Colerne Sprint

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It was a few years ago that correspondence started to appear in the VSCC Bulletin, proposing a straight line sprint for Edwardian cars, along the lines of the Brighton Speed Trials. This idea gained momentum until July 19th when the airfield at Colerne (an RAF base) to the North of Bath saw 10 Edwardian cars assemble with some 80 other VSCC eligible cars in the early morning mist to take part in acceleration tests along the main runway.

Cars were started in pairs and timed at quarter of a mile and at one kilometre. A speed trap was used to assess the terminal speed of each car as it crossed the kilometre line. The day’s motoring was enlivened by the arrival of Hon Patrick Lindsay in his replica of a WWI Sopwith tri-plane, powered by a Siemens radial engine of the thirties, and a series of untimed runs by a group of pre-war motor cycles, amongst them a 1926 490 cc sv Norton 16-hp ridden by DSJ.

The contest of the day was between the two 1908 Grand Prix cars, John Walker’s 12.8-litre Panhard-Levassor and Sam Clutton’s 12-litre Itala, the former recording a best 18.96 seconds for the quarter and 34.83 for the kilometre, while the Itala had a slight advantage, perhaps as a result of the large well-base tyres on the rear wheels transmitting the power more effectively than the Panhard’s beaded-edge equipment, recording 18.39 for the quarter and 33.93 for the speed kilometre. The trap gave the Itala a terminal speed of 95 mph to the Panhard’s 94. Both of these famous cars were, however, eclipsed by Douglas Fitzpatick’s giant 21-litre Metallurgique-Maybach, an aero-engined monster comprising a 1907 Metallurgique chassis fitted with a WWI Maybach 6-cylinder engine, and by the 5-litre chain-drive Bugatti of Nigel Arnold-Forster. These two cars were surprisingly evenly matched, brute power against finesse. The Metallurgique, driven on this occasion by Carter, set times of 17.80 and 31.77 sec for the quarter and kilometre respectively, while the Bugatti managed 17.78 and 32.78 sec, although it had broken the 30 sec mark for the kilometre in practice. Terminal speeds were 96 and 97 mph respectively, although both cars had shown speeds in excess of 100 mph during the practice runs.

It was interesting to see Kenneth Neve’s 1914 TT Humber and Lindsay’s GP Opel of the same year. The lighter Humber had the edge, but only just, covering the kilometre in 39.71 sec to the Opel’s 40.40 sec. Roger Collings was Clerk of the Course on this occasion, so the well known 60 hp Mercedes was conducted by his son, Craig, who managed 22.30 sec for the standing quarter and 43.23 sec for the kilometre, crossing the line at 70 mph, and this from a car of 1903.

At the other end of the scale were the later racing cars only two examples had been entered from the post-war period, Llewellyn’s Maserati 250F and Brian Heath’s 1952 Frazer Nash. Understandably, Llewellyn managed FTD with times of 13.65 sec and 24.73 sec for the quarter and kilometre, crossing the line at 130 mph, but it was a close run thing, for his son Tim, in the road going 3,8-litre Bentley (albeit stripped of road equipment for the occasion), recorded 14.30 and 25.39 sec for the two distances and was travelling at 134 mph at the end of the kilometre, times just bettered by Geoffrey Sr. John’s Bugatti Type 51 and David Morris at the wheel of father Martin’s ERA.

Space limitations prevent a full detailed description of the performances in the other classes, but as the event was first mooted with Edwardians in mind, the results table below shows all times in this class, together with the performances set by the major award winners in the other classes. – PHJW.

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