KING’S CUP WON AT 233 M.P.H.
EXCITING FINISH AT HATFIELD: CHARLES GARDNER’S SECOND VICTORY
ALL eyes were strained towards the westward sky. It was late afternoon, and the lowering sun glared exactly from that direction. ‘Suddenly a dark blob came into view, and grew larger
with incredible rapidity. ” Gardner I ” said the coono.rPriti, when the layman could scarcely make out any details at all save that an aeroplane was approaching, travelling far faster than the usual run of aeroplanes.
Charles Gardner it was who, in his lowwing monoplane, a 205 h.p. Percival Mew Gull, swooped down upon Hatfield aerodrome, and soared up again triumphantly into the skies, winner Of the King’s Cup for the second year in succession.
A short pause, and then two, no, three, more blobs appeared in the sky, closing up on one another. This time none Could name the order of the places, till BrigadierGeneral Lewin, oldest pilot in the race, crossed the boundary of the airport with a clear lead in his Miles Whitney Straight. Close behind, so close to one another that it appeared a dead heat for third place till the judges announced their decision, came Capt. Percival, in another Percival Mew Gull, and Squadron-Leader Harvey, in another Miles Whitney Straight.
Percival, who made the fastest speed of the race. 238.7 m.p.h., against the winner’s 233.7 m.p.h., had snatched third place right on the post, by a margin of only one second after a flight Of 656 miles. Lewin averaged 144.5 m.p.h., and Harvey 142.4 m.p.h. The Ebblewliites of air racing, Capi . W. Dancy and F. W. Rowarth, had this accomplished a remarkable piece of ham licapping, Harvey had started from Dublin that morning, 1 hr. 51 mins. 30 sees. ahead of Capt. Percival, and a single second separated them at the finish, while 2 mins. 24 secs. covered the first four. All thirteen finishers, out of the seventeen who had started from Dublin on the final day. arrived within twenty
minutes. The scratch plane, the tiny red TIC 4, built by the students of the De Havilland Technical School, and entered in the race by Lord Wakefield, with R. J. Waight as pilot, averaged 230.5 m.p.h. and came in ninth.
The finish of the 1937 King’s Cup Air Race, however, was by far the most exciting part about it, from the point of view of spectacle. Pilots started off from Hatfield at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, and a lovely morning it was, as Geo. Reynolds and Bob Spikins, both well known to motoring folk as time-keepers, moved slowly along the line, despatching the twenty-seven competitors at halfminute intervals. One by one the planes taxied away, shook the dew from their wheels and soared off into the blue. For the first day’s stage there was no handicap, and the fastest planes started first, making for Dublin via Cambridge, Skegness, York, Scarborough, Whitby, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Portpatrick, and Newtownards. Then, having arrived at Dublin, two-thirds of the fastest machines in each class (up to 150 b.h.p. and over) were entitled to continue the race next day, on the return
journey to Hatfield, by a different route. Handicaps now came into operation. Thus the only places on the route, as it happened, over which the planes passed twice were in Ireland, save for the remote Portpairick, on the West Coast
of Scotland. At Hatfield, where last year there was considerable excitement as competitors covered several laps of a short course, the interest of the race lasted for a few minutes only, though the brilliance of the actual finish made up for the shortness of the entertainment.
The eliminating contest on the first day was marred by the fatal accident to Wing-Commanders E. G. Hilton, D.F.C., A .1;’.C. , and P. C. Sherreii, at the Scarborough turning point. Here the direction of the wind was such that a powerful up-current was caused by the steep slope of the peninsular on which the castle stands, and the unfortunate machine was caught in the resulting downward curl of the air-current on the
other side of the rock. Several other competitors had narrow escapes, and many suffered such a severe ” bump ” that their heads hit the roof, while on one machine the ballast weights were dislodged and tore through the bottom of the fuselage. Waight in the TK 4 made fastest time at 206.7 m.p.h. in the class for engines up to 150 b.b.p. and Percival was fastest in the other class, with the Mew Gull,
at 225.5 m.p.h. Separate prizes were awarded for the first day’s runs. On the second day it soon became evident that Gardner and Percival had. speed in reserve, and were all out to catch the limit planes. Waight in the TIC 4 had to concede 2 mins. 10 secs. to Percival,
in spite of his machine’s lower b.h.p., presumably on account of his tiny fuselage, closely fitting the pilot all round, even to the cowling on top. He lost ground right from the start, however, while Waller, who, on the D.H. Comet, winner of the 1934 Australian race, had 5 mins. 17 secs. start from Percival, was being steadily overhauled. The sixty-three years old BrigadierGeneral Lewin, who only took up flying a few years ago, was keeping his position well, among the long-handicap men, and Gardner, who had an advantage of 6 min. 4 sees. over Percival on the handicap, seemed the only one with any real chance
of catching him. This he eventually accomplished near Hemel Hempstead, right at the dose of the final stretch from Cardiff.
Whilst a large crowd at Hatfield was awaiting the winners, a display of aerobatics was given, first by Pilot Officer Helps, in a Gloster Gauntlet, then by Herr Fischer, the Swiss trick pilot, -who demonstrated his famous flick roll, and finally Herr FOrster, of Germany. Some remarkable models were also put through their paces.