EARLY HILL-CLIMBS

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EARLY HILL-CLIMBS

bY ” BALADEUR” 2. GAILLON, 1899-1900 0;1111111111111111i11111111111114111101111111[1111111111114-1illlililli11111111101111111111l1111D4 crwisim yt.-; the essential require teems of a course for it sprint hill-climb are that it should include hin its short length almost every sort of corner iiitagitiatile, from the abrupt right-angle to the gentle bend which demands the trlaXIMUIll Or judgment on the part of the driver if’ it, is to be taken at t he highest possible speed. Such ideas, however, were completely foreign to tile Nil:etc/lab. Century motorist. Tlw corners oil (lie Chanteloup course were considered in t809 to constitute its major drawbuwk, and ‘The Amocor remarked that ‘• the si,ene Of Sunday’s trials seems to have been played out or at least is III longer tilted for high speeds that are now possible on the up-grades. The bends on the Cluutteloup Hill are so SIllirfI that it good many. competitors had actually to slow down in taking them . . •”

Indeed, even since the first event at Chanteloup in 1898, the authorities of the Moto Club de France and its organ, Fe Vélo, had been searching for “a perfectly straight. hill of one kilometre in length,” on which to organise a rival meeting. No such thing was to be found within as easy reach of Paris as could have been -wished, and, indeed, the prospectors had to go more titan half Way to Rouen before they hit upon exactly wlett they wanted. .1tist Icevciiid Gaillon. which is nearly sixty miles from the capital. N. 182, the road to Bonen by Mantes and Pont de l’Arelte, which up to this point has faithfully followed the Valley of the Seine, el i is rather suddenly, between Gaillon and Ste. Barbe, up to the Madrie plateau lietweeti tin-. Seine and the Ewe. For the first few hundred yards the gradient. is only about 1 in 20, stiffens for the next five hundred to about 1 in It, and then -eases off again, so that the.average for the full kilometre is al lout 1 in 13. The road runs dead straight up the hill, and, as a further luxury, there was a return route by t 1 w lilt le road which &lines down from Alit.’ to ;aillon ; but in spite of all tlwse advantages, the opinion was expressed that ” the test is a very severe one, on aeconnt of the differences in the up-grade, which neeessitated the drivers of alit ocars making t best use they could of their cluolge speed gears.” In spite of Otis formidable prospect, there were a hundred entries for the first event on December 3rd, 1899, and no less than seventy-three starters. They were, one way and another, a pretty motley collection : there were classes for motor-cycles, for vehicles weighing less tluut 250 kgs. (which presumably meant Leon Boll& voiturett es, mow of which, however, seem to have putt in an appearance) for ears between 950 and 400 kgs., and for vehicles of unlimited weight. And When they got to tile foot of the hill they found that, while the plateau up above was bathed ill sunshine. tlw valley of the Seine was envekTed in a damp impenetrable fog, which was no help at all. “‘Elie motor bicycles,” we are informed, ” needed a good deal of pedalling, ;old only one succeeded in reaelting the top without 11 chain. The light. N.:au/rates did better than might have been expected, I nut several of them could only pewit the lop by the aid or gy 1111 last ie perform:Li wes

On GU, part of the riders, who jumped out when it was found necessary to ease Ito. mot orf• llowever, by hook or by (‘101 (IC, ‘• out of lite seventy-three starters. fifty-eight site:wiled in reaching the top, whicfi must be reckoned a splendid result, in view of the differenee of the density of the atmosphere at the two ends of the eciurse.”

” A Ga»tier-Wehrle car, ” eo»tinues the same account., ” went up the hill at a steady rate, and a light Stanley vehicle dashed lip at a good speed, leaving behind a big trail of steam . . .” Its driver, who has, it would seem, remained anonymous, had, of course, the inestiinable advantage of tieing under no necessity to ” make the best use he could of his change speed gear,” and had got. up steam to such purpose that his horseless buggy. which weigh CI less titan 400 kgs. and was ollieially &set-Haat simply as an ” American automobile,” made fastest time of the day, in 1 milt. 56 see. This was very muc11 faster than any of the heavy petrol cars, among which the best performance was put up by a Vallee, Which elimbed in 3 min. 30 see. This was, presumably, the fainouis Vallee ” Slipper,” which had appeared, with varying success, earlier in the year in the Tour de France, Paris-St. Mido and Paris-Ostend races, driven, under the pseudonym of “Flash,” by that remarkable German automobilist, Dr. Lehwess, who was afterwards to set out. to go round the world in a 16-It.p. Panhard caravan. It is quite likely that the doctor took the. ” Slipper ” up Gaillon and certainly the car was as astonishing as its driver. l’Ite engine, whielt was a flat-four, placed at the front of the machine below the level of the frame, with two cylinders pointing ftirwards and two back. must have: been one of the largest yet put into a car, the bore and stroke being 110 by 200 min., which gives a capacity of 7,584 c.c.. Its normal speed, however, was only 600 r.p.m., and, in spite of its size, it was only elaimed that it developed 16-11.p. It had. however, electric ignition, ain1 this, combined with a ” throttle valve,” gave sin+ a measure of’ flexibility that the fortutette doctor was able entirely to dispense with a change-speed gear, and WITS thus in as happy It position as the driver of the ” American Automobile.” Almost entirely, perhaps one should say, the Vallee’s engine drove Ii’ a single belt, 10 inelies wide, with a gear nit io of 11.5 to 3, to the back axle, which was mounted on sonLellipt. springs, the ends of which could be moved longitudheilly in slots. SV/ien Ihte slogging power of even 7i litres of slow

