Motor SportNovember 1931
THE B.R.D.C. "500"
Widengren's O.M. leaving a trail of smoke after breaking a piston. He is seen following two Rileys and a Talbot.
IN three short years the 500 miles race has become one of the world's classics, and those who went down to the track on October 3rd were privileged to witness a British victory at the highest speed ever attained in a long distance race.
Carr takes his Bugatti high on the home banking to pass Humphrey's Amilcar, causing Lewis to pull his Talbot down
to pass below them.
The veteran Bentley in the hands of Jack Dunfee and Cyril Paul, followed up its fine series of victories by defying the mechanical failures which beset all but seven of the starters, and averaged 118.39 m.p.h. for the 500 miles.
This wonderful performance was far from being a runaway victory, however, for the single seater " 105 " Talbot, that marvellous, unsupercharged, silent 3-litre only missed victory by a narrow margin. As it was Brian Lewis and Saunders Davies drove it into second place at the almost incredible average speed of 112.93 ra.p.h. In congratulating the entrants and drivers of this car we should not forget to in Mr. Roesch, the brilliant designer who has made their success possible.
The third car home was the super-charged 750 c.c. M.G. Midget belonging to E. R. Hall, who drove the entire distance single-handed and averaged over 92 m.p.h., a feat which would have been considered impossible, but a short time ago, for a car of this size under any conditions. A. G. Miller's Riley was fourth, with another M.G. and two more Talbots to complete the small but distinguished list of finishers.
It was a British victory without qualifications. Not a win on handicap alone, but a clean sweep in which only British cars finished, and at a speed which can leave no room for pessimists to say—if only there had been a works entry of Bugatti, Alfa, or Maserati. No, such a speed will be hard to beat, and it seems that on our own track we can more than hold our own.
At the pits. Work in progress on Sir Henry Birkin's Alfa.
One of the greatest charms of the "500," and one of the secrets of its great success, is the freedom from restriction as to the cars. It is open to all types, and there is only one end in view—to cover 500 miles in the shortest possible time, and the huge crowd that gathered to see the race got full value.
The usual last-minute rumours and retirements were in evidence before the start, and by the time the solitary limit man, J. H. P. Clover, in his "unblown" M.G., came to the line, it was learned that there were seven non-starters. These included two M.G.s to be driven by Horton and Jackson, 'Willis's B.C. Special, Field's Talbot (one of the old 200-mile race cars of some years ago) and the two Invictas. One of these was the streamlined single-seater specially built for the event, and was to have been driven by Fray and Wisdom, the former now completely recovered from his crash in Ulster.
However, with these out of it there was still plenty of scope for speculation in the cars gathered at the fork awaiting their time to start, but not necessarily to finish, while Clover, who started at 10.30 a.m. sped on his lonely way for 24m. 9s.
Then the flag dropped again and the whole howling pack of "blown" 750's joined in the fray, and straightway started screaming round at just on 100 m.p.h.
The official Austin team were singleseaters with radiators mounted separate from the body as on the record-breaking car. In fact one of them was the actual Monthlery 109 m.p.h. job. The fourth Austin, driven by Vernon Balls had a special light body, and was considerably lighter than the work's cars.
M.G.'s were out in force with an entry of no fewer than three complete teams among their eleven entries. These were entered by the Earl of March, Major Gardner, and E. R. Hall, but Gardner's team was depleted by R. R. Jackson's car being a non-starter.
The 1,100 c.c. class joined in at 10 sec after 11 a.m., but even as early as this the terrific speed of the 750's was beginning to tell. Dan Higgin was out with a run big end in four laps, a forecast of what was to come.
Out;aw's Maserati (27) and Farley's veteran F.W.D. Alvis indulging in a private scrap.
Seven Rileys were the mainstay of this class and Staniland, driving Campbell's entry shot off at about 105 m.p.h. As this car could lap at nearly 110 m.p.h. it seemed to well in hand, but six laps saw it in the pits with a loose flywheel, and Whitcroft took the running, and gradually gained a fine lead on handicap and at 11.30 a.m. at 102.9 m.p.h.
Outlaw's Maserati and Humphrey's Amilcar, being supercharged, gave the Rileys a start, and ran with the unsupercharged 1½-litres.
Group after group gathered and started and soon the track was really alive with cars. The snarling Bugattis and Sir Henry Birkin's Alfa, contrasted strongly with the smooth whistle of the Talbots, and in the big class the thundering Bentley vied with Zehender's white Mercedes. the latter cutting in and out the blower like a siren as he swept round.
The single-seater "4½" Bentley was driven this time by Benjafield, but it had been recently in sprint tune, and the idea of 500 miles did not seem to appeal to it. It spluttered round in dismal manner at intervals but eventually retired with valve trouble.
