A section devoted to old-car matters
The VSCC Silverstone Race Meeting (July 24th)
The second Vintage SCC Silverstone Meeting of 1971 was a rather special occasion because it was the last at which Tim Carson, popular Secretary of the Club, was on duty, prior to his retirement after holding this position for 35 years. As a mark of appreciation a special effort had been made to get a good Edwardian entry and some of the shorter races were deleted to enable a handicap for over-3-litre sports cars to be held. The STD Register also had a special car park and a Parade of selected Wolverhampton Sunbeam, Roesch Talbot and Darracq cars to mark the founding of this organisation 21 years ago by Winifred and Bill Boddy.
Spectators filled the Woodcote grandstands as the cars came out for the first 5-lap handicap. The cars came out, but Flitcroft didn’t, although his Riley was on the grid, so it had to be pushed away. Brown’s 2-litre Lagonda led for the first two laps, then Poynter’s Lea-Francis and Blishen’s fabric two-seater Lagonda Rapier got through, the latter nearly rammed by the bigger Lagonda at Woodcote on lap 3, as it spun on a track perhaps made slippery by rubber slick from the previous Saturday’s British GP.
The Avon-Alvis was somewhat tail happy and Graham’s scratch 3-litre Delage, a replica of the pre-war Gerard car, was overheating. It was Blishen who won, with fastest lap, from Tovell’s Treen Riley and the Lea-Francis. The slippery track made the next 5-lap handicap exciting, both Trainer’s Frazer Nash and Barbet’s Riley spinning at Woodcote and Morgan nearly losing his blown Rapier. An early duel between Fletcher-Jones’ Rapier and Mrs. Pilkinton’s 1750 Alfa Romeo was swamped by the back-markers, of whom Fairley’s Frazer Nash Six won from Morehen’s 2-litre Speed Model Aston Martin and Alexander’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda.
The 10-lap Boulogne Trophy Race for vintage racing cars was something of a surprise, because after Llewellyn’s 8.3-litre Bentley, which we had tipped to win, had led rather smokily for two laps, it was passed by a very determined Rippon in his yellow GP Bugatti, the Bentley then retiring, giving second place to Williamson in the 10 1/2-litre V12 Delage, the brakes of which must have been tuned, or something, for its intrepid and muscular driver hurled it round in this position for lap after lap.
Indeed, although a concentrating Rippon pulled away, the giant Delage finished second, ahead of Kain’s ailing Bugatti and St. John’s Bugatti, the 35Bs swapping places on the last lap, as St. John’s began to misfire. Rippon pulled out fastest lap on the damp track, at 76.77 m.p.h. Class winners in this scratch race were Rippon, Williamson, Dean’s 37A Bugatti and Miss Moores in her father’s alcohol-consuming blown Ulster Austin. This time Posner spun his Bugatti at Woodcote.
The next 5-lap handicap proved difficult to follow, especially as the PA-system was mercifully dead, because it included the Edwardian shoal, with credit laps in some cases. The pre-1914 cars were a fine sight, the best sound coming from Goddard’s chain-drive 1911 10 1/2-litre Cottin et Desgouttes. Both Club President Mann in his 1914 GP Mercedes and Barker on his 1908 11 1/2-litre Napier found the course unduly slippery at first but, recovering from early misdemeanours, went well, particularly the very brave Napier pilot. At the opposite extreme, Barry Clarke’s “new” 1913 Singer Ten, on 700 x 80 tyres, with bolster tank and the square-shouldered radiator, went splendidly, in very “Lionel Martin” style, Mitchell’s pointed-prow 1914 GN flapped its belts, and Ryder-Richardson’s 1910 Adler and the aforesaid GN fought it out grimly.
Corner was racing his 1914 TT Sunbeam and, from the scratch mark, was seen to overtake Shoosmith in the 1921 TT Sunbeam, the latter having difficulty with clutchless gear-changes. It transpired that Fletcher-Jones had won in his Lagonda Rapier from Poynter’s Lea-Francis and Mann’s Straker-Squire, Mann also winning the Edwardian section, in which Corner lapped fastest and the 1903 12-litre ltala broke a transmission brake shoe. Fitzpatrick’s Maybach-Metallurgique was present but, alas, not competing.
The highlight of the afternoon should have been the 15-lap Hawthorn Trophy Race for Historic racing cars but torrential rain fell, making it difficult for the drivers to see and for Crabbe to extend the Mercedes-Benz W125, which was the most exciting car present. Corner dernonstrated his mastery by leading from start to finish, under extremely unpleasant conditions, in his ERA R4D. No-one bettered his quickest lap of 75.77 m.p.h.
