REAL RACING AT LAST
DONINGTON’S “GREAT PRIZE” PROVIDES A TERRIFIC SPECTACLE By ” CHICANE “
S0 at last it has happened, and an English crowd has had a taste of what Grand Prix racing is like. For several years, there have been rumours that the crack Continental teams were coming to race in England, but each thne something stood in the way.
One year matters seemed very promising, and one of the chiefs of a great German firm was discussing the idea with a British race promoter.
” Yes, but it must be a great prize” said the German. The Englishman’s face lost a little of its rubicund cheeriness. “We will do the best we can” said he. “We know your expenses are heavy for such a long journey% ‘
The German seemed a little puzzled. ” Quite so,” he replied ” but the race— it must be a real Great Prize. Unless it is the Great Prize of England, there is not the same—how do you call it ?—reclame for the winners.”
At last it dawned on the audience that the foreigner was translating literally the title ” Grand Prix,” just as in Germany such a race is known as the Grosser Preis. Col. Lindsay Lloyd would have appreciated the literal translation, for his antipathy to the use of a foreign title for a British event is well known. The term ” Grand Prix ” has almost become accepted, however, as part of the English language liv now.
As regards the Great Prize of England. or British Grand Prix, such a title could only be used if the race were promoted by the national club of the country concerned, i.e., the R.A.C. The recent race, probably the most spectacular ever held in this country, was most ably run by the Derby and District M.C., and Fred Craner, Clerk of the Course at Darlington, must deservedly be feeling very proud of himself.
A British Grand Prix was held in 1920 and 1927, at Brooklands, when the formula cars were restricted to 1,500 c.c., and the latter year was the last previous occasion that the full strength of a Continental Grand Prix team had appeared in England. That was in the era of French supremacy.
After a number of disappointments, when much publicised foreign teams had failed to appear, Fred Craner could scarcely believe it was true when the seven silver-coloured Grand Prix cars were actually arrayed on the starting grid, while every minute the biggest crowd that an English motor-race had ever seen swelled and swelled. An hour after the race had started, there was said to be a queue of cars more than a mile long at the various entrances. Before the event both the MercedesBenz and Auto-Union teams had been busy fitting . higher axle ratios, since, despite its many corners, greater speeds than anticipated had proved possible at Darlington. It is interesting to compare the fastest lap of the race, 85.62 m.p.h., recorded both by Von Branchitseh’s Mercedes and Rosemeyer’s AutoUnion, with Rosemeyer’s record lap at
the Niirburg Ring, at just under 87 m.p.h. One of the drivers said that the cars were geared to do NO m.p.h. at Darlington, while at Niirburg the gearing would permit speeds of just over 170 m.p.h.
It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the new Darlington circuit, with the Melbourne extension, and that formerly used, passing round Starkey’s Corner. In the T.T. the fastest lap was at 73.5 m.p.h., but the recent Grand Prix was the first occasion on which real racing-cars, as opposed to sports-cars, had been seen on the new circuit. The lap record for the old circuit was 73.49 m.p.h., by Hans Ruesch’s Alfa-Romeo, and Since this car, while not as fast as the German machines, was much faster than the T.T. cars, one may assume that the new circuit, with its longer straight, but slower Melbourne Corner, is a good deal quicker than the old.
There was not nearly as much difficulty in passing as one might have expected, with two sets of cars on the track varying so greatly in speed. True, the mercurial Von Brauchitsch was seen shakiwtb a minatory fist occasionally, but Brauchitsch makes many gestures which need not be taken seriously, and the German drivers were all pleased with the course, though they found it rather bumpy for high spec ds. Seaman, who, of course, knows the circuit better than any, said that even allowing for the superior road holding of the Mercedes compared with other cars he had driven at Danington, he thought that the straight was more lumpy than last year, while the new extension had not yet had time to settle down. The German drivers, hurtling round the track at such colossal speeds, did complain, however, that they were put off by the people crowding :close onto the verge between Coppice Farm and the first bridge over the straight. These spectators, in an unauthorised position, seemed to
have no idea of the risk they were running, as there was not even a hedge or a fence between them and the cars, and they were actually lying on the grass with heads or cameras projecting over into the road. As the Grand Prix drivers must sometimes place their cars -within a few inches of the side of the road, the German criticism seems justified. It was an education to watch how the Continental drivers, using their terrific acceleration, seized every opportunity to pass, even on quite short stretches. Some of those thus passed had tales to tell of how all that could be seen for a split second was a shower of little stones
mixed with particles of rubber ! Von Brauchitsch’s skid at the Hairpin, too, was interesting. Finding be was coming into the corner too fast, he just let all four wheels slide onto the grass, holding the skid quite nonchalantly without any attempt to correct till the car straightened itself. Then, having lost little time, and with no counter-skid due to over-correction—which has led other drivers down the bank on the other side of the road—he put his foot down. One missed something of the pageantry of Grand Prix races abroad. In a race so excellently organised, one hesitates to Make suggestions, but would not a parade by a band of the Brigade of Guards have lent colour before the start ? The old custom of a preliminary lap of honour by glittering touring cars, one representing each of the racing marques concerned, is worth recalling. As the Grand Prix cars drew up at their pits after the race, it was strange not to hear the national anthem of the winners, while the crowd did them honour by stand
ing to attention. Stage management plays a big part in bringing the crowds back again and again to watch a spectacle. Finally, even the many British spectators who were defrauded of their money by ” welshing ” bookmakers sympathised with the German supporters who similarly
lost their pfunde. There is no betting at German races, and our visitors must have carried away a strange impression of British customs and British sportsmanship. ” Have you no police ? ” said one of the Germans. The traditional answer that the English policemen are marvellous scarcely seemed to meet the case.