A Date to Remember
Among the heat and fury of Grand Prix races counting towards the World Championship club racing tends to be overlooked. But it flourishes, nevertheless, and on October 15th, at Silverstone, something rather special in this latter category is due to take place, namely, the 750 MC’s Six-Hour Relay-Race, This unusual and interesting means of packing a great deal of racing at club level into this period of time is not new. It was the idea of the late Holland Birkett, who introduced 750 formula racing to the 750 MC and who borrowed for this club the Relay-Race technique which had been adopted at Brooklands before the war by the Light Car Club, an organisation which unfortunately wasn’t revived when hostilities ended, although It managed to stage an ambitious Three-Hour Sports Car Race at the Track in 1938. Run over the Campbell circuit, this was won by the Willing/Jarvis 3½-litre Delahaye.
The point of the 250-mile Relay-Race, which the LCC first held at Brooklands in 1931, was that amateur drivers with comparatively ordinary sports and racing cars could have the opportunity of driving in a long-distance race without having to submit their cars to too much lappery, while being able to enjoy the kind of pit-work and strategy associated with such a race. The scheme was to permit teams of three cars, of the same or different makes, to take part in this handicap contest. Each car was required to do 30 laps of the Brooklands outer-circuit. But if a car developed trouble the Team Manager could withdraw it and replace it with his second car, and likewise his second car with this third car. The change-overs were made by each driver wearing a sash, which had to be handed over to the next team driver to take part in the race. It will be seen that very careful thought had to be given as to how best to deploy one’s team. For instance, if the fastest car began to have trouble, should it be brought in and replaced by a slower but more reliable team-mate, or be allowed to continue, in the hope that its performance would improve? Remembering, you see, that once it was called in, it couldn’t go out again, so that any deficit in its 30 laps would have to be added to those required of its team-mates. The idea was ingenious and that first LCC race, called the Relay Grand Prix, had an entry of 22 teams (66 varied cars), although the engine-capacity limit was 1½ litres. It was won by the “works” Austins, driven by Cushman, Barnes and Goodacre, at 81.77 m.p.h. The following LCC Relay-Races, as we well remember, were equally good value, although frequently they were run in heavy rain. There was the speculation as to whether the “works” Austins could beat their handicap or the decidedly-intrepid Morgan three-wheeler drivers, cracking round on the rim of the bankings, find the dependability to finish. And there were humorous scenes. Such as at the changing-over-of-the-sashes, which might include the spectacle of drivers running long distances to achieve this, after their cars had expired “out in the country”. Or a No. 1 entry being pushed over the starting-line, because it was a non-runner, watched by a distraught team Manager who had then to dispatch his No. 2 car for, if possible, 60 laps instead of 30 laps.
This excellent Relay-Race survived until 1937, being won in successive years by a team of Wolseley Hornets, by Alan Hess’s MG Magnas, by a team of Austin Sevens, by the Singer team, by an Aston Martin Trio and, finally, but the “works” Austins, with Mrs, Kay Petre in the team, at the race’s highest average speed, 105.63 m.p.h., including the triple sash-swaps.
What Birkett did was to adapt this Relay-Race idea after the war to the needs of the expanding 750 MC. He made the race duration six hours, he allowed teams of six cars to compete, these often being of delightfully varied formation, even to Ford Ten vans and the like mixing it, on handicap of course, with the fastest of the then-current sports cars, and he permitted the hard-tried Team Managers to bring their cars in and out of the race whenever mechanical misfortune rendered this desirable. The 750 MC thereby gave lesser-known drivers a chance to try their hand at long-duration racing, and it put a premium on race-strategy. Moreover, pit-work, performed behind the line of replacement pits, was also at a decided premium, as furious work was done to try to get a faster car back into the race to replace a slower team-car. The recipe worked, and some good racing resulted. Some of the finishes were very intense, especially if crippled entries were circulating towards at end of the six hours whole hoping for a respite if others of their teams could be repaired in time. . .
This year, this clever race takes place over the Silverstone Club circuit on October 15th. It should be worth competing in – Motor Sport’S Assistant Editor hopes to be in it – and watching. We understand that already 15 teams have been entered, embracing some interesting cars to mix it with the 750 and 1172 Formula entries.
We hope to return to this subject next month. Meanwhile, regulations are available from Brian Cocks, Severn Bank, Minsterworth Glos., and if anyone feels lie presenting extra prizes or similar sponsorship, the person to contact is Jeff Ward, PO Box 6, Chislehurst, Kent. Given decent weather, good handicapping, and a commentary which informs the spectators not only how the lead in the race stands from hour to hour but what sort of feverish work is taking place behind the scenes by those temporarily retied, this should be a date to remember.
The Opel which Joerns drove into 10th place in the 1914 French GP and in which Segrave had his first race at Brooklands in 1920, as it was when bought in London in 1931 by its present owner, Noel Mavrogordato. At that time Kent Karslake wrote it up for Motor Sport. On pages 1125-1130 will be found the history of this very original pre-war GP car and impressions after a run in it.