The VSCC held its final race meeting of 1985 at the hospitable Cadwell Park circuit on August Bank Holiday Sunday. Nearly 160 cars were entered for what was the ninth year of this vintage meeting at a circuit so well-suited, with its pre-war flavour and interesting corners and undulations, to this kind of racing.
The nine-race programme opened with a five-lap handicap, in which the last three starters, the ohv vee-twin Trice, Brydon’s Speed-20 Alvis, and an Aston Martin with 1939 Riley Big-4 engine, the epitome of this sort of racing is variety, had a long wait before being released. In fact, the winner was Withington’s so-called Riley Raven, a neat 11/2-litre car, which came through by eating away at the field in proper handicap-race style, with Brownridge’s Wolseley Hornet second, Mann’s Triumph Southern Cross third. Davie’s ex-Dobbs Riley slid off at the Mountain but still contrived to come in 11th, out of 18 finishers.
There followed a short delay to re-establish telephone contact with the marshalling-posts, after which Tarring cranked-up his aluminium-bodied sv Anzani-engined standard 1927 tourer, and the Frazer Nash chain-drive five-lap handicap was on. Tarring was caught after two laps and Gibbs, driving the twin-blower, Gough-powered single-seater Frazer Nash, came through well, to win from Selwyn-Smith’s Fraser Nash International and Walker in the Ford-engined GN “Dragonfly”.
Next came the eight-lap Vintage Scratch Race. This promised to be exciting, with Footitt in the AC/GN and Bob Roberts in the. Midland Motor Museum’s famous Sunbeam “Tiger” starting side-by-side. Footitt had the advantage on initial acceleration but the Sunbeam soon got into its powerful stride. Alas, Freddie Giles overcooked it on lap 2 at Hall bends, the AC/GN “Beetle” which his son had driven into eighth place in the previous race (in which Freddie was fourth in the GN “Salome”) going end-over-end, flinging Freddie out, and the race was stopped, but not before the skilful and intrepid leather-clad Harper in the 1926 vee-twin, two-speed Morgan three-wheeler had overtaken Giles at that point. Freddie was reported bruised and angry . . .
The re-run, over the full distance (none of this F1 nonsense!) saw Footitt again lead away, but this time the Sunbeam was much closer, until Bob lost this heavy-to-handle car in mild fashion on the opening lap. The oil flag was out, too, slowing things a little. The “Cognac” ran away with it, winning a processional event by 25 sec, and doing fastest lap, at 69.35 mph, with Harper in the Morgan second, MJ Stretton’s Frazer Nash Super Sports third, and Randel Stewart’s 3/41/2 Bentley fourth. The McDowell-Ford of Tom Threlfall was seen to have added a smoke-screen to its repertoire.
The race of the meeting was the Williams Monaco Trophy ten-lapper, for two-seater GP cars, the field depleted because the Bugatti-challenging Alfa Romeos had three of their number in Laguna Seca for a more attractive Alfa race and the Sunbeam “Tiger” did not elect to run again. But first there was another five-lap handicap, which the slab-tank Wolseley Hornet Special won from its limit start with consummate ease. The back-markers came up fast, however, giving Brydon’s Alvis second place behind Poynter’s Lea-Francis Ulster, with Gardner’s yellow J4 Replica MG with 939 cc engine and the much improved Trice following home the Alvis, which lapped at 62.84 mph.
The interest now centred on the Williams Trophy race and whether Sir John Venables-Llewelyn in Lord Raglan’s Type 51 Bugatti (again driven to the course from Wales) could do the hat-trick. Martin Morris in Marks’ later Type 51 beat John off the line but the hat-trick was thereafter never in doubt, the red Bugatti always some 25 lengths or so ahead of the blue one, given pit-signals each round by Lord Raglan himself. It was a popular win, by 3.8 sec, with Heimann’s 1931 Type 51 Bugatti, driven very well by Dutton, third, 13.7 sec behind Martin Morris. Behind this dominant Bugatti trio (all given lap-by-lap pit-signals) came Pilkington’s 1938 4.4-litre Talbot-Lago, to win the Bruton Trophy, having lapped at 68.76 mph, to Venables-Llewelyn’s best of 70.25 mph, the French car having kept Grist’s Monza Alfa Romeo at bay by a matter of 43.6 sec. The Bequet-Delage failed to complete a lap.
After Sir John had completed a lap-of-honour with the winning car’s owner Lord Raglan and the Trophy beside him, racing resumed with yet another five-lap handicap, in which Harris’ Lagonda Rapide Special came through neatly from the 30 sec mark to take the flag from Bailey’s triple-carburetter AC Special and Quartermain’s venerable 30/98 Vauxhall, the last-named staving off Scott’s sister car by just 0.1 of a second. Rain was now making things difficult, and the following ten-lap scratch race for pre-war racing cars was hairy indeed. Martin Morris in his ERA R11B made a model start from the front of the grid and led all the way, pursued very determinedly for six laps by Spollen in ERA R8C, until he dropped back to fourth position, when it was apparent that Thwaites was really making ERA R6B go, and that Dutton was having the drive of his life in Heimann’s Type 51 Bugatti. They finished in that order, Morris winning by 1.6 sec and lapping fastest in the slippery conditions, at 63.23 mph with a mere 0.7 sec separating the Bugatti and R6B, while Spollon ended up 4.1 sec behind Dutton. Exciting stuff! The Pilkington Talbot-Lago succumbed to transmission trouble, and Sir John Venables-Llewelyn in ERA R4A retired after one lap.
Over a wet track Farquhar’s ex-Dixon Riley 9 then took the Spero Trophy Race (eight laps) from Bull’s J2 MG and Rawson’s A7 which won the Voiturette Trophy, the handicap part going to White’s A7. A long day closed with a five-lap handicap which Burrows’ Speed-25 Alvis Special won from Harris’ effective Lagonda and Hudson’s Ulster Aston Martin, Bill Summers’ Maserati-like KN MG, on scratch, retiring with a recurrence of the fuel starvation that had afflicted it in practice, although the dirt in its tank had relented sufficiently for his son to make seventh place in the pre-war race.
Cadwell is fun; if you missed it this time, look for it again at about the same date in 1986. -WB