VSCC Silverstone Races

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Tim Llewellyn takes Motor  Sport Brooklands Trophy 

In return for having “July in September” Silverstone races the VSCC ran into heavy rain about half-way through the Hawthorn Trophy Meeting, with exciting results (not that last summer’s weather was much better). Before the racing began a nice little ceremony took place in the Medical Centre, when the plaque in memory of Bentley-boy Dr JD Benjafield (he also raced Salmson, Panhard and other cars) that used to be in the old First-Aid hut having been restored by Dr Harris, was unveiled in its new location.

Racing opened with a six-lap scratch race in which Chris Mann’s Monza Alfa Romeo looked the obvious winner until it retired with a seized piston, allowing Paul Grist in Keith Duly’s Monza to win from the Royce-Bentley, Dunham who was trying very hard in the ex-Brooklands Alvis taking third place from the Alvis “Brutus”, only to retire. This was followed by a handicapped five-lapper. Wortley’s Morris­Oxford Special led for a couple of laps but odd noises were presumably the beginning of all the teeth coming off the final-drive, so from lap 3 Baxter’s manx-tailed J 11/2-litre Riley Special took over, winning from Davney’s MG/Riley and Pilgrim’s Austin 7. 

Things hotted-up with the 10-lap scratch Boulogne Trophy Race for vintage racing cars. In practice Hamish Moffatt, last year’s victor, had had a sensational brake lock-up with Wall’s Bugatti, which ripped away the off-side back-plate and wore a flat in the brand-new tyre. Replacement parts did not avail and Moffatt non-started. The race was really a high-speed procession between Tim Llewellyn in the big blue Bentley, increasing his lead for the Motor Sport Trophy, Peter Morley, who chased him closely in the aero-engined Bentley-Napier, and Ron Footitt in the AC/GN. Thus they crossed the line, Tim having lapped at nearly 81 mph. Russell’s neat 4/8-litre Bentley was fourth, ahead of Williamson in the 101/2-litre V12 Delage. Hernandez was the only posted retirement, his Austin 7 oiling its clutch. 

Light cars were incorporated into the next event, a four-lap handicap, which is why we saw Mrs Roberts’ 1922 Lagonda touring round. Haye’s SD 12/50 Alvis beetle-back, screen erect, led for two laps, then Baxter came through to win again in his Riley, Stapleton’s triple-carburetter Hotchkiss two-seater second, Cotter’s J2 MG third, Hewson’s MG-M won the Light Car Award after a lap at 48.48 mph

The Pre-war Allcomers’ Scratch Race promised much of interest. Willie Green was to drive Bamford’s latest possession, the famous ex-Raymond Mays’ R4D ERA with that enormous Shorrocks compressor between his legs. But how much of it is “pre-war”? In fact, nine ERAs were to run, Gahagan’s the only defaulter, whereas the assorted Maseratis of Millar, Black and Margulies all defaulted. In the event, the Hon. Patrick Lindsay had it all his own way, R5B “Remus” sounding splendid. He led from start to finish and set a new pre-war racing-car lap-record, in 1 min 05.1 sec (88.92 mph), bettering Crabbe’s time with the W125 Mercedes-Benz by 1.3 sec, or by 1.74 mph. Lindsay was discreetly chased by Donald Day, actually driving hard in R14B, who was 44.5 sec behind. Green was third, 4.6 sec behind Day, looking into the cockpit at his legs on the final lap! Nick Mason did well to come in fourth in R10B, as the cylinder head had been off that morning. 

The so-called pre-war sports cars then ran an eight-lap “Fox & Nicholl” handicap, although Arthur Fox might not have approved of a Ford-powered GN, which, however, discreetly non-started. Bill Symons’ Alvis Speed-25 was in front on lap 2 but promptly retired, letting Tom Threlfall’s Lancia lead, until it was overtaken three laps later by John Harris’ Lagonda Rapide which had such bad brake-snatch on the run-home that it smote the Woodcote wall. Credit laps confused the outcome, which was that Rodney Felton’s 8C Alfa Romeo won, from Duly’s Monza Alfa and Bugler’s Lagonda LG45, Felton doing an excellent fastest lap at 79.08 mph.

