ON SPORTS CARS FOR RACING
It is rather a pity that there are not more purely speed events open to ordinary drivers of ordinary sports-ears. Nowadays we are confined to the sprint events in the form of widely scattered speed trials and speed hill climbs, a few club meetings at Donington, and the altogether excellent One Hour orgies provided by the Junior Car Club (with corners) and by the Motor Cycling Club (without corners) at Brooklands. We no longer have the snuTer clubs gaily indulging in a series of shott and long handicaps at Weybridge, and those semi-classic sporting-car races, run by the J .C.C. and the late -lamented Fssex M.C., have passed with the passing of the years. Nor is Brooklands opened in these enlightened days for one-make parties, streh as that at which Helleys Ltd. entertained their Alvis-owning clients or Lagonda Ltd. the Lagonda owners—about whieh incidentally, a wicked friend avers that these events had to be put on because Alvis and Lagonda cars were so essentially reliable that the respective service stations had next to not hing to do ; but that afterwards they worked non-stop for six months
Or SO . . .
At all events I often wonder how many sports-cars would be left on our roads, and how design would trend, if it came about that trials were banned by law, and, much more surprisingly, if Brooklands and Donington and the Crystal Palace were to be opened almost every week-end for racing by amateur clubdrivers—bridges might perhaps spring up at Brooklands so that clubmen could dice on the outer circuit while the speedkings fought it out amongst themselves over an abbreviated version of the Campbell road-course, or vice-versa. Anyway, it brings one to the absorbing subject of the requirements of ordinary cars used for racing and of what existing sportscars could do in this sphere of competitive motoring. In the very first place, a really high maximum speed becomes of real value, as distinct from a performance factor which can only be very rarely exploited, when the road permits or the Track visited, or when a speed-trial course is long enough for a car to reach full-throttle speed—and the idea that a super-fast car has so much more in hand lower down than its not-so-fleet rivals has less value In these days of good power development at moderate crankshaft speeds than it had formerly. But for racing and high speed trials a three figure maximum comes rightly into its own. I do not propose to quote a comprehensive list of 100 an hour motor-cars, because MOTOR SPORT already receives rather more correspondence than it can publish, but obviously this magic maximum can be comfortably attained by the 3.3-litre Bugatti, the latest Alfas, the Type 540 K Merc&lesBenz, the 2-litre Type 328 Frazer-NashB.M.W., and our own” Shelsley ” FrazerNash and unsupercharged 43-litre Lagonda ” Rapide.” And in this connection the remarkable Frazer-NashB.M.W. scores heavily, for not only has it officially demonstrated its ability to exceed 100 m.p.h. in touring rig, but has shown that
an hour’s motoring at such a pace does it no sort of harm. Actually the question of which cars can safely be raced in standard trim without disaster—I am thinking of disasters in’ the transmission, brakes and equipment as well as beneath the bonnet— is one on which it is by no means easy
to expound. Primarily, the difficulty centres around the lack of any standard of practical judgment, owing to the rules for the classic sports-car races permitting of very material divergences from standard specification, of which any one competing at all seriously is obliged to take advantage, coupled to which are the numerous instances of cars in the smaller speed events averaging a greater speed than they will attain when IA e extend the standard verpion over a flying quarter.
