Veteran - Edwardian - Vintage, September 1978

A section devoted to old-car matters

VSCC Silverstone (July 22nd)

By the time this issue of Motor Sport is published the VSCC will have wound-up its 1978 racing season with the Cadwell Park Meeting, so only a brief report of the Silverstone Mike Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Meeting is waranted. 175 entries, nice weather, big crowds. A nasty accident in practice, involving Richard Bergel, whose Type 35 Bugatti went out of coritrol at Woodcote, causing multiple injuries to its driver and near-demolition to itself.

The opening race was a 5-lap scratch event, which Nickalls’ white Lagonda Rapier looked like winning until Monro and Ford-Power caused the GN to be superior. Bayne-Powell’s MG Magnette, with possible Nuvolari connotations, was third. The GN lapped at nearly 70  m.p.h. Tony Bianchi then won the second of these short races easily, in his Alvis Special, lapping at 77 .29 m.p.h., so that Chris Mann’s Monza Alfa Romeo, inspite of being driven hard, could do nothing about it. Duffy’s Alvis-Riley was a discreet third. The Alfa won the Phillips Trophy, as it had in 1976. So to the 10-Iap Boulogne Trophy Race. Peter Morley had the Bentley-Napier out again, back on its old Firestone rear tyres (his only Firestones!). Although it was tending to jump out of top gear this change of rubber paid off, as although David Llewellyn had pulled away in the lead in his 8-litre Bentley, Morley was within a length of him by lap six and went into the lead from lap seven, by dint of taking the 24-litre Napier “Lion” engine to slightly over 3,000 r.p.m. So the giant won, by about two lengths, after a best lap at 81.3 m.p.h. Behind these two formidable cars Hamish Moffatt held third place in Wall’s Bugatti, ahead of Footitt’s Cognac. Farquhar’s Riley 9 netted the I 1/2-litre class.

After Hall’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda (best lap at 72.39 m.p.h.) had cleaned up a 65-lap Handicap from Venables’ MG and the irrepressible Whittaker Chrysler, the Pre-War All-Comers’ scratch race took place. The Hon. Pat Lindsay’s ERA “Remus” took two laps to catch Marsh’s ERA R1B but then looked to have the race in hand, lapping at 82. 11I m.p.h. Alas, as at Oulton Park, the magneto had had enough after four laps and the other Pat ran on to win, with Hine bringing the Llewellyn Bentley into second place, and St. John’s Type 51 Bugatti finishing third, ahead of Brian Classic’s ERA R2A. The Bentley-Napier, although a long way behind Hine, lost third place only on the last lap, because the throttle was now sticking open. Kaye had got his 1940/39 Solar Ford Midget into a race at last, but this car, which has a 6′ 2″ wheelbase, 12″ tyres, a 2.2-litre Ford V8 alloy-head motor driving a 3-speed gearbox, and a solid back axle, snuffed-out on the opening lap. American driver Joel Finn drove his ERA and John Marks had overcome gearbox maladies to run his rare Type 51A twin-cam 1 1/2-litre Bugatti, but Peter Aggs’ sister Bugatti was a non-starter. Bianchi’s Alvis, although it had won the second race so easily, now retired.

So the afternoon moved on to the Merrydown Trophy race, won by Bradford’s Riley, with Mrs. Pilkington’s 1750 Alfa Romeo 2nd (ensuring for her a share of the champagne), and the 12-litre GP Itala, driven by Johnty Williamson, third, so that it gained additional birthday honours in its 70th year by being the first Edwardian to finish, having lapped at 60.87 m.p.h. This won it both the Edwardian Racing and Napier Trophies. Neve’s 1914 TT Humber was the next Edwardian to finish, after which its Rolls-Royce took it home. It had been followed in the race by Roger Collings’ stripped 1903 Mercedes Sixty, which his son drove home. A 1923 Amilcar toured ably round but the Light Car Award went to Tebett’s Vernon-Derby.

