Salvadori’s Unblown Riley makes F.T.D. in 23.32 sec. at West Court. Frazer-Nash B.M.W. Fastest in Sports Car Classes.
It is with a pleasurable sense of anticipation that one visits a new speed trial venue, and this was especially so of the Hants and Berks M.C.’s new 1/4-mile course at West Court, Finchhampstead, where a closed event was held on September 15th, the Vintage S.C.C. invited. This turned out to be one of the best events of this Sprint Age. The course, rather loose and bumpy, with a most interesting S-bend by the house which is to become a country club, was in the old tradition and would have suited Joyce’s A.C. or “Kim.” The organisation was first-class in almost every respect and drew warm praise afterwards from the R.A.C. steward, Sir Algernon Guinness, Bart. — which is praise indeed. At last we had a model announcer in J. Lowrey, who kept up a really interesting commentary, and knew what he was talking about. He was admirably relayed via Curtis’s Antone equipment and did much to keep the rather unfortunately-placed onlookers interested. The course was properly fenced and decently policed — unlike meetings at certain other venues. The new Hants and Berks M.C. has come into its own, and its secretary, C. H. Bulmer, and his officials, deserve warm congratulation. One only hopes this success will not induce the club to raise its modest entry fee of 2s. 6d. and equally modest annual subscription of 7s. 6d. The owner of the ground, Mr. S. W. Gordon, is a vice-president, and hopes later to re-surface and extend the course. He took 90 per cent. of the gate money on September 15th. It cost spectators 16s. for car and two occupants and, even in this inflated age, one hopes this can be reduced, and that 4s. will not again be charged for a minimum tea. West Court gave such an excellent afternoon’s sport that it deserves expansion and increased success in the future, and must not be held back by excess charges.
The first class contested was for sports cars up to 1,100 c.c. Lester’s P.B. M.G., a bit untidy on his first run, faster on his next, beat Rivers Fletcher’s H.R.G. and Hanman’s very smart, road-equipped Q-type M.G. Everyone else toured.
In the 1 1/2-litres unblown, 1,101-c.c. blown sports class, Brandon, making one run only in his M.G., although rather wild, beat Moore’s red Riley “Sprite” and Marcus Chambers’s L.M.B.-blown Ford Eight saloon, by a useful margin. Kennington’s noisy K3 M.G. would have won the class, but it was running with benzole in the fuel, not allowed for sports cars. Olley’s N-type M.G. was gentlemanly, but quicker than some and, naturally, Elwell Smith’s early Bertelli Aston-Martin was faster than Fowler’s Bamford & Martin Aston but, in its turn, was beaten by Diana Cowell’s Lancia “Aprilia” saloon.
The class for sports cars of 11/2 – 3-litres unblown, 1,101 c.c., 1 1/2-litres blown, was won by Oscar Moore’s 328 B.M.W. which, beautifully efficient, set fastest sports-car time at 34.18 sec. on its second run. Raymond Way drove his B.M.W. nicely into second place, and Baring’s 328, driver’s elbows very busy, was 3rd. Grieg’s Frazer-Nash ran beautifully on its second run, but not quickly enough; Miss Haig “diced” her A.C. and just beat Andrews’s blown twin o.h.c. Aston-Martin with the Benson engine, which possesses excellent acceleration. Cole’s S.S. “90,” with cut-down wings, beat the old Aston, however.
Sydney Allard, in his stark new V8 Allard, a sports car rather in the Italian tradition, won the unlimited class in 24.2 sec., with Wharton a close second in C. A. N. May’s Ford V8 Special and Braid’s Ford V8 Special, 3rd. Emery’s dual-blower Hudson was 4th fastest, beating Marshall’s 7.3-litre Leyland, Parker’s V12 Allard, Fairman’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley, Dryden’s Jaguar, Butterworth’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley, and the J.B. Ford V8, which were placed in that order. Slowest was Griffith’s blower Bentley, and on its second run Richmond’s “30/98” Vauxhall went into the bushes at the corner, neither driver nor car being damaged.
The racing cars up-to-1,100-c.c. class was a convincing success for the 498-c.c. Cooper-Special, which not only beat eight larger cars, five of them blown, but did it by a nice margin and without apparent effort. Cooper did 25.7 sec., Brandon 27.66 sec. Then, on the second runs, Cooper did a rousing 24.73 sec. and, telling Brandon to “drop it into top after the corner,” gave the car to his co-driver. Brandon got off well, snapped the gear-lever towards him, accelerated hard, cut for the corner, and crackled out of sight-24.42 sec., fastest time, and only 1.1 sec. slower than f.t.d.! This, following Strang’s f.t.d. at the V.S.C.C. Prescott meeting, sets Class I cars very much on their little wheels. All praise to the builders and drivers. Third behind the Cooper was Fountain’s Q-type M.G., which beat Kennington’s M.G. by a narrow margin. Gerald Sumner’s singleseater M.G., tow-started on arrival by Brackenbury’s 4 1/4-litre Bentley, was very slightly slower.
