SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT SHELSLEY RAYMOND MAYS BREAKS THE RECORD AGAIN IN 57.87 SECS. MAGNIFICENT BY BERT HADLEY
WHEN You come to think of it the most remarkable thing about Shelsley Walsh last month was the veritable monotony with which times of 45 seconds and under were recorded. The fact is, of course, that most of the She’sley competitors are ” regulars ” who, in the passing of years, have acquired an accurate and comprehensive knowledge of every bump, curve, bend and idiosyncracy of the 1,000 yards hill.
From the spectators’ point of view this is all rather disappointing. No longer is the famous ” 5 ” the scene of lurid broadsiding, with occasional charges into the bank. The most that happened last month was -a mere grazing of the bank by Abecassis as he emerged from the bends. All the other drivers came round with no more than a slight swing of the tail. But there is a compensation. Shelsley driving is now so uniformly good that the spectator can concentrate on those subtle differences which make no more than a second or so variation in the times
of two competitors. How one driver may brake a little earlier than another ; how the first one slides just a fraction too much as he takes the first bend of the ” S,” and similar niceties. And that brings us automatically to the subject of Bert Hadley and his magnificent climbs in 40.49 and 40.05 secs., at the wheel of the little o.h.c. Austin. Here was driving which was utter perfection; a meteoric start, tremendous acceleration and accurate placing of the car on the fast lower swerves, braking which seemed almost suicidally late, a four-wheel slide round the first bend of the ” 8″ without the slightest trace of tail wag or over-correction, a leap forward to the next bend, taken in a steady slide which left the car pointing dead
Straight for the finish. It was superb, and his course was exactly the same on both ascents-the hall-mark of the really first-class driver. Mays’s record run in 37.87 sees. was, of course, terrific. Ills 2-litre E.R.A. had. a great deal more power underneath its bonnet than the little Austin, and this may have accounted for Mays’s climbs appearing to be rather hectic. Obviously he must have the car under strict controlotherwise he would either charge off the road or else make a slower time-but he made one spectator, at least, hold his breath until he had got safely thtongh the ” S.” Perhaps it is his habit of using short, sudden bursts of acceleration which
_ always gives his climbs a rather unsteady appearance, or it may be that the smooth, regular slides of the Austin cannot be achieved on an E.R.A. But when all is said and done, the fact remains that Mays can he depended upon to get up Shelsley faster than anyone else, and that he never goes off the road. And that is all that really matters. Charlie Dodson, although good to watch, was about 2 secs. down on Hadley, driving a similar car, while C. D. Buckley looked very competent on the side-valve
Austin as he climbed in 43.07 secs. .Mrs. Kay Petre could not get down to her record of 43.7 secs. on her s.v-. Austin, her best time being 44.83 secs. The 1,100 c.c. class was interesting, for it brought into opposition the normal racing-car, as represented by CuddonFletcher’s M.G., and the AppletonSpecial, and various ” Shelsley Specials” Such as the Freikaiserwagen, the Martyr, the Wasp and the Carlmark-J.A.P. The result was a convincing win for the Fry cousins, who handled their Freikaiser wagen brilliantly. Joe did 42.86 secs. on his first run–his second was spoilt by mis-firing–while David did 42.70 secs. and 41.93 secs. Both drove with great calmness, which was assisted by the magnificent road-holding and weight-dis
tribution of their machine. CuddonFletcher recorded 43.97 and 43.28 secs., resorting to twin rear wheels. Appleton’s car was not in good health, and crept up slowly in 57.38 secs., after which it retired. Instone’s Martyr was beautifully turned out, but just failed to beat 45 secs., Carlmark’s best (remember his car is unsupercharged) was 46.99 secs., and Moor’s veteran Wasp failed on its first ascent. The 1,500 c.c. battle suffered from the breakdown Of Pane with his recordholding Frazer-Nash, which developed supercharger trouble just beyond the ” S ” on its first run. Barry Goodwin also failed on his first ascent, but on the second time of asking he made no mistake about it and roared up in 40.36 secs. His progress through the” S “was tremendous to behold, but he stuck to his guns well. R, E. Ansell drove the ex-Scribbans E.R.A. extremely well to score 42.78 secs, on his fastest run ; Abecassis did not seem completely at home in clocking 44.14 sees.; but C. P. Vaughan was as consistent as ever on the Becke Powerplus when he got up in 43.87 secs. . Best of the ” unblowns ” was G. L. Glegg’s “