speed engine were at last overtaxed. the cunning doctor could shift the whole hack axle forward and just slip the belt.

According to Mr. Worliy Beaumont, ” t he hill climbing speed [was] unusually high., and well it might, be with about 16-11.1. and a load of only two persons.” Iii I e Tour de France. lunvever, the belt had shown a propensity to slip when it was not, tneant to ; presumably it held at Gaillon, and the Vallee was eh:Ideated ay/tor:tingly. Its average speed over the standing kilometre being about 12 m.p.h., streamlining did Rol perhaps /day a -,,ry

part in the Vallee’s success. Its designer, however, undoubtedly had ideas about streamlining. The frame of the car WaS about on a level with the top of the front wheels, which were carried on a most curious ” axle,” consisting of a sort of vertical box frame, with cruciform braemug, suspended on double quarter-elliptic springs, mounted one above the other. As already mentioned, the whole of the engine as well as the transmission gear were /minuted below frame level, and thus far the whole car was kept commendably Low. Unfortunately, however, the whole thing was Spoilt by the provision for a driver. The floor of Dr. Leltwess’ eoekpit was on a level with the top of the frame, and the doctor sat on a high seat at the very back of the car, with his head, I should judge, a good seven feet above ground level. Behind the seat there was a sheer, vertical drop to the road ; but in front, and this was where the streamlining came in, the ” toe ” of’ the ” slipper ” sloped gracefully down from above the steering wheel to floor level. A really very remarkable vehicle.

As in the case of a gooa many other very renutrkable vehicles, however, little more wins to have been heard of the Vallee ” Slipper,” and if it returned to the charge at the following year, it does not seem to have distinguished itself. Ifowever, in the opinion of organisers and competitors, the hill-climb 11101 been II success, and November 11111, 1900, once more SaW a motley collection of racing cars and cycles assembled at the foot of Gaillon hill. ” Most of the competitors,” remarked The Aulocar disapprovingly, ” had suppressed the silencers on their Cars and cycles, with the result that the noise was not calculated to give anything like a favourable lItlpression of the autocar.” Indeed Beeonnais on his tricycle fitted with a 6-h.p. Soncin engine, who made fastest tune of the day fun’ cycles (whieh, however, were allowed :t dying start) in the really rather renutrkable time for a kilometre of 55; seconds, ” simply flew up the hill with a rattle like that of’ musketry.” By contrast the smaller four-wheelers which, like the larger ears, were timed from a standing start, were less impressive. ” There W85 ‘,L lot of trouble wit.lt some of the Valtil-retteS, which Starting slowly on the up-grade, could not get sufficient speed to carry them to the top, and they bad to stop half way up the hill.” The larger ears were more successful ; so 1101(111 so indeed, that The Autocar decided that ” the Indy conclusions that can be drawn from the Gaillon trials UFO that with the powerful motors now used there is no dillieulty in rushing up a hill of moderate length. and that such tests are not of inuell value in proving ate hill climbing ability of ears. . .” The relative speed at which they ” rushed

up tile hill was evidently a matter of secondary importance to this reporter, but of course it. was already a primary concern with the competitors. Encouraged by the success of the ” American Automobile ” the year before, there was at least. one SerpolIct steamer present. and it ” took the hill at a good speed, the driver Pumping so ‘Much water into tla: boiler kith the hand pump that the car disappeared in a cloud of steam.” In spite of his efforts, however, it was by now the turn of the internal combustion engine, and the fastest time of the day was made by a 24-11.1). Mors,driven by its designer Brasier. In the previous July, a sister car, driven by Lcvegh, had won the Paris-ToulouseParis race, and had thus for the first time in history defeated Panhard et Levassor in the great event, of the year. Its engine. with a bore and stroke of 119 by 165 nom, was considerably larger than Butt of the Panhard, which had dimensions of 110 by 140 mum.; and although they were both rated at 24-It.p.. the claim in the ease of the Mors was probablymodest:. It almost stems, in fact, that. it. must have been, for tire ears were luavy, weighing about 1,200 kga., in spite of which Brasier oovered the standing kilometre up Quillon’s 1 in 13 in 1 min. 26,l, see., IN Well made the Vallee’s time of’ over 3 min. the year before look a trifle sedate by comparison-even though Brasier had to cope with a change-speed gear. However, by the end of 1900 everyone knew that. the 24-It.p. Mors was the car of the year, and what. perhaps was almost more interesting titan Brasier’s performance at Gaillon was that another 24-11.p. Mors, driven by Gilles Hourgieres, titan whom there were few more skilful drivers, and who on this occasion registered the very creditable time of

