A section devoted to old-car matters
The V.S.C.C. Silverstone meeting (July 31st)
THE second 1965 race meeting at Silverstone of the Vintage S.C.C. enjoyed fine weather in a week of depressing rain and the usual big attendance—as well it might, for vintage and historic racing is the antithesis of dull modern racing in which all the cars look similar and corner in a procession on the same line, controlled by reclining, almost invisible drivers—the old cars are of diverting variety, corner in every fashion imaginable, each one on a line of its own, while the drivers are in very full view. And I think this form of racing is becoming faster and more exciting than ever—don’t miss it at Castle Combe on September 18th.
At Silverstone the first event was a 6-lap Relay Race, rendered confusing because the K-team of Bentleys appeared to have won but had contrived to get both its cars out at once (it only had two, Pasco’s 3-litre non-starting), so that it was the F-team of later-model Alvis cars which came through on the last lap, to win from a team of mixed Bentleys and a G.N./Frazer Nash team. The big field was extremely varied, from three Gwynne Eights to an Edwardian team, in which Clutton ran the 1908 G.P. Italia, Neve the T.T. Humber and Mann in his Straker-Squire deputised for Barker, whose enormous Napier had broken a front hub a few miles from its Weybridge garage.
An interesting newcomer was MacGregor’s scintillating 1924 Gwynne Eight 2-seater, an actual Show model, found very derelict indeed in Cornwall but now restored to as-new condition. It was very pedestrian, as it was being run-in, but used all the width of the track at Woodcote for all that.
A 5-lap handicap commenced at 1 p.m. and saw Edwards’ 1933 Lagonda M45 4-seater, with twin-S.U.s, 7.00 x 19 rear tyres and scorning bonnet-sides, driven with determination to take the lead on lap three, and win fairly easily from Blight’s understeering Talbot 105 GO 52 and Pollard’s p.v.t. A.C., lapping Johnson’s hybrid Frazer Nash in the process. Giles held a nasty slide at Woodcote in his Frazer Nash. Lockhart was out again in the famous 1910 10 1/2-litre chain-drive o.h.c. Fiat, the old car as throaty as ever but not very fast, too much oil finding its way to the valve gear.
Most unfortunately, Missen rolled his 1924 Gwynne Eight at Copse in the second 5-lap handicap, but escaped with bruises.
The car was badly damaged, but its owner said philosophically that he intended to replace its replica “hip-bath” body with something more sporting, anyway! His wife had driven Woodburn’s splendid yellow sports-model of this make with more decorum in the Relay Race.
Perhaps because of this accident the chequered-flag went out rather late and the leaders did six laps. However, the results were duly amended to show Jardine’s over-tyred but certainly not over-tired 1921 Brescia Bugatti the winner, Dicks’ ugly Riley 9 second, Riddle’s touring G.N., but using its inclined-push-rod-o.h.v. heads, third and winner of the Light Car Section of the race, in which Miler’s concours A.C./Anzani was second, Hill’s stripped A.J.S. 2-seater was third. It is significant that the Bugatti averaged 53.46 m.p.h., the G.N. 52.36 m.p.h., both very fast 1921 cars. Kimber’s Ulster Austin sounded flat but used plenty of road, and was entertaining by reason of the driver’s very odd arm movements when cornering.
A 5-lap scratch rate, with the faster cars on the back of the long grid, was almost a victory for Harry Rose’s well-known blower-4i Bentley team car, until Daniels in his non-supercharged late-model 4 1/2-litre Bentley came through on the inside at Woodcote on the fourth lap, to win fairly surely in spite of Rose changing-down on the apex of the corner in search of more acceleration on the run home. Any despondency he may have felt should have been alleviated by his daughter’s excellent drive into third place in her beautiful 1934 open 3 1/2-litre Bentley, said to be standard except for oversize tyres. Ely’s ex-Flawthorn Riley Ulster Imp retired.
