The Ulster Races

Author

H.B.

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36

The Ulster car races this year were rather a fiasco, through no fault of the energetic and enthusiastic Ulster A.C. During practice “Bira” ran a big-end and his Zoller-E.R.A. had to be rapidly rebuilt by Terry Hill before the race. It was only partially run in, round a local airfield, before the start. Even more unfortunate was Raymond Mays, whose E.R.A. wrecked its 1 1/2-litre engine beyond repair. With Mortimer’s Maserati, Baring’s Riley, Brooke’s E-type E.R.A., Whitehead’s E.R.A. and Williams’ Alta also definite non-starters, only eight cars lined up for the 150-mile scratch Ulster Trophy Race, won last year by “Bira’s” E.R.A. Gerard’s B-type E.R.A. led lap one from “Bira,” Abecassis and Parnell, the last-named now trying a Jamieson blower on his E-type E.R.A. Already Bolster, in Bell’s E.R.A., was in trouble with non-sparking plugs. Gerard did his s.s. lap at 74.19 m.p.h. and he still led lap 2, “Bira” still second but worried about his bearings, Parnell 3rd and clocking 118 m.p.h. over a timed mile after the pits, which was entered comparatively slowly. Gerard and “Bira” did 117 1/2 m.p.h. Later “Bira” clocked 122, Parnell 121, and Gerard 119 m.p.h. As the race wore on “Bira” retired and Abecassis stopped with a broken rocker, later with a sticking S.U. piston. When Gerard called at his pit Parnell took the lead, but very soon the E-type E.R.A. had its rear wheels fold under it — the de Dion axle tube had broken. Harrison’s E.R.A. had destroyed its Zoller blower, so its pit-staff decided to convert it into an unsupercharged car, which they eventually did. But this took time, and Abecassis was also delayed, tracing his elusive trouble, so Watson’s Alta took the lead. The Alta then had troubles of its own, but should have got 3rd place, if Watson, who had already done wild things, hadn’t vanished through a hedge, damaging stub-axles and wheels in the process. Gerard’s E.R.A. ran on untroubled ahead of Woodall’s Delage, its Dunlop tyres intact, its Lodge plugs and Lucas magneto firing properly in all six cylinders and its Ferodo linings refusing to slip. Gerard deserved his victory; he won easily and averaged 71.48 m.p.h., against Bira s 1946 average of 78.47 m.p.h. The old Delage came in 2nd two laps behind, Abecassis was credited with 3rd place, having done 21 of the 36 laps, while Harrison got his E.R.A. going unblown and was awarded 4th place with 18 laps run. Woodall and Abecassis, like Gerard, used Lodge plugs.

Result
1st: F. R. (Gerard (E.R.A.) 71.48 m.p.h.
2nd: B. Woodall (Delage) 68.39 m.p.h.
3rd: G. Abecassis (E.R.A.).
4th: T. C. Harrison (E.R.A.).

The Handicap race, over 50 miles, preceded by two 50-mile heats, offered better value. In the first heat D. C. Pitt’s “PB” M.G. was unchallenged throughout, and he won at 62.05 m.p.h. Major Money indulged in a fine duel with McCausland’s ex-Dixon single-seater Riley Nine and gained 2nd place at 60.89 m.p.h., Butterworth’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley 4-seater coming past McCausland two laps from the finish to get 3rd position, averaging 60.84 m.p.h. Heat Two saw the limit car, McKee’s “P” M.G., lead until Barrington’s “TC” M.G. overtook it, the latter winning at 67.44 m.p.h. Rowley was second, none the worse for his recent Prescott crash, in a 2-litre Aston-Martin, at 59.53 m.p.h., Cunningham’s Riley Nine being 3rd, at 58.73 m.p.h. Peter Monkhouse, in a “K3” M.G., made fastest lap, at 74.56 m.p.h., but many cars were in trouble. Black’s G.P. Sunbeam showed its dislike of its 2.6-litre M.G. engine by stripping its distributor drive, Cowzer’s single-seater Wolseley limped in, Oscar Moore frequently lost control of his 328 B.M.W., Baird’s “K3” M.G. gave eventual misgiving, Heath’s ex-Hanson Maserati Six suffered from fuel-feed trouble and Cole’s Jaguar spun and bent its chassis.

