A crowd of 46,000 watched thrilling racing, splendidly organised by the 500 Club under J. F. Gale, at Brands Hatch on August Bank Holiday. This was an International Meeting, but the only foreigners to appear were Johnie Claes (Cooper-J.A.P.), Lex Beels (Beels-J.A.P.) and Phil and Harry Schell (Cooper-J.A.P.s). The big questions were: Can we beat the foreign opposition and how will Stirling Moss, his leg just out of plaster following his crash at Naples, drive? Answer number one was: Very definitively; answer number two, very well. It was mechanical, not biological, shortcomings that lost Moss his final.
First we had the three seven-lap heats to decide the field for the 15-lap Final of the Open Challenge Race.
In beautiful weather, the country setting of the one-mile circuit a pleasant background, the smartly turned-out little cars were lined-up, brought on to the grid, and flagged off on a few-feet rolling start. George Wicken in his smart Cooper-J.A.P., one of the first to be built, led throughout. Bill Whitehouse was behind him after a lap, Rogers falling back, and Burgess – all Coopers – moved up strongly to third place. David Brake has improved enormously, driving steadily if not very fast. Ted Frost spun round, and Claes was very slow, lapped by the winner in six miles!
It was Moss all the way in the second heat, showing his usual impeccable style. Don Parker came up well to second place in his Parker Special, displacing, Coldham’s Cooper. Leighton-Davis and Symonds stalled on the grid, Phil Schell was slow, and Braid’s Cooper was unhappy at first, John Cooper led the initial lap of heat three, to be passed by Alf Bottoms’ Cooper-Norton. On lap five Eric Brandon passed Cooper at Paddock bend, but couldn’t get to grips with the other Norton-powered Cooper. Harry Schell was fifth.
The 15-lap Non-Production Car Race followed, but, with only seven starters, could well have been shorter. Parker hid no trouble, and a very easy victory. After five laps Smith’s Smith 500 caught Truman’s Bardon-Turner and thus they followed Don home. Stiles got lots of revs. out of the Triumph Twin engine of his C.W.S. 500, but spun at Paddock bend.
So to the Final of the Open Challenge Trophy. Moss was in the third row of the grid. The early laps were a grand scrap between Whitehouse and Wicken, the former faster along the straights, but after five laps Moss, throwing his Cooper where he wanted it, was second, was displaced by Whitehouse, then repassed and really got to grips with Wicken after eight laps. It was an epic scrap, with Whitehouse troubling the two duellists. Moss made one final, heroic effort to pass Wicken at Paddock bend on the last lap, but just couldn’t do it. The crowd loved it! Burgess managed third place after all, ahead of Whitehouse. Bottoms and Parker needed the same piece of road and the former was unlucky.
There followed four seven-lap heats of the Daily Telegraph International Challenge Trophy 85-lap race. Whitehouse led the first from Brandon, Parker third until beaten by half a wheel on the line by Cooper. Frost got involved with Dryden on a gillhooley at the far bend. The next heat saw the order after the initial lap, Moss, Coldham, Wharton, hold throughout, Moss using Cooper’s spare car as his own had developed gearbox trouble. Claes failed to get started in heat three, which Wicken won very convincingly from Burgess and Rogers – all Cooper-J.A.P.s.
Heat four was better fun, Paul Emery treating us to one of his favourite gillhooleys at the far corner in the front-drive Emeryson and the Cooper of Montgomerie-Charrington getting very hot. Westcott won in his Cooper, Leary doing all he knew how to close the gap, Aikens a fne third. John Bolster next organised, handicapped and won a three-lap, Le Mans start Edwardian-cars Race in his delightful 1011 Rolls-Royce. Tubbs’ 1906 Gobron-Brille was second, Pierpoint’s 1904 Mors, both chain-drive, third. The others were a yellow Unic, Mrs. Bolster’s Standard, and the taxi-like 1909 and 1910 Renaults of Green and Chambers. The public loved this and we commend Bolster’s brain-wave as an annual fixture, with entries in the programme.
The 35-lap Final of the International Race concluded an excellent day’s sport. Moss had already set a new lap-record of 53.8 sec., 67.54 m.p.h., but luck wasn’t with him and Cooper’s spare car stopped for a time in this Final, when Moss was in second place. From the start Wicken proved his mastery, followed at a discreet interval by Whitehouse and Cooper, the latter caught, after a fine tussle, at 17 laps, by Whitehouse. At the very end it seemed that Whitehouse might get the lead, but he just couldn’t, although Wickert finished without a drop more petrol! It was a popular victory, for George Wicken is a dairy farmer from Maidstone, “just down the road.” He drove his Cooper “C’Est Si Bon” extremely well, and the handsome Daily Telegraph Cup was well-deserved. Beels retired, Rogers lost a chain, Parker and Leigh were posted non-starters whereas Beels, although non-starting in his heat, was allowed to run, the Rules permitting 50 per cent. foreign starters. This Parker didn’t seem to approve.
The winners were:
Open Challenge Race:
Heat 1: G. H. Wicken (Cooper-J.A.P.), 64.27 m.p.h.
Heat 2: S. Moss (Cooper-J.A.P.), 62.32 m.p.h.
Heat 3: A. Bottoms (J.B.S.-Norton), 63.83 m.p.h.
Final: G. H. Wicken (Cooper-J.A.P.), 64.59 m.p.h.
Non-Production Car Race: D. Parker (Parker-J.A.P.), 61.51 m.p.h.
Edwardian Car Handicap: J. Bolster (1911 Rolls-Royce), 41.86 m.p.h.
International Challenge Trophy race:
Heat 1: W. J. Whitehouse (Cooper-Norton), 63.16 m.p.h.
Heat 2: S. Moss (Cooper-J.A.P.), 63.49 m.p.h.
Heat 3: G. H. Wicken (Cooper-J.A.P.), 64.06 m.p.h.
Heat 4: J. F. Wescott (Cooper-J.A.P.), 62.30 m.p.h.
Final: G. H. Wicken (Cooper-J.A.P.), 63.56 m.p.h.