We came now to the Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Race, over 15 laps and very interesting it was. Bruce Halford, adopting his new vintage mantle, led away in the Lotus 16, with Corner’s 250F Maserati in all-the-road pursuit. But Halford had pulled out an effective lead after three laps and Corner would never have caught him. Alas for Halford, on the very last lap the 19-year-old Lotus lost all its gears and stopped, so Gorner swept on to win. Chris Mann drove his 250F Maserati steadily into second place, ahead of Simon Phillips’ Cooper-Bristol and Lindsay was next in his 250F Maserati, followed by Pilkington’s Lago-Talbot. This disposed of the remaining Cooper-Bristols, of which Macpherson was cornering in full arms-crossed style and Langton, behind the Monza Lister Jaguar, was tail-sliding his corners. Before his retirement Halford had made fastest lap of the day at 89.2 m.p.h.

A Cavalcade of Lea-Francis Products was enjoyed. That over, Brydon’s big Alvis won a 5-Iap Handicap from Smith’s little blown MG and Bradford’s Riley, before Anthony Blight, all the way from Cornwall, fielded his team of four “GO” Roesch Talbots, in a bid to win the “Fox and Nicholl” handicap sports-car Race. His bid failed, the winner being Woodley’s Speed-25 Alvis. Hall’s Lagonda was second, Duly’s Monza Alfa Romeo third. The Talbot team finished in, the order:- Grist in GO52 tenth, Curtis in GO53 twelfth, Blight in GO51 thirteenth, and Jenkinson in G054 eighteenth. They all started from the 5-sec mark. It was Gauntlett’s blown 4 1/2-litre Derby Bentley Special that lapped the fastest at 74.12 m.p.h. In the final 5-lap Handicap Finn had difficulties with his ERA on the grid and Pilkington was a creditable winner in the Lago-Talbot, Phillips lapping at exactly the same speed as in his previous race to bring the Cooper-Bristol in second from scratch, with Langton’s Cooper-Bristol. – W.B.

Silverstone Shorts

The celebrities, Sammy Davis and the Urquhart-Dykes, who should have opened the course, and Kaye Don, who was invited to lead the Lea-Francis Cavalcade, were all absent.

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The Bentley-Napier is a fine sight and makes nostalgic sounds, the 24-litre engine on the over-run reminding one of older aero-engined cars coming off the Brooklands’ bankings. The drive is transmitted through a D8 Caterpillar tractor clutch and the back-axle is restrained by a stout chain on the o/s, above the rear spring. But the purists were muttering that the magneto drive is by cogged belt…

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An interesting spectator’s car was End’s Wolseley “Moth 1” replica, featured in last month’s Brooklands Re-Union report. Its owner had driven it up from Sunningdale; surely this and Russ-Turner’s ex-Birkin Bentley are among the very few “licensed-for-the-road” singlesealers  now to be seen?

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One young marshal alone had the responsible task of ensuring that no-one walked or drove across the course while a race was in progress, via the return-road, where the barrier was unserviceable!

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Who was the privileged little dog being driven about in an Alfasud, when no dogs are supposed to be allowed?

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Finn, who hails from Connecticut, bought his ERA R10B from Johnty Williamson. It is the ex-Peter Whitehead/Peter Walker car and he is said to be the fourth owner.

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Newcomer to the vintage scene was the ex-Bob Ashley 1951 HWM single-seater with 1954 2 1/2-litre engine using a Weslake head. Potter brought it in when the engine felt rough,

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Halford’s ex-Wilks/John Roberts Lotus had Corner’s lightweight 250F Maserati sewn up and left it standing on the pull up from Copse to Maggott’s, until the gear selectors came adrift. It has the full 2 1/2-litrc Climax engine of some 240 b.h.p, using enormous Webers,  Corner closed on braking when oil from the Lotus’ gearbox lubricated the brakes and tyres. Next time?

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D.S.J. tells me that Blight’s Talbot 105 was hampered by having only 3rd and top gears, after the gear lever had moved slightly on its shaft and he wanted 2nd for Beckett’s. “The Patron”, you see, was going up to 4,500 r,p.m, D,S.J.’s car had 6.00 x 19 tyres and a low axle-ratio, the other Talbots 6.00 x 18 tyres and high axle-ratios, D.S.J. opted for 4,000 r,p,m. The GO team, with cons.ecutive numbers, made a fine sight on the grid. GO 51 has Perrot front brakes, the others Bodenex cable brakes and they still cruise at 70+ m.p.h. . .