Matters of Moment, September 1949
The B.R.D.C./”Daily Express” International Trophy Meeting
Quite the most important thing which happened in British racing last month was the great International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone for 500-c.c. sports and Formula 1 Grand Prix cars, organised by the British Racing Drivers’ Club in conjunction with the Daily Express newspaper.
We have often stated in Motor Sport that if motor-racing is to become a popular sport in this country it must have the backing of one of the great daily newspapers. And to this Daily Express meeting, encouraged by publicity given them in each morning’s paper for the preceding week, came over 110,000 keen (and very orderly) spectators. That is twice this year that six-figure crowds have attended International racing at the Silverstone circuit.
The “500s” had earned, and so deserved, their 10-lap race. The One Hour Production Car Race was sheer genius, a fine if animated shop-window display of British cars, and must certainly be repeated. We believe the idea originated from a suggestion of Mike Couper’s. The International Trophy race, run as two 20-lap heats and a 30-lap Final for 30 runners, was excellent, resulting in hard, fast racing with no let-ups. In addition, demonstrations by Messrs. John Cobb, “Goldie” Gardner and Bob Berry, and a parade of British high-performance cars, were crammed into a crowded day. The weather, too, played up, and this was a most successful meeting, ably handled by Desmond Scannell. That St. John Horsfall, a very skilful and unassuming driver, was fatally injured in the same E.R.A. in which John Bolster crashed at the same corner earlier this year, was a cruel blow, and to his mother and his many friends we extend our heartfelt sympathy.
The circuit measured 2 miles, 1,710 yards, and was lapped during the race at 93.35 m.p.h. (1 min. 54.6 sec.) by both “Bira” and Ascari.
Apart from one invasion near Stowe the crowd behaved splendidly, and criticisms can be confined to poor treatment of the Press in a number of ways, Press bulletins less effective by far than those issued during the R.A.C. Grand Prix, half-hearted timing of driver’s lap speeds, and the usual Gestapo attitude of too many policemen. The car-park officials were more understanding than were the R.A.C. men last time. Traffic congestion after the racing rivalled anything the Derby or the Boat Race can produce. The outstanding cars and drivers were Brandon (Cooper), Johnson (Jaguar) and Ascari (Ferrari).
Johnson relied on Esso fuel and oil, Lodge plugs, Lucas ignition, Dunlop wheels and tyres, Ferodo brake linings and Luvax shock-absorbers on the Jaguar. Ascari’s Ferrari naturally had mostly Italian components and accessories, but it was slowed for the corners by Ferodo linings, and its Marelli ignition incorporated Lodge plugs. Notes on the practice will be found on page 354.
The 500-C.C. Race
Brandon Keeps Ahead of Moss. Dryden Third
In the front row of the grid were Brandon, Reece, Moss and Dryden, suggesting a Cooper victory. Alvin Spike Rhiando appeared, from his garb, to be about to take part in a performance of the “Mikado” rather than in a ‘motor car race. Last-minute work occupied Saunders and Samuelson and Parker’s Parker refused to start by pulling-over the jacked-up rear wheels and was pushed. At last the grid was complete, with the car’s engines running, and at flag-fall Brandon accelerated clear of Moss. After a lap the order was: Brandon, Dryden, Moss, Reece, Watkins, Cooper, then a gap, then Parker, Saunders, Fry in the Parsenn, Braid, Prosser, Collins, May, Moor’s Wasp, Christie, Rhiando’s Trimax, Page, the smart Grose, Lone’s Tiger Kitten, the f.w.d. Bond, and Strang, the last in trouble already.
Another lap and Brandon led Dryden by about two seconds, the field going great guns in a crackle of sound, Moss and Reece close to the leaders, the others farther back. By three laps Moss was second, some 24sec. behind Brandon, and already May had pulled on to the grass between Club Corner and Abbey, with his Cooper’s rocker-gear disarranged. Moss, crouching low in the cockpit, was doing all he knew to wrest the lead from Brandon. Brandon was equally determined to keep his lead, glancing back occasionally to see what the margin was. He need not have worried, for although Moss closed quite a lot on the 7th lap, when the pair had nearly lapped the Bond, thereafter the distance between them widened and Brandon never lost his lead. On lap seven Dryden’s Norton-Cooper displaced Reece for third position, and behind them Watkins’ yellow and John Cooper’s blue Coopers were “locked in combat,” until the latter dropped back a bit. Fry, Aikens and Bond retired, but Braid had a stirring duel with Page. Brandon sealed his victory by a mere one-fifth of a second!
1st: E. Brandon (Cooper), 22 min. 22.4 sec. … 79.61 m.p.h.