One of the more important items on the programme was the 10-lap Boulogne Trophy Race for vintage racing cars. Symondson drove the 4-litre V12 Sunbeam Tiger for its owner, Sir Ralph Millais, who has spent 14 years and much money on getting it to run really well. (The estimated horse-power goes up with each fresh commentator!) Without any fireworks Symondson kept the red car ahead of St. John’s alloy-wheeled s/c 2.3-lire G.P. Bugatti, winning by 2.6 sec., at 74.46 m.p.h., after a best lap at 77.39 m.p.h. A respectful distance behind, Barraclough kept Sowden’s great and not unhandsome 8 1/2-litre Bentley ahead of McCosh’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley, a mere second separating them as they crossed the finishing line. The class-winners were Evans (Chawner-G.N.) although mostly on one cylinder, the St. John Bugatti, Zeuner’s Bugatti and the Sunbeam. Unfortunately Simpson badly bent the front of his Frazer Nash/A.C. when he ran out of road, but he escaped personal injury. Comic relief was provided by the pair of Hyper T.T. Lea-Francis cars driven by Elliot-Pyle and Jackson. They proved temperamental to start but were attended by someone in surgeon’s garb, so when Jackson’s began to boil and came in, its temperature was presumably properly taken. However, these make a nice pair of vintage racers and Elliot-Pyle’s has the roller-bearing crankshaft, so I wish them well in the future. It was also nice to see Besley’s Alfa Romeo-engined E.H.P., looking very “period” in rear view, going well, although it went almost too wide at Woodcote on lap three. Zeuner had a good battle with Smith’s Frazer Nash, which also went wide at Woodcote, whereas the Bugatti used far less of the road.
Hutchings’ 328 B.M.W. came early into the lead in the second-lap scratch race but the first half-dozen came up to the finish in very close company, Footit’s A.C./G.N. and McCosh’s Bentley emerging as the placemen. It seemed to be getting slippery, for Venables-Llewellwyn held a slide in his Alvis and Archdale’s Frazer Nash mit mod. cons. spun to rest at Woodcote, its tail already dented.
So to the big race of the afternoon, the Mike Hawthorn Trophy Race for historic racing cars, mainly post-war cars up to 1957, over 15 laps from scratch. The Maserati 250Fs were reduced in numbers because Cameron Millar, although present, had not recovered from his crash in practice at Oulton Park, and Colin Crabbe wisely withdrew his when bearing metal was found in the oil-filter.
Just before flag fall the Hon. Patrick Lindsay was seen apparently to put his 1957 Maserati 250F in gear but as the flag dropped he found he was in neutral and half the field had gone away past the pits before he punched in a cog and raced after them. Margulies’ Connaught didn’t get away at all, being pushed mute, into the bay on the outside of Woodcote Corner. Such is Lindsay’s driving ability and the performance of his Maserati that he was leading at the end of the first lap, from Brewer’s 1956 Connaught and Salvage’s 1951 Connaught, Spero in his father’s 1953 Maserati 250F fourth, ahead of Gardner’s 1955 Connaught and Wilks’ 1952 Cooper-Bristol—as fine a sight and sound as hard-bitten motor-racing enthusiasts could wish for. Lindsay drew steadily away in the lead, doing one lap at 85.13 m.p.h. Young John Spero, driving better in every race, passed Salvage on lap two and closed right up on Brewer on lap 11, going into second place on the next lap and holding it to the end—Maseratis first and second, Lindsay winning by 40.4 sec. at an average speed of 82.89 m.p.h. Salvage finished third, Gardner fourth, ahead of Brewer, whose Connaught was now losing power. First pre-war car to finish was Bertie Brown’s 1936 E.R.A., a lap behind, its average speed for 14 laps being 76.54 m.p.h. Brown’s Cooper-Bristol caught fire but he drove to a marshalling post, where extinguishers are kept.
After all this speed and excitement the third 5-lap scratch race took place. Blight, in Talbot GO 52, its small wheels making its substantial mudguards look superfluous, although boxed in and taking to the grass at the start, took the lead from Sismay’s big Alvis to lead from lap two, lapping at 64.32 m.p.h. to pull out a very big advantage over Sismay, the scene delightfully “T.T.” as the Talbot overtook the Elliot-Pyle Lea-Francis. Askew’s 1930 blown 1750 Alfa Romeo was third.
