Ron Footitt (AC/GN) clinches Motor Sport Trophy contest
THE last 1983 race meeting of the Vintage SCC took place on August 28th, at the very suitable, twisting 21/4-mile Cadwell Park circuit (owned by Mr Wilkinson, who raced in the 1920s, remembers the Brooklands’ celebrities, and whose circuit will be 50 years old in 1984). The weather was unexpectedly cool, unlike the programme, which listed eleven races, the Club making up for not having had a meeting at Donington Park this season. This represented something of an endurance day for marshals and spectators but the latter certainly got their money’s worth, although only about 2,500 attended, about half the number required for a viable “gate”.
The entertainment began with practice, when a Frazer Nash’s back wheel broke up, an empty spectator’s Mini ran away after he had parked it, went through the fence, and nose-dived onto the track, and Roddy MacPherson clipped the bank at Barn corner and rolled his Cooper-Bristol — using his sailing techniques, he pressed hard with his feet and came out unharmed, nor was the car much damaged.
After that had been cleared up the racing commenced, with the 8-lap Melville and Geoghegan Trophies Class Handicap, over eight laps. Stretton’s Fraser Nash led gamely for six rounds before Stewart’s 3/41/2 Bentley came by, to win from Roscoe, seeking Pace points in his 4.3 Alvis, Stretton taking third place, after a notably prompt start, and thereafter being pursued by Woodley’s Alvis Firefly.
This was followed by a typical VSCC five-lap handicap, with three non-starters, 22 starters, and eight eventual retirements. That left Dunn’s Riley 12/4 to come through into the lead a couple of laps from the finish, the 1936 car winning easily, from Brash’s 1933 Le Mans Aston Martin and Ricketts’ smart 1936 Riley 12/4 which sports Ferrari and Bugatti-like filler-caps.
The Williams Monaco Trophy Race, over ten laps from Scratch, for two-seater GP cars, promised well, although two of the Bugatti contingent, Wall’s Type 35T and Posner’s Type 37A, were not running. The Trophy is that awarded to William Grover-Williams, an Englishman who won the first (1929) Monaco GP in his Bugatti against the “works” Bugattis and Caracciola’s SSK Mercedes-Benz (he averaged 49.83 mph for 100 tortuous laps). So this is a coveted trophy, which should be won by a Bugatti driver. But since the VSCC has staged this race for it Alfa Romeos have taken it four times, against two Bugatti wins. This year the Bugatti ploy was for Martin Morris to borrow John Mark’s Type 51 and Sir John Venables-Llewelyn to drive Lord Raglan’s Type 51. They were supported by six more Bugattis, opposing the Alfa Romeos of Felton, Grist and Summers. It paid off, although a broken oil-pipe on Morris’ car nearly caused him to be posted a non-runner. This being repaired in time, he led for the opening four laps, with Felton at first the meat in a Bugatti sandwich, as Venables-Llewelyn was third. Morris then dropped back on lap five and Felton continued the pursuit, now of Sir John, who had passed on lap three, although he never looked like catching him. They went over the finish-line in that order, the winning Bugatti having made the fastest lap, at 69.77 mph. It won by eight clear seconds. Morris was 9.6 sec behind the Alfa Romeo. Summers’ Monza Alfa was fourth, ahead of Danaher’s 8C Maserati, and then came Moffatt (Type 35B), Grist (Alfa Monza), Horton (Type 35B), Howell (Type 45/47), Conway, (Type 35T — taking the Buxton Trophy), Price (Type 35, on be tyres) and Heimann (Type 35), Smith’s Nurburg Frazer Nash having lasted only six laps. Venables-Llewelyn drove splendidly, making up for a disappointing season in his own cars, and Martin even took to the grass out of Barn corner on one lap trying to catch the Alfa Romeo but the Raglan Bugatti was in fine form, despite having been driven up from Wales.
Next came the five-lap handicap for cars driven by chains, although no Edwardians or veterans opted to appear. One wondered how many feet of good Reynolds was thrashing round and how many feet might be left on the track . . ! It was sad, in my view, that, after crackling into a convincing lead on the second lap, Parker’s BHD-GN was black-flagged on the fourth lap while still comfortably ahead, as a bit of exhaust pipe or something was trailing. That let Stretton’s Frazer Nash (called “Blare-Scringe” — why?) come through in the closing stages of the race, to win front Mitchell’s Boulogne Frazer Nash and Kirkpatrick’s TT Replica of the same make — “replica” implying not necessarily a Replica, in this case, if you follow — third. Stretton lapped at 63.43 mph.
The eight-lap John Holland Trophy Scratch race saw Ron Footitt streak away at flag-fall in the AC-powered GN “Cognac Special”. He was never challenged and was on his own after a mere three laps. Lapping at 65.43 mph Ron won at his ease, Stewart’s aluminium Bentley hoveing into sight 57.4 sec later to take second place from Freddie Giles in the GN-Morgan “Salome”, who was perhaps aided a little by the clutch slip that developed on President Tom Threlfall’s now quick ohv Ford-A-engined McDowell Special. Conway’s Bugatti was next home, followed by Threlfall, the Norris Special, and the big Delage of Johnty Williamson. Howell was seen at the end to be in a praying position beside his 16-cylinder Bugatti, looking to see, in fact, why it had been spraying his feet with hot oil. . . .