Major Gardner (M. G.) leaving after a fill-up.
Birkin's Alfa was lapping at 122 m.p.h. on occasion but his chances were spoilt when some of the electrical system became detached from the dashboard, and the subsequent experimenting with connections and running round to the pits from the Byfleet banking to get things, lost much time.
Much of the story of the race must be taken up with lists of retirements, but in such an event things are more than liable to break, and there is more credit due to those who enter and retire, thereby gaining valuable information, than to those who do not enter at all.
Clover had hard luck, as after lapping for 1½ hours at about 83 m.p.h., his back axle went and he had to join the retired list. Outlaw's Maserati began to slow down and misfire, and after sundry pits stops had to give up. The 1½-litre O.M., driven by Widengren and R. P. Oates was going well at over 100 m.p.h.
Norman Black for once failed to keep going, his trouble being a blown gasket, Martin's Riley was in for repairs to the exhaust system, and Harold Parker's M.G. came in with various troubles, being mainly a general disinclination to go quickly. He adjusted various things, but to no great avail, and 15 minutes later he was in again with a hot motor and lost revs.
He changed the inlet manifold and proceeded, but eventually the trouble became more persistent and he kept coming in to the pits until it was later decided that something was radically wrong and he retired, after changing nearly everything on the engine.
Earl Howe's Bugatti of which great things had been expected, retired very early with a broken piston. Stonard's Riley was having trouble in the clutch— a strangely prevalent complaint in this event—and the Earl of March ran a big-end. He had replaced one at the last moment the previous day and it had not been possible to clean out the engine as thoroughly as it should have been and this probably caused trouble in the oiling system as a result.
The Austin team were running beautifully and looked like holding on indefinitely, but unexpected trouble was in store for them. The hammering of Brooklands proved too much for their radiators and the tanks were starting to split. After they had had several stops to re-fill with water and attempt to rectify the trouble hey were officially withdrawn as a team. Hard luck after such a promising start.
Zehender's white Mercedes passing Cuthbert's Riley.
At 12.30 p.m. Whitcroft had a very substantial handicap lead, being 5m. 3s. in front of the big Bentley, which was roaring round at over 120 m.p.h. without a falter, 1m. 13s. in front of Brian Lewis and the Talbot, who was in turn 1m. 2s. ahead of Widengren's O.M.
The Talbot was averaging close on 115 m.p.h. while the leading Riley had averaged 104 m.p.h. from the start, and seemed to be going better than ever. This order was maintained with Whitcroft building up an increasing lead, till 1.30 p.m., when Lewis took second place from the Bentley.
Then came a complete change in the state of the race. Whitcroft 's Riley which had covered over half the required distance at nearly 104 m.p.h., struck clutch trouble, and the driver pushed the car to the pits and retired after a wonderful opening.
Brian Lewis now held the lead for the first time but the Bentley was not to let him hold it, and took the lead at 2 p.m. at 118.3 m.p.h. Hindmarsh, on another Talbot, one of the normal 4-seaters of the official team, had been actually flagged down by his pit for going too fast, as he had been lapping at times at 113 m.p.h.! He now pulled up to third place ahead of the O.M.
Hindmarsh and Rose-Richards keeping their Talbots in close company on the banking.
E. R. Hall's M.G. being overtaken by J. R. Cobb (Talbot).
Involuntary specators, but still cheerful. Earl Howe and Zehender
watch from the
The latter had been running finely, but suddenly a trail of blue smoke burst from it and it proceeded to spread a smoke screen over the track, although still going well. It will be remembered by many readers that this was a trouble peculiar to this particular veteran some seasons back, and Oates was in those days pulled out of an event owing to the smoke obscuring other drivers' vision. History repeated itself on this occasion and he was stopped by the stewards. The trouble could not be cured and he had to join the ever swelling crowd of "dead" cars.
Zehender's Mercedes was remarkable for its amazing steadiness on the track and he frequently pulled down to pass smaller cars on the inside as though dodging obstacles on a road. The car was dogged with some mysterious trouble, however, and frequently made peculiar noises when he engaged the blower. He made many pit calls and eventually retired.
At 2.30 p.m. the Bentley was still in the lead, and E. R. Hall had brought his Midget up to fourth place at over 92 m.p.h. but half an hour later Lewis was back again in the lead with 21 secs. on handicap in hand over the Bentley. The closeness of the struggle was gripping everyone's attention to the lexclusion of all else. The track was almost empty in comparison with the morning, and the few remaining cars roared on to try and attain the honour of a finish in this gruelling race.
Lewis was now travelling faster and had enough fuel to last without a stop.
