hassan) and John Cobb (Napier-Railton) behind. Cobb nosed forward while waiting for the flag, but it was of no advantage for he was baulked by the Bentley and the Bugatti, both of which made extremely bad starts. Black, on the other hand, fairly shot away and was leading the group at the end of the first lap. It was too early as yet to form an opinion as to the possible leaders on handicap, and so leaving this task to the slide-rule mathematicians, we took
the opportunity of timing some of the cars for their approximate lap speeds. The Napier Railton, of course, was the fastest of the field at 126 m.p.h. Dixon was averaging a shade over 120 m.p.h., as was Eyston on the Magic Magnate. Horton was doing 115 m.p.h. and Dodson On the little Magic Midget 112 M.p.h. After a delay of 25 minutes the leaders at 12.30 were announced, and no one was surprised to hear that George Eyston was ahead of the rest at this early stage, with Cobb second aid Dixon third. Already Von der Becke, driving the Riley which was ultimately to finish second, was lying. fourth. If the weather held it looked as though there would be a close struggle between Eyston, Cobb and
Dixon, with the odds in favour of Eyston.
Pit-stops were soon made, as is usual at Brooklands. Goodacre’s Austin was actually the first car to pull in, while J. L. Ford and P. L. Donkin both required plugs for their Magnettes. The earliest retirement was A. H. Boyd’s Magnette, which only ran for 10 minutes before developing an alarming lubrication trouble. A much criticized feature was that distinctive pit signals were not allowed, which was a little hard on the drivers of small fast cars requiring a good deal of concentration to handle. The one o’clock positions revealed that Eyston was steadily building up his lead, being two minutes to the good of his scheduled handicap. Cobb was 1 min. 14 secs., and Dixon 42 secs. ahead of their speeds. Eyston and Dixon were both lapping at the same speed and had averaged 116 m.p.h.., but, of course, the smaller size of the Magnette put it ahead on handicap. At 1.15, incidentally, the leader-board at the Fork informed the
public that the Napier-Railton had covered four laps—in 50 minutes ! Then the rain started to fall really hard, and all at once the speeds fell down with a rush. All the drivers maintained the maximum speed possible in such circumstances, and at the same time exercised the utmost caution in order to avoid accidents. Cobb was now lapping at 112 m.p.h„ being no faster than the small fry on the banking and only unleashing the countless horses of his Napier engine on the Railway Straight. Freddie Dixon slowed to a mere 100 m.p.h., and Horton was doing about 2 m.p.h. more. The Barnato-Hassan, which had been blowing a cloud of blue smoke since the race started, was lapping at 115 m.p.h.,
Dudley Froy apparently being quite at home on the wet and slippery track.
The spectators, meanwhile, huddled as best they might beneath what shelter they could find, and the refreshment rooms were filled with damp humanity and the combined odour of wet mackintoshes, Bass, ham rolLs And steaming urns. Those who had paid for the privilege of standing on the Fork Grandstand saw their value for money slipping rapidly away, as water trickled down their necks and ankles. The pits were busy. Goodacre’s Austin refused to be comforted by the constant administrations of its mechanics, and called many times for attention. The trouble was a combination of excessive oil pressure and plugs. The 4.9-litre Bugatti was not in good form, and boiled furiously owing to pre-ignition. Bertram came in a second time brandishing the gear lever in his hand, and a temporary affair was made out of some tubing and some wire. Horton came in with a
tyre in ribbons, which caused a good many people to wonder whether the smaller cars would be quite as kind to their tyres as had been predicted. Samuel’s very fast Mont1h4ry Midget called twice, and a broken oil pipe was repaired. Others who pulled in from the fray to inspect and repair faulty motors were the Hon. P. Mitchell-Thomson .(Frazer .Nash), Cyril Paul (Riley Nine), E. K. Rayson (Bugatti) and Dudley Froy (Barnato-Hassan). The Austins and the Magic Midget came in for more fuel at abOut 1.15 p.m., indicating that they would have to stop at least three more times before the end of the race. Soon after one o’clock Rayson withdrew his Bugatti with valve trouble. This car, by the way, is the 2-litre single camshaft job raced last season by Mathieson. Rayson’s retirement was followed by three more. The Cuthbert-Riley retired with a broken .supercharger ; the crab-track single-seater Frazer-Nash blew its gasket, and the Magic Midget developed acute clutch trouble. At 1.30 George Eyston continued to lead, and on his present showing would undoubtedly be hard to beat. His margin in hand handicap, was as 3 mins, against 5 secs, Dixon’s over his
1 min. 43 secs„ and Cobb’s
1 min. 30
Von der Becke was still fourth, 45 seconds to the good. Eyston’s Speed was 116.09′ m.p.h. at this juncture, and Cobb’s 122,82 m.p.h. Eyston was maintaining his speed well in spite of the rain, assisted by his vast experience of track driving in all weathers.
