RICHARD SEAMAN WINS AGAIN! THE 200-MILE RACE REVIVAL. TEN-YEAR-OLD DELAGE SUCCEEDS ONCE MORE. E.R.A. OPPOSITION FAILS. ONLY FOUR FINISHERS. DOBSON HAS NARROW ESCAPE
The Junior Car Club deserves the heartiest congratulations in respect of the ninth 200-mile Race run off at Donington Park on August 29th. The race was every bit as interesting as the old series of races held at Brooklands from
1921-1928. Being a scratch contest it could be followed with ease from beginning to end—with all that that means to the average spectator and many experts. And there were so many questions to which one awaited answers on August 29th. Could the fifteen-hundreds put up a fight against the big Alfas and Tapper’s Maserati If so, would the popular Dick Seaman be able once again to show up the strong opposition from E.R.A. and other modern stables, driving his ten-yearold Delage of the kind with which Campbell won the last ” 200 ” in 1928? If he could, he would have driven, the race of
his career, surely ! How would the winner’s speed over the sinuous Donington circuit compare with those of the previous races run over the vast expanse of Brooklands, subject to a few throttles back to negotiate barrels and things ? So perhaps it was not surprising that, although we got to the course soon after 9 am., already many spectators were lining the rails. In the paddock lastminute work was proceeding. Parnell’s M.G. arrived from Derby on a trailer towed by a big Sunbeam family-coach, Rayson drove up in his 2.3-litre Bugatti and Powys-Lybbe was driven up in a
8-litre Sunbeam. Austin Dobson was putting in much practice lappery with the Alfa, which, like Staniland’s Alfa, had no scuttle cowling, perhaps in deference to a day that promised to be very warm. Taylor’s Bugatti was seen to have an external straight-through exhaust system, and Rayson’s special 2.3-litre Bugatti had an extended polished cowl before the radiator shell.
Seaman brought out the Delage for one slow practice lap and came in, and after Ramponi had inspected the car he went out for another lap and came in with the engine stopped, which caused unrest amongst his admirers. Steadily the cars flowed into the grounds, bringing gaily-clad mortals intent upon enjoying the race and the brilliant sun shine. _The official cars—including a Ford V-8 saloon, a 2-litre M.G. Six saloon and Charles Follett’s Alvis, the lastnamed having found its pistons since Whitsun and acting as fire-engine—got into position and the racing-cats came
down to the start. The non-starters comprised C. E. C. Martin’s 3.2-litre Alfa-Romeo with engine trouble, Ian Connell’s Alfa-Romeo which had axle difficulties, Conan Doyle’s li-litre Bugatti which was without a usable gear-box and the Altas entered by Wakefield and Bartlett.
The positions on the starting-grid were decided by practice times and the cars pushed up to the front row were Whitehead’s E.R.A., Seaman’s Delage, Briault’s E.R.A. and Fairfield’s E.R.A. With the cars lined up and Findon explaining things via the mike and some miles of cable, the scene
was certainly inspiring. People were everywhere, drivers smoking that last cigarette and talking about anything, mechanics carefree, and pit-chiefs busily arranging their wares. Seaman, sought by so many pairs of eyes, waited in his pit until just before zero-hour, though the Delage engine was started for a few moments earlier on. Chohnondeley-Tapper was wearing a wonderful green hat and in his pit Miss Ellison was busy with a chart that she operated. She stood up during the whole of that afternoon, save right at the end, when she sat on the pit-counter, turning her back on the race. At last Ebby, the flag, and they were away. Whitehead
shot ahead with Scribbans (E.R,A.) after him, and Seaman was third. Down the hill to Starkey’s the order held, with
Howe (E.R.A.), ” Bira ” (E.R.A.), Rayson (Bugatti), Fairfield (E.R.A.), Dobson (Alfa), Paul (E.R.A.), Briault (E.R.A..), Staniland (Alfa) and PowysLybbe (Alfa) next in order. Already one car had retired, Brockelbank’s Bugatti stopping at the pits with ignition trouble. When they came round again it was Seaman who led, with Scribbans second and Whitehead third, after the lastnamed had done his standing-lap at 66.09 m.p.h. On the second lap, after holding second place momentarily, Seaman led the E.R ..A§. On lap six Lord Howe came past Scribbaus and went after the black Delage which, as usual, was quiet and steady, save for the familiar front-wheel flap under the action of its hydraulic braking, and an occasional tail-slide as Seaman accelerated extra viciously to