Three duels on the banking. (Top) Dunfee's Bentley passing Lewis's Talbot; (centre) Fothringham (Bugatti) and J. D. Barnes (Austin) and (left) Bevan (4½-litre Bentley) passing Crabtree's M.G.
Cyril Paul and Jack Dunfee at the conclusion
of their great drive.
Brian Lewis and Saunders-Davies, who finished second.
On this occasion, though, a non-stop was not to be, as it was considered unwise to go on without a tyre change, so he came in and had all wheels changed and Saunders-Davies took over. This stop cost them the race, for at 3.30 p.m. Jack Dunfee was once more in the lead, never to lose it again.
Fourth man was now Humphreys and his wonderful little Amilcar, by no means new but outlasting the majority of its rivals. He was putting on speed towards the end and had averaged 97 m.p.h. when he was overtaken by the worst bit of luck in the race. Only 3 laps from the end, and running as well as ever, a stub axle broke and the car ploughed along the concrete and came to rest, fortunately without harm to anyone. The roughness of Brooklands surface had added one more victim to the long list. This let Miller and Eggar, on their Riley, into fourth place.
Hindmarsh's Talbot had gone on to five cylinders, and after a pit council he was sent on to tour round, and he was still ruing at the end. This broke up the Talbot team, and although three Talbots finished, the finishing three were not all those of the team, Lewis's single-seater not being included.
The rest of the race was without change and after 5 hrs. 32 mins. 13 secs. running the Bentley completed the race, at the highest speed for the distance ever recorded in the history of motoring. Six minutes later the Talbot followed, at a speed equal to the fastest time in last year's race by a supercharged car times the capacity, and then came the little M.G. 92 m.p.h. for 500 miles on Brooklands in a 750 c.c. is a fine finish to a fine season for this marque.
So ended the fastest race ever staged on any track in the world, and our thanks are due to the B.R.D.C. for conceiving and organising this fine event three years ago, and making each race better than the last.
The prize for the first car with all British components and equipment was won by B. R. Hall's M.G. Midget which, in common with the winning Bentley,. used K.L.G. plugs.
Above: W. M. Cooper filling up the 4½-litre Bentley.
Below: Busy hands replenish Fothringham's Bugatti.
The triumph of a veteran. The famous Speed Six Bentley adds to its many successes by winning the
500 Miles Race at the record speed of 118.39 m.p.h., and in this drawing by our artist it is seen
passing Brian Lewis (Talbot), who finished second.
1. Bentley (6,597 c.c.), driven by J. Dunfee and C. Paul. 5h. 32m. 13s. 118.39 m.p.h.
2. Talbot (2,970 c.c.), driven by B. Lewis and A. O. Saunders Davies. 5h. 38m. 28s. 112.93 m.p.h.
3. M.G. Midget (746 c.c., S.), driven by E. R. Hall. 5h. 50m. 10s. 92.17 m.p.h.
4. Riley (1,089 c.c.), driven by A. G. Miller and K. Eggar. 5h. 53m. 53s. 92.83 m.p.h.
5. M.G. Midget (746 c.c., S.), driven by S. Hailwood and S. A. Crabtree. 5h. 58m. 39s. 89.82 m.p.h.
6. Talbot (2,970 c.c.), driven by J. R. Cobb and H. F. Wolfe. 5h. 59m. 25s. 104.70 m.p.h.
7. Talbot (2,970 c.c ), driven by T. B. Rose Richards. 6h. 0m. 42s, 104.23 m.p.h.
Still running at finish :
M.G. Midget, F. Kindell, 149 laps ;
Bugatti (1,990 c.c.), T. S. Fothringham and A. S. Llewellyn, 171 laps ;
Bentley (4,398 c.c.), A. Bevan and W. M. Couper, 167 laps.
CLASS B.-5,000 c.c. to 8,000 c.c.
Bentley (6,597 c.c.), J. Dunfee and Cyril Paul. 5h. 23m. 13s. 118.39m.p.h.
CLASS D.-2,000 c.c. to 5,000 c.c.
Talbot (2,970 c.c.), B. Lewis and A. O. Saunders Davies. 5h. 38m. 28s. 112.93 m.p.h.
CLASS G.-750 c.c. to 1,100 c.c.
Riley (1,089 c.c.), A. G. Miller and K. Eggar. 5h. 53m. 53s. 92.83 m.p.h.
CLASS H.-Not exceeding 750 c.c.
M.G. Midget (746 c.c.), B. R. Hall. 5h. 50m. 10s. 92.17 m.p.h.
TEAM PRIZE: M.G. Midgets, nominated by E. R. Hall, driven by E. R. Hall, S. A. Crabtree, F. Kindell.