Matters of Moment, September 1950

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THE XIIIth ALPINE TRIAL

The results of this year’s Alpine Trial came through too late for inclusion in the August Motor Sport, but they must not be overlooked, for this is one of the toughest road competitions there is, and extremely valuable world-wide publicity accrues to those cars which come through successfully.

This time Britain was well to the fore and in the headlines, for an XK 120 Jaguar shared one of the coveted Coupe des Alpes with four of the new and sensational 745 c.c. flat-twin Dyna-Panhards. As the “Alpine” is run at fantastically high average speeds – considered so dangerous by one experienced young motorist of our acquaintance that he has told us nothing would induce him to compete! – and as the bigger your car the faster you are required to go, the Jaguar performance is truly meritorious. All credit to Ian Appleyard who drove it to victory, and to his wife, Pat Appleyard, elder daughter of William Lyons who is Jaguar Cars. The Jaguar made f.t.d. in the autostrada special test, covering the kilometre at 109.9 m.p.h., the Col de Vars hill-climb, best performance in the Tre Croce hill-climb, scored best aggregate marks for the various special tests and made f.t.d. in the Cannes acceleration, braking and manoeuvring test, finishing without loss of a single mark.

The inference is that either the Alpine Trial is not quite such a stern test as the Le Mans 24-Hour race or that, since the latter contest, Jaguar have found a more reliable clutch and better brakes. Either way, the XK120 – still the most-discussed sports car – has proved itself suited to the hardest driving over the roads of Europe that any driver could inflict.

Apart from this Jaguar success, two-thirds of the cars that finished were British and we won outright three of the six capacity classes – TD M.G., Sunbeam-Talbot and Jaguar sharing the honours with Dyna-Panhard, Renault 4CV and Alfa-Romeo in this latter respect. Further, the best team judged on the tests was that of Sunbeam-Talbot, although Dyna-Panhard took the out-and-out team prize, M.G. taking the non-French team award.

That the Trial was an extremely stiff test is now common knowledge, but if emphasis is needed, it is supplied in the number of cars which crashed or had trouble. Taking some of the troubles at random, one Riley went out with a seized-up-water pump, another with an air leak, a Sunbeam-Talbot lost marks for a starter defect and had dynamo trouble, another lost its fan belt, another of this make suffered a loose fuel litter and puncture, yet another stripped its crown-wheel anal pinion. A Hillman Minx was delayed by dynamo trouble told a broken throttle spring. A TD M.G. experienced gearbox trouble, an H.R.G. split its fuel tank, another apparently shook its ignition coil to bits. A wheel bearing gave up on a Simca, a Lea-Francis shed its silencer which unluckily punctured the fuel tank, a Rover 75 and a Mercedes were reported as having unsuitable gear ratios and troublesome brakes, the small Lago-Talbot gave up, a Jaguar laid wheel-bearing failure, and the Citroen Six was found to have inadequate brakes and other bothers.

Apart from these things, vapour-lock, overheating, broken springs and damage by stones were experienced, teaching, it is hoped, valuable lessons, and crashes eliminated many others. Our sympathy goes out to Leonard Potter, badly hurt when his Allard went over a ravine.

The results of the Alpine Trial, like Le Mans, the T.T. and the Monte Carlo Rally, do not “date”, but are remembered by the world’s buyers until the next event of the series. This year the British Jaguar XK 120 and French 745-c.c, Dyna-Panhards were outstanding and we hope for a similar, or greater, British victory in 1951.

Incidentally, this event gives rise to certain advertising in which the first place of one make is proclaimed in figures over three times larger than the wording explaining this to be a class-victory… A pity.

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QUESTIONS OF POLICY

According to an ever-popular song, the policeman’s lot is not a happy one. We sometimes feel the same, about an Editor’s! The fact is that there is so much motor sport taking place all over the world these days that, what to put in and what to leave out of this paper presents a perpetual problem. It is common knowledge in newspaper offices that if all is well only a very small proportion of one’s total of readers will direct correspondence to the Editor, but so vast is the present-day circulation of Motor Sport that our in-tray is kept nearly full. And consequently we are acutely aware of what readers do and do not want. The difficulty is to please everyone. For every letter which asks for more reports of Continental races comes another saying cannot events in this country take precedence? Some want the bigger meetings reported, an equal number of correspondents ask for the smaller club events to receive full treatment. For each writer who says, “Less of this vintage and veteranism,” there are two who say, “Thank God we are able to recall the good old cars through your articles,” often remarking that you cannot buy new cars today in any case! And with it all, the task of cramming the quart into the pint-pot goes on.

