Best-Laid Plans

The Vintage Sports Car Club held its OuIton Park race meeting over the weekend of July 16-17 along with bicycle races, autojumbles, tugs-of-war, concours d'elegance and all the fun of a motor fair. There were 255 entries (against 227 last year) plus 28 Morgan three-wheelers racing under ACU rules. Eight races were intended on the Saturday, six on Sunday, but continuous heavy rain posed problems.

Saturday

The first four-lap scratch race was a walkover for Bruce Spollon in his Alfa Romeo Monza replica, though he probably regretted the absence of the closed body it once wore! He won from the Avon Bentley by 33.5 seconds, with a best lap of 66.99 mph. Brydon's 4.3-engined Speed-20 Alvis was third but, after a lap chasing Hudson's 1936 Ulster Aston Martin, Threlfall's McDowell let go a rod in its ohv-converted Ford engine, so Seber's fast Wolseley and the historic Dunham 12/70 Alvis followed the AM over the line.

In the four-lap handicap, Spencer's white 12/50 Alvis was passed by Jonas' Derby Bentley with its wooden body, which in turn was duly overtaken by Sayers' blown Riley Sprite, which won by 5.3 seconds. Walker had a good, if wet, run into third place in the GN-Ford, but P Smith pranged his 4.3 Alvis, the car more damaged than its driver.

Julian Majzub then made a fine job of winning the eight-lap scratch race in the 1927 ex-Campbell Bugatti, overtaking Horton's later T35B after a lap and holding off the intrepid Stuart Harper in the 1926 Morgan to win by 3.6 seconds. Caroline's Morgan was third, so "trikes" are not necessarily dangerous on a slippery track!

Alas, Farquhar crashed his ex-Dixon Brooklands Riley (which Roger Collings was to have raced on the Sunday), though he was unhurt. The crackle of one-twins was a feature of this race, with Freddie Giles finishing sixth in the ohv JAP-powered Salome behind the Bugattis of Horton and Wills (the blown T35 lapped 0.85 mph quicker than Wills' unblown one, which may or may not discourage those who are fitting superchargers to their cars), and Parker drove the BHD.

Fastest lap at 63.26 mph availed Brydon's Alvis of nothing better than third place in the second four-lap handicap, which was won by Wills' Brooklands Riley from Hudson's Aston Martin.

Then, with the rain still pouring down, came the Seaman Historic Ten-Lap Scratch race. This was won easily by Sir John Venables-Llewelyn, driving very fast and leading all the way in ERA R4A, his best lap averaging 74.28 mph, in appalling conditions. Rodney Felton was 19.6 seconds in arrears in his Alfa Romeo, and Brian Classic held third place in ERA R2A until lap nine, when Mayman in ERA R4D passed as Classic seemed to lift off rather early for Old Hall.

John Harper, driving for Stephens in R12C, was next home, only 0.6 seconds in front of the irrepressible Stuart Harper in his Morgan. Bill Morris in ERA R12B had stopped with both arms erect, in the rush away from the start, R1B (which Duncan Ricketts was to drive for Sally Marsh) failed in practice and, of the half-dozen Maseratis entered, the 6CMs of Elingren and Hansen and the 4CL of Margulies retired while the others did not appear.

The third four-lap handicap boasted another tight finish, after a close race between Mitchell's 328 BMW-engined Frazer Nash Boulogne II and Robinson's 12/4 Riley Special, both from scratch. The chain-driven car finished a mere 0.8 seconds ahead, with Rawling's 2.4 sports Riley Special third. It might have been different had Seber not spun his fast Wolseley.

After this the Cheshire Building Society twelve-lap Allcomers' Scratch Race should have been contested. Seaman winner Venables-Llewellyn was on the front row of the grid with Corner's Dino Ferrari, and at flag fall Sir John and Lindsay in "Remus" out-accelerated Corner, who was perhaps nursing his clutch. Then Venables-Llewelyn lost the ERA at Old Hall and, although Corner and Lindsay got past as the R4A slid back across the track, a multiple pile-up resulted. At least eight cars were involved, two drivers needing the ambulances, and although Corner saw the black flag and stopped, left arm raised, by the pits, Lindsay very nearly hit the Ferrari, having to take to the grass on the left to avoid contact, spinning violently as a result.

