A section devoted to old-car matters
A wet VSCC Thruxton (September 12th)
The final Vintage SCC Race Meeting of the year, at Thruxton, was wet for most of the time the wide variety of cars were racing. I used to wonder whether the Farnborough Air Display organisers had special meteorological information, because they seemed invariably to pick the best of the September weather, but this year two of the public days were rained out, and the Beaulieu Auto-Jumble again suffered a drenching, as did the VSCC at Thruxton.
Enthusiasm, however, was unimpaired, as drivers came out at 1 p.m. for the first four-lap handicap. Following their progress was rather complicated because some of the vintage light cars, whose event this partially was, had to do only three laps. The front row of the starting grid was occupied by three Chummy Austin Sevens, with two more Chummies behind them, one of this group being the Rev. Robin Newman’s 1928 Chummy which recently went from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in under 36 hours, to earn money for the restoration of his church in Monmouthshire. At the other extreme there was Johnty Williamson in the 1908 12-litre Itala on the scratch mark, its engine bigger than those of all the ten light-car competitors lumped together ! This was especially true, as unfortunately Barry Clark’s 1912 Singer Ten was a non-runner—instead he drove Lord Montagu’s 1907 7.7-litre Napier. Never before had we seen Barry Clark so elevated, but he seemed troubled by the gearbox and was no doubt itching to get back into his Ulster Austin. Riddle’s GN Vitesse beat the 4.7-1itre Brixia-Zust on initial acceleration, Barbet drove a long-tailed Austin Seven reminiscent of old Brooklands, the n/s of the Vicar’s bonnet jumped open, Newton proved that this race wasn’t to the Swift, and Philip Mann, having his first race in that Mercedes, and Williamson in the Itala, postponed changing-up after the chicane until they were nearly past the pits.
In the end the so-frequently successful Tony Griffiths won in his everyday Austin Chummy from David Kergon in Lord Montagu’s 1913 Prince Henry Vauxhall, which took the Napier Trophy, and Jeremy Collins in his immaculate two-seater Star. Griffiths naturally netted the Light Car Award and the Itala took the Edwardian Racing Trophy. But do not overlook Mrs. Fleming, whose Alvis made fastest lap on a miserably wet course.
The next race, of the same dimension, was watched by red-faced handicappers, because from lap 2 Mather simply raced away from the field in his AC-engined Frazer Nash with its long-wheelbase K3 MG chassis. Blishen’s fabric tourer Alvis Speed 20 and Crocker’s Lagonda Rapier chased forlornly after the winner. Morgan’s blown Lagonda Rapier Eccles Special Replica was a non-starter, having a burnt out exhaust valve. The 8-lap Spero and Voiturette Trophies Scratch Race for cars up to 1,100 c.c. aroused more interest among the sodden spectators, because after the supercharged J4 MGs of Cole, father and son, one slab-tanked, the other well streamlined, had run 1-2 to half-distance, Nev. Farquhar, in Melville-Smith’s Brooklands-model Riley Nine which won the Index of Performance at Le Mans, in 1933, driven by van der Becke and Peacock, divided this pere et fils contest. Not only that, but a lap from the finish the Riley passed the faster MG, to win the Spero Trophy for the blue diamond marque for the first time since its domination from 1961 to 1965. Only a length separated the two MGs in the run-home, so this was an excellent race. Barry Clark’s Ulster Austin Seven expectedly took the Voiturette class, but Fletcher-Jones’ Lagonda Rapier retired and Geary’s Riley was in trouble. Peter Binns was making a reappearance in his once well-known Riley and, after getting hemmed in on lap 3, was well up at the finish.
Still in pelting rain another four-lapper saw Gibbs’ 1932 Frazer Nash come through nicely from the 5 sec. mark to win from fastest-lapper Marsh, in his oddly-construed but effective Alvis Special, third place going to Comber’s blown 1929 4-1itre Alfa Romeo with replica body. This time the Rev. Newman retired (which is what our printers did in August to a clergyman correspondent on the letters pages, whose “Rev.” in his signature was rendered as “Retd.”. Our apologies to the Rev. Paddy Stanley).
