The VSCC at Cadwell Park

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For the sixth year running the Vintage Sports Car Club combined with Charles Wilkinson, proprietor of Lincolnshire’s Cadwell Park, to promote a race meeting with a very distinctive pre-war flavour on the Sunday of the late August Bank Holiday weekend. Not only were all the cars taking part of pre-war ancestry, but the circuit itself is so reminiscent of pre-war road racing — the 2.25 mile track is narrow and twists and turns its way through open farmland and woods, along a hillside and through a valley. So popular has this venue become with VSCC members, despite some rather damaging accidents in previous years, that the programme this year had to be extended to ten events. The weather was kind, staying dry after rather depressing early morning cloud, although the wind off the North Sea was bitingly cold towards the end of the day’s racing.

The programme started with the Spero and Voiturette Trophies Race, run over 8 laps with a scratch start but including a sealed handicap. The Spero Trophy is open to cars under 1100 cc, while the Voiturette is for un-supercharged sub-750 cc cars. In the absence of Harper’s rapid Morgan, the front row of the grid saw Freddie Giles GN/Morgan lined up alongside Dennis Barbet’s Riley 9 and Barry Clarke’s supercharged Austin 7. Martin Eyre, on the second row of the grid was the best placed Voiturette car. Barber made an excellent start, as did Eyre who was alongside Clarke before the first corner, but, due to clutch slip, Giles made an uncharacteristically poor start, allowing most of the field to pass him before Coppice Corner. At the end of the first lap, Barber had drawn out a useful lead over Eyre and Frank Hernandez who had taken advantage of the wide grass verges alongside the start straight to carve his way past the slow Giles into third place. Barbet held the lead until the end, but Eyre never let him relax, being but a few seconds behind. Hernandez harried Eyre from lap three for a couple of laps until back-markers enabled Eyre to increase his margin of safety. Giles eventually overcame his slipping clutch problems and entertained the crowd as he forced his way through the field to fourth place by the sixth lap, accompanied by the staccato bark of his twin-cylinder JAP engine. He was four seconds down on Hernandez at the end.

The second and third events were five lap handicap races, the latter including a division for chain-driven Frazer Nash and GN cars. John Howell really had the supercharged 3-litre Sunbeam flying, to win the first race from Chris Hudson’s Ulster Aston Martin and Barry Summerfield’s deceptively fast Avon-Bentley. Paul Holdsworth in Rod Jolley’s Giron-Alvis (surely the longest racing car ever?) was set an impossible handicap, waiting on the grid for over two minutes after the first car had been flagged away. Holdsworth’s task was not helped by a misfire, and the 3.5-litre supercharged car finished a lonely last but one. Baxter’s Riley 9 developed a rather worrying knocking noise shortly after the start, and this got steadily worse throughout the race although the driver seemed not to notice, pressing on hard to the finish. A good mid-field scrap between Tilden Walker’s PVT Alvis and Mark Walker’s Vintage Bentley (driven by his father to good effect the previous day at Silverstone, went in favour of the younger car by a fraction of a second.

The second handicap race went to AR Brown’s Riley special, just ahead of Ken Fantom’s Humber 14/40 special. Thomasson’s Alfa Romeo 1750 was third, nearly half a minute behind the leaders, and it was not until after Thomasson that the first Frazer Nash finished, this honour going to Peter Whale’s Interceptor. Dick Smith’s Meadows engined Frazer Nash appeared to have been set an impossible handicap, being held back on the grid to start with Ian Stirling’s supercharged Norris Special single seater, but Smith soon proved the handicapper to have been justified in his assessment by a couple of rapid laps before the head gasket failed. Chris Bird drove the Archdale Frazer Nash very tidily In second place in the ‘Nash division, and he was followed home by Trevor Tarring’s delightful Anzani-engined tourer.

Another race within a race followed, this time over ten laps. The main event was for two seat Grand Prix cars, competing for the Nuvolari Cup, with a secondary race for Austin 7s, entitled the “Inter Continental A7 Race” in honour of the four Australian Austin 7 competitors present. Rodney Felton, who won the similar race last year, dominated the event from the start, his Monza Alfa Romeo never being seriously challenged, although both Chris Mann (Monza Alfa Romeo), and Hamish Moffatt (Type 35B Bugatti), tried as hard as they could, Moffatt eventually retiring after circulating for two laps in a huge smoke haze. It was wonderful to see Sean Danaher at the wheel of his father’s 8CM Mascrati, Sean bringing this fine car home a creditable third ahead of Nick Mason’s Type 35B Bugatti. Two Edwardians completed the Nuvolari Cup field — Adrian Liddell’s well known Straker-Squire, which thundered round the track in fine style, to finish one lap down, and Hon Patrick Lindsay’s 1914 GP Opel, driven on this occasion by a cautious Roger Collings. The car sounded lovely, and it was marvellous to see this historic car out again after a number of years inactivity, even if it was somewhat outclassed.

