THE R.A.C. TOURIST TROPHY RACE
A DAY OF RECORDS. C. R. WHITCROFT & G. E. T. EYSTON ON R1LEYS, FIRST & SECOND, M.G. THIRD.
Qt5ARRY Corner—a sharp, dangerous bend, and scene of many a narrow escape. A Talbot, practising for the T.T. race, comes tearing along the straight from the Stands. The driver cuts out, brakes heavily—and the offside back wheel snaps off, flying into the air in a great arc. For a moment the car remains level, then with a lurch it sinks down on to the brake drum, which sends up a protesting shriek as it burns into the macadam road. With an effort the driver holls the car on to its correct course and gradually pulls up. An R. A.C. official runs breathlessly to his side.
The Hon. Brian Lewis (for it was he) smiles blandly at the official : “May I park my car here, please ? ” * * *
The R.A.C. Tourist Trophy Race, always full of incidents and accidents, began its excitement this year in the few days of practice before the race. After the Hon. Brian Lewis had had his spot of bother with the Talbot, H. C. Hamilton came to grief rather badly at Ballystockart on his M.G. Midget.
In spite of a dislocated shoulder and a broken rib, Hamilton pluckily turned out to see the race, and was given a big reception by the crowd when he appeared on the course in a bath-chair.
Practice speeds were very high, and it was evident that the race was going to be run at a higher speed than last year.
The Midgets, by reason of their victory last year, were faced with a heavy handicap, but in spite of this had increased their speed, so that they stood a fair chance of success. Hamilton’s crash completely wrecked the car, so a composite machine was frantically assembled in order to keep Major Gardner’s team complete. Actually 9 M.G. Midgets came to the line, for Manby Colgrave was a nonstarter. The Riley Nines were firm favourites, for the handicap only demanded that they lapped at 2 m.p.h. more than the Midgets. A lot was expected of ” Freddy ” Dixon,
who was making his first car race appearance on a Riley which bore traces of that illimitable person’s tuning and preparation. A certain amount of consternation was caused in the Crossley camp at the scrutineering when it was found that the bores of their engines were larger than had been thought. Luckily, the strokes also were shorter, so that a crisis was averted.
Only one of the Riley Sixes was ready, but the car was too new to be expected to spring a surprise. The Aston Martin entered by Shuttleworth was one of this year’s Le Mans cars ; Sullivan’s Lea Francis had raced at Phcenix Park, and was a fast one, and the 8-cylinder 1i-litre Alvis was the actual car handled by Cushman two years ago. Of the Frazer Nashes, Moore’s was a ” blown ” side valve car, while Aldington’s unsupercharged o.h.v. model was the most ” touring ” car in the Tourist Trophy race, being the same car which ran through the Alpine Trial without the loss of a mark, and had not been touched since the Trial !
The Talbots were the usual” 105″ cars entered by Fox & Nicholl, Ltd., and the Alfa Romeos were the latest type” 2.3’s,” driven by Earl Howe and Sir Henry Birkin at Le Mans and Francorchamps.
Although a massed start was not used. in the T.T., all the cars were sent away very quickly. When the flag fell for the first group, the unblown 1100 c.c.’s, to start, all the cars leapt forward—save the two Crossleys driven by Vernon Balls and Crowther, which refused to fire, taking several minutes to leave the line.
The rest of the field got away well, Sir Henry Birkin’s acceleration on the Alfa Romeo being particularly impressive. Last of all the Talbots were given the signal, and received a rousing cheer from the crowd as they set off in pursuit of the others. The first pit stop was made by Vernon Balls (Crossley) with a broken shock absorber bracket, which he left in his pit
to be welded, and departed. Hailwood stopped at Comber to make a slight adjustment on his M.G. Reports came through from Comber and Dundonald that Whitcroft (Riley) was leading, and the order past the stands at the end of the first lap was Wliitcroft, Eyston, Gillow, Dixon and Staniland, all on Rileys, which, of course, had started in the first group.
Having watched the cars all complete their first lap, we walked down to Quarry Corner to see if any excitement had occurred at this point. We found that everyone was driving very steadily, however, and that the ditch was so far empty. We were told that the front-drive Alvis had scored first blood at the Comber butcher’s shop, hitting the sandbags with out damage to the car, and that soon after Oats stopped there with clutch trouble on his Crossley, and retired.
Hindmarsh was having overheating difficulties with his Talbot and came into his pit to fill up his radiator. Then an exciting incident occurred at Newtownards, when T. H. Wisdom (Riley) misjudged the corner and got into a broadside, which he failed to control, and, after nearly hitting a shop, came to rest right across the road, with his engine stopped. Before he could get going T. G. Moore (Frazer Nash) appeared, to find only a narrow gap of a few feet left between the Riley and the sandbank at the side of the road. Greatly to the delight of the densely packed crowd, Moore slipped through, demolishing some sandbank in the process, with undiminished speed. P. W. Dixon had pushed ahead to such good effect that by noon, one hour after the start, he had taken the lead, having averaged 74.53 m.p.h., the order being :—
1, F. W. Dixon (Riley), 74.53 m.p.h.