That brought us to the 10-lapper for pre-war racing cars. Alas, Willie Green in Bamford’s ERA R4D, Day’s ERA, Obrist’s 8C Maserati, Bill Morris’ ERA R12C, which Stephens was to have conducted, the Attenborough Special, Mann’s Tipo-B Alfa Romeo and the vee-eight Riley Clifford Special were all non-starters, reducing some of the excitement. As anticipated, Martin Morris led from start to finish in his immaculate ERA R11B, doing quickest race lap at 73.57 mph and winning at 72.24 mph. Black kept second place all the way, in his Tipo-B Alfa Romeo, finishing 12.7 sec in arrears, with Spollen’s ERA R8C a bit further spaced in third place, after a stirring duel with Bill Morris in ERA R12B, until the latter dropped out after five laps. Rodney Felton was fourth in his “new” 4CL Maserati, something at the near-side front seemingly attracting much of his attention. but his son in the Alfa Romeo was among the half-dozen retirements, leaving only Sweet’s RN MG Magnette and Gahagau’s K3 MG to finish.
After Spencer in his 12/50 Alvis Special had had an easy win in another five-lap handicap, followed home by the Riley 12/4 of Ricketts and the Riley Sprite of Gregory, Ricketts doing best lap of the race at 63.13 mph, the 10-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race was lined up. With Green, who should have driven Bamford’s 250F Maserati, the Hon A Rothschild’s similar car, Obrist’s Dino 246 Ferrari, Day’s ill-fortuned ERA, Colborne’s 6CM Maserati and Rollason’s GP Talbot-Lago defaulting, there were but nine contestants. Of them, Bruce Halford made no mistakes, and his 1959 Lotus-16 was the winner from the start. He averaged 73.32 mph, to cross the line 14.1 sec in front of the other 1959 Lotus-16, Chris Mann’s car, which took until half-distance to overtake MacPherson’s Mk 2 1953 Cooper-Bristol, which came in third, 18.2 sec behind Mann, a good show, remembering its practice inversion aforesaid. Mann made best lap, at 74.79 mph, in trying to close on Halford, lapping Clifford’s Cooper-Bristol in six laps, before that car, and Robinson’s Cooper-Bristol, both dropped out. Turner held his smart A-type Connaught in fourth position, fending off the Pearson Lister-Jaguar by a matter of 4.3 sec. Sankey’s Maserati was next home, with the ever-game Frank Lockhart in the 2.6-litre Rover Special last.
Still the spectators seemed prepared to stay on, on this chilly afternoon, to see the remaining three events. Giles won the Spero and Voiturette Trophies race, over eight laps, in the GN, at 60.37 mph, from Hernandez in his 1930 Austin 7, which was nearly as quick. Barbet’s Riley 9 was third, with McBeath’s hybrid Austin 7 taking Voiturette honours, at 53.10 mph. Barry Clarke’s son inverted the blown Seven before getting very far but without hurting himself much and Miss Arnold-Forster in the “firewood” A7 had a close battle with Mrs Woodrow in her much later A7 — but still not quite enough girls turn out to justify a VSCC Ladies’ race, apparently; so one tiny slice of Brooklands-type tradition has been lost.
The final five-lap handicap was a win for Fack’s Railton, delightfully described in the results sheets as a “Slight Sports” model. Sweet’s MG was second, Holland’s Riley Special third. Poor Wildbolz was having no luck with ERA R1A, which stopped for no apparent reason. Still it wasn’t over, because there was a four-lap “Anti-Climax” handicap to close the long day’s racing, which the VSCC had creditably kept pretty much to schedule. Pointer’s TT Lea-Francis won this one, which pleased me because it is driven to the course — I know, because I saw its crew investigating something beneath its bonnet on route for Cadwell. McBeath’s A7 was second, Willoughby’s gleaming side-valve AC third, and further down the field Fantom was driving his 14/40 Humber Special which he had contrived to spin while holding last position, in an earlier race — which perhaps summarises the fun they have, who go vintage motor racing . . !
We had seen Footitt increase his lead for the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy of which we think he is the only double-winner, anyway in recent years. We had seen Lotus cars come in first and second in the big race and wondered, optimistically, if the same might be happening at Zandvoort — but as the Lancia Prisma took us capably the 200 miles home its radio told us that, in fact, it was the Ferrari drivers there who had emulated the more amateur Lotus men at Cadwell Park.
Now it is all over until 1984, so far as VSCC racing goes, although the Club has plenty of driving tests, trials, and socials to keep the pot boiling until Christmas. One must conclude with a vote of thanks to the hospitable Cadwell Park circuit owners, whose course suits the old cars so well and which has been resurfaced this year — fortunately rumours that it was being shortened, and had changed hands, are unfounded. — WB.