The Austin 7 part of the race was thoroughly dominated by Tony Johns, who had developed a rapport for the difficult Lincolnshire circuit very quickly, showing many of the resident drivers the way home in his over-bored, supercharged 7. He was followed into second place by Bill Morris, more used to driving an ERA, who had had a superb race long dice with Max Foster from Australia, Foster getting in front for a short time on lap eight.

Event five was a four lap scratch race, and careful seeding of entries provided a well matched, but very varied, field. John Seber Wolseley Hornet, led the race throughout, but was pushed all the way by Mac Hulbert (Alvis) and Peter Whale (Frazer Nash Interceptor), Hulbert, who set fastest lap, was so enthusiastic in his attempts to catch the flying Seber that he spun at the foot of the Mountain on his second lap, allowing Whale through to second spot, but Hulbert was soon on Whale’s tail again. regaining second place an the last lap.

The 10-lap scratch race for Vintage Racing Cars was marred by an accident involving John Howell’s well-known Sunbeam, necessitating use of the red flag to stop the race after four laps. Luckily. Howell was not badly hurt in the incident, although the car was badly damaged. and no-one else was involved. The race was re-started and the results taken on the aggregate times. Tim Llewellyn (Bentley 3/8) led the race throughout, with only Ron Footitt (Cognac Special) anywhere near. John Howell held third place. driving really hard and seeming to whip the car along by reaching back with his left arm to heat the tail of the car each time he drove past the start line (perhaps trying to close an over-sensitive quick release filler cap?). until crashing at Charlies at the start of lap five. The second part of the race was enlivened by a David and Goliath struggle between Chris Chilcott’s very fast Alvis-engined Frazer Nash and Jonty Williamson in the enormous 10,0-litre Land Speed Record Delage. Williamson had been delayed at the start of the first part of the race when the engine failed to fire, but had entertained the spectators with his forceful handling of this large car on the narrow circuit he climbed hack up the field. The engine caught immediately at the second start, and he and Chilcott raced together for the remaining on laps, the Delage just keeping ahead by dint of its tremendous power, but the Frazer Nash tried everything on the corners to get ahead. The aggregate times gave Chilcott the advantage. but there was only 0.1 of a second between their fastest laps.

After another four lap handicap race, won by Tony Johns (Austin 7) from Mike Rushton (MG M-type) and S Thomasson (Alfa Romeo), came the most exciting race of the day, the 10-lap Scratch Race for Pre-War Racing cars. This very much of an ERA benefit, no less than eight examples of the make being entered as well as the ERA-Delage, making a welcome re-appearance in the hands of Hon Patrick Lindsey. Martin Morris (R11) was on pole position, sharing the front row of the grid with Bill Morris (R12B) and Donald Day (R14B) with Peter Mann (R9B) and Willie Green (having his first ERA race at the wheel of the very famous R4B, the car which Raymond Mays drove so effectively, now owned by Anthony Bamford) on the second row. All the ERAs employed pusher’s for starting, except for R12B which started up on a single pull-up on its starting handle. Willie Green showed his tremendoas ability by making a first class start to take him in to the lead, followed by the two Morrises. By the end of the first lap. Green was noticeably ahead, with Martin Morris in second place being pushed by Bill Morris. Next time round. Martin Morris had been able to put his years of ERA experience and his knowledge of Cadwell to good use to reduce Green’s lead. and Day had passed Bill Morris to take third spot. David Black retired his 8CM Maserati after two laps. The order at the front stayed the same until lap eight, Morris hanging on to Green all round the circuit, but never quite making it past him, and at the end of the sixth lap Day was also challenging for the lead, but dropped hack slightly on the seventh. Morris managed the seemingly impossible to squeeze past Green on lap eight, immediately drawing out a two second lead, which he held to the finish. Back down the field. Lindsay was enjoying himself immensely dicing with Mann and Brian Classic (R2A ). these three cars circulating within a second of each other for four laps, Lindsay eventually passing the other two to finish sixth, behind Patrick Marsh (R1B) who drove it tidy, but lonely race after he had passed Classic and Mann on the third lap.

The day’s racing closed (somewhat late, due to Howell’s unfortunate accident) with two handicap races. Tony Johns winning the first to give him three victories in the day — making his trip from Australia just that little bit more worthwhile. He was followed home by Seller and Champion (Austin 7) while the final event of the day saw some very exciting racing as Day struggled to take his car through the field from scratch to finish in third place behind Summertield and the VSCC President, Tom Threlfall, who was conducting his Lancia with his usual fine style — PHJW.

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