This charming man
During a break between sessions at the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours, I bumped into…
THE event of the month has undoubtedly been the performance of the Napier-Railton in the hands of John Cobb at Brooklands. Everyone has commented upon the unusual steadiness of the car on the track, but this is not so remarkable when one considers that the car was designed and built specially for track work. Very few cars are. The 4i litre Bentley was not even designed for racing, but for high speed touring. The Leyland Thomas was a similar case, but happened to have a unique suspension which met the peculiar demands of track racing. The Delage was built, so far as I remember, for an attempt on the land speed record, over a straight course. The 4.9 Bugatti is a road-racing machine.
Road and Track Surfaces.
The trouble is of course, that a road has very different bumps from those of a track. Road-bumps are in the main short and frequent, demanding springs which can rapidly adjust themselves to frequent flexing. Trackbumps, especially on Brooklands, are about 20 feet or more in length, caused by subsidence in the artificial embankment on which the concrete is laid. Hence the long, twin cantilever rear springs of the Napier-Railton, which can absorb the deep travel of the wheels as they sink into the “valleys ” and heave over the ” mounds ” of Brooklands Track, without transmitting too much of this movement to the car.
The Tyre Problem.
It was only to be expected that such a fast car would be heavy on tyres. Whenever a rear wheel leaves the ground over a particularly big bump, the 500 h.p. Napier engine is ready to take advantage of the opportunity, to be duly braked by the tyre as it bites into the ground once more.
This state of affairs is not improved by a concrete surface so hot as to be uncomfortable to the touch, and it was for this reason that Cobb decided not to attempt lowering the lap record after the August Bank Holiday Meeting. There is no need to hurry, and I venture to prophecy that the record will be a good deal nearer the 140 m.p.h. mark before the year is out.
Now for the 24 Hour Record !
Meanwhile the car is being taken to Montlhery for an attempt on the World’s 24 Hours Record. All those
concerned in the running of the car have set their hearts on capturing this greatly-coveted record, which at present stands to the credit of a 12 cylinder Voisin, driven by Marchand, Morel and Kiriloff. Their recorcrof 2,723 miles 1,746 yards at an average speed of 113.50 m.p.h. was made so long ago as 1927, which goes to prove that their performance was ahead of the times.
The problem at the moment is to make the tyres last the fuel capacity of the car, 2-i hours running. The job could not be in finer hands, for the ability of the Dunlop people to rise to such an occasion can be taken as an accomplished fact.
If all goes well, I understand that the attempt will be made on September 15th.
After the World’s Flying Kilometre, the World’s Hour and 24 Hours records are probably the most coveted figures on the record-list. Of these the Hour record, at present held by Count Czaikowski on a 4.9 Bugatti at 132.87 m.p.h., is likely to be attacked in the near future by Mrs. Gwenda Stewart. The Derby Special already holds the Montlhery lap record at 145.94 m.p.h., so that Mrs. Stewart should stand a good chance of raising the Bugatti’s figure. What a marvellous driver she is !
In addition to the Napier-Railton attempt on the 24 Hours record there is a possibility that the record may first be beaten by Delage. The first run by Earl Howe, George Eyston and Denly ended after 7 hours with a leaking petrol tank, but at the time the car was running comfortably to schedule.
There is no more news of an attempt on the same record by Campari with the 16 cylinder Maserati on which poor Ruggeri met his death.
One of those more unimportant points of running a Brooklands Meeting which at the same time add considerably to the enjoyment of spectators is the allocation of No. 1 stall in the Paddock to the fastest car on the
programme. On August Banlr Holiday the order of the cars in the stalls was Cobb’s Napier-Railton, Don’s Bugatti, and 13ertram’s Delage.
An Italian “General Post.”
Talking of Campari brings us to the changes which have taken place recently in Italian racing circles. After months of wrangling the rumoured split between the Studeria Ferrari and their two star drivers, Nuvolari and Borzacchini, has now apparently become a reality. These two drivers are now in partnership, owning some 2.6 litre 2-seater Alfas, and the single seater Maserati with which Novolari has recently won the Belgian G.P and the Coppa Ciano. Their places in the Ferrari team have been taken by Louis Chiron and ragioli. Campari continues to drive for Maserati, with Zehender and 1Vtinozzi.
I hear that the Ferrari people have now acquired all the famous ” monoposto “Alfas from the Milan factory, there being five or six cars and a large stock of spares.
Driving a ” Monoposto,” Fagioli has already won the Coppa Acerbo and the Comminges G.P.
Straight’s Victory in Italy.
Whitney Straight’s win in the 1,100 c.c. class of the Coppa Acerbo is really good news. The Magnette had the measure of all the competing Maseratis and was never headed from the start, where it showed superior acceleration. This Continental racing by Straight should give the finishing touches to his already outstanding driving ability. Next year I have an idea he will be a serious menace to the big Grand Prix drivers abroad.
The Alpine Trial.
By an unfortunate series of events the wonderful performance of the Frazer Nashes in the Alpine Trial was not revealed in the bald list of results. First of all Thorpes’ unlucky crash on the Stelvio lost the team 92 marks out of their total loss of 97. Of course there should be no “ifs “in motor sport, or any other sport, but the team will have everyone’s sympathy, for without this accident the Team Prize would have been comfortably theirs.
But that isn’t the whole tale. By the rules of the Trial, members of a team were not allowed to compete in the individual competition. As it happened, H. J. Aidington’s Frazer Nash was the only British car in any class to complete the Trial without loss of marks, but being a member of the team this unique performance was not revealed by the list of results.
Passing Hyde Park Corner the other day I saw that Frazer Nash No. 86, which had so worthily upheld British prestige on the Continent, occupied pride of place in the Car Mart Showrooms, dusty and travel-stained from its Alpine journey.
A German Hero. ‘
‘ I did not realise, until a recent conversation with a friend who lives on the Continent brought my attention to the fact, the high position in German public heroworship held by Manfred von Brauchitsch. Good looking, and possessing a charming personality, von Branchitsch is constantly referred to as “our national cham
pion,” and his exploits receive tremendous publicity. Some time ago he acted in a motor-racing film called ” Kampft,” playing the part of the hero with all the assurance of a Hollywood “star.” This film naturally gave him thousands of admirers who have never actually seen him race, and his position in Germany now can be likened to that of Colonel Lindberg in the United States.
I had a visit the other day from J. E. Breyer, who told me of an interesting plan he has on foot for running dirt-track races for cars at Greenford. The originator of the scheme is an American exponent of this sport, named “Spike ” Rhiando, who has come over from the States to sound the possibilities of developing the game in this country.
On the face of it, it does seem rather absurd that we have no car-dirt-track racing in England. Motor-cycle speedways have come to stay, and attract enormous crowds, not only among the non-motoring public. I know several people connected with motor-racing who make regular visits to Wembley and Wimbledon. Why not cars ? A bigger track is needed, and vehicles which are fast enough and lurid enough to give a good show, but the latter should soon be available once a track is in operation.
The one-and-only J.C.C. meeting at Greenford is often quoted by enthusiasts as an indication of what might be developed, and now Breyer and Rhiando are doing their best to try it out, If anyone has any helpful ideas I shall be pleased to pass them on.
During a break between sessions at the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours, I bumped into…
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