Sorting out speed!

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(Continued  from the  August issue.)

Having thought about how and when 100 m.p.h. was achieved in various classes over varying distances, the next exercise would seem to centre round about 120 m.p.h. This speed was first recorded on January 26th, 1906, by Marriott, whose Stanley steamer covered a kilometre at 121.57 m.p.h. and a mile at 127.66 m.p.h. This was a one-way timing at Daytona, and represented a big increase over the previous (petrol-car) record. By 1924 Parry Thomas and the Leyland-Thomas had run 10 miles at 120.46 m.p.h., but it was not until 1926 that the Hour Record stood at over two miles a minute, when Ortmans and the Panhard averaged 120.24 m.p.h. for this period. The excellent early runs pale into insignificance, in a way, when it is remembered that in 1937 Berndt Rosemeyer did a standing mile in an Auto-Union at 134.5 m.p.h. and, later, using an Auto-Union of only 5-litres capacity, covered a mile, again from standstill, to the tune of 125.3 m.p.h.

So far as road-racing cars are concerned, their absolute speed is always hard to assess accurately, but by 1924 Sunbeam and Alfa-Romeo could exceed 120 m.p.h., and it seems likely that the 1923 blown 2-litre Fiat could almost, if not quite, do this speed, while it is probable that the same is true of the 1921 3-litre Fiat and Duesenberg cars. So far as class speeds are concerned, at the end of 1925, the first season in which the new International distances and divisions were recognised, Eldridge’s 1 1/2-litre Eldridge Special held the 5 miles and 10 kilos. records at just over 120 m.p.h. in Class F and Divo’s G.P. V12 2-litre Delage held the flying kilo. record in Class E at no less than 134.07 m.p.h. The only other class showing over 120 m.p.h. was Class B, with Thomas’s 124 m.p.h. short-distance records with the 7 1/4-litre Leyland Thomas, although in Class C Howey’s 5-litre Ballot had done over 118 m.p.h. By 1926 the 1,100-c.c. class joined in. Morel’s twin o.h.c. Amilcar Six taking two records at over 121 m.p.h. The first 750-c.c. car to exceed 120 m.p.h. was an M.G. handled by Eyston in 1932. Looking at reliable maintenance of this speed, class by class, we find that no 750-c.c. car has yet run at 120 m.p.h. for an hour, the best performance to date being Charlie Dodson’s 113.99 miles in 60 minutes at Brooklands in 1936. In the 1,100-c.c. category, George Eyston did 120.88 miles in the hour at Montlhèry with the inevitable M.G. in 1934. Curiously, no 1 1/2-litre car has equalled this performance, the existing record, which Veyron established in 1933 at Montlhèry with a straight eight Bugatti, being 0.99 m.p.h. short of 120. In the 2-litre class Mrs.Stewart has motored her Derby-Special for an hour at 121.75 m.p.h. Divo’s Bugatti holds the Class D record at 124.68 m.p.h., established at Montlhèry in 1932, and Kaye Don exceeded 120 m.p.h. in Class C as long ago as 1929, with a Sunbeam, at Brooklands, while the absolute British hour record stands to the credit of Parry Thomas and the Leyland-Thomas, at 121.74 m.p.h., dating back to 1926.

(To be Concluded.)