The B.R.D.C. Isle of Man Races
"Bira's" Simca-Gordini wins Manx Cup Race at over 66 m.p.h. from Harrison's Riley and Winterbottom' s Emeryson. Gerard's E.R.A. victorious in Empire Trophy Race at over 68 m.p.h. E-type E.R.A. home 4th.
Specially reported for "Motor Sport" by T. G. Moore
The first post-war car races organised by the B.R.D.C., the British Empire Trophy and the Manx Cup, which were run in the Isle of Man on August 21st, proved an unqualified success. In the Empire Trophy George Abecassis (E.R.A.) led the race for the first ten laps, with Whitehead in hot pursuit. A pit stop cost Abecassis the lead, and Whitehead moved into first place. He, in his turn, dropped back to second place after the re-fuelling stop, and Gerard, who had gambled on getting through the race without having to fill-up, stepped up his speed for the last ten laps and gained a well-deserved success, with Whitehead and Ansell second and third. All three drivers put up first-class performances, and interest was maintained from start to finish. "Bira" lost much time at the beginning of the race coming in for adjustments, and finished fifth, while Leslie Brooke had the satisfaction of gaining fourth place on his "E"-type E.R.A. This is the first time an "E "type has finished a race.
The Manx Cup was an effective "curtain-raiser." "Bira" dominated the race from start to finish with his Simca-Gordini and finished with a lead of 31 sec. Harrison was steady and fast on his ex-Dobbs' Riley, which was at least ten years older than the Simca, and Winterbottoin had the satisfaction of gaining third place on the Emeryson-Special, a striking performance on a "home-made" car.
The races were held on a course on the outskirts of Douglas, with a lap distance of 3.88 miles. The British Empire Trophy, for cars of 1 1/2-litres supercharged, and 4 1/2-litres unsupercharged, was run over 40 laps of this circuit, making 155 miles in all. The Manx Cup was for cars of 1,100-c.c. supercharged, 2-litres un-supercharged, and run over a distance of 12 laps, or 46.5 miles. Two evenings were allotted for practising. "Bira" made the fastest lap in both categories, 3 min. 46 sec. (64.5 m.p.h.) on the Simca, and 3 min. 18 sec. (70 m.p.h.) on the Maserati. The one serious accident of the races occurred on the first night. Chorlton (1 1/2-litre Bugatti) braked hard coming down the steep hill into Onchan Village. The shock-absorbers were too loose, the car started to bounce uncontrollably, slid off the road and turned over. Fortunately the driver was not seriously injured.
The Manx Cup Race
Conditions were ideal on the day of the race, with bright sunshine and a cooling breeze. Every seat in the Grand Stand, so well known to T.T. enthusiasts, was occupied, and crowds lined the course at all vantage points. The course had been much improved since 1936, when it had last been used, by the elimination of bottleneck corners on the back stretch, and had also been resurfaced. Drivers reported that it was still bumpy in places, but everyone was glad at least to know that one more pre-war racing venue was coming back into use.
Shortly before 2 p.m. the cars took position on the starting grid for the Manx Cup Race. The starters numbered 18: Winterbottom (Emeryson 1,100-c.c., S.), Baird, Kennington, Graham, Nichols (M.G. 1,100-c.c., S.), Metcalfe (Rapier 1,100-c.c., S.), Dunham (Alvis 1,842-c.c., U/S), G. E. Ansell (2-litre Aston-Martin), Pool (2-litre Bugatti), Crook, Carrington, O. Moore, Tyrer (2-litre Frazer-Nash, B.M.W. Type "328"), Clark, Scott, Molyneux (H.R.G. 1 1/2-litre), Harrison (Riley 2-litre), Penn (Riley 2-litre), "Bira" (Simca-Gordini 1,100-c.c.).
"Bira," Harrison and Ian Nichols were in the front row. When the flag dropped, "Bira" jumped into the lead and took the first corner, Parkfield, very fast. From Cronk-ny-Mona hairpin corner came the news that Graham (M.G.) had broadsided there, but in spite of this he came round in second position at the end of the first lap, with Harrison lying third. "Bira" lost one of his fastest rivals at the end of the first lap, when Nichols, with a double-camshaft M.G., retired with a broken piston.
Lap two saw "Bira" increasing his lead, while Harrison had come up into second position. Graham was third, then Tyrer (Frazer-Nash B.M.W.), Winterbottom (Emeryson) and Oscar Moore. Then came Dunham on the Alvis and Peter Clark on the new aerodynamic H.R.G. Just then news came through that Dunham had overshot the right-angle corner at Parkfield, and in the next lap Molyneux, on the pre-war H.R.G., broadsided at the same place, giving Graham an anxious moment as he scraped past him.