pass slower stuff at Starkey’s. It was now that Dobson brought the independently-sprung Alfa over the hill-top at some 100 m.p.h. and lost the near front wheel through breakage of the hub. The wheel shot high into the air, struck a lorry, rose skywards, landed with a crash on the pit-roof, so that the inmates ducked instinctively, then spun into the road on the other side. Seaman was approaching, but fortunately an official captured the rolling wheel, while as for Dobson, masterly driving and the big brake drum saved a really nasty situation, the Alfa coming to rest off the course on the grass verge. Whitehead and Paul both fell out, and Staniland had had several pit visits with his Alfa. On lap thirteen Howe passed Seaman and the crowd realised that a tremendous race would result. “Bira was now third, 12 secs. from the Delage. Paul’s trouble was reported as ” piston ” and Mays was continually at his pit, the Zoller-blown 1-litre
E.R.A. throwing up oil which rendered the pedals slippery and continually fouled Mays’ visor, while it also needed inspection of the oil-level and the brakes were a source of worry. On lap twenty-one Fairfield took third place from” Bira,” and Rayson continued to drive very nicely with the old 2-litre modified Bugatti.
Maclure on the unblown Riley commenced a long series of pit-stops, including one for a removal of the screen. Rupert Instone worked like a demon in the pit. The Riley restarted by pushing in reverse, but Maclure had discarded his goggles and finally came in unobtrusively and, after a word to his pit, drove into the ” dead ” park. The race was progressing in a really scientific manner. Howe was attempting to gain all he could for his refill, Seaman was maintained in exactly the desired place behind the blue E.R.A., and Fairfield tried hard to close on the Delage. After thirty laps in the scorching heat Howe led by 14.6 secs. and Fairfield was 13 secs. from the Delage. How those who lined the rails watched every move, fearful lest the leaders should be baulked by slower cars I Indeed, on one lap Staniland held up Seaman, so that Ramponi leapt into the road to find Dyer, who went down the road with a big flag, which however remained furled, as Seaman had in the meantime got past. K. D. Evans took over from Brianlt at thirty-five laps, his first race with an E.R.A. Mervyn White’s 2.8-litre Bugatti stalled at Starkey’s and was pushed, first off the course and then to the pits, where it subsequently retired. Scribbans was fifth, on his thirtieth lap, when a piston broke and the white E.R.A. came in to retire with the bonnet and scuttle smothered in oil. Staniland overshot at the Coppice and the next lap brought the Alfa in for brake adjustment, Rayson going up a place, with Tapper’s Maserati behind. Howe lapped at 7L21 m.p.h., but Seaman narrowed his lead for all that. Fairfield had always looked dangerous—he even seemed to play for the lead at times—but on lap forty-one his E.R.A. complained of the pace and retired with engine maladies, while ” Bira’s ” had lost its original fire. At forty laps, Howe led by 9 secs., at 69.43 m.p.h. average, against 69.22 m.p.h. at thirty laps. On his fiftieth lap, with 8.4 secs. lead, he came in to refill. What a moment! The fuel was thrown in, water added, oil . . . A cup was thrust between his Lordship’s lips, a mechanic pumped up pressure, standing by the near side of the cockpit, the hand-carried automatic starter was brought into play, and with 89 secs. elapsed the E.R.A. moved away. Meanwhile the veteran Delage, carrying sufficient fuel for the distance, though some of it seemed to have poured from
the tail during the early laps, motored
past to lead. ” now two laps behind the leaders though still third, came in at half-distance to refill, but the automatic starter failed to recommence the machinery at the first attempt, and the stop took 57 secs. It was not his first call, and two laps later the fuel tank started to leak seriously, necessitating a second refill at fifty-nine laps. Now Seaman, signalled very lap from his pit, to which signals he gave not the trace of response that other pits might watch for, speeded up, so that Howe
was forced to drive all he knew, and more than once did the E.R.A. clip the grass on the bends, sending clouds of dust from its spinning wheels. Would the Delage last ? Every enthusiast present seemed to echo
that question, for the modest Dick Seaman and his veteran lone-hand motor had captured eVeryone’s imagination. Suppose the fuel would not suffice ? Could the Dunlops stand the strain on that burning tarmac ? Would the car stand up, hard-pressed as it was, and not stripped since its victories in the Coppa
Acerbo and Prix de Berne ? E.R.A.