Refuelling, adjustments and repairs were being constantly Carried out at the pits. Bertram found the broken gear lever of the Bugatti too much of a handicap, so the car had to be withdrawn, in a sound mechanical condition. Many drivers made a quick stop for a vizor to enable them to see their way amid the showers of spray sent up by passing cars, Norman Black complained of a jammed shock absorber, Samuel’s Midget was still overheating, Kenneth Evans changed all the plugs of his ” Q ” and handed over to his brother Denis, and Paul’s Riley was suffering from fuel feed troubles. At 2 o’clock the rain still fell in torrents, and speeds were So reduced that the big cars were finding difficulty in maintaining the necessary average. Eyston ‘s marginin-hand over his handicap had fallen to 2 Mins. 8 secs., but he Was faring much
better than Dixon and Cobb, who were 1 min. 36 secs. and 2 11141S. 32 secs. down on their respective schedules. Cobb’s average was now only 116.73 m.p.h. against the Magnette’s 113.97 m.p.h. A variety of troubles continued to occupy people at the pits. The Evans’s Midget developed an insatiable appetite for plugs. as .did Donkin’s Magnette, now driven by W. E. Wilkinson. Ilorton’s
Midget, handled by hatless Charles Brat kenbury with complete equanimity in the driving ran), retired at 2 o’clock with a trouble connected either with engine or clutch. John Cobb stopped and had a leisurely discussion with his pit-staff, the net result of which was the withdrawal Of the Napier-Railton. It was manifestly a forlorn hope to keep the big car going in the existing conditions, so Cobb wisely climbed out of the cockpit. W. L. Thompson’s Austin was another sufferer from constant plug trouble, On the other side of the picture, however, some wonderfully consistent performances were being put up by some of the cars—and drivers. H. ( ;. 1)041)s was lapping with complete regularity on his offset streamlined Riley, as were
G. F. Manby-Colgrave (M.(. Magnette) who was driving single-handed. C. E. C. Martin’s Magnette, and Henry Laird’s black Aston-Martin, another singlehanded effort. Between 2 o’clock and half-past Eyston handed over to Handley, so that the 2,30 placings showed Dixon in the lead, 3 minutes ahead on handicap comparison, McClure had taken over from Von der
Becke and was third, with Everitt fourth. Just after 2.30 Handley nearly met with disaster in the Railway Straight. He develOped a long slide which eventually carried him off the track on to the grass, without serious damage either to himself or the car. Thus ended a run which might have proved to have been that of the winning car.