Sixteen cars qualified for the Final. Cowzer’s Wolseley led for a time, Pitt and Barrington closing on it. Hill’s Morgan “4/4” and Turner’s Riley were improving on their handicap, but could not hold the M.G.s, the Morgan dropping its lead when clutch slip set in. Scott’s Ford Eight Special threw a rod, Major Money damaged his M.G.’s front end when he slid into the bank at Ballyrobert and Turner retired right at the end. This put the two M.G.s in an unassailable position and Butterworth’s vintage Bentley just beat the Morgan into 3rd place.

Result
1st: D. C. Pitt (M.G.) 63.08 m.p.h.
2nd: M. Barrington (M.G.) 62.68 m.p.h.
3rd: A. J. Butterworth (Bentley) 64.48 m.p.h.

Harrison’s 2-litre Riley made best average in the handicaps, at 72.30 m.p.h. Very interesting are the speeds over the timed mile. Heath’s Maserati did 112, Graham’s “K3” M.G. 105, Harrison’s Riley over 102, Moore’s B.M.W. and Baird’s “K3” M.G. over 100.

Observations of a Reserve Driver
(who didn’t get a drive)
Heats of handicap race a big headache for pit managers. No score board; how to determine positions on handicap in short race with time and lap credits? Need to ensure finishing in first eight, but not overdice unnecessarily. Stopwatches and slide rules largely superseded by masculine intuition.

Nevertheless, some havoc during heats. Cole’s Jaguar very fast indeed, doing occasional laps at racing car times, burnt out clutch, then overdiced to make up time, bent chassis against stone wall at Lindsay’s on last lap. Qualified, but unable to run in final. Willis’ B.M.W. (Type 40, Mr. Announcer) lost some white metal on lap 2.

Second heat dominated by Monkhouse’s “K3” M.G. Came in on lap 2; no air pressure. Consternation; relief valve (E.R.A. pattern) fallen out and not in undertray. Scamper round to borrow replacement from a scratch race E.R.A.: car lost some four laps. Peter re-entered fray with superhuman determination to qualify. Towards the end of the heat he was badly baulked along the straight, surprisingly enough by Rowley, who was shaping to pass a slow car further down the straight. Peter’s attempts to establish rapport with the blue flag waggers were terrific; he all but stood up in the seat and threw things. Failed to qualify for final, but took award for fastest lap in handicap event at 3 mins. 20 sec.

Saw two accidents on Ballyrobert hairpin in this heat; Oscar Moore was having both of them.

The final was notable for the duel between Money in a single-seater M.G. Magna, and Barrington with a “TC” M.G. These Morris-Garagists followed one another round for most of the race, until Money suddenly found the “TC” on a bit of road he most urgently required for his own purposes and after the inevitable fracas was obliged to retire with a bent axle.

Butterworth’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley, which kept flashing past rather like something in the Gordon Bennett film, has four cylinders supplied by three S.U.s! The proof of the pudding! — third place.

Pycroft’s 2 1/2-litre Jaguar had an ultra streamlined body from which the Cooper “500” two-seater was copied, and it rushed round to no mean purpose, cornering (on full lock) in wide leisurely sweeps.

A pity to see Mackie’s Talbot (remember Gransden?) fall out with fuel pump failure after a magnificent drive, on straight Pool at that.

Came the Scratch race, well named. Fourteen entries, eight starters, four finishers. Parnell, after fuel-tank trouble in practice, motored fairly fast for thirteen laps, losing ground to Gerard. Then he broke his de Dion rear axle beam, contriving to stay on the road notwithstanding, though one rear wheel must have been dragging along on its hub cap.

Gerard, the winner, led from the start, had a brief plug change on lap 12, when he yielded the lead to Parnell, regaining it almost immediately as Parnell fell out, and touring round slower and slower, never being seriously challenged. Suggest the preparation of this outfit second to none.