supporters waited, watching.Howe’s every move. Every lap Seaman received a sign, his lead in seconds and the number of laps left to run, in white figures on a small black disc. At sixty laps the Delage led by 44 secs., at 69.56 m.p.h., but its front wheels flapped more wickedly before the bends. Just time for a pitstop thought his followers, attempting not to notice the fuel churn and spare covers on the pit-counter. On his sixty-second lap ” Bira ” dropped out, the fuel tank hopeless and wisps of smoke coming ominously from the bonnet louvres. Evans, driving splendidly, brought Briault’s E.R.A. into third place, but too far away to worry Seaman. Tapper was fourth, now driving the Maserati fiercely, after quite
a stop, pencilling on the chart as calmly as when the race commenced. Staniland was far away in fifth place with a few tail-enders behind him, Leitch on the old Bugatti, going nicely until the engine faltered, Mays still demanding fresh visors the better to pilot a sick E.R.A., Taylor’s Bugatti and MacRobert’s Magnette. Parnell’s M.G., seen quite often at the pits, had done a few interesting slides on corners, and was now in trouble. Still Howe drove like one possessed. as the saying goes, knowing that he could not afford a single mistake. Sometimes he closed a trifle on. the Delage, but at seventy laps Seaman was 51.4
secs. ahead. Tapper was trying hard, getting some exciting moments at Red Gate and nodding very vigorously to his pit-signals, until Miss Ellison apparently could stand it no longer and sat on the counter, her back to the road. The last laps were ticked off ; Ramponi listened with apprehension to the Delage’s exhaust note. Howe’s E.R.A. sounded as fit as ever, but the race was obviously lost, unless . . But no, the old Delage went as well as ever and as Seaman’s signal was thrust out for the last time he even raised a finger from the wheel in response. Even then Ramponi was not happy and he waited behind the pit, eyes on the brow of the hill, during that
seventy-seventh lap. Then a fleeting black shape came into view, the crowd did as much as an English crowd can be expected to do to convince the driver that he had won, and rounding Starkey’s corner the Delage was given the chequered flag. Another lap and Seaman, very dirty, though still absolutely cairn, drove straight into the park and very soon afterwards had quietly left Donington. He had won again, driving a ten-yearold car, prepared in a small workshop, and only slightly modified since the days when as one of a team it helped to secure the championship of Europe. It weighs more than the ” crack “
litre jobs, carried sufficient fuel for the distance, and ran non-stop throughout. Seaman was not on his reserve fuel at the finish. He collected E350 and the huge gold Andre Cup, the 1+-litre prize being added to the winner’s prize. The 1936 200-Mile race was in every way a success. Being a scratch event it was easy to follow, the 1+-litre cars were proved able to hold their own with the big fellows, and if the average speed was slower than that of all the previous races, at least the sinuous Donington course, if it could not destroy Dunlops, certainly caused much havoc amongst
first-class racing-cars. We hope that the person who recently wrote a letter to a weekly motor-paper emphasising that of course Seaman’s Delage should vanquish the E.R.As. because it has two extra cylinders, joined us in cheering the victor home. The complete story is as follows :—
1, R. J. B. Seaman (1i-litre Delage). Speed
• 69.28 m.p.h.
