Matters of moment, September 1971

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•Racing round the houses
Specially featured in this issue are the prospects for Birmingham’s race through its streets next year or in 1973, written about by a staff reporter. If he does nothing else he should please Mr. Hone and Councillor Silk, who are contesting which of them first thought of this ambitious race. The proposed Birmingham circuit will not entail racing round-the-houses but it seems that some of the traditional hazards of town racing, in the form of concrete walls, will be present, apart from the inevitable Armco. Apparently quite a long race is visualised, as there is mention of pits; an RAC Birmingham TT, perhaps?

Racing through towns was at one time quite popular, in carefree Europe and the less cautious outposts of the British Empire, like Ireland and the IoM. It had the merit of being different from longer circuit races, with special hazards to test driver skill and courage, frequent corners involving continual gear-changing, accelerating and braking to try the stamina of the cars. Just the factors, indeed, which make Monaco still one of the most interesting and arduous of GP circuits.

In recent times circuits have been getting shorter and smoother. The round-the-houses courses were truly short but usually anything but smooth. The competitors raced over the tram-lines, ignoring kerbs and cambers, past posts and poles and traffic-lights, close to fences and walls, houses and cottages. Such conditions sometimes prevailed several times per lap in longer races, where the road ran through towns or villages, as in the pre-war Ulster TT at Ards which, if the rioters permit, is to be commemorated on September 11th.

Birmingham’s optimistic proposal has whetted the appetite for some real British road racing, like that depicted in the inset, showing the 1936 Bangor event in County Down about to commence, with the pits in the ‘bus-station and the spectators in closer proximity to the action than they are permitted to get nowadays. The winner, Powys-Lybbe (back to the camera by the ‘bus sign), averaged 84.36 m.p.h. in his Alfa Romeo—note that a “works” Austin and ERAs were in it, too.

Our Continental Correspondent once said that if Rindt ever won a GP he would shave off his beard. We are not promising to grow one, should the Birmingham race materialise. But we hope it does, because a great deal of enlightenment, enthusiasm and courage is involved, which is good for motor racing generally.

If Birmingham gets its race, other roads in this Island, not necessarily in towns, might just conceivably be closed for road racing. Those who argue that we have too many circuits already will hardly vote against such new-found freedom, surely? Long before the war Lord Howe tried to get a Road Racing Bill through Parliament, with no success. King Edward VII’s dislike of road racing persisted. But if Birmingham gets its way the old barriers may be broken down. If this ever develops as far as a British GP in Hyde Park, or even at Windsor or Richmond, we will gladly grow that beaver…

•The VSCC at Thruxton

The last opportunity this year to see a full Vintage SCC race meeting will be at Thruxton circuit, near Andover, on September 11th. It should be a fine event, especially as Colin Crabbe intends to race his W125 Mercedes-Benz. This should give Corner and Martin Morris much to do! The programme includes an 8-lap race for vintage racing cars, a 6-lap event for vintage sports cars, a 10-lap Allcomers’ race for p.v.t. and historic racing cars, the Spero small-car race, a vintage light-car handicap and a vintage and p.v.t. Riley handicap.

The final round of the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy will be contested by the pre-war cars, the position being that Corner (ERA) leads with 54 points, Alexander (Lagonda) is second with 47, Martin Morris third with 39, while Crabbe, Morten and Rippon have 31 each. The Trophy and cash prizes will be presented after the last race. Admission costs 50p per adult, 20p for each child, a paddock transfer 40p extra, a grandstand seat 30p extra. No dogs!

•Water sport
Once upon a time flying and motor-boat racing were included in Motor Sport, alongside car and motorcycle racing. These days there is scarcely enough space to squeeze in the Editor’s vintage-car articles. But for old time’s sake we would remind you that, too late to report anyway, the Daily Express International Offshore Power Boat races took place recently, for there are those who regard this racing as on a par, for thrills and experiment, with motor racing as it was in the 1920s.

These events started in 1961, when Sopwith’s 650-h.p. “Thunderbird” won, at 25 m.p.h. In 1962 Wilkins’ 2,308-h.p. “Tramontana” won, at 37 m.p.h. The 1963 race went to Levi’s 800-h.p. Ford-engined “A’Speranziella”, at 41 m.p.h., the 1964 contest to Gardner’s 760-h.p. “Surfrider”, at 49 m.p.h. Bertram’s 1,100-h.p. “Brave Moppie” was the 1965 winner, at 39 m.p.h.

In 1966 Doyle’s 1,000-h.p. “Ghost Rider” was victorious, at 41 m.p.h., the 1967 contest was won by C. and R. Gardner’s 1,100-h.p. “Surfury”, at 53 m.p.h., the 1968 race by Sopwith’s 550-h.p. “Telstar”, at 38 m.p.h., and in 1969 Aronow’s 1,000-h.p. “The Cigarette” won, at 66.7 m.p.h. Last year’s winner was Goulandris’ “Miss Enfield 2” driven by Tommy Sopwith, which averaged 58 1/2 m.p.h. (51 knots) for 204.7 nautical miles.

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