2. G. E. T. Eyston (Riley), 74.15 m.p.h.
3. V. Gillow (Riley), 74.13 m.p.h.
4. C. R. Whitcroft (Riley), 74.11 m.p.h.
5. C. Paul (Riley), 70.66 m.p.h.
6. Sir H. Birkin (Alfa Romeo), 81.33 m.p.h.
7. Earl Howe (Alfa Romeo) 80.75 m.p.h.
8. A. B. von der Beeke (Riley), 71.44 m.p.h.
Sir Henry Birkin was driving at a terrific speed, breaking Borzacchini’s last year’s lap record of 10 mins. 5 secs, on practically every lap. 10 mins. 4 secs., 9 mins. 58 secs., and then 9 mMs.56 sees.— an average speed of 82.5 m.p.h. !
Vernon Balls left another shock absorber bracket to be welded at a local garage en rouse, and the hurriedly built M.G. Midget, constructed in place of Hamilton’s wrecked car, retired at Quarry Corner. More excitement occurred at Newtownards when Whitcroft skidded into the sandbank, but continued, and Crabtree overshot the corner. Just before this Barnes had a narrow escape when he skidded on Bradshaw’s Brae right in front of the Hon. Brian Lewis, whose Talbot actually collided with the Midget. The Talbot only sustained a bent shock absorber arm, but the Midget had to retire.
Then trouble befell the Riley camp, Chris Staniland retiring with a run bigend, and Wisdom giving up after his skid at Comber—but with seven cars in the race, they could afford not to worry ! Dixon, however, proceeded to show everyone what he was capable of by steadily increasing his lead, lapping at about 75 m.p.h.
Anxiety was felt in Major Gardner’s pit when he failed to appear to schedule. Then news came through that he had met with a bad accident at the Glen Hill, Bradshaw’s Brae. His M.G. Midget turned over three times ; the mechanic was thrown clear as the car rolled over for the first time, and only suffered from shock, but poor Gardner was still in the car when it eventually came to rest.
Unhappily, on being taken to Ards Hospital it was found that Major Gardner had sustained a compound fracture of his thigh (the same leg which was very badly wounded during the War), with a
severe facial injuries. These ill-tidings cast a certain gloom over the proceedings for the rest of the race, for Gardner is a most popular figure wherever he competes, and his accident was deeply regretted by everyone. Gillow’s Riley began to misfire, so he pulled in and changed his plugs, eventually tracing the trouble to the magneto, while other pit-stops were made by Moore, who changed the front wheels of his Frazer Nash after his narrow escape
at Newtownards ; the Riley Six, which had buckled a wheel by striking a kerb ; and the Alta, which retired after making
a determined effort to demolish the butcher’s shop at Comber. Van der Becke (Riley) had a bad skid in Comber, without hitting anything, and the Hon. Brian Lewis found that his
collision with the Midget had disturbed the steering and brake gear of his Talbot, making the car difficult to hold on corners. However, he decided to continue until his scheduled pit stop for refuelling.
Dixon continued to pile up a big lead, lapping consistently at over 75 m.p.h., finally doing a circuit at 76.36 m.p.h. ! Eyston and Whitcroft were well placed, though, and were both lapping at about 75 ru..p.h. Sir Henry Birkin was driving superbly, and after two hours his average speed for the whole distance was higher than Borzacchini’s lap record last year Earl Howe was letting Birkin set the pace, but was none the less close behind.
With Staniland and Wisdom both out of the race, neither of the two Riley teams was complete, and Major Gardner’s accident had put one of the M.G. teams out of the running. At 1 o’clock, the order was :
1. F. W. Dixon (Riley), 75.26 m.p.h.
2. G. E. T. Eyston (Riley), 74.45 m.p.h.
3. C. R. Whiteroft (Riley), 74.42 m.p.h.
4. Sir H. Birkin (Aim Romeo), 81.54 m.p.h.
5. C. Paul (M.G.), 69.97 m.p.h.
6. Earl Howe (Alfa Romeo), 81.01 m.p.h.
7. E. R. Hall (M.G.), 69.71 m.p.h.
8. Von der Beeke (Riley), 71.48 m.p.h.
The Aston Martin fell out with engine trouble, and from all round the course came news of cars coming into more or less violent contact with sandbanks, sandbags, stone walls, grass banks, and kerbs, Gillow had a spectacular skid at Comber, needless to say without injury to himself ; Moore hit the sandbags at Comber, but continued ; McClure, driving the Riley Six, struck another kerb, buckling a wheel ; while Freddie Dixon hit the bank at the Moate without damaging his car, and proceeded to raise the 1100 c.c. class record to the astonishing figure of 76.84 m.p.h.