The rain then came pelting down, to enliven the scratch 15-lap Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Race for post-war racing cars. There was an exciting enough field in any case, with Neil Comer’s 3-litre Ferrari Dino to challenge Green in Anthony Bamford’s similar car. Bruce Halford wasn’t running his Lotus 16, due to back trouble, those other Maseratis defaulted again, and there were others who failed to come out, and were possibly glad, under the distinctly aquatic conditions prevailing. Doing my best with a sodden notebook, no Paddock Press-box at Silverstone, -I saw it thus: Green led for two laps, Comer had got him by lap 3, but only by a whisker. Green was then past Corner again and these two had now drawn away from the indomitable Lindsay, third in “Remus”. Green led over the glistening track for the next two laps, with Comer up his tail. Then Comer was in front again, from laps 6 to 8, and pulling away a little, until he spun into the inside on Woodcote straight. He kept the Ferrari’s engine running and had lost so little ground that he was still in second place on the next lap. Then, three laps later, the Ferrari spun round again, this time coming into Woodcote, and it slid sideways into the catch-fence. Corner remained in the cockpit, prevailing on the marshals who arrived after some time, to release the car and restart it, as he obviously didn’t want to leave such a valuable piece of machinery in such a vulnerable position. Indeed, Clifford’s Cooper-Bristol went off a little further round the comer and into the same fence. 

It really had been a stirring race up to that moment but thereafter, although Corner motored just as fast it seemed, it was all over for him. Willie Green drove on to a magnificent victory, although Comer had done fastest lap, at 83.17mph. Lindsay was next home, a superhuman effort, to keep his pre-war car (and an ERA is not the best of cars, perhaps, on a wet track) ahead of a dozen other cars, most of them post-war, with all that this implies from a road-holding point of view. Not only that, but Lindsay had gone round at 79.63 mph, averaging 77.99 mph. Green averaged 80.12 mph for the race, much quicker than Halford’s 1980 race-winning speed. Simon Phillips’ Lotus 16 was third, Martin’s 250F Maserati fourth, Vic Norman’s 250F Maserati fifth, Donald Day’s ERA a notable and hairy sixth, the Hon A Rothschild’s 250F Maserati (where do they all come from?) seventh, while Comer finished eighth. On the road the “toothpaste-tube” Connaught was third, just pipping Phillips, but it was disqualified for “illegal-sized” tyres, and the Monza Lister-Jaguar was also struck off. 

Mingled with relief that there had been no human casualties under the very bad conditions, one felt commiseration for those engaged in the remaining two five-lap handicaps. Tedham’s Austin 7 “bathtub” took the first from Champion’s well-driven Ulster Austin 7, Cann’s 2-litre 15/98 Aston Martin just holding off Hales in Pilgrim’s orange Austin 7 for third place. The last “ordeal” went to hard-trier Roger Howard in his silver Type 37 A Bugatti, from Rogers’ LM6 Aston Martin and Roscoe’s Alvis Special, Day’s ERA doing best-lap, at 68.67 mph.

Thus did the VSCC race season go out in miserably damp fashion. It had been nice to see Howell’s blown 3-litre Sunbeam, rebuilt after its horrific Cadwell Park prang, do fastest lap in race eight, at 62.38 mph. Di Threlfall’s Austin had sheared its n/s half shaft keys, so didn’t appear in the second engagement, the Hotchkiss spun in front of Quartermain’s 30/98 in the “Fox and Nicholl”, and Llewellyn elected not to run in the last race in deference to low oil-pressure in the Bentley’s engine.

All that remained was for Winifried Boddy to present the Motor Sport Brooklands Trophy and the £325-worth of prizes to Tim Llewellyn, Donald Day and Patrick Lindsay, and for the last named to receive so deservedly the Crompton Parkinson “Driver of the Day” Award. – WB.