The stewards had no option but to abandon the rest of the day's racing; the weather had defeated even the VSCC. At Brooklands, everyone would have gone away before any racing, hoping for more pleasant conditions later in the week . . . WB

Sunday

To everyone's relief the rain decided to bypass Cheshire on Sunday, so the bicyclists could dispense with rain-gear for the traditional morning pedal-racing, while at lunchtime it was announced that the drivers had raised a collection of over £450 to be donated to the two rescue teams who had worked so hard for over an hour in Saturday's torrential rain.

A mere eight cars started the re-run of Saturday's ill-fated Cheshire Building Society Allcomers' event, which saw Mayman dwindle into the distance in Halford's Lotus 16, though the Connaughts kept interest up, John Charles' C passing David Duffy's B-type, and Lodge's Maserati 250F splitting them.

Moving to three wheels, what must have been the largest number of competitors ever appeared on the grid for the Morgan race: 48 souls, but two to a car to give post-vintage spectators a taste of the days of riding mechanics. The handicapper's skills were slightly wasted when the comfortable leaders for most of the race, Bill and Maggie Tuer, spun in the hairpin, leaving Phil Spencer and Dave Richards (Super Sports) the glory of taking the flag and winning on handicap from the Shottons' Super Aero.

A blistering start in the four-lap scratch race put Mark Walker's GN Special ahead of Randall Stewart's Riley, but by the time they scorched past the pits again, David Fletcher-Jones had jumped them both with his Lagonda Rapier. Walker and Stewart continued a ding-dong battle until the GN spun into the barrier, moving Nick Lees up to third, only yards ahead of Ellison in the attractive Brooke Special, to produce a Riley two-three-four behind the Lagonda. Martin Morris had been looking forward to his drive in Watney's KN MG, but a misfire curtailed that on the first lap.

The first Bugatti win since 1981 was Julian Majzub's reward in the Vintage Seaman Trophy; what a shame that Tim Llewellyn had the middle pull out of the newly-fitted clutch in his big blue round-rumped Bentley after leading for seven laps and putting in fastest lap, because Majzub was doing a spectacular job of hanging on to and even making up on the 8-litre car, which promised a great finish. But Majzub deserved his win, over a flying Harper and a hard-trying Dave Caroline in their Morgans, Terry Candy's T35B a little way back.

The supercharged Riley Special of M Sayers fooled the handicappers completely in the next four-lapper, ending virtually a minute ahead of MacPherson (V8 Riley Clifford Special), with another of the marque, the Dobbs Special, fourth behind Weeks' Bentley. Yet more Riley successes attended the two remaining handicaps, one postponed from Saturday, the winners being Clear's and Bradford's respective Brooklands cars.

But in between was the 12-lap Allcomers event, where the sociable musical chairs which attends VSCC racing saw John Harper in the Mayman/Halford Lotus, Bill Morris in Mayman's BRM, and Rodney Felton in yet another Mayman car, the 250F. The generous owner of the front half of the grid drove his ERA, R4D, which has had lots of lightness added over the winter. But the real star amongst the machinery was Stephen Griswold's V12 Maserati 250F, still in the sorting phase but looking and sounding just magnificent as it wailed away from Cascades along the Lakeside straight. Though it had stopped charging by the end, Griswold finished a delighted ninth, pointing out that its long wheelbase is just too big for Oulton but that it should be a front-runner at fast tracks like Monza. "But," he added, "if I want to win races here, I'll just take the Cooper out!"

Despite R4D's improved performance, Harper inevitably pulled out a big lead to the flag, while the BRM, sounding increasingly sick, held off Charles' Connaught for third.

Gloom over Saturday's accident sat heavy in the paddock, with some criticism that the race should not have been run in the dreadful conditions. But eye-witnesses' stories all agreed that Llewelyn, the first to go off, had bounced off the tyre barriers back into the track, thus fuelling the debate over whether tyres actually are the safe way to catch wayward cars. GC