Then Hindmarsh found that his earlier overheating trouble had caused the cylinder head gasket of his Talbot to “blow,” which he promptly set about changing—a process which took him 98 minutes, and effectively destroyed Talbot’s chance of winning the team prize’ The unlucky Vernon Balls retired at Comber with clutch trouble, on his Crossley, the same fault which had caused Oats to retire earlier in the race.
Cyril Paul did. a very fast lap on. his M.G. at 72.64 m.p.h. ; Norman Black on a similar, car nearly came to grief at the Moate, and Hailwood (M.G.), after a very good run, retired with engine trouble.
An unobtrusively good show was being put up by H. 3. Aldington, whose Frazer Nash, fresh from its triumphs in the Alps, was lapping regularly at about 70 m.p.h.a wonderful speed for an unblown 1i-litre of such versatile characteristics.
The refuelling time came, and Eyston was the first of the Rileys to come in, taking on 5 gallons of petrol and 1 gallon of oil in 31 secs. Other cars came in, Sir H. Birkin changing his back wheels in add iton to refuelling ; Cyril Paul refuelled in 50 seconds ; Sullivan, who had been handling his Lea Francis splendidly, refuelled and changed a wheel ; and Earl Howe filled up and changed his back wheels in 3 minutes. Crowther (Crossley) worked on his car for some time at the pits, adjusting his valve tappets, but had to retire, thereby eliminating all the Crossleys from the race. The Hon. Brian Lewis came in to refuel, and took the opportunity to straighten things up a bit in front of the Talbot, and Dixon and Norman Black made quick stops for more fuel. Dixon continued to lead the official Rileys, and at 2 o’clock the order was :
1. P. W. Dixon (Riley), 75.39 m.p.h.
2. C. R. Whitcroft (Riley), 74.39 m.p.h.
3. G. E. T. Eyston (Riley), 73.99 m.p.h.
4. E. R. Hall (M.G.), 70.08 m.p.h.
5. Sir H. Birkin (Alfa Romeo), 79.82 m.p.h.
6. Earl Howe (Alfa Romeo), 79.64 m.p.h.
7. S. A. Crabtree (M.G.), 67.96 nt.p.h.
8. J. D. Barnes (M.G.), 67.71 m.p.h.
The Hon. Brian Lewis began to make a determined effort to put the Talbots into a more favourable position, and covered a wonderful lap at 81.3 m.p.h., just a bit faster than last year’s lap record. Meanwhile Esplen was in at the pits fitting a new drive to the water-pump of his privately-owned Talbot “90.”
Another accident. T. G. Moore (Frazer Nash), who had driven a very fast race, cornering at great speed, got into a bad skid in the same spot at Ballystockart, where Hamilton came to grief in practice.
He finished up by going backwards into a garden, slightly damaging his car, but without injury to himself or to his mechanic. Unfortunately, three spectators were hurt, one of them, a woman, sustaining a dislocated hip. Cyril Paul, who had led the M.G.’s for some time, retired, letting E. R.. Hall up
into 4th place in the general classification. The Midgets were making an extraordinarily fine show, keeping their places well, in spite of the re-handicapsand were lapping at over 70 m.p.h.-with a 750 c.c. engine !
Von. de Becke’s Riley was going badly, owing to a faulty contact-breaker, and Whitcroft (Riley) came in to refuel. The new non-skid surface of the road, while fulfilling its function admirably, was rather heavy on tyres, and the AlfaRomeos and Talbots had to keep a watchful eye on their treads. The Hon. Brian Lewis had to come in to change wheels.
A sensation was caused when Sir Henry Birkin came into the pits and. announced that his oil pressure had gone down to nil. After tightening up the pressurerelief valve he got away again, and in trying to make up for lost time had a series of terrific skids down Bradshaw’s Brae.
Then came a change in the leadership. Freddie Dixon, after a marvellous display of driving, during which he raised the 1100 c.c. lap record to 76.84 m.p.h., and led the official team of Rileys by a good margin, hit the kerb at Quarry Corner. The car shot across the road, leapt over the hedge, and landed on all four wheels in a garden, the imperturbable Dixon being uninjured, but his mechanic being rather badly cut on the jaw. So ended a very memorable run, which has proved Freddie Dixon to be a force to be reckoned with in motor racing. This let Whitcroft up into the lead so that at 3 o’clock the order was : 1. C. R. Whitcroft (Riley), 74.25
2. G. E. T. Eyston (Riley), 74.14 m.p.h.
3. E. R. Hall (M.G.), 70.15 m.p.h.
4. Earl Howe (Ala Romeo), 80.03 m.p.h.
5. Sir H. Birkin (Ala Romeo), 79.02 m.p.h.
6. T. E. R(v,e-Richards (Talbot), 75.14 =pia. 7. N. Black (M.G.), 66.54 But the race was not yet over, for as time went on a few more retirements took place, and the handicap began to make itself felt. Crabtree retired with a faulty petrol pump on his M.G., an irritating