Vintage Shelsey Walsh

It is always nice to be at Shelsley Walsh. Britain’s oldest surviving hill-climb venue still in very regular use, even if for the VSCC Meeting on July 6 we arrived late, due to stop-go traffic on the M6 with no road-works or accidents to account for it — and Labour say they will not build new roads should they win the next Election! Never mind, all the atmosphere that began to be generated in 1905 was evident, at this new one-day vintage fixture. with the moderns having theirs on the Sunday. Just as well perhaps, with so many entries and two runs each up the 1000-yard course.

First, the up-to-1500cc road-equipped sports car class (shouldn’t sports cars be read-equipped anyway? And some racing-type specials be disallowed sports-car status, and never mind what was done with Monza Alfas and T35 Bugattis in the past?).

The programme made much of the fact that in 1920 the fastest Calthorpe clocked 86.20sec and a racing GN 60.20sec, because Mark Longrnere was now driving Mike Farrows 1920 Super Sports (which you knew because it was doorless) Calthorpe two-seater and Ton McEwen his GN Vitesse. Well, comparisons can be odious or distorted: the 1996 times were 99.20 and 70.67sec, respectively. The class winner was S Roberts’s Super Sports Frazer Nash (44.00sec), from the ‘Nashes of Adam Smith and James Baxter. So the “Chain Gang” wrapped it up overall as well as vintage-classed but allowed a T37 Bugatti to score on handicap.

Bruce Spollon then won the 1 1/2-3-litre sports-car class in his 2 1/2-litre Riley Special (44.03sec) leaving the vintage division to Paul Bullell’s Super Sports Frazer Nash (48.76) Overall second and third places went to the TT Replica Dotage and a 328 FN-BMW. It got more interesting with the big sports car class, won by Bronson’s 2.7 sic Riley Blue Streak Special what a sports car! (41.65s) from Sparrowhawk’s 4.3 Alvis Special (42.33sec) and the Bentley-Royce (43.81), sportscars all, leaving the vintage best for Andrew Day’s 8-litre Bentley (46,73sec). Then the popular Edwardians, with the fastest time by Ben Collings in the mighty Mercedes-Maybach (48.42sec), vastly quicker than the 1908 Itala (54.06sec). Nice to see that Nic Ridley still has his TT Sunbeam and that Judy Portway was driving the TT Humber.

The racing cars now came out. Dr Gray was in winning form in Ihe Hardy Special (41.25 s), from Firzrnaunce’s A7 which was second 1100cc car and upheld vintage honour (45.05sec) Duncan Ricketts then took the 1500cc class in ERA R1B for Sally Marsh (39.03sec), winning the Raymond Mays Trophy. Next in class was Dunn’s Riley Falcon, (39.13.sec), with Stephens getting up in ERA R12B only 0.32sec slower. Three drivers contested the 2000cc class, to the advantage of Keith Knight’s ERA-Riley (40.04sec), also much better on its first run than was most of the runners. The fireworks came in the over-2000cc racing-car class, when Sir John Venables-Llewellyn in Felton’s Alfa Romeo got away with such enormous wheelspin that the entire rear of the car disappeared in a cloud of rubber smoke the like of which I have never previously seen. But it paid off — FTD in 38.26sec, securing the Fray Challenge Trophy. The wonderful Mark Walker was next fastest in the aero-Parker-GN (38.84sec) to head the vintage contingent behind his 6124cc Cirrus engine, deservedly being awarded the MAC Challenge Trophy beating the non-vintage machinery, with Majzub’s T35 Bugatti continuing this trend as second overall and vintage car (39.91sec) after a first run which was only 0.52sec slower. It all ended with just a whiff of modernity, as Gilbert’s Cooper-Bristol won the post-war class (41.62sec).

Watching from the start-line was of some interest Mowatt’s Morgan-Riley displayed enormous back axle judder for quite a distance, the TT Delage had quite an exhaust rasp, Sally Collings was quite unconcerned in the 4-litre Bentley, watched by her mother, and Freddie Giles carefully built up the revs before letting Salome have its head. The only troubles befell the McDowell-Ford and a Brooklands sports Riley which failed on its second appearance, but Vanessa Wilson was a bit too adventurous in the singleseater A7 and crashed hurting a foot. So far the VSCC has not put on a Ladies Race in the Brooklands tradition, but the girls supported the Shelsley climb, with the following results, class by class. Jeanne Temple (Riley), 81.79sec. Jane Tomlinson (Alvis), 51.84sec: Alison Lake (Talbot) 64.76sec, Ann Shoosmith (Bentley), 49.31sec, Sally. Collings (Bentley), 49,43sec: Jo Moss (Invicta). 56.46sec: Georgie Brewster (A7), 51.71sec: Judy Portway (Humber), 67.05sec The ever-interesting Edwardians and earlier performed as follows Mercedes-Maybach. 48.42sec, 1908 GP Itale, 54.06sec: 1913 30-98, 56 80sec. 1914 TT Sunbeam, 58.06sec, 1911 Knox R45, 60, 62sec: 1914 7 Humber, 67.05sec, 1912Sunbeam, 68,64sec. 1904 CGV, 71.41sec, the Knox winning on handicap.

It was nice that the GN “Spider” ran well (45.18sec) and the smart Sunbeam Tigress climbed in 42.53sec, driven by Baker-Courtney, and altogether it was a sound, typical Shelsey day. The National event is on September 22. WB