Letter from Europe

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[By means of which the Continental Correspondent, while he is motoring abroad keeps in touch with the Editor.]

Dear W. B.,

No matter where you motor in Europe you come across a road-racing circuit, either extinct or still in use, which to me is the whole essence of motor racing, even though the under-nourished, milk-fed enthusiast of today views a stadium or super-speedway as the essence of motor racing. Whenever I am near to the Nurburgring, to Spa, to Rouen, to Monte Carlo, to Pau, to Chimay, to Reims, I make a detour to savour the joys of real motor racing. Near Berne, Pescara, Naples, Albi, St. Gaudens, Floreffe, Mettet, Peronne, and countless other places I enjoy savouring what used to be. When near Vallelunga, Hockenheim, Castellet, Karlskoga, Zandvoort, Jarama, I just motor on. Looking in at the Nurburgring the other day I found myself in the middle of the Belgian-organised Marathon of the Route, a rather pathetic substitute for what originated as the Liege-Rome-Liege rally, became the Liege-Sofia-Liege rally, and because the increase of affluence in the world allowed every peasant in Europe to change his donkey-cart or bicycle for a Fiat 500 or folkswagen (or Mini ?), had to disappear from the roads of Europe and be held on the Nurburgring. The pleasantly informal atmosphere allowed one to spectate freely at numerous points around the famous track which is impossible at Grand Prix time. Watching the Rally-type saloons circulating to a regular schedule, which went on for 86 hours, the thought occurred that it would be much more exciting and realistic if the organisers let a few cars and lorries, belonging to the public, circulate in the opposite direction. They could even offer lap money and compensation as an inducement. A Rally-type saloon on the closed circuit seemed very tame and unrealistic, compared with the-once famous Liege-RomeLiege event.

Crossing Belgium I detoured to Stavelot and Francorchamps for a belt round the Spa circuit, the E-type pulling 5,000 r.p.m. in top down the Masta straight, and then heading for Liege I came up behind a black Peugot 404. It was hustling along in a very efficient manner and being driven in a manner we would call enthusiastic, and in the back window was a Yardley BRM team sticker of the type that the perfume company have been distributing all over Europe at race meetings. This in itself was not significant or interesting, but the driver was, for he was wearing a Belgian Gendarmerie flat-topped hat, and was obviously on his way to work in Liege, the Peugeot being privately registered. Without doubt he had been on duty at Francorchamps at the time of the Belgian Grand Prix when Rodriguez won for the Yardley BRM team, and may even have had some connection with the team at the circuit or in the village of Francorchamps where they were based. I followed him for quite a long way at a spirited speed, until he dived off down a side turning, taking a short cut to the Gendarmerie headquarters, no doubt.

:While in London recently, I took the opportunity to explore the new Motorway that crosses the western inner suburbs of Paddington and Shepherds Bush, and marvelled at being able to zoom across the conglomeration below at a legal 60 m.p.h. In Paris a similar elevated Motorway now rings the whole of the eastern side, so that you can enter on the Motorway from Lille and leave on the Motorway to Orly in a matter of minutes with no traffic problems. As a school-boy in 1935 artist’s impressions of such elevated roads in The Motor and The Autocar used to bring forth cries of derision from Edwardian grown-ups. As from October 1st, new laws will affect the Paris elevated ring-road, and good laws at that. Tanker vehicles carrying inflammable or explosive liquids will be banned from using the elevated roads, and heavy vehicles will be forbidden to use the third, or outside lane. The first ban is in case a tanker should catch fire, for it would be impossible for a fire engine to reach it, due to the traffic volume carried by the road, and the second ban is to prevent the slow lorry races with one struggling to overtake another and reducing the traffic pace to a crawl. Already thought Is being given to a second-storey elevation for “light vehicles”.

It being a glorious sunny day on the return trip from Monza I decided to take the Mont Cenis mountain route instead of the Mont Blanc tunnel, for since the opening of the tunnel the Mont Cenis route is almost traffic-free. The same applies to the road over the Grand Saint-Bernard pass, for that tunnel has taken 95% of the traffic, especially the commercial vehicles and the dreaded caravans being towed behind Dauphines and Opels. Charging up the Susa-Mont Cenis road I was recalling the mountain hill-climb that used to be held annually, until traffic density made it impossible to close the pass for a whole day, and wondering if the time was coming to re-open such events ; Aosta-St. Bernard was another. As I started the final mass of tight hairpin bends, I came across the Yardley BRM team transporter being backed into the side of the road with three BRM mechanics looking very apprehensive, The huge Leyland truck containing three BRM racing cars, two spare engines and all the racing paraphernalia amounting to an all-up weight of 11 tons, had come to a grinding halt through lack of power and a fluid-flywheel drive that was being too fluid. Various suggestions were made, such as giving it a tow with the E-type, and unloading the racing cars. Unfortunately all three BRMs had blown-up at Monza, otherwise we could have had a lot of fun driving them over the mountain. Assistance from a breakdown lorry was obviously required, so I took one or the BRM chaps in the Jaguar and we went on up to the frontier. The only help there was a tired jeep so we were recommended to go on down into France where there was a Land Rover, or 30 kilometres further on where we would find a heavy-duty six-wheeled breakdown vehicle. We set off and on the long undulating bit on the top of the pass we saw the Dunlop articulated Ford transporter full of tyres. Catching it up took no time for Dunlop’s “Bill” to unhitch his semi-trailer in a lay-by and return with us to the stricken Leyland with the tractor part of his outfit. In the ditch near the BRM transporter we found a great length of wire hawser left over from some road workings, and soon the Ford was towing the Leyland up to the top of the 7,000 ft. mountain pass. Monza having been Dunlop’s last Grand Prix race in Europe this was a fitting end to the BRM/Dunlop partnership that has existed since 1947. Needless to say this little trouble put everyone’s schedules way behind, and we laughed all-round at the thought of Team Manager Tim Parnell’s greeting when the lorry arrived late. “You’re late, wher’ve yer bin”. The poor old Leyland was looking very sorry for itself, grossly over-loaded and very tired and now in its eleventh year of European Grand Prix travel. Perhaps Yardley Perfumes will buy the lads a nice new one for next year.

Yours, D. S. J.

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