Even so, I think it can be generally taken that those cars which have been modified or hotted up to do these noncatalogue performances, and which still possess that reliability essential to success, will be reasonably useful for racing in any events wherein such meddling with
the machinery is not allowed. This being so, we can take heart and look around at the modern sports-cars that have “shown meritorious ” in racing. I do not think that the 34-litre and 4f-litre Bentleys on which Fddie Hall has had such fine drives in the T.T. races and at •Shelsley Walsh can have been so very non-standard. and they have proved beyond all manner of doubt the fitness of the present-day Bentley to stand up to the stiffest form of race. Much the same holds true of the 43-litre Lagonda, which marque Arthur Fox, who runs that big service station by the Kingston By-Pass’s biggest traffic island, a garage which seems to prosper without any kind of advertising, has entered into the classic sports-car races with excellent results, including the outright, win at Le Mans in 1985. Then the Prazer-Nash-B.M.W. has proved its stamina and high-speed abilities very thoroughly, not only in our own T.T., but with a very fine string of successes abroad, and the Riley has shown its adaptability to serious racing, being especially potent without recourse to supercharging. We have seen what the 2-litre Aston-Martin managed at Le Mans this year, apart from Seaman’s exhibition of their speed in the last T.T., and the new shortchassis examples look promising while the older 11-litre Astons had all the reliability under racing conditions anyone could wish, doubtless assisted by the oil-temperature reducing qualities of the dry-sump lubrication system. Moreover, the H.R.G. has drawn favourable comment in its first big race, and sports-type Alvis have done well on Brooklands. Marques unquestion ably score from having been built to a standard not governed by a pre-determined price limit and naturally cars in this category are not going to be so worrying under racing conditions as the cheaper machines. Thus, while no dogmatic statement is possible, there is every indication that there is on the market quite a number of sports-cars that would acquit themselves well under racing conditions in standard trim. Indeed, even the vintage cars can be looked at favourably in this respect, for have not oldschool Bentleys, in particular, and 12-50 Alvis, Austin Seven, 3-litre Sunbeam, Lea Francis, Salinson, Alvis, the old Frazer-Nashes and 2-litre Lagondas, amongst others, done extremely well in big races ? Though it is absolutely imperative to remember that these performances were made when those cars were in production and that present examples, the engines, frames, axles and so on of which will have seen years of hard service, are not likely to repeat the former showing, nor are they usually
suitable, before overhaul, for serious racing.
It is interesting to speculate on the primary features desirable in a sports-car used for racing.
Apart from a high maximum speed, already mentioned, high maxima on the indirect gears are at once valuable, although with traffic as it is to-day this also applies largely to a car used for rapid road travel, for I confess a liking for a maximum in third of at least 65-70 in.p.h. when passing other drivers in a fast stream of traffic, unless at the wheel of a car like the Railton or 4i-litre Bentley, with really good acceleration qualities oh the highest ratio.
Modern power-units have reached a yery high standard so that maintenance of high crankshaft speeds does not necessarily spell early and expensive trouble, but the fact looms large that no one modification is likely to contribute so much to the peace of mind of an owner using his car for a high speed trial as raising the axle-ratio, and it is difficult to see how that can be done in the case of those small sports-ears that need nearly 5,000 r.p.m. to attain 65 m.p.h. on third or a maximum on top that barely suffices for the work we have in mind.
Brakes would have a very tough time indeed, so that those cars with properlycooled drums should score, and some form of adjustment from the drivingcompartment, as on the H.R.G., would i probably be of real value. Road-holding ; would also be shown up very thoroughly and experience would doubtless indicate that those sports-cars which tyre-howl horribly on main-road bends at 40 m.p.h. would do even more unpleasant things when cornering at racing speeds. Were racing universal I think we should all know a deal more about tyre pressures, that ” Mr. Andre ” would sell even more Telecontrol, and that all-wheel independent suspension would be hastened, if A_Olanta, Aprilia-Lancia and MercedesBenz once demonstrated its desirability. Possibly the present-day slab fuel tank ? %:puld give way to a streamline tail and sp4re wheels accommodated within the wheelbase. Clearly, low-geared steering ‘would be impassible and low first-gears of value. Staggered seating might return, and obviously equipment would undergo r vision, an oil-gauge as big as a revcounter seeming very necessary, while the absence of an oil thermometer would endanger the sales-success of sports-type cars, and bonnet-straps, aero-screens, lap-scoring equipment, lamps and radiator stoneguards, and higher seating positions would become universal. Really efficient tonnean-covers and -stowawity hoods would become essential and door locks and hinges might need to undergo revision. Much, of course, would depend on whether cars were generally required to run fully equipped, or whether, 41s. at the Frazer-Nash C.C. ponington *eeting a month cr so a4 0, standard sports. jobs Were allowed to run, in stripped coindition. In the former case radiator,