Harrison, after several stops, came in on lap 14 with fractured blower vanes. Decided retirement obvious. Onlooker pointed out six cash awards and only five other cars still in race; profitable to finish — somehow. Ensued feverish evisceration of blower, and after interval of ten or twelve laps the first and probably last unsupercharged E.R.A. tottered away with the world’s most tortuous induction system; its fuel and compression pressure scarcely reconcilable. It finished in this state to take fourth place.

Woodall’s Deluge was steady and consistent, but fitted with the wrong grade of plugs. In the course of the race it was fitted with a lot more, during a number of pit stops, and finished a leisurely and unchallenged second, some two laps behind Gerard. Rumours of mechanical trouble are untrue.

The odd-looking E.R.A. of Abecassis lost a cylinder almost immediately and made repeated pit stops. Lesli Brooke assisted at these and for a while the magneto distributor was suspect; Brooke seen tearing bunches of H.T. leads up as if they were telephone directories. Sparks dept. vindicated; trouble was eventually traced to a broken exhaust rocker, which was replaced. These delays totalled even more than Harrison’s, but George, now cracking well, rejoined the race on Gerard’s 24th lap and proceeded to rush past the limping Harrison to settle comfortably in third place.

Providence (or maybe the gods of Reynold and Prestwich) must be unfavourable to Bolster’s E.R.A. exploits. Plug pit stop soon after the start and then complete dissolution of the gearbox on fourth lap. More plug trouble due top gear only.

Watson, driving the Cowell-Watson Alta, so prettily re-bodied, seemed almost to be surf-boarding (i.e., riding on the crest of the wave) for the car was right on form, sounding and looking good, and was steadily moving up in position as troubles overtook other cars. Each time past the pits Watson made a gesture of well-being. Alas, reports of turnings-round and phenomenal avoidances came over the speakers. But when Gerard stopped and Parnell retired, the Alta was briefly in the lead. In the ensuing chase by Gerard, a Great Heat began to develop, and the Alta came in with no water, and a leaking fuel tank. Woodall went past into second place, as Aspin stood on his head in the cockpit to fix the fuel tank, and Cowell repaired the water leak. Watson was told to concentrate on finishing third, where there was no opposition, rather than hurry along after Woodall, by now unassailable. However, he went off with undiminished ecstasy, and one then heard that he had been seized by a big wanderlust and motored into a field leaving both front wheels behind. Again the surf-board touch.

Thus the great race, the finishers so widely separated that none need hurry, the spectators bored, but the scenes at the pits full of dramatic interest.

A word about Northern Ireland. Although the familiar shortages arid rationing obtain, there is a distinct atmosphere of informality and helpfulness to be found on all sides. It is particularly extended in favour of those visitors connected with the racing in that two or three representatives of the Ulster A.C. seemed to work full time at seeing that one had comfortable accommodation (secured by them in advance), that all matters of red tape and shipping were in order, that one’s garage accommodation was satisfactory (not that there was any question of this; the garages vied with the Club in hospitality) and even that one was not without a partner, or at least a share in one, for the party after the race. In our case, J. G. Baird acted as A.D.C. and in times of stress either he or his cream-coloured Riley seemed to pop out of the ground at the critical moment. He took a number of people to view Craigantlet on the morning after the race, and in the dead period between shipping the cars and embarking ourselves the Riley acted as a sort of honorary taxi.

The countryside well repays touring, as the famous Antrim Coast Road lies to the north, and the Mountains of Mourne to the south. There is an abundance of roads, few signposts, and negligible traffic except on the main roads. The villages are picturesque and spotlessly clean. We understand that there is a lot more of Ireland somewhere to the South, accessible only by complicated formalities. This did not interest us. Finally, the worst thing is to drive about in a Bugatti that is not actually entered in the race. This involves one in endless explanations, excuses and apologies, none of which is really believed. That one should not be a competitor is unthinkable, impossible; any words on the subject are a waste of breath. The only thing is to be one, or stay at home.—

H. B.