The Brighton Speed Trials
New Course Record Established by R. Charlton (Vincent-H.R.D. Motor-cycle) in 23.57 sec. Ken Wharton (E.R.A.) Lowers Car Record to 23.63 sec.
Although Ken Wharton broke Raymond Mays’ course record and motor-cycle-rider R. Charlton set a new absolute record for the Brighton kilometre of 23.57 sec., the speed trials on September 4th, in effect, took us back in time, for the seaside sprint was a traditional aspect of motor sport in the nineteen-twenties. The R.A.C. ban of 1925 on public-road events put paid to all that, as few seaside towns possess private roads. Brighton is fortunate in this respect, for the Madeira Drive was built expressly for motor racing at the turn of the century. It is exceedingly gratifying that it is still used annually for these famous speed trials (alas, international in name only) and, although driving and spectating thereat may lack the excitements of circuit racing, it would be a thousand pities if this age-old fixture were ever abandoned. The Brighton and Hove M.C. runs this elaborate show very efficiently and is wise in including classes for vintage racing cars, B.D.C. members and lady drivers. The thunderous old cars show up to advantage at a fixture like this one — indeed, the Vintage Sports Car Club might well put on a purely vintage seaside sprint, if a suitable private road could be found, thereby capturing another link with the “golden age.” And what better venue for a lady to try her skill than along this straight kilometre?
This year racing motor-cycles returned to Brighton, and with a vengeance, for Charlton’s 998-c.c. Vincent-H.R.D. set up a new course record, 0.6 sec. faster than Wharton’s new car-record in the ex-Mays’ blown 2-litre E.R.A. Wharton had two more runs at his disposal, but did not use them, rumour saying that the E.R.A. over-exerted itself in breaking its 1948 record.
A few special sprint cars appeared, but they are, in general, now no match for the conventional racing car, the fantastic blown 27-litre Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined Swandean Spitfire Special not being able to better 27.43 sec. On the other hand, it was nice to see that hard-trier Rupert Instone rewarded with second fastest-time-of-the-day amongst the cars in his Djinn; modesty caused him to remark to us that “after all these years I should know how to make a blown V-twin J.A.P. do its stuff.”
The straight kilometre isn’t unduly hard on cars and only the Tipper 500, Constable’s TD M.G. and Smith’s 4-litre Sunbeam appear to have failed to negotiate it.
Besides those mentioned already, the highest praise goes to Mrs. Sarginson, who ably won the ladies’ class in her husband’s “2.3” G.P. Bugatti, to M. Wick, whose Allard made best sports-car time, and to Dick Jacobs, who drove the fastest M.G.
A wet morning prevented new sports-car records from being established, but conditions in the afternoon were just about perfect. All day a very large crowd lined the terraces above the course. They were treated to a first-class commentary by Messrs. Morley and Marsh.
Brighton provided a pleasant change from the eternal club circuit racing; it also emphasised our national caution in motor-racing matters. Formerly the racing cars, after being timed, have been allowed to return to the Paddock, partially along the public road, but this year the R.A.C. panicked at such a lawless procedure, so that they were caused to return along the course, and consequently we were denied a chat with the drivers on the return road and the public a close-up, at this point, of the cars. When the Tipper broke down and was towed away a trade plate and an “on tow” notice had first to be tied to its tail, another precaution you wouldn’t see on the Continent! — W. B.
B. & H.M.C. Members’ Handicap.
The oldest car, Wilcock’s Edwardian Talbot two-seater, whose actual time was 55 sec., won this.
Sports Cars up to 1,100 c.c.
Watling-Greenwood just beat Steed’s Lotus. We liked the exhaust system of R. M. Smith’s Brooklands Riley, which was paired with another R. M. Smith in an M.G. — cylinders one and four fed into an upper external pipe, cylinders two and three into a lower external pipe, both pipes passing into a square exhaust box with tail-pipes directly opposite the points of entry.
Sports Cars, 1,100-1,500 c.c.
This class included Betty Haig’s M.G. with Rogers’ special chassis and TD engine, J. R. H. West’s all-enveloping H.R.G. with Lea-Francis engine and D. A. Beare’s smart, airship-shaped, long-tailed, Ford Ten-engined Denmark Special. Constable was allowed three tries in his TD M.G., but in each case the throttles refused to open properly. The class was another Lotus/Tojeiro battle.
Sports Cars, 1,501-2,500 c.c.
Tony Crook carried the day here in his Cooper-Bristol sports-racer, although he got quite excited on the line when the twin-radiators started to boil. He used 6.00-15 rear tyres and, in spite of much wheelspin, beat Scott-Brown in the Lister-Bristol by 0.42 sec. Of the more normal cars, Rudd’s A.C. Ace accelerated very impressively into third place. Jenkins twice false-started his Healey and Hely got furious wheelspin in his Frazer-Nash. So wet was the course that Cooper’s Riley saloon actually gained initially over a Frazer-Nash.
Sports Cars over 2,500 c.c.
This category ranged from Bowman’s Armstrong-Siddeley Sphinx saloon, which got off impressively, to specials like Wood’s R.G.S. Atalanta, which had some very slidy moments, allowing Monro’s 4 1/2-litre Invicta to lead for quite a long way, Pick’s Pick Special with 3 1/2-litre Bedford engine and solid front axle and crab-track and the Ford V8-engined Grenfell Special of Heatley. Norman Dewis was a centre of attraction in the Reims-winning D-type Jaguar, but he was beaten by quite a margin by Wick’s snaking 5 1/2-litre Cadillac-Allard. Keeling’s C-type Jaguar was third. Lycett had a nasty tail-slide as he changed up on the 8-litre Bentley, Hogg’s Jaguar suffered from spin, but Powell (Jaguar) effected a model getaway. Parker (Jaguar) used little air in his back tyres in deference to the rain, White’s was weighed down by club badges, Park took off sedately in his neat V8 Autovia-engined Alfa-Romeo 1 1/2-litre, and Raven had a hood over the front seat of his old Railton tourer. A. D. Lockhead used notable restraint before opening up his beautiful 3 1/2-litre Delahaye.
