European 10,000 kilometre trial
1931

European 10,000 kilometre trial
22 May - 6 June 1931
 

Belgium

Entries and results:
No.   Driver: Car: Model: Entrant: Position:    
  Donald Healey Riley Six Alpine Tourer Riley      
  Mrs. Montague Johnstone Riley Six Alpine Saloon Montague Johnstone      
Motor SportJuly 1931
European 10,000 Kilometre Trial.

THE European 10,000 kilometre trial (May 22nd to June 6th inclusive), is organised by the German Automobile Club and covers practically every country in Southern and Central Europe.
In the 2-litre class competitors had to cover some 408 miles each twenty-four hours. Under the best conditions when an average of 30 m.p.h. was possible in running time (i.e., on about four days of the sixteen), this was equivalent to starting at 6 a.m. and " blinding " all day till nearly 10 p.m., allowing two hours in that time for meals and fuel replenishments.
Most of the way the highest possible average was 20 m.p.h. which meant driving for twenty hours out of twenty-four, the remaining four covering all stops and including sleep. There were days, e.g., in Yugo-Slavian territory, when drivers had no spare time for sleep or sit-down meals.
No money prizes were offered, so that there was no monetary advantage in entering. The Riley Company is there fore to be congratulated on seeing the wider possibilities of the trial. The two Rileys were the only British cars in the event and aroused the keenest interest everywhere. Their silent running was particularly commented on.
Donald Healey's car (an Alpine " Six " open tourer) was an official Riley entry, but Mrs. Montague Johnstone's (an Alpine " Six " Saloon) was her own.
Both gained first-class awards, and in addition Mrs. Johnstone won the Hungarian Motor Club Cup.
The route took competitors first across Germany, Switzerland and France into Spain. By far the best roads were those in Spain, where hundreds of miles on end of excellent tarmacadam were encountered, with bends so steeply banked that really high speeds were possible.
Every variety of weather and temperature was met with. In Southern Europe the heat was so terrific that Healey had to prop the sides of his bonnet open; his passenger sat with his feet through the windscreen opening! Many drivers' hands were blistered with the heat of steering wheels and gear levers.
There was no sign of the recent revolution in Spain, except that on crossing the frontier from France, every drier had to declare the amount of money in the car, as no one is allowed to take cash or securities out of Spain. Otherwise the Spaniards everywhere seemed determined to please visitors and attract them to come again.
In Portugal the greatest trial was the dust. It was like driving through a thick choking fog, and the English competitors returned with a new appreciation of the blessings of our tarred roads at home.
The most serious incident was when a German driver fell asleep at the wheel when doing 60 m.p.h. in Spain. The car left the road and telescoped against a tree. The driver was killed instantly, and the mechanic seriously injured. Unhappily the car following was occupied by two ladies to whom it fell to cope with the mess.
In every country the national motoring bodies went to the greatest trouble, and spared no expense in organisation and assistance to the competitors. In Portugal, in addition to route-marking on a lavish scale, pilot cars were provided and a repair lorry toured the course in case of need.
The worst roads of all were encountered along the north coast of Italy, but most of the obstructions were caused by the fact that they were under extensive repair. Mussolini seems to have given the order for vast road reconstruction in this district, regardless of cost. On the Italian frontier a lady representing the Italian Automobile Club presented every competitor with a wonderful bouquet of carnations, accompanied by a gracious salutation!
After a tour of Northern Italy, the course entered the Alps and included three of the most severe passes in Europe—Furka, Taurn and the Katchberg. The last named, six kilometres long, is the steepest in Europe, having a gradient of one in 3½.
Amazing mountain roads were encountered in Yugo-Slavia, south of Fiume, on the way to Ragusa. One climb (according to a German competitor whose passenger counted them with true Teutonic thoroughness) included seventy-six hairpin bends. Another, called the " Serpentine " was the finest piece of road engineering seen on the whole trip. At 10 p.m. one night, when 4,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Dalmatia, the competitors ran into a terrific thunderstorm. "It was eerie in the extreme" says Healey, "to see the almost continuous lightning all around us, most of it actually in the clouds below our level."
Approaching Zagreb, Lavalette (a French driver well-known to Continental competitors) fell asleep and ran into the ditch. The car was wrecked, but the occupants miraculously escaped any injury.
The national motoring organisations vied with each other in their reception to competitors, but the finest welcome of all was that staged by the Hungarian Club. Here (at Buda-Pesth) Healey was so far ahead of schedule that he had twelve hours sleep in a real bed and a swim in one of the palatial baths for which the place is famous.
A German police car was one of the entries and the occupants were particularly solicitous of the English competitors' welfare. This car and Healey's were the first to reach the German frontier on the return through Czecho-Slovakia. An enormous crowd had collected to welcome them at the frontier and officials insisted on Healey broadcasting on the spot, in company with the police ! His words were relayed through German stations. The officials also persuaded him to put on the ether the peculiarly musical note of the horn on his Riley.
The finish was at the well-known Avus Track outside Berlin on Saturday, June 6th. Here was a crowd some 100,000 strong and a tremendous ovation was given to the two Rileys. Each competitor to finish was presented with wreath and a bouquet.
In Berlin the cars were locked away for twenty-four hours while officials examined and verified that the various components they had marked at the start were still there and had not been changed. It is worth noting that they were competing with amongst others, crack teams of Continental drivers who knew most of the course and had cars specially built for the event.
Healey remarks on the enterprise of the Czecho-Slovakian nation which is making its own cars, assisted, of course by a heavy tariff. No fewer than four makes of Czecho-Slovakian cars were in the trial.
Mrs. Johnstone, who is a daughter of Sir John Poster Fraser, was accompanied by her husband and a mechanic. Healey's passenger was a Belgian whom he had met on a former rally and who could not speak a word of English. Apart from that, Healey reports that English seems to be spoken all over Europe. In the wilds of Dalmatia at 2 a.m. on a mountain track they stopped a peasant, who exclaimed " Ah ! I know you are English and want to know the way . . ."
Healey's Customs papers show that in little over a fortnight he crossed thirtyseven frontiers. According to an A.A. representative this is a record in high speed wandering. Nevertheless he found time to take a eine record of scenes en route.