"Bira" by the fifth lap had built up a 15-sec. lead and was lapping some of the field. Harrison was still in hot pursuit and had bettered "Bira's" fastest lap by one second, with a time of 3 min. 28 sec. (67.13 m.p.h.). The order at 5 laps was as follows:
1. "Bira" (Simca 1,100-c.c.).
2. Harrison (Riley 2-litre).
3. Graham (M.G. 1.100. c.c.,
4. Winterbottom (Emeryson 1,100-c.c., S.).
5. Tyrer (Fraser-Nash B.M.W. 2-litre).
The first three seemed well established, barring accidents, and the Emeryson, more reliable than most specials, also sounded in good fettle. Built up with a Rapier engine, twin Roots blowers giving a total boost of 26 lb., Singer front suspension, a tubular chassis, and with contributions from other makes, it was probably even surprising its designers by its steadiness and regularity.
The field was thinning considerably. Baird, Kennington and Nichols, all on M.G.s, had dropped out, and Oscar Moore (B.M.W.) made a pit stop, but decided to go on in an effort to support his team-mates.
"Bira" had more power in hand, and on his seventh lap raised the Manx Cup lap-record to 3 min. 27 sec. (67.45 m.p.h.). Harrison's pit urged him to greater efforts, but "Bira's" lead increased to 19 seconds on the eighth lap and 26 seconds on the tenth.
On the tenth lap the leaders remained the same as in lap five, but with only two laps to go, Graham dropped right back, his front brake seizing in the last lap, which allowed Winterbottom to mount into third place. "Bira" continued fast and unperturbed as ever, to finish first with a lead of 31 seconds.
1. B. Bira (Simca-Gordini 1,100-c.c.), 42 min. 17 sec. (66.05 m.p.h.).
2. T. C. Harrison (Riley 1,986-c.c.). 42 min. 48 sec. (65.26 m.p.h.).
3. K. Winterbottom (Emeryson-Special 11,00-c.c.), 45 min. 46 sec. (61.02 m.p.h).
4. G. Tyrer (Fraser-Nash B.M.W. 2-litre), 41 min. 11 sec. (11 laps).
5. C. G. H. Dunham (Alvis 1,842-c.c.), 43 min. 11 sec. (11 laps).
6. F. Penn (Riley 1,986-c.c.), 44 min. 35 sec. (11 laps).
7. Scott (11.R.G. 1 1/2-litre), 42 min. 35 sec. (10 laps).
8. A. Crook (Frazer-Nash B.M.W. 2-litre), 42 Min. 54 sec. (10 laps).
9. C. H. Ansell (Aston-Martin 2-litre), 43 min. 15 sec. (10 laps).
10. H. Carrington (Frazer-Nash B.M.W. 2-litre). 43 min. 36 sec. (10 laps).
11. P. Clark (H.R.G. 1 1/2-litre), 45 min. 44 sec. ( 10 laps).
12. A. C. Molyneux (H.R.G. 1 1/2-litre), 45 min. 54 sec. (9 laps).
Team Prize: Scott, Molyneux, Clark (H.R.G.).
The British Empire Trophy
Fifteen cars started in the Empire Trophy, the seventh of the series, and run this year under the rules of the current G.P. Formula. The line-up was as follows:— E.R.A. — Abecassis, Bainbridge, Brooke, Gerard, Harrison and Whitehead. All these cars were "A" or "B" type except for the "E" type of Leslie Brooke. He had removed the Zoller blower and fitted a Jamieson Roots-type, giving a blower-pressure of 6 lb. in place of the original 26. Abecassis' car has Technauto independent springing in front, and he and Gerard had fitted oversize fuel tanks in the hope of completing the race non-stop.
Maserati. — "Bira," Ansell, Jason-Henry. "Bira" and Ansell were driving the 16-valve type, while Jason-Henry's was the older six-cylinder.
Alta. — G. Crossley.
Challenger. — D. A. Hampshire. This has a Delage engine and an independently sprung chassis built by Parnell.
Delage. — Woodall.
Riley. — Mrs. Darbishire. The original "White" Riley fitted with an E.R.A. engine.
Alfa-Romeo. — A. P. R. Rolt. The ex-Aitken "Bimotore" 3-litre, fitted by Freddy Dixon with eight S.U. carburetters.
