A Supercharged Commotion

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It happened in 1924. The Alvis company upset Darracq, after these cars had achieved their 1, 2, 3 victory in the JCC 200-Mile Race. To understand the rumpus you have to also understand the record classes approved by the FIA in 1912. These started with Class A, for cars of up to 100cu in (1639cc), subsequent classes increasing by increments of 25cu in up to Class D, after which wider definitions were used, ending with Class J (Over 13,929cc).

This was fine until small cars became popular. To accommodate them Class K (under 1100cc) and a Light Car Class (1101 to 1500cc) were added. Timing of the JCC 200 Mile Races was accurate enough for international and world records to be established in the course of them. But note that each record class was separate; if a speed was higher in one class than in others it did not affect other records. In Darracq’s domination of the 1924 ‘200’ the winning car of K Lee Guinness had broken Light Car and World records, the latter being for the highest speed over recognised distances, irrespective of class.

Alvis, having broken some Light Car records, then bored out the engine of the single-seater 12/50 to 1563cc, putting it in Class A. With it Major Maurice Harvey set a host of new figures in that category.

Darracq thought, wrongly, that they held some of the records claimed.

Mr Smith Clarke, chief engineer at Alvis, retorted that the over-bored car was actually slower by 2.7mph round Brooklands than with the 1500cc engine (99.6mph) and that its heavier pistons imposed greater stress on the bearings. Mr S-C also tried to defend Alvis by stating that whereas the Talbot-Darracq that had won the 200-Mile Race in 1922 did so at 88.06mph, the winning Alvis in 1923 averaged 93.29mph. His comparison of the Alvis 200-mile Class A record of 94.67mph with the 200-mile race average by Talbot-Darracq in 1922 failed to convince, especially as the winning Darracq in 1924 had averaged 102.27mph and set a 200-mile world record of 102.17mph, and as the Darracqs were two-up in a congested race, while the under-14 cwt single-seater Alvis ran on a clear track.

It was all quite unnecessary, because Alvis had not advertised any records it did not hold. The Darracq objection was seemingly against one of their 1500 records being held at higher speeds than those by the slightly larger Alvis in Class A, which was sensible and ‘legal’.

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