2nd: S. Moss (Cooper), 22 min. 22.0 sec. … 79.59 m.p.h.
3rd: R. M. Dryden (Cooper), 22 min. 38.6 sec. … 78.77 m.p.h.
4th, Reece; 5th, Watkins; 6th, Cooper; 7th, Parker; 8th, Collins; 9th, Saunders; 10th, Moor; 11th, Page. Also finished: Woodall, Braid, Christie, Lones.
The Production-Car Race
Leslie Johnson wins a fine race in the new XK 3.4–litre Jaguar from his team-mate Walker. Culpan’s Frazer-Nash Third. Healey win Team Prize. “Bira” let down by his Tyres Frazer-Nash and H.R.G. win their classes.
To many this was the race of the day. There was only one non-starter, the Lea Francis, letting in Clapp’s reserve “1,100” H.R.G. Although this was an International race, all the cars were British. As they lined up at the pits for a Le Mans start, fillers sealed as no fluids could be replenished during the race, we noticed the normal cooling slots behind the Jaguar’s bumpers, the headlamps behind the grilles on the “Silverstone” Healeys and varying treatment of lamps on the Frazer-Nashes — Treybal’s using back-to-front Lucas lamps, Culpan’s larger Bosch headlamps and Newton similar lamps but back-to-front, whereas Gerard’s had very small Lucas lamps and its silencer alongside the body.
Chiron provided a pre-race incident when Rolt’s Healey suffered fuel-pump trouble while warming-up. Chiron used his Healey to push Rolt’s back to the pits, somewhat denting the front cowling in doing so. Here the S.U. pumps were hastily rewired and Rolt was told to push a switch if the engine faltered and if that didn’t cure things to get out and hit the offending pump!
A hush, the flag goes up, falls, and a patter of shoes tells us the drivers, at least, are off. Then Potter’s Allard roars away, with Johnson’s white Jaguar, Walker’s red Jaguar, and Rolt’s Healey in hot pursuit. “Bira’s” blue Jaguar is well up, followed by Howarth’s big Lagonda. Clapp was almost last, being at the far end of the row, but Wisdom’s Healey faltered and was later still. A great bunch of multi-coloured sports cars went close-packed round the circuit, round Woodcote, through Copse Corner, down to Maggott’s and Beckett’s and downhill along Hangar Straight to take Stowe Corner in a flurry of squealing tyres. Round Club Corner they came, fast through Abbey Curve, and the first lap was over, Johnson leading by 3 1/2 sec. from “Bira,” with Walker third — Jaguars 1, 2, 3! It was thought that the Jaguar drivers would scrap for 10 laps, then stay in line-ahead formation. Quite a distance, too, separated these Jaguars from Rolt’s Healey, Culpan’s Frazer-Nash, Potter’s Allard, Allard’s Allard, Gerard’s Frazer-Nash, which soon passed Allard, Leslie Allard’s Allard, Thompson’s H.R.G., Treybal’s Frazer-Nash, Chiron’s Healey, Buncombe’s H.R.G., Howarth’s Lagonda, Newton’s Frazer-Nash, Mann’s Jaguar, Wright’s Lagonda, Rowley’s old Aston-Martin, Jacobs’ M.G., Phillips’ M.G., Wisdom’s Healey, Clark’s H.R.G., Lund’s M.G., the Morgan, Mylchreest’s Riley, Sangster’s Riley, Ayes’ Riley, Wise’s Javelin, Hume’s Javelin and Clapp’s H. R. G.
Another lap and Culpan was fourth, having got past Rolt’s Healey, Gerard had gained another place and Treybal was coming through well. The Javelins and Clapp’s H.R.G. were still right at the end.
Clearly, the race was to be run fast, for after only four laps Johnson and “Bira” had all but lapped Clapp. Walker was some way behind his team-mates in third place, and Gerard had slowed down.
Not only was it a fast race, but there was a full measure of excitement. On lap five “Bira” and Walker led, Culpan, driving magnificently, was third, Johnson’s Jaguar was back to fourth place, these four very far ahead of the field.
On the 7th lap Johnson, who had apparently contacted a straw bale with the front of his car, was in third place. Gerard had stopped at Stowe, gone to his pit, and resumed slowly, later to speed up. Rowley’s Aston-Martin next encountered the straw, an announcement telling the driver’s wife he was unhurt, and the car not much damaged. Next it was the turn of Phillips, whose M.G. had been baulking other cars badly in spite of blue-flagging. He slid sideways at Stowe but went on. The order remained “Bira,” Walker, Johnson, Culpan, with Rolt’s Healey behind, until Culpan passed Johnson again on lap nine. Wisdom’s Healey was obviously unwell and its engine was inspected by Tommy at the pits, after which he resumed, badly down on speed. Culpan was pressing Johnson hard, but after a lap or two the Jaguar drew ahead, Johnson closing on Walker. It was magnificent, and the British Jaguars looked and sounded superb. “Bira’s” was lapping at about 83 m.p.h.