Darracq. — L. G. Johnson. Ex-Connell 4-litre.
All cars except the Alfa-Romeo and the Darracq were supercharged 1 1/2-litres.
Notable absentees were Raymond Mays, who had damaged his car in Ireland, and the Ashmore brothers, who crashed at Comminges. Parnell's "E"-type E.R.A. broke its back axle in the Ulster Trophy, so Parnell found himself without a mount.
After a warming-up lap the cars took their places on the grid, with "Bira," Whitehead, Abecassis, Rolt and Gerard in the first two rows. Earl Howe, President of the B.R.D.C., introduced the drivers to the Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man, then with two minutes to go, engines were started and the air was filled with a fruity G.P. roar.
Abecassis was first away as the flag dropped, but "Bira" was in the lead at Parkfield corner 400 yards down the course. Woodall (Delage) was held up 30 seconds at the start in getting his car started, then the news came front Cronk-ny-Mona, on the back leg of the course, that Abecassis had regained the lead. The first lap order was Abecassis, Whitehead, Gerard, Harrison, Rolt, Ansell, Brooke and Bainbridge. "Bira" came into the pits for adjustments to his shock-absorbers, which dropped him down to ninth place. Early casualties were Jason-Henry's Maserati in at the pits with fuel trouble, and Johnson's Darracq which caught fire at Onchan.
Abecassis and Whitehead continued their wheel-to-wheel battle all round the course, but the former kept his lead, and gained an advantage of 3 seconds by the third lap. Behind them were Gerard. Harrison, Rolt, Brooke, Ansell and Mrs. Darbishire. Her Riley had seized a camshaft the previous evening, and mechanics had worked all night to get it ready for the race.
More activity at the pits now. Hampshire brought in the Challenger for adjustments, and "Bira" came in for further easing of the shock-absorbers. A third time he came in and this time mechanics reduced his tyre pressures. In this way he lost a complete lap on Abecassis, who had now raised the racespeed to 68.12 m.p.h.
Order at Five Laps
1. Abecassis (E.R.A. 1,480-c.c., S.), 68.45 m.p.h.
2. Whitehead. (E.R.A. S.), 67.45 m.p.h. (at 13 sec.)
3. Gerard (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 67.13 m.p.h. (at 17 sec.).
4. Harrison ( E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 66.5 m.p.h. (at 28 sec.).
5. Brooke (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 64.65 m.p.h.
6. Rolt (Alfa-Romeo).
Abecassis was pulling strongly ahead, but there was some fine scrapping going on between Whitehead. and Gerard, only 3 seconds separating them as the latter passed Woodall's Delage in front of the stand. The "E"-type was giving Brooke a rough ride, but the motor reacted favourably to the reduced boost, and ran well.
Harrison got into a slide at Cronk-ny-Mona hairpin, and Ansell (Maserati), who was never far behind, opened up the taps and passed Rolt, Brooke and Harrison to gain fourth place.
Order at Ten Laps
1. Abecassis ( E.R.A.), 68.45 m.p.h.
2. Whitehead (E.R.A.). 67.78. m.p.h.
3. Gerard (E.R.A.), 67.13 m.p.h.
4. Ansell (Maserati 1 1/2-litre, S.), 64.95 m.p.h.
5. Brooke ( E.R.A.), 648 m.p.h.
Now came an abrupt change in the order. Abecassis pulled into his pit at the end of the tenth lap with oil leaks. He lost 1 3/4 minutes through the stop, and dropped back to fourth place. Whitehead meantime was stepping on it all he knew and had built up a lead of 27 seconds, while Gerard's pit attendants were hanging out the "give chase" signal. Abecassis was doing his utmost, and at the 12th lap repassed Ansell into third position. On the 14th lap he clipped the sandbags at Governor's Bridge, but continued at full speed apparently quite unruffled.
Half-distance was now approaching, with thirteen cars still running. "Bira" had at last got the car to his liking, and had worked his way up to 8th place. The Alfa was still circulating well, its exhaust note recalling Grands Prix of the 1930 era. Brooke's E.R.A. was still holding together, though we noticed him have a rough ride at Governor's Bridge and Parkfield. Mrs. Darbishire was going strongly on the Riley, but she too found the Governor's Bridge section pretty tricky.
