Motor SportSeptember 1931
THE TOURIST TROPHY RACE
A Well-earned Victory for Britain.
THE 1931 Tourist Trophy over the Ards circuit will go down to history as one of the greatest races of the series. Run under ideal, and mot unusual, weather conditions, it passed off without a single serious accident, and yet provided as thrilling a spectacle as anyone could wish to witness.
S.A. Crabtree (M.G.) leading H.J. Aldington's Frazer-Nash.
The M.G. Car Company have added yet another trophy to their bag, and the supercharged model has proved itself beyond all doubt a very wonderful little motorcar, and we heartily congratulate them and Norman Black on their performance, and also the R.A.C., and their willing helpers on their marvellous organisation, and on the cheerful and helpful manner in which it was used to assist competitors and spectators alike to get the best out of the race.
The hour or so prior to the start saw the usual hectic last minute jobs which seem to be inevitable in racing, however carefully the cars are prepared. Gillow was certainly having an unlucky day, and started it by catching his Riley on fire on the way from Bangor to the start, with the result that he had a lot of work to do to get the motor ready in time.
Hamilton, who was driving the University Motors M.G., had a spot of bother which necessitated removing the head, but he got it back again in time, and judging by his speed in the race before his retire went, completed the job very thoroughly. In the main however, work consisted of attending to minor points, and checking over details of pit signals and organisation, while the Dunlop people flitted here and there with a cylinder of compressed air, seeing that the drivers were running their tyres at correct pressures.
At length, though, all was complete, and the cars were moved from their own pits and arranged in starting order in their respective groups, the most formidable of which were undoubtedly the Alfas on the one hand, and the Midget-Austin group on the other.
Borzacchini's Alfa-Romeo overtaking an M.G. at Quarry Corner.
Practice times had shown the Alfa-Romeos to be faster than anything which had appeared on this circuit before, while the Austins, although fast and well-handled, were not quite as fast as the M.G. Midgets. It was therefore to the M.G.'s that one looked for the chief hope of a British victory, with the thought that out of such a number some at least were bound to have a no-trouble run.
Then 11 o'clock at last, and the first group, the three "105" Talbots, and Esplen's privately entered "90," were sent off. Lewis was away like a shot, with his team mates in pursuit, but Esplen had a few seconds delay before his engine fired, and he too shot off to make up for lost time.
The next group was the 1500 c.c. class, with a team of Aston-Martins and a team of Frazer-Nashes. No one expected to find a winner among this group as they are all very normal sports cars, but it was certain that it would produce some good scrapping for the class prize. They all got off well.
The biggest class of all, the M.G.-Austin crowd, followed with an angry roaring of small but very hot motors, then the Rileys which also got away well.
Then we had two Invictas—Wisdom having taken over one as Froy broke his arrn in practice—five 2,300 c.c. straight eight Alfas, two Maseratis, and the Arrol-Asters—a sporting entry but outclassed by their more modern rivals.
Rose-Richards (Talbot) overtaking another competitor at Quarry Corner.
The Bugattis being—alas—non-starters only Davis' Merc. and Montgomery's unblown M.G. were left to complete the entry. The terrific getaway of the Alfas and Maseratis was a foretaste of the sort of racing we should see, and sure enough the first corner of all, Quarry Corner, produced plenty of excitement on the first lap.
Gillow tried his usual hectic cornering and a front wheel locked hard. He skidded round on the broad left hand bend, hit the outer bank with his rear wheels, just missed a telegraph pole, slewed round again, shot across the road and hit the inside bank and overturned. He was unhurt and after shovelling the wreckage out of the way strolled back to the pits. Short and snappy!
Not long after the last car was despatched, Lewis' Talbot came singing through the start having broken the existing lap record for his class from a standing start in 11m. 8s., 74.5 m.p.h. and nearly a minute in front of his team mates Rose-Richards and Hindmarsh.
Soon the Alfas became due and with roar and a cloud of dust they shot through the stands with Birkin in the lead, Earl Howe close behind him, and the Italian team in a bunch at their heels, only feet apart! The Maseratis could not hold the Alfas this time, and Fronteras overshot Newtownards through leaving his braking too late in an endeavour to catch up.
The perfect weather conditions made record speeds certain, and Birkin's first lap was faster than the previous record from a standing start, 10m. 36s.-77.32 m.p.h. Birkin held and actually started to increase his lead, and the order of this group was Birkin, Howe, Campari. Nuvolari's car was missing badly and after dropping back he had to come in to the pits. He frantically changed plugs and tried again, but it was no use, and the trouble was diagnosed as due to a seized piston.
The Alfa-Romeo pit asked if they could call in Borzacchini and let Nuvolari take over his car, but this was ruled out, and Borzacchini certainly proved later that he was not a driver to be replaced without considerable thought.
Three Rileys snapping into it at the start. Staniland, on the left, put up new lap records for his class.
In the meantime records were going in the 750 c.c. class, and E. R. Hall put up 12m. 19s., and was indulging in a terrific duel with Crabtree on another M.G.; they were right on each other's wheels and at times on corners looked as if something unpleasant would happen. There was considerable excitement on Quarry Corner when Field's Invicta arrived on the bend just behind Hall, Crabtree and another M.G. He passed the other on the approach and then tried to come by Hall and Crabtree on the outside. They were about at the limit, however, and Field, after getting by one of them, hit the bank and got back in the road between them, and they disappeared jockeying for position.
The very hot pace was causing trouble and Higgin came by with his M.G. missing badly and eventually retired with valve trouble.
Faster and faster.
E.R. Hall and S.A. Crabtree close together in a duel which lasted for many laps, until the former was forced to retire.
Birkin steadily increased his speed and put up another record lap in 10m. 17s.
The Riley team replied to this with a class G. record lap by Staniland at 68.9 m.p.h. The M.G. duel produced another record by Crabtree in 11m. 50s.-69.2 m.p.h. and Birkin once more broke the lap record for the course in 10m. 14s. This orgy of record-breaking continued and before an hour of the race had gone Birkin had brought his time down to 10m. 11s.-80.48 m.p.h. Crabtree had taken the M.G. round at 69.6 m.p.h. in reply to Hamilton who had broken his previous best time, Staniland had pushed his Riley up to 71.8 m.p.h. and finally Birkin's lap record went to Campari and Earl Howe who both lapped in 1 sec. shorter time.
An idea of the fierceness of the struggle could be obtained on the long series of fast S-bends leading up to and over Bradshaws Brae, where the screaming Alfas were sliding from side to side as they kept all out through curves which the ordinary motorist would treat with respect at 40 m.p.h. or so.
A close call.
On the descent of the Brae towards Newtownards, Earl Howe came to grief and shot off the