The fast stuff came out again for a 5-lap Allcomers’ Handicap, which Spero led from start to finish in the Maserati. Richard Bergel, driving Lindsay’s Maserati arrived fast at Woodcote at the end of lap one, appearing to take the corner from Gardner and Wilks, but was back to third place on the next lap, behind Salvage’s Connaught. Lindsay, driving his E.R.A. “Remus,” was in fourth place but dropping back from the Connaught. Then, on lap four, after Bergel had overtaken Salvage, he got into an uncontrollable slide at Woodcote, which took the Maserati into the ditch and hard, tail first, into the bank. Salvage also spun, but resumed the race, working back to second place behind Spero, Lindsay a gallant fourth in his 1936 E.R.A. ahead of Gardner’s 1955 Connaught. The Millais’ Sunbeam did not run, but more, I think, from the “sufficient for the day” angle than due to trouble, like a sheared drive to the twin blowers which assailed it on the starting line in its second race at Oulton Park. Bergel was very fortunate to escape injury. The Maserati was a nasty mess, the o/s. rear wheel pushed up level with the cockpit, so that it seemed the chassis must be bent, although the reduction gearbox had apparently not been damaged. The fuel tank and de Dion tube miraculously escaped serious damage. Lindsay, still smiling, now rather ruefully, insisted on sitting in the cockpit as the crumpled Maserati was towed back to the Paddock. He told me that from the E.R.A. he had seen Bergel coping with a snatching front brake at Becketts, a trouble to which the car has been prone, and that this might have been a contributory cause. But now three out of four of the revived Maserati 250Fs were hors de combat . . . .
A very full day’s sport concluded with two more 5-lap handicaps, Hine’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda belonging to Schofield winning the first from Beer’s noisy Q-type M.G. Midget, Riseley’s Aston Martin coming in a bad third. Slater’s limit 1929 blown 1750 Alfa Romeo led the last race of all for its first three laps, but Corner, driving his 2.9 monoposto Alfa Romeo as befitted such a beautiful car, built up a useful lead, holding off Dunham in his ex-Brooklands Alvis single-seater and Bowman’ whose scratch 4 1/2-litre Lago-Talbot finished third. Martin, in Freeman’s well-known Aston Martin, mildly savaged Barr’s Alvis while being push-started on the grid and refused to fire. Villar, driving Summers’ Alfa Romeo, had an exciting skid at Woodcote, complicated because his door flew open, but with all of which he coped efficiently.
Mike Hawthorn Trophy Race for Historic Racing Cars (15 laps):
1st: Hon. P. Lindsay (Maserati), 82.89 m.p.h.
2nd: J. P. Spero (Maserati)
3rd: R. E. Salvage (Connaught)
The Boulogne Trophy Race for Vintage Racing Cars (10 laps):
1st: R. C. Symondson (Sunbeam). 74.46 m.p.h.
2nd: G. S. St. John (Bugatti)
3rd: J. E. Barraclough (Bentley)
(Bentley) All-Corners’ Scratch Race (5 laps):
3rd: J. P. Spero (Maserati), 79.74 m.p.h.
2nd: R. H. Salvage (Connaught)
3rd: Hon. P. Lindsay (E.R.A.)
Relay Race (6 laps): Alvis Team (Venables-Llewelyn/Cairnes/Sismay), 62.36 m.p.h.
1st 5-lap Handicap: B. Edwards (Lagonda). 65.10 m.p.h.
2nd 5-lap Handicap: R. A. Jardine (Bugatti), 53.46 m.p.h.
3rd 5-lap Handicap: D. R. Hine (Lagonda), 63.20 m.p.h.
4th 5-lap Handicap: E. N. Corner (Alfa Romeo), 73.65 m.p.h.
1st 5-lap Scratch Race: G. W. Daniels (Bentley), 61.13 m.p.h.
2nd 5-lap Scratch Race: R. A. Hutchings (B.M.W.), 69.38 m.p.h.
3rd 5-lap Scratch Race: J. A. F. Blight (Talbot), 62.49 m.p.h.
Fastest lap of the day: Hon. P. Lindsay (Maserati), 85.13 m.p.h.
The 12/50 Alvis Register provided the course patrol cars and they were a credit to this very keen and well-organised one-make club.
There was a special park for vintage cars on the outside of the circuit—a very good idea. But it was a surprise to find it in operation again after every sort of argument against such a car park has been advanced in the V.S.C.C. Bulletin, even that the Police objected to the possible traffic congestion it might cause at the entrance!
Spero towed his Maserati to the circuit behind a Ford Pilot.
The yellow “learner” rings round competitors’ numbers and the spaceman crash helmets the R.A.C. insists on to remind us that motor-racing is dangerous detract from the “period” appearance of historic cars, but we suppose the latter are a good thing if they give our underpaid doctors less work to do after an accident!
See you at Castle Combe on September 18th?—W. B.
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