2. Earl Howe (14-litre E.R.A.). Speed 68.91 m.p.h.
3. D. L. Briault and K. D. Evans (14-litre E.R.A.) Speed 66.46 m.p.h.
4. T. P. Chohnondeley-Tapper (3-litre Maserati). Sired 66.09 m.p.h. Running at finish but flagged off : C. S. Staniland Alfa.-Romeo) 75 laps ; .0. Taylor (Bugatti) 73 laps ;
R. Mays (E.R.A.) 72 laps ; R. Parnell (M.G.) 71 laps ; A. Leitch (Bugatti) 70 laps ; Sir A. W. MacRobert and M. H. Faulkner (MA.) 62 laps. Retirements: N. S. Broekelbank (Bugatti) ignition, 1 lap; Austin Dobson (Alfa-Romeo) broken front hub, 8 laps ; P. N. Whitehead (E.R.A.) broken piston, 10 laps ; D. H. Scribbans (E.R.A.) broken piston, 10 laps ; A. C. Dobson (E.R.A.) broken piston,
11 laps ; Mervyn White (Bugatti) plug and valve trouble, 29 laps ; P. G. Fairfield (E.R.A.) engine trouble, 41 laps ; P. Madura (Riley) several stops, 50 laps ; E. K. Rayson (Bugatti) engine trouble, 51 laps ; A. Powys-Lybbe (Alfa-Romeo) transmission trouble, 54 laps ; ” B. Bira ” (E.R.A.) split fuel tank and engine trouble, 63 laps.
Only three cars essayed to go through without a stop for fuel, so much does weight count in present-day racing. These were Seaman’s winning Delage, Pat Fairfield’s black works E.R.A., and ” Bira’s ” E.R.A. Fairfield would have stood a useful chance as a result if his engine had lasted. ” Bira’s ” big tank split in practice and the smaller one split in the race, so that he filled twice before retiring. The fastest lap in practice was Fairfield’s (E.R.A.) at 72.5 m.p.h. This beats
” Bira’s old record in the 1+-litre category (70.66 m.p.h.) with the E.R.A. and also Martin’s unlimited record with an Alfa-Romeo, of 71.54 m.p.h. It is a long time since a race has been so well controlled from the pits, with so much dependent on such control. At ten laps Seaman led by 3.2 secs., at twenty laps Howe led by 12.4 secs., at thirty laps by 14.6 secs., at forty laps by 9 secs., at fifty laps by 8.4 secs. Then he filled up, losing 39 secs. and Seaman led by 44 secs. at sixty laps., and by 51,4 secs. at seventy laps. The race was won by
51 secs. The times were : Seaman, 2 hrs. 50 min. 14.0 secs. ; Howe, 2 hrs. 51 min. 6 sees.; Briault-Evans, 2 hrs. 57 min. 19.6 secs. ; Tapper, 2 hrs. 58 min. 20.4 secs.
Note that Seaman speeded up while Howe was refuelling so that, apart from having something in hand in the way of extra speed he could have retained the lead even given a quick pit-call, from about fifty-five laps onwards.
Mays’ E.R.A. had a Zoller compressor at the rear of the engine and an external oil-cooler.
Fairfield repaired a damaged gearbox of his E.R.A. after practising, and Conan Doyle had timing trouble as well as gear-box maladies with the twin-cam Bugatti.
The race was over seventy-seven laps (197 miles). Seaman netted E350, Howe E150 and Briatilt 05. Entry cost 5. The team prize was not awarded. Seaman also gained a two-point lead over” Bira ” for the B.R.D.C. road-racing star.
At one time Mays’ E.R.A. was vigorously attacked by a mechanic armed with a big hack-saw.
Editorial, July 2004
My chair is comfier (leaf carefully through this biggest-ever issue and all will be revealed), the bombs have stopped tumbling from the sky and the hot-metal presses have gone cold,…
Time to go Dutch Sir, Following Nigel Roebuck's item in the January 2005 edition, I'd like to point out that though Zandvoort is no longer the track it was during…
Track Test --- TVR
Exhilarating! I confess to being mystified by TVR products, falling totally out of touch when our Mr Gordon "GC" Cruickshank relinquished his V8 and I was no longer subject to…