Wilks kept his Lotus in second place until the Mercedes came alongside him at Woodcote on lap 8, whereupon, from inside position, Wilks spun, which let Cottam’s 2-litre Connaught into third place. That is how they finished. Cameron-Millar was well up in his Maserati 250F but the rain ruined the race’s real potential. The Sunbeam “Tiger” was not au point, so non-started, although it ran in the Parade.
Following the STD Parade it was dry, but with a damp track, for the 8-lap Pre-War Allcomers’ Race. Corner was again invincible in the black 2-litre ERA, now lapping at 80.18 m.p.h. He pulled away from Curtis in Martin Morris’ ERA and the race was more notable for interesting cars, such as Goddard’s twin-rear-wheeled ex-Fane Frazer Nash single-seater, than incidents, although there was quite a close battle for third place between Pat Marsh’s ERA and Venables-Llewelyn’s ERA. The Multi-Union was sick in its engine but no-one retired.
An innovation was an 8-lap handicap for the bigger sports cars reminiscent of those held at Brooklands during the early part of the 1931 season. Blight in Talbot BGH 23 had the dubious honour of being on scratch and having to give Black’s Monza Alfa Romeo ten seconds, Tony Jones’ 30/98 a start of 90 seconds, which was probably the penalty of good authorship as much as driver prowess!
He drove very fast indeed, the Talbot’s small headlamps turned back-to-front, but to no avail. It looked as if the Roesch reputation would be upheld by Brooking’s smoky Team-90 replica, however, but in the last few yards Morten’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley, which had started 50 sec. later, came through to win. It also made fastest lap, at 73.46 m.p.h. The Monza Alfa was third, ahead of Densham’s 30/98, which upholds the Tim Carson-tradition.
After some delay the final 5-lap handicap commenced. Peter Moores, his Alta engine rebuilt after the Oulton Park starting-line debacle, came very neatly through the field from the 15-sec. mark, to win from Kain’s 35B Bugatti and Clinkard’s Alvis. The Alta did the best lap, at 76.77 m.p.h., the same as Rippon’s Bugatti in an earlier race, but, as if to maintain this make’s reputation for frailty, seized its preselector gearbox as it returned to the Paddock.—W.B.
The STD Parade was led by Lord Montagu’s 1912 Coupe de l’Auto Sunbeam and contained nine other racing Sunbeams and eight team or racing Talbots, plus Brooking’s Team-90 replica. It was splendid to see Lord Essendon and Mike Copper driving team Talbot 105s, pathetic to note that neither Chrysler’s Sunbeam “Cub” nor Lord Montagu’s 350-hp Sunbeam single-seater would run and had to be paraded on lorries. Olorenshaw had a 1913 Sunbeam Coupe de l’Auto replica two-seater and Crabbe put in a 24/70 Sunbeam. The President went round in A. S. Heal’s delightful 3-litre twin-cam Sunbeam (Heal, of course, perpetuated Sunbeam history long before the Register was formed) and her husband cadged an exhilarating ride in Shoosmith’s splendidly rebuilt straight-eight Sunbeam which ran in the 1922 TT. The Register’s Talbot ambulance retains its elusive reputation but the London Ambulance Service sportingly drove an example round the track.
Footitt has rebuilt his well-known AC/GN into more of a racer, and has dispensed with its Hampton cooler.
The most exciting car present was Crabbe’s Mercedes-Benz. It starts without fuss and has been carefully rebuilt with even such details as upholstery and bonnet fasteners in authentic style. It is prepared by Cyril Atkins, one-time Vanwall and BRM mechanic. Whereas most British vintage cars rely on Dunlop for their tyres, the Mercedes is shod by Firestone, a very good advertisement for them. The back ones were made in a tractor mould, the smaller front ones in a lorry mould, but the treads are of racing rubber.
The yellow-and-black striped UN Wasp was being towed round the Paddock, a reluctant runner, and Archie Butterworth himself was administering to the swing-valve air-cooled flat-four engine of Woollett’s 1952 Aston Butterworth, to no avail. Russell was racing the Mk. 2 version of the 1948 Laystall-Cromard, with dirt-track 1.7-litre Lea-Francis engine, but a union pulled out.
Clutton’s Type 43 Bugatti had recovered from the auto da feé which happened to it en route for Shelsley Walsh earlier in the month, and Merrick was making it move, just about holding Blight’s Talbot through Woodcote. Potter was driving the ERA-Delage with enthusiasm.
There was, indeed, much variety, from Peter Brewer’s arrival by helicopter to the marshall’s presentation of a pot and bubbly to Tim Carson.