The Riley saloons ran nicely, line ahead, Clapp gradually working his way past them, and much baulking was experienced, as small cars, cornering at their limit, held up the fast stuff.
Culpan was now at it again, full bore and past Walker, Johnson having also gone by, to second place, these four evenly spaced and very, very impressive.
At half-time, “Bira” led Johnson by 5 sec., Culpan was 1.4 sec. behind Johnson and Walker one-fifth of a second behind the Frazer-Nash. “Bira” had averaged 81.17 m.p.h., and the speed was rising (at 10 laps it was 80.8 m.p.h.) as the race progressed, “Bira” lapping at 82.3 m.p.h. Just after half-time Howarth’s Lagonda retired and Walker picked up third place from Culpan’s red Frazer-Nash. Treybal was fifth, Rolt sixth. Just as Johnson began to get down to chasing “Bira,” until he was a mere car’s length away, Jacobs’ M.G. slid to its pit, and later the near side wing and running board showed signs of contact with a hard object, at Beckett’s.
The loudspeakers frantically called for special Observer’s reports on “Bira,” Phillips and Lund.
Drama! “Bira,” Johnson pressing him really hard, was taking Woodcote Corner when the near-side rear Dunlop racing tyre burst. The blue Jaguar spun, was narrowly missed by Johnson and Walker, and “Bira’s” drive was over — but not quite. He gamely tried to jack the car up (hence the call for special observation) but the jack sank into the earth and a sad man began to walk in. The mystery of why a racing tyre lasted less than 60 miles on a sports car was solved when it was found that Dunlop’s had fitted a touring tube This lost Jaguar an almost-certain 1, 2, 3 victory, and the terrific publicity value of the red, white and blue cars going pass the chequered flag in line-formation.
So Johnson was in the lead, Walker second, Culpan third, Treybal fourth, Rolt fifth, Chiron sixth. The first three had lapped the others, Rolt waving Culpan into Woodcote on one occasion. As the end drew near Johnson speeded up, lapping at 84.24 m.p.h. (2 min. 7 sec.), but later Walker closed on him a little. Johnson responded with a lap in 2 min. 6.5 sec., equal to over 84 m.p.h. Sydney Allard hit the straw at Stowe hard enough to send his near-side front wing down on to the tyre, letting Leslie pass him, and straw was nicely packed behind the grille of Jacobs’ M.G., which had practically no left-lock. Thus this most enjoyable and instructive race finished, the 3.4-litre Jaguars victorious, but harried all through by the 2-litre Frazer-Nash.
The H.R.G.s used Esso fuel, Lucas ignition, Dunlop tyres, and Ferodo-lined brakes. The Frazer-Nash of Culpan had Shell fuel ignited by Lucas ignition and ran on Dunlops.
The International Trophy Race
“Bira’s” and Farina’s Maseratis Beat the Ferraris in the Heats. Ascari Reverses Matters in the Final. Fatal Accident to St. John Horsfall
The first heat saw Ascari (Ferrari), “Bira” (Platé Maserati), Etancelin (Talbot) and Parnell (Maserati) in the proud front position on the grid. Ascari led from the start, “Bira” and Parnell in pursuit, but Chorlton’s C.D.L. stalled. Lap one over, it was Ascari, “Bira,” Parnell, Whitehead (Ferrari), Etancelin and Harrison’s E.R.A. Another round and Harrison had passed the Talbot, while “Bira” led Ascari after three laps, timid flag marshals showing him the blue, so close behind was Alberto. Etancelin, too, had repassed Harrison. After four laps “Bira” led at an average of over 90 m.p.h., but on the next round the Ferrari went by. Parnell was going really fast in third place, sliding out of Club Corner in pursuit of “Bira.”
From now on the race was a high-speed procession so far as the leaders were concerned, although Gerard, his E.R.A. very smart with its new front-cowling, passed Harrison and played a waiting game – the only one such old English cars can play on these occasions – in seventh place, behind the very rapid, wheel-sawing Etancelin. Horsfall sat behind Gerard, sliding at Abbey on one round. Shawe-Taylor’s Maserati lost power at high r.p.m. and made a brief stop, and smoke plumed from Fry’s Maserati cockpit. Then, on lap 16, “Bira” came by ahead of Ascari again, these two lapping Harrison. Ascari was content to watch “Bira’s” polished driving from a space of under one second, and thus they finished, with Parnell an excellent third. Fotheringham Parker’s Maserati had retired with a sticking oil-relief valve, Etancelin and Whitehead both had hectic moments, the former re-arranging the straw bales at Copse, and altogether it was a very exciting and excellent race.