The next placings, at 3 o’clock, showed a newcomer to the ” first four ” in P. G. Fairfield, driving one of Dixon’s Riley Nines.l le was now lying 2nd behind his chief to the extent of four minutes, and had put back McClure and Everitt one plate each. A. R. Samuel gave up the long struggle with the lubrication system of his Midget and retired. But McClure’s Riley was keeping up
a fine gait, and soon got ahead of Fairfield to take second place. He began to overhaul Dixon, and crept nearer and nearer until at 3.30 he was only a matter of 30 seconds astern of “Freddie.” The latter did not seem to worry, but it is possible that he could not see pit signals in the appalling weather. The big cars were thinning rapidly ; in fact Marker’s Bentley went out at 3.52 with a broken carburetter, and Norman Black was the sole runner left of over 2,000 c.c. capacity. Then he too fell out at about four o’clock with a broken chassis frame on his Alfa Romeo-which shows what sort of surface Brooklands has. A stout effort ended at about the same time when John Hind
marsh had to call it a day with the 2-litre Singer, which had been lapping regularly at the 100 m.p.h. mark. J. L. Ford had to make several stops to refix the shifting coachwork of his Magnette, and Horton made a hasty repair to the fairing of the single-seater Magnette. The eternal plug-changers,
Thompson (Austin) and Evans (M.G. Midget) were cheerfully (!) carrying on the good work. Apart from Handley’s narrow escape the race had so far failed to produce any of those hair-raising catastrophes which had been quite reasonably foretold. At this point, however, those in the pits saw a spectacle which could very well have been described as “This is It.” P. G. Fairfield lost control of his Riley when passing the Vickers Sheds and spun round no less than four times ! He came to rest without hitting anything or any body, and set off once more, shaken but steadfast. He did not get far. At the Railway Straight the car again lost direction, and this time tore down a vast quantity of corrugated iron sheeting from the fence at the conclusion of its
gyrations. This time Fairfield could not continue, so he retired when lying fourth in the race. At four o’clock a bare 2 seconds separated Dixon and McClure, but these two were four minutes ahead of Everitt and Manby-Colegrave. In spite of the drencing rain, those spectators who had reserved sufficient interest in the race to discover the state of affairs now forgot their discomfort and watched the duel between the two Rileys with a certain
amount of eagerness. Stop-watches were produced and the relative positions checked on each lap. Of course Dixon had the speed in hand to enable him to keep ahead, but just then he appeared with a front tyre torn to shreds. He changed the wheel in
1 minute, but by that time McClure was a lap and a bit ahead. This lead the redoubtable man set about with such vigour that he chopped it down by 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 seconds on successive laps. Even so it looked a hopeless task, for the blue ” works ” Riley was still 1 mm. 20 secs. ahead only 5 laps from the finish. But this did not deter Freddie, and it was just as well, for the unexpected came to his rescue.
McClure was overdue ! Then he appeared, coming in slowly from the Byfleet Banking. On the preceding lap the car had betrayed a slight tremor in its exhaust, and this was the first indication of a blocked fuel pipe, which was to rob the car of victory when within a lap or two of the end. It did not take the pit staff long to clear the obstruction, but Dixon was secure now. He carried on in his usual imperturbable fashion, and was flagged home a popular winner in his first race after recovering from his had accident at Donington. That he drove single-handed is just another proof of his well-known toughness..
Only six more cars finished within the time limit. McClure was a good second, some consolation for his bitter experience. Third place was taken by the M.G. Magnette driven by Major A. T. G.
Gardner and Dr. J. D. Benjafield, after a trouble-free run. Two more Magnettes followed, the first being handled by W. G. Everitt and T. H. Wisdom, and the second by G. F. A. Manby-Colgrave. The latter’s single-handed drive was a magnificent effort, and deserving of the utmost praise. A similar remark applies to H. G. Dobbs, the next finisher with a Riley. Actually there were seven more cars
still going, but they were all flagged off. The Aston-Martin, in particular, was unfortunate in failing to do the 181 necessary laps by 2 only.
I. F. W. Dixon (Riley 1,983 c.c.), 4h. 58th. 48s., 104.80 m.p.h.
2. A. Von der Becke and E. McClure (Riley 1,486 c.c.), 5h. lm. 35s., 101.65 m.p.h.
3. Maj. A. T. G. Gardner and Dr. J. D. Benjafield (M.G. Magnette 1,087 c.c. S), 511. 13m. 15s., 97.85 m.p.h.
4. W. G. Everitt and T. H. Wisdom (M.G. Magnette 1,087 c.c. S), 5h. 14m. 34s., 97.37 m.p.h.
5. G. F. A. Manby-Colegrave (M.G. Magnette 1,087 c.c. S), 5h. 15m. 3s., 97.2$ m.p.h.
6. H. G. Dobbs (Riley 1,089 c.c.), 5h. 16m. 55s., 94.82 m.p.h.
7. C. E. C. Martin and G. Duller (M.G. Magnette 1,087 c.c. S), 511. 27rn. 55s., 93.35 m.p.h.
STILL RUNNING AT THE END, BUT NOT PLACED.
W. L. Thompson, Jun„ and R. F. Turner (Austin), 142 laps•, K. D . Evans (M.G. Midget), 163 laps ; A. F. Ashby (Riley), 163 laps ; C. Paul (Riley), 1581aps ; 1′. L. Dookin (M.G. Magnette), 162 laps ; J. L. Ford and M. Balmier (M.G. Magnette), 152 laps ; J. D. Greaves and H. Laird (Aston-Martin), 179 laps.
Course : 181 laps.