So to the John Holland Memorial Trophy Race, over 8 laps, for vintage racing cars. The field was unfortunately reduced when Moffatt’s Type 35 Bugatti, which had been flinging lubricant and losing compression in practice, was banished from the starting grid for dropping oil and Brooke retired the Vauxhall-Villiers at the same time, as it lacked the requisite air-pressure. Neil Corner got away splendidly in his immaculate Bugatti and led from start to finish, soon pulling out a lead of four to five seconds over the second car, Elliot-Pyle’s blown 1929 Hyper Lea-Francis, which was motoring magnificently. Thus they crossed the line, with Williamson in the big V12 Delage taking third place a lap from the finish after a spirited chase after Collings’ 1929 6-1/2-1itre Bentley built for him by Hofmann and Burton. Boyce understeered his Frazer Nash into the chicane barrier on lap 5, to the detriment of its frontal appearance. The weather remained beastly, which is probably why Bergel’s Bugatti racer and Densham’s 30/98 Vauxhall racer kept their mudguards on. There was mild speculation as to why Corner’s Bugatti faltered on lap 6, the solution being that the ignition lever protruding from the facia above a recently fitted temperature gauge had retarded itself, as at Silverstone, only at Thruxton Corner caught it in time. His car, which is a Type 35B Bugatti, built in 1936, with twin fuel fillers and a radiator cap as on the Type 51s, was used by Williams, alias Grover, in the Monaco Grand Prix. At Thruxton it averaged 70.86 m.p.h. and made fastest lap of the race, at 72.62 m.p.h.
After Sir Francis and Lady Samuelson had driven a lap of honour in the 1914 TT Sunbeam to celebrate Sir Francis’ long motor-racing career, which commenced 60 years ago, the 10-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race for Historic Racing Cars was contested. Non-runners included the AFM with a broken drive-shaft, Potter’s ERA Delage with fuel in the sump, and Venables-Llewelyn’s ERA with water in the oil. Corner ran away with this one, too, in his 1959 DBR4/250 Aston Martin, followed in procession by Pilkington’s Cooper-Bristol, Martin Morris’ ERA and Wilks’ Lotus, until lap 6, when Wilks got past the pre-war car. They finished like that, Corner never challenged. He gained no points in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest for this fine, well-judged drive, as it only applies to pre-war cars, but his previous win had added 18 further points to the 70 he had already amassed this season in the Bugatti and his Sunbeam “Tiger” (now being completely rebuilt), to give him an unassailable lead, which the PA commentator apparently didn’t appreciate, in spite of the programme’s promise to keep the public informed.
The sun was now shining to improve conditions for the three 4-lap handicaps which completed the afternoon’s sport (the Alvis Parade failed to happen due to a paucity of suitable Alvis cars—which the Alvis Register and AOC will surely find difficult to live down ?).
In the seventh race Lipston’s AC-engined Frazer Nash shed a snaking chain in time-honoured fashion as it accelerated away and it was Batt, driving Wood’s normally-temperamental supercharged Lagonda Rapier, who made the running, winning very easily indeed (Oh, handicappers !) from the Chawner-GN, another car which has found reliability. Crocker’s Lagonda Rapier was third, thus moving ahead of Marsh in the Brooklands contest. In the next handicap, which was to have been a Riley race, 19 of these Coventry-built cars were not enough to satisfy the organisers, who threw in two Lea-Francis, five Aston Martins and the Amilcar-Riley (which at least has a Riley engine), which spoilt the whole conception. However, it was a Riley which took the chequered flag, Colin Readey’s 1935 1.8-litre six-cylinder ex-works car coming through the field in splendid style from the scratch mark, while behind him Russell’s 1936 1-1/2-litre Riley Special with Sprite chassis and the body from Mike Hawthorn’s car, just, but only just, took second place from Peter Binns’ Brooklands-model Riley Nine. So honour was upheld.
It was fitting, too, that as another VSCC racing season ended, with the chill of autumn stealing over the Thruxton plain, two 30/98 Vauxhalls, those of Densham and Quartermain, which had both left from the limit mark, ran first and second almost to the end of the concluding handicap, which was an enormously stirring event, with the intrepid Bill Morris having the race in his grasp, until he spun the ERA “Hanuman” at the chicane, enabling Pat Marsh in the ex-Seaman 1-1/2-litre ERA to come home first, ahead of both the Vauxhalls. But this was, nevertheless, the drive of the day, the 1936 1-1/2-litre ERA lapping at 83.81 m.p.h., compared to Corner’s 81.87 m.p.h. on the wet track in the 1959 3-litre Aston Martin. Martin Morris was baulked a bit at Campbell corner on lap 2, but in three laps he had made up 25 sec. on Peter Waller in the white 3-litre Maserati—it was driving the equal of his Oulton Park form.