Dorcas” (46.88 secs.) which had peculiarly flexible suspension. Apart from Mays’s record ascents (he also beat the previous record on his second climb), the outstanding performance in the 2-litre class was Lord Avebnry’s 41.39 secs. On his Alta ; a very good show indeed, completely devoid of unnecessary fireworks. In the unsupercharged category there was terrific competition between Percy Maclure with his Riley and R. V. C. Bolster’s curious vehicle, with four motor-cycle engines in ” line ahead ” formation. Bolster only made one run, in 43.40 secs., but it was just enough to
beat Maclure’s 43.41 secs. Both these times, of course, are astonishingly good for unbloWn machines, and yet they failed to stir any excitement in the blase Shelsley crowd. The same thing could be said of Lemon Burton’s consistent ascents in 43.0 and 43.09 secs. with his 2.3-litre Bugatti, which won the next class. There was much speculation as to who would get the better of the SkinnerBolster duel in Class 5. Here were two ” specials,” both of .great interest but of completely different types, driven by men who know the hill as well as anybody. Bolster’s car now looks almost unrecognisably respectable with its front works decently covered by a bonnet, but its designer has yet to conquer the problems of weight distribution and roadholding, in which matters he could learn much from the more successful ” Shelsley Special ” builders such as the Fry cousins, Carlmark and Iustone. His times were 42.49 and 42.67 secs., very good in view of the terrifying propensity of his machine to deviate from the straight and narrow
path. Skinner’s attractive Hudson, engined Morris Minor was beautifully steady by contrast, and almost completely silent. The only sound was a squeal from the tyres on the corners and it clocked the most deceptive 41.22 secs. ever seen at Shelsky. Skinner’s consistent driving was shown by a difference of only threehundredths of a second in his two climbs. Charles Follett thoroughly deserved his prize for the fastest T.T.-type car, registering 44.57 and 44.40 secs. on his Railton, which emitted a weird haze which looked like steam but which was really oil, I believe. Then came the heavy metal. Forrest Lycett got down to 44.50 secs. on his famous 8-litre Bentley, which is really good going for a car of its size and weight. In his capable hands the car looked as easy to handle as a seven-fifty. He was opposed by Anthony Heal, whose times with the 10-litre Fiat also counted for the special class for pre-1914 racing-cars. First time up the great red car was not functioning too evenly, time 54.92 sees., but on the next run all went well and the time was 49.17 secs. Heal manhandles his big mount splendidly, and once again, it was noticeable how well it behaves in a slide-a tribute to its excellent weight distribution. The 22-litre Benz, another fiery red giant, seemed to and probably did occupy the whole attention of J. N. Morris and his passenger. If ever a car looked thoroughly cramped and uncomfortable on the narrow and twisty Shelsky road, the Benz did. On its first run it clocked 52.46 sees., but on the second climb it suddenly emitted clouds of blue smoke and stopped just beyond the line, time 59 sees. dead. A. A. F. Mills brought out a glorious old 1913 Mercedes of 8 litres capacity, resplendent with much
brass-work. Its gear-ratios, however, seemed to be more suitable for a treelined Continental highway, and the best it could achieve was 65.7 7 secs.
The organisation seemed to tail off somewhat towards the end, the cars coming up at markedly longer intervals. However, announcers Hess and Findon were always ready to fill the breach with some brisk repartee, Hess’s comments about the sawdust throwers and the man with the binoculars coming as bright moments in an afternoon of uneventfully excellent ascents.
miscellany, July 1997
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