Motor Sport has never deemed it necessary to take a census of readers’ requirements, as some perplexed editors do. For over a quarter of a century we have managed to steer an apparently satisfactory middle course, captained by W. Boddy, the Editor, for the last fifteen years, and we are confident of continuing so to do. But we mention these matters by way of exploit ion to our many correspondents.

Some time ago we appealed to clubs to let us have advance details of their meetings. We are fully aware of the tedious work this entails on the part of club scribes, and sympathise when they ask why such information has not attained the printed page. It is inevitable that much material is crowded out, but topicality and frequency of reference to any individual club is considered, and data not published is filed to enable us to give prompt replies to written and telephonic inquiries relating to future fixtures, as we said it would be when publishing our appeal.

Another question of policy relates to our treatment of the Le Mans race and the text of our report. In 1949 it was possible to include a full, illustrated report in our July issue, but this year the vastly increased numbers of Motor Sport which we now print and the difficulties in that connection, ruled this out. Great though this race unquestionably is, it was hardly so topical in August, and consequently a short survey was published, although the results in full were appended, bearing in mind the many readers who, annually, bind their copies. Naturally, in that survey credit was given to the splendid performances of the British cars. That no special reference was made to the meritorious achievement of Briggs Cunningham’s Cadillac saloon, which, in finishing 10th, covered nearly as great a distance as the Delage which was second in 1949, and to the Cadillac two-seater that was 11th, was unfortunate. As consolation, we hasten to assure America that this fine performance did not pass unnoticed in this country, as letters and telegrams we received convincingly prove. We have also been taken to task for saying, of the winning Talbots, that, “… the unkind have it that (these cars) were merely G.P. Talbots dressed up in road equipment.” Other papers said much the same, the Autocar remarking: “… the open Talbots …  were, in effect very close to the racing version, especially Rosier’s, which was virtually a 1950 Lago-Record, with a slightly lowered compression-ratio, a wider cockpit with off-set steering-column and, of course, wings, lamps and battery.” While the Motor said : “There is undoubtedly very strong affinity between the Formula 1 and the Le Mans cars from Suresnes but surely Tony Lago should be given credit for producing a sports car which with small modification can acquit itself nobly in Formula 1 races!”

Now we like, always have liked, the more exciting sports-racing cars, especially one that can average nearly 90 m.p.h. for 24 hours. Note that we merely reported what the unkind said of the “Le Mans” Talbots. It. should be recognised, however, that there are virtually three forms of sports-racing car. Before the war, when we used to call at the Frazer-Nash works and pull Aldington’s leg about how much nicer was the Railton we were using than one of his cars (the beauty of it being that he would always rise to this bait, although Railton and Frazer-Nash were intended for very different markets!), the topic of the T.T. would come up and “Aldy” would proudly state that he was racing standard Frazer-Nashes in that race, confident of the speed and reliability of his standard product. Then we would go on to Aston-Martin’s and be shown their team-prize winners. They would admit these were not completely catalogue, but would explain that any customer’s car could be modified in the same way and still remain a practical everyday sports car, which they would prove by letting us take our pick of the trio, which we would drive behind trolley-buses and in front of police cars without any fuss, mechanical, thermo or legal, developing. That’s two sorts of sports-racing car.

The third is the more “racing-car” type of sports car and, sincerely as we should like a “Le Mans” Talbot in our spare garage (if we had a spare garage), it is debatable, however, whether the last-named type is quite so practical for ordinary driving in all weathers and through the West and East End of London as, say, a DB.II Aston-Martin, a Jowett Jupiter or an ordinary Cadillac saloon. And it has to be accepted that lots of English and American buyers expect to be able to use their sports cars for these purposes, when a Frenchman would more likely go in his second-string 4CV Renault. That is not to say, however, that we cannot appreciate the Talbot achievement of making an outstandingly successful Formula 1 and sports-racing car from one and the same design. It is particularly interesting that, in his letter of admonition, M. Tony Lago writes of his “Le Mans” Talbots: “… even in Grands Prix, Talbot were racing with sports cars and the cars which won at Le Mans were absolutely standard sports cars… It was due to pressure that the Talbot Company brought upon the French A.C. that it was decided to include the 4-1/2-litre engine in Formula 1 to compete with the supercharged 1-1/2-litre.”

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