All that remained was for the Editor’s eldest daughter, Mrs. Fox, to present the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy to Neil Corner, who thoroughly deserves to have won it again, as much for his splendid presentation of the right sort of motor cars as for his skilled driving of them. A wet but satisfying day was over.—W. B.
Spero & Voiturette Trophies Race (8 laps)
1st:A. N. Farquhar (Riley), 62.70 m.p.h.
2nd:G. V. Coles (MG).
3rd:M. G. S. Coles (M.G.).
John Holland Memorial Trophy Scratch Race (8 laps)
1st:E. N. Corner (Bugatti), 70.86 m.p.h.
2nd:R. Elliot-Pyle (Lea-Francis).
3rd:J. T. Williamson (Delage),
All-Comers’ Scratch Race (10 laps)
1st:E. N. Corner (Aston Martin), 80.72 m.p.h.
2nd:R. A. Pilkington (Cooper-Bristol)
3rd:W. E. Wilks (Lotus).
First 4-1ap Handicap:J. A. Griffiths (Austin). 51.73 m.p.h.
Second 4-lap Handicap:B. Mather (Frazer Nash), 64.67 m.p.h.
Third 4-lap Handicap:M. W. Gibbs. (Frazer Nash), 62..25 m.p.h.
Fourth 4-lap Handicap:J. A. Batt (Lagonda Rapier). 73.02 m.p.h.
Fifth 4-lap Handicap:C. Readey (Riley), 75.83 m.p.h.
Sixth 4-lap Handicap:C. P. Marsh (ERA), 78.39 m.p.h.
Fastest lap of the day:W. R. G. Morris (ERA), 83.81 m.p.h.
1970 Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest:
1st:E. N. Corner (1925 Sunbeam and 1930 Bugatti)-88 points—using Dunlop tyres, Duckhams “R” (Sunbeam) and Castrol GP oil (Bugatti) and Newton methanol fuel at Thruxton.
2nd:J. W. T. Crocker (1934 Lagonda Rapier)-52 points—using Avon tyres, Duckhams oil and Shell fuel at Thruxton.
3rd:J. A. E. Marsh (1936 Silver Eagle Alvis with Speed 20 engine)-49 points— using ordinary road tyres, Duckhams oil and any two-star fuel.
The Hon. Patrick Lindsay, who had flown in in a Stampe biplane, and Martin Morris were using Dunlop Road Speed tyres as rain-wear, with excellent results.
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A period sight—G. S. Hartley adjusting an oil drip-feed on the dashboard of his splendid supercharged Anzani Frazer Nash replica, before going out to race. And a weather note—K. Knight had a mudguard over the o/s rear wheel of his Riley Special, to keep his right shoulder dry.
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C. Clifford’s V8 Riley was again going well. It transpires that its engine is a Riley V8, not an Autovia V8, as it consists virtually of two nine cylinder blocks, adding up to 2,174 c.c., whereas the Autovia engine was formed from 12/4 blocks. There were 14 of these engines—one went to Australia, it is thought, one was destroyed. Clifford possesses the remaining dozen ! Incidentally, whereas many cars came on trailers, this Riley Special put on road equipment and was driven away, towing its owner’s camping trailer . . .
Looking back on the outcome of the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contests in VSCC Races
B. Kain (Bugatti) ……………………………….. 88 points
R. Jardine (Bugatti) & P. Carmichael (BMW) 57 points
C. Rogers (AC Special) ……………………….. 55 points
B. Kain (Bugatti) ……………………………….. 52 points
H. Barr (Alvis Special) ………………………… 49 points
G. Footitt (AC/GN) ……………………………… 65 points
P. Cobb (Frazer Nash) ………………………… 55 points
J. Abson (Lagonda Rapier) ………………….. 54 points
E. Corner (Bugatti and Sunbeam) ………….. 54 points
C. Readey (Riley) ……………………………… 49 points
R. Adnams (Frazer Nash) ……………………. 44 points
1970: See above