The 1,101-1,500-c.c. racing-car class was poorly supported. Watson’s E.R.A. snaked off to do 25.62 sec., Hawkes, newcomer on the Abecassis No. 1 E.R.A., checked a bad slide coming out of the “S,” to do 26.02 sec., then Norris’s Norris-Special (blown f.w.d. Alvis engine, G.N. base) went splendidly, to clock 24.46 sec. Margulies’s Type 39A, wirewheel, twin-exhaust-pipe Bugatti was hopelessly slow, and even Cowell couldn’t better 24.67 sec. in the E.R.A. Grand show, Norris! In the second half Hawkes started badly with immense wheel-spin, but improved to 25.22 sec., Norris was a shade slower, and Bob Cowell snaking up to the bend, pipped the “Special,” with a run in 24.80 sec.
F.t.d. came in the 11/4 – 3-litre-racing-car class. Salvadori, with the black, exDobbs, ex-Fernihough, ex-Bellevue Garage 2-litre Riley, wearing ordinary clothes (and a crash-hat on his second run) clocked 23.40 sec., and then got that down to 23.32 sec., a fine show. He learned his record time from Marcus Chambers on his return, shook hands with Cooper, and was decently modest about the whole thing. Cowell did 24.06 sec. and then 24.00 sec. with the Alta, with which Watson did only one run, taking 27.10 sec. Watson did much better on a very snaky, dust-raising drive in the Type 51 Bugatti, getting 3rd place ahead of Hawthorn’s Semmence, which experienced the first real skid at the corner and didn’t run again.
Finally came the unlimited racing class. This became Allard’s property, his second run occupying only 24.0 sec. The new, long-tailed Allard fairly lifted itself off the line but still sounded to be minus a contributory “pot.” Promise of things to come? Emery’s Hudson and the May Ford were runners-up, being .17 and .46 sec. slower, respectively. The Leyland sounded fine and handled beautifully, Marshall doing his second run in 24.79 sec. in a car which was very large for this course. Next in order were Fairman’s Bentley, Dryden’s Jaguar, Braid’s Ford, Butterworth’s Bentley, Boothby’s Ford and Griffith’s blower Bentley-vintage sports sandwiched between modern “Specials.”
So ended a most interesting and satisfactory meeting. The setting could not have been bettered in the September sunlight and the grass-grown paddock (fortunately it wasn’t wet!) was a worthwhile “snooping ground.” Mortimer’s Alta didn’t run, but Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer’s Rolls-Royce was present. Both E.R.A.s and the Alta used twin 4.50 in. by 18 in. tyres on the rear (“Royal Guard” on Hawkes’s car) and Allard had 5.00 in. by 16 in. Goodyears on the front, 7.50 in. by 16 in. on the rear, changing the latter for the run home. Canham and Eason-Gibson were present in red and blue 1946 Allards. Jennings and Pomeroy, of The Motor, Gibson, of Country Life, and Motor Sport were all spectating at the corner, with their wives. Patrick Green ran his s.v. Amilcar, very “vintage” on get-away, and there was another, a blue 2-seater, in the paddock, also the Amilcar M.G.-Six Salmon Special. Mrs. Bunty Whitaker drove a slow by noisy Lagonda Rapier 4-seater, but went home with Halford in a 1915 Austro-Daimler. Adamson’s Austin Seven, with hideous body and screen, had twin S.U. carburetters. Gerry Browne borrowed Birkett’s Austin Seven and was only .05 sec. slower than the owner, and Bowles, using lots of r.p.m. on get-away, did best Austin time, in 26.55 sec. Croysdill’s queer-looking “Brooklands” Riley seemed about to break in the middle, and was beaten by Raymond Way’s blue Riley, fastest of the “Brooklands.” Smith accelerated to the tune of a worn gearbox in his Riley Nine-engined M.G. Fairman’s long-tailed 2-seater Bentley was fast and thunderous; Jackson’s 3-litre Bentley and Southon’s H.E. good to see. An unpleasant incident happened in practice, when Gray’s Type 35B Bugatti left the line immediately the driver let-in the clutch, missed the broadcasting caravan, but knocked over one of Curtis ‘s Antones and continued for a very long way before stopping by a hedge. The car later broke its clutch bolt and did not run in the event proper.