1st: “B. Bira ” (Maserati), 39 min. 0.2 sec. … 91.43 m.p.h.
2nd: A. Ascari (Ferrari), 39 min. 1 sec. … 91.41 m.p.h.
3rd: R. Parnell (Maserati), 39 min. 44 sec. … 89.75 m.p.h.
4th, Gerard (E.R.A.), 87.11 m.p.h.; 5th, Harrison (E.R.A.); 6th, Horsfall (E.R.A.); 7th, Etancelin (Talbot); 8th, Fry (Maserati); 9th, Claes (Talbot); 10th, Murray (Maserati); 11th, Baring (Maserati); 12th, Crossley (Alta); 13th, Habershon (Delage); 14th, Shawe-Taylor (Maserati).
Ascari wheeled out Villoresi’s Ferrari for the second heat, the Ferrari mechanics playfully tweeking “Bira’s” cheek because he had beaten one of their cars, and a warning was broadcast of oil, spilt from A. G. Whitehead’s E.R.A., at Stowe. Villoresi led away, Peter Walker’s two-stage E-type E.R.A. after him, and, as they completed lap one, it was Villoresi, de Graffenried’s Maserati, Walker’s E.R.A. and Farina’s Maserati, Rolt’s horrific Alfa-Romeo and Salvadori’s Maserati behind. Brooke (Maserati), bare-headed, was in fifth place, ahead of Rolt, after three laps, and by five laps Farina, pulling odd faces as he cornered, had his Maserati 1.2 sec. ahead of the Ferrari, 2.2 see. behind which was de Graffenried, third. The E-type E.R.A., sounding beautiful, was still fourth. The order held for another five laps, but Farina had gained 4 sec. on Villoresi and put up the average from 88.45 to 89.18 m.p.h. Gordon’s Maserati had already retired, its scavenge pump inoperative, and Richardson’s R.R.A. (no longer with Riley chassis) had spasms of intense smoking. Chiron’s radiator cap blew off with a hiss of water vapour and he stopped, retrieved it, and got going again after filling up. The Ferrari had closed only imperceptibly on Farina’s Maserati by 15 laps, the average up to 89.6 m.p.h. Brooke was missing after 18 laps and de Graffenried was enjoying himself hugely, coming wide in a fine burst of acceleration out of Club Corner. And the E-type kept going, and in fourth position.
1st: G. Farina (Maserati) … 39 min.44.4 sec.
2nd: L. Villoresi (Ferrari) … 39 min.49.6 sec.
3rd: de Graffenried (Maserati) … 40 min.12.2 sec.
4th, Walker (E.R.A.); 5th, Salvadori (Maserati); 6th, Rolt (Alfa-Romeo); 7th, Ashmore (Maserati); 8th, Hampshire (E.R.A.); 9th, Levegh (Talbot); 10th, Richardson (R.R.A.); 11th Watson (Alta); 12th, Nixon (E.R.A.); 13th, Kelly (Maserati); 14th, Ansell (E.R.A.); 15th, Brooke (Maserati).
So to the Final, composed of the first 15 from each heat, the burning question being could the four-cylinder Maseratis again put it over the V12 Ferraris? Ascari soaked his blue cloth helmet in water before the start, fuel was added to Parnell’s tank on the grid, where Robin Jackson ministered to Fry in his Maserati, and they lined up in nine rows to a truly imposing start, which Farina led.
One lap and the order was Ascari, “Bira” and Parnell (good old Reg.!) and Villoresi. Ascari then drew right away, and Villoresi passed Parnell. Etancelin limped in after one lap with the Talbot’s gearbox useless. As they strung out a bit at five laps, Ascari led by 1.2 sec. at 89.9 m.p.h. from Villoresi, “Bira” was 3.2 sec. behind Ascari, Parnell fourth, Farina fifth, then the E-type, going splendidly, but spraying Walker with oil, then the watchful Gerard, followed by Ashmore, Harrison, Salvadori and Horsfall. Richardson lost his fuel filler cap, found it, and resumed, holding it on. “Bira” dropped back, letting Parnell and Farina by, then Parnell’s old hoodoo returned, 11 sec. being lost to put in oil.