Supercharged Sports Cars up to 2,000 c.c.
Haworth was a treat to watch, his 2-litre G.P. Bugatti sliding about, then gathering itself together to surge away from M. P. Moore’s light M.G. There were only six contestants, four of whom gave many c.c. to these two.
Supercharged Sports Cars, Unlimited
C. E. Lewis drove the imposing double-crankshaft 4-litre Maserati, a real handful in the wet and a hesitant starter. David Lewis’ beautiful “2.6” Alfa-Romeo false-started, Sarginson took his “2.3” Bugatti off carefully at about 2,000 r.p.m., and all this delightful machinery, which made one nostalgic for gear-noises, the correct smells and pre-war meetings, was beaten by the class-record-holding Jaguara, although so slippery was the Madeira Drive that it was 3.18 sec. slower this time.
Bentley Drivers’ Club Class
Although the second runs were taken after lunch, when the course was almost dry, Lycett’s record of 27.92 sec. wasn’t in the least endangered — he himself took 31.6 sec., but not in this class. Lockhead drove a very nice “unspoiled” 4 1/2-litre, the ribbed blower of Pownall’s 4 1/2 coupé howled nicely, Kramer drove his blower car and Hogg had the ex-Butterworth 4 1/2 engine. The opposition between Hewett’s last-built 8-litre and Sears’ Continental Bentley was interesting: A. N. Hewett, 35.3 sec.; S. E. Sears, 35.27 sec. What is this progress of which they speak? Clarisse Mountfort, scorning the rain, looked completely confident in Mountfort’s 4 1/2-litre and clocked 38.2 sec., by no means slowest.
Racing Cars, 500 c.c.
With the course dry, except on one side at the start, the sun out, and no breeze, the afternoon session saw class records fall.
Tyrrell’s Cooper broke Richard’s J.B.S. record by 0.81 sec. The I.E.R. Midget had its engine protruding fully exposed from the tail, protected by an anti-roll bar.
Racing Cars, 501–1,100 c.c.
Instone’s rear-engined Djinn with supercharged V-twin air-cooled J.A.P. propellent simply shot up the course, leaving the Cooper challengers far behind. Bradnack seemed to cut-out rather soon on his first run. The Hillwood blown M.G. smoked. Instone beat the old Cooper class-record by 2.71 sec.
Racing Cars, 1,101-1,500 c.c.
In spite of giving away over 400 c.c., the Djinn did it again, breaking the Freikaiserwagen’s record by 1.1 sec. Lord Ebury’s E.R.A., looking like Gerard’s old car repainted, was neat, Vaughan had a bouncy, not-very-quick ride in his Frazer-Nash and Williamson’s E.R.A. led Berry’s modern-looking E.R.A. Special, which was misfiring.
Racing Cars, 1,501-2,000 c.c.
Walker’s Connaught beat Marr (Connaught), and Wilkinson’s Cooper-E.R.A. was beaten by Alan Brown’s Cooper-Alta, but won the B.&H.M.C. members’ prize. The E.R.A.-Delage came thundering along, going beautifully, but Wharton, in the ex-Mays, ex-Flockhart Zoller-blown E.R.A. won the class comfortably, breaking the A.J.B. class-record by no less than 2.88 sec.
Racing Cars, Unlimited
In this class Wharton set what would have been a new course record, had not motor-cyclist Charlton beaten it. Stubberfield alone used twin rear wheels on his Bugatti; Robins’ very nice “2.3” Bugatti ran road-equipped. The four-wheel-drive Swandean Spitfire was impressively steady and made beautiful aerodrome noises but, in spite of a new gearbox and weight paring, isn’t fast enough.
George Brown for once had to give best to Charlton, who rode a Black Shadow H.R.D. converted to “Lightning” specification, extensively lightened and using coil ignition. The class produced Williams’ Cotton-J.A.P. with streamline fairings, Collins’ Velocette with passenger lying fate upwards in prone position in the “chair,” and a rather pointless Morgan driven by Woods in which the engine is behind the seat instead of out in front and the passenger sits high in the air on a pillion-seat.
Vintage Racing Cars
This was Stubberfield’s, with little opposition. Hulbert’s white Austin Seven was airborne over the rough spots. The 4-litre V12 Sunbeam got no farther than the line, the Orlebar Special represented sprint motoring of the ‘thirties, and Rudd’s smart and throaty S. F. Edge A.C. Six two-seater-cum-dickey broke down beyond the finish on its second run. Why no Edwardians?
Mrs. Gerard’s record was quite safe, because Miss P. Nevin, who might have done something about it in Whiteway’s 2 1/2-litre H.W.M., obviously preferred a little shopping-car to the boy-friend’s racer. She was beaten by every other female, save Mrs. Holdaway in a sports Alvis and even this cumbersome car was only 0.53 sec. slower.
Mrs. Sarginson, in black trousers and jersey, drove her husband’s Bugatti beautifully, and faster than her husband had been able to in the rain that morning. Of the two Wendys, Mrs. Cookson’s TR2 Triumph tied with Miss Pownall’s blown “Cream Cracker” PB M.G. on the first run and beat it by 2.16 sec. on the second. Another good tussle was seen between the Hon. Sally Noel-Buxton and Sybil Parker, both in XK120s, the former reversing the results very noticeably on a determined second run. Miss Richmond was supported by a large cushion in the Allard.