Order at 20 Laps
1. Whitehead ( E.R.A.), 68.12 m.p.h.
2. Gerard ( E.R.A.), 67.45 m.p.h. (at 23 sec.).
3. Abecassis (E.R.A.), 66,18 m.p.h.
4. Ansell (Maserati), 66.03 m.p.h.
5. Brooke (E.R.A.).
Bainbridge, Rolt, "Bira," Woodall, Mrs. Darbishire next in that order.
Ansell was the first of the supercharged cars to come in for refuelling. He took 62 seconds. Abecassis meanwhile had not slackened his pursuit of the two leaders, but his hard driving had weakened the brakes. Coming down the steep hill at Onchan he was unable to take the corner at the bottom and charged the sandbags. This accident unfortunately forced him to retire and with it went the chance of a terrific triple struggle in the last few laps of the race.
Gerard, as mentioned above, had fitted his car with a fuel tank holding nearly 50 gallons, which would get him through the race without filling-up. At 25 laps he was 25 seconds behind, and when Whitehead pulled into the pits, he roared past into the lead. Whitehead's pit-staff wasted no time and filled up in 42 seconds. Gerard took no chances, however, and put on further speed, pushing up his lead to 33 seconds, with a record lap of 3 min. 20 sec. (69.82 m.p.h.).
Rolt came in now with the Alfa, troubled with bad oil leaks, which forced him to retire. Mrs. Darbishire's Riley was also slinging oil, first of all into the driving compartment, and then down on to the clutch, which started to slip. In spite of these handicaps, she drove a first-class race. Woodall's Delage, sister car to the one in which Seaman won on this circuit in 1936, was running on seven cylinders, while Hampshire's Challenger had gone out earlier with magneto trouble. Crossley's Alta was spraying oil and running on three cylinders.
Order at 30 Laps
1. Gerard (E.R.A.), 67.78 m.p.h.
2. Whitehead (E.R.A.), 67.45 m.p.h.
3. Ansell (Maserati), 65.56 m.p.h
4. Brooke (E.R.A.), 63.62 m.p.h.
5. "Bira" (Maserati), 63.19 m.p.h.
6. Bainbridge (E.R.A.), 63.00 m.p.h.
As will be seen, "Bira" had been making steady progress through the field, but with 7 1/2 minutes to make up, he was not likely to challenge the leaders. The pace was still a hot one and only eight minutes separated the first six.
Whitehead might have made up the necessary 33 seconds in the remaining ten laps, but Gerard realised his danger and cracked on still more speed. Whitehead, in a supreme effort to catch him, misjudged the Onchan corner and spun completely round. He got going again but now the gap had widened to 52 seconds. In his efforts he put up a record lap of 3 min. 19 sec. (70.17 m.p.h.). However, Gerard was still not at his limit, and cut the record down to 3 min. 18 sec. (70.53 m.p.h.), raising his racespeed for the 35 laps to 68.12 m.p.h. With only five laps to go, Whitehead had no chance of winning unless Gerard slipped up somewhere. Gerard made no mistakes, and repeated his Ulster Trophy victory of a fortnight ago with a well-deserved win at 68.02 m.p.h. Whitehead did a quick refill and, slapping the side of his car for more speed, shot off to gain second place after his spirited 30 laps duel with the winner. This came as a fitting climax to a first-class race in which driving and organisation were well up to Continental standard. All who saw the races will hope that the B.R.D.C. will have a repeat date with the Island next year.
1. F. R. Gerard (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 2hr. 16 min. 52 sec. (68.02 m.p.h.).
2. P. N. Whitehead (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 18 min. 35 sec. (67.17 m.p.h.).
3. R. E. Ansell (Maserati 1 1/2-litre), 2 hr. 17 min. 38 sec. (39 laps).
4. H. L. Brooke (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 18 min. 48 sec. (38 laps).
5. B. Bira (Maserati 1 1/2-litre, S.), 2 hr. 19 min. 49 sec. (38 laps).
6. G. H. Bainbridge (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 20 min. 24 sec. (38 laps).
7. B. Woodall (Delage 1,494-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 19 min. 38 sec. (36 laps).
8. Mrs. S. Darbishire (Riley 1,486-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 19 min. 21 sec. (32 laps).
9. T. C. Harrison (E.R.A. 1,486-c.c., S.), 2 hr. 17 min. 24 sec. (25 laps).
Joseph Lucas Ltd. had every reason to be satisfied with the results, as Gerard, Whitehead, Brooke and Harrison used Lucas ignition equipment, while Ansell's Maserati and Brooke's E.R.A. had Luvax-Girling dampers fitted.