wing and lamp mountings might need generally quite drastic revision, for not many modern sports-cars possess the rigidity in this area for which the better vintage motors are proudly upheld, and. while this only results in mildly annoying flip-flappings on the road, it might well lead to the shedding of things, dangerously, during a race. Of course, frame design often has a deal of bearing on this matter, as was especially noticeable in the case of a modern 2-litre that I drove not long ago, which flip-flapped mildly all over in towns, but which stiffened its frontworks quite happily with 150 lb. screwed-up on the front Telecontrols, only to retaliate by furiously wagging its scuttle parts over bad going —and, as with so many moderns, this scuttle supported the steering-column . . On the other hand, if stripping for speed work became a universal rule, some moderns would be the very devil, and might be no faster when all the bits and pieces were removed, while I imagine that amongst current sports jobs the Frazer-Nash and H.R.G. would strip more easily than any. Von will please note that I am thinking of stripping by spanner and not during boisterous driving to the venue ! There is insufficient space to enlarge on possible design trends that would be likely to be fostered if speed-events gained precedence over trials, but I should expect efforts to be made to reduce oil-temperatures, by the possible adoption of dry-sump systems on the more expensive cars, and by increased Sump capacity (ground clearance would be of less moment than at present,) and the elimination of wind-deflecting protuberances around the base-chambers, for the less costly cars. That there would be a universal reduction in weight is doubtful, because frames would need to be stiffened and bodies would have to be much more rigid. Therefore performance increase would probably be sought by the time-honoured process of pushing up the power-output. Consequently, interest attaches by the efficiency of sports-car units, although only maker’s figures are usually available itul what is of real importance is the period over which such engines will function safely at or near peak revs. and their ability to withstand an increased output, for, as in trials, competitors would inevitably raise compression-ratios and tack on superchargers. Particulars for some of the most interesting sports-cars are not available, but roughly a b.h.p. per litre of forty is claimed for the 16-80 A.C. Ace, thirty-one for the Alvis Speed Twenty-five, thirty-one for the 41-litre Lagonda. thirty-three for the big blown Mercedes-Benz and forty for the S.S. 100. The older engines seem to compare quite well. I believe that the 11-litre side-valve Anzani, used in a number of sports-cars, normally gave off about thirty-one b.h.p. per litre and the 11litre push-rod Meadows, used for certain Fr a zer-Nash models, t hirt y-three-and -ahalf, increased to about thirty-nine to forty b.h.p. per litre as subsequently modified by A.F.N. Ltd. and by Mr. Godfrey for installation in the modern H.R.G. I believe that another proprietary unit. the six-cylinder 1.6-litre Blackburn, gives
some 48 b.h.p per litre and the 11-litre twin o.h.c. Anzani, that really likes a blower, around forty-seven.
Another way of going into the matter is to collect the data for past J.C.C. and M.C.C. High. Speed Trials, when the possibilities of individual standard motors may be assessed, provided one continually bears in mind that it is impossible either to find out how far the cars depart from standard or to know what sort of state they are in mechanically at the con clusion of the hour’s run. But at all events you will see that some very
striking speeds are possible. Thinking in terms of speed alone, there were averages of 77 m.p.h. by S.S. Jaguar. nearly 90 m.p.h. by 41-litre Lagonda, 76 m.p.h. by Ware Singer, 80 m.p.h. by M.G. Midget. 96.5 m.p.h. by 31-litre Talbot saloon, 78 m.p.h. by 21-litre S.S., 98.5 m.p.h. by 2-litre Frazer-Nash-B.M.W., 89 m.p.h. by 1.6-litre supercharged Frazer-Nash, 79 m.p.h. by A.C. Ace, 83 m.p.h. by Aston-Martin, 76 m.p.h. from F-type and Magnette M.G.s. 85 m.p.h. by 11-litre Fra7er-Nash-B.M.W., 75 m.p.h. from Morgan 44, and so on— quoting at random from last year’s M.C.C. event. The J.C.C. affair is even more fun to analyse, because brakes, gear-changing, road-holding and acceleration are all brought into the picture, as I realised last year when the FrazerNash-B.M.W. in which I was passenger had to keep flat out all round all the time to pinch its Premier, excellent motor that it is. It is significant that a Type :328 Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. recorded fastest time in last month’s J.C.C. event. Certainly, if racing for the amateur became more general, repair bills would soar and sports-cars would be very frequently “in dock,” as I realised very forcibly when, having written most of this outpouring, I went up to Donington for
the Stanley Cup Competition. Quite apart from actual “blow-ups,” there were numerous instances of queer and unwelcome noises developing in expensive machinery, not to mention a very emphatic weakening of normally dependable brakes–and on this occasion only the ” little ” circuit was in use. But when all is said and done I think it might be a very good thing if we could have more races for clubmen and fewer
trials. What do the clubmen think ? I do feel that present-clay trials are developing sports-cars not altogether suited to the requirement of safe, fast travel on the road, which, after all, is the work for which the majority of sportscars are purchased. But that will have to wait until a future issue . .