Habershon’s Delage soiled its otherwise clean copybook by being called in because oil was leaking from a vent, retiring after three laps, then poor Reg. Parnell fell out for good after twelve laps with no oil-pressure and at fifteen laps Ascari led from Farina, who had come up strongly, Villoresi third, the E-type fourth, and “Bira” dropping back. The average was 89.87 m.p.h.
It was highly interesting, Ashmore incapable of catching Gerard, Villoresi unable to close with Farina, the E-type a magnificent fourth. Then de Graffenried came past Walker. Horsfall’s E.R.A. had rolled over at Stowe Corner on lap thirteen, just as it had done in Bolster’s hands at the Grand Prix, after striking a straw bale, but Horsfall was not thrown clear and his injuries proved fatal. Geoffrey Ansell’s E.R.A. stopped for good, its radiator dry, but Claes at last got the better of his battle with Levegh’s Talbot and the leaders remained: Ascari, about 4/5 of a sec. ahead, Farina, Villoresi, de Graffenreid, Walker, “Bira,” Gerard, Ashmore, Harrison and Rolt. Moreover, down Hangar Straight Farina got past Ascari, cornered first, then Ascari beat him on acceleration out of Club Corner – the sort of thing that keeps the crowd on its toes and gave holders of Daily Express tickets grand value-for-money. This went on until Farina bumped the straw bales at Stowe (the official hand-out says sand-bags, which would be worse) and dropped back, over 8 sec. behind, because a newspaper wrapped itself round his head and in tearing it away he removed his goggles. Ascari now had the race as he wanted it, but Farina made up over 6 sec. of his deficiency before the end.
Thus the first Silverstone International Trophy Race came to a close, Alberto Ascari, unassuming swarthy victor, all but lapping “Bira” and carrying the chequered-fly away under his car as he swept over the line. Villoresi held third place, giving best to the Maserati so ably handled by Farina, de Graffenried was fourth, our E-tyre E.R.A. was splendidly brought home fifth by Peter Walker, who finished ahead of “Bira,” whose car obviously hadn’t maintained heat-one form, while Bob Gerard in his ancient E.R.A. proved a match for Ashmore’s Scuderia Ambrosiana two-stage Maserati. Harrison and Rolt were also well placed.
1st: A. Ascari (Ferrari), 50 min. 42.6 sec. … 89.58 m.p.h.
2nd: G. Farina, (Maserati), 59 min. 44.4 sec…. 89.30 m.p.h.
3rd: L. Villoresi (Ferrari), 1 hr. min. 19 sec. … 88.70 m.p.h.
4th, de Graffenried (Maserati), 87.82 m.p.h.; 5th, Walker (E.R.A.), 87.49 m.p.h.; 6th, “B. Bira” (Maserati), 86.30 m.p.h.; 7th, Gerard (E.R.A.); 8th, Ashmore (Maserati); 9th, Harrison (E.R.A.),. 10th, Rolt (Alfa-Romeo); 11th, Hampshire (E.R.A.); 12th, Class (Talbot); 13th, Levegh (Talbot); 14th, Watson (Alta); 15th, Fry (Maserati); 16th, Nixon (E.R.A.); 17th, Salvador! (Maserati); 18th, Murray (Maserati); 19th, Kelly (Maserati); 20th, Crossley (Alta); 21st, Richardson (R.R.A.); 22nd, Ansell (E.R.A.).
Edwardians are all very well in their place, and the “9.5” Standard is an interesting early light-car, but the rusty one with “Vanguard I” chalked on its bonnet was out of place parading round Silverstone.
An enterprising camera-man hired a taxi to take him from corner to corner along the roads inside the circuit. A good idea — but rather hard on tired Pressmen who were made to leave their cars outside the circuit.
Wasn’t Peter Walker rather overlooked at the prize giving? Never mind, Peter, those in the know showed their appreciation as the E-type came in.
Motor Sport used a Hillman Minx for the period of the meeting. It did everything we asked of it, provided ample accommodation, started very promptly and was commendably quiet and smooth for an inexpensive car. So quiet was it that it was possible to mistake 3rd gear for top. The car is brisk, going up to an indicated 58 m.p.h. in third, has excellent luggage space and a pleasant steering-column gear-change, and good brakes, and it is usefully economic. The wide bench front seat is half cloth, half leather, a good idea which keeps the driver from sliding about, and it adjusts extremely easily. Rootes Securities have an excellent small car in the latest Minx. We slept comfortably at the course in one of those beautifully appointed and finished Coventry “Knight 49” mobile homes — not to confused with a similar van in which Lloyds Bank took away the gate-money!
The basic list price of the all-conquering “XK120” Jaguar is £998.
Photographs appearing in this article are Motor Sport copyright.