33-ls see., was none the less beaten, by of a Second, by a BOlide car driven by its designer and builder, M. Leon Lefebvre. This performance is worthy of some attention, if only because the Bolide did not possess, either then or subsequently, quite the same reputation as the Mors. ” jenatzy,” says Charles Jarrott in his ” Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing,” ” was racing years ago, but up to the time when he gained his one and only win in the Gordon-Bennett race in Ireland. he never seemed to finish in any race. He was always driving what I eall forlorn hopes ‘ : strange motor ears of novel and original design, but deadly as racing’ instruments, judging by the eXperienees Jenatzy used to have in driving them.” As a matter of fact, apart from ears of his own Construction. winch as exemplified by ” La Jamais Cordente ” were far front being ” forlorn hopes,” Jenatay usually drove either a Mors Or it Mercedes, either of whicit, one might almost have said, could more readily be regarded as a foregone eonelusion ; and the one notable exception relates to this very year 1900, when he did appear at the wheel—or possibly Line tiller—of it Bolide. The reason Why he chose the car for the first Gordon

Bennett race was that Jenatzy lniurnsclf NVIIS; a Belgian, and the Bolide was made in Belgium, to M. Lefebvre’s designs, as well as in France. And certainly on that occasion his was something in the nature of a forlorn hope, because his racer was, perhaps by raiAtake on purpose, held up by the. French customs, and lie had to start on a 15-It.p. touring car ilistread.

rowever, in Paris-Tottlottse-l’aris. Lefebvre hilieleft had started MI a 30-1t.p. racing car, but as he broke down on the tint stage, not very much attention was paid, then or subsequently, to the Bolide. Gaillon, in fact, was the seene of one of its most notable performances, and it is correspondingly appropriate that even more attention should he accorded to it here than to the Mors. Fortunately for this purpose, The /Inform’ had seen fit a few weeks before to publish a picture of it., and had also given a satisfaetorily detailed description. Under the title of ” A Belgian Racing Car,” the caption explained that ” our illustration shows a handsome looking carriage whirlr tuts been constructed in 13eIgnun by M. Simeek, of Ensival. It is built, under the 13olide patents and is probably the most, powerful car which has been nriumfactured on ‘Belgian soil. The engine is 30-lip, and . . . the car holds the reeord of 94 kilometres in lite hour, scored itt tile Brussels-Dreghem race when driven by Emile Wel .lenalzy, whilst in the same event M. Lefebvre, its designer and Manufacturer in Franee, covered 02 kilometres jut the 60 minutes.” ” No one will deny,” declares tire caption to another photograph.,” that as far as in racing autoear can look essentially speedy, this one does so.” As a matter of fact the illustrations in question show a peculiar looking, high, short car, with no bonnet, a sloped V radiator of gilled tubes in front of the driver and a battery of drip-feeds mounted in a position where, one would have thought, they must have been rattler difficult to see, on the chassis just beside the driver’s seat.

l’he engine, it appears from the ileseription, consisted of two parallel horizontal cylinders, mounted with their heads pointing forwards, and -with cranks at 180*. The dimensions, unfortunately, are not given, but if 30-It.p. was really developed, they must, one suspects. have been substantial.. ‘lire valves were arranged vertically, that is at right angles to the axis of tlic cylinders, the inlets, above the head, being automatic., and the exhausts below it operated by very long rockers from a camshaft in the crankcase. Front the flywheel on the left-hand side of the engine a long single belt drove to the countershaft, with a ettang-e speed gear, -giving three forward speeds, at the back of the car. ” An electric spark,” it. is stated, ” is employed to explode the charge . . . and convection alotW is depended on for the circulation of the cooling water, 23 litres only being used, and the makers insist that the thermic flow is sufficiently rapid to prevent: the cylinders becoming overheated iou I firing Hne el targi.s wl tell the current of eleetrieity is cut oft “—kno-wn in more moiler,’ parlanee as ” running on.” ” ‘The wastage of water is claimed to be hut 4 Or 5 litres to the 500 or 6011

kilometres (310 to 362 unites) and, this loss is due more to the jolting when running titan to evaporation.” At the speed at which M. Leon ,Lefebvre ran his racer up Gaillon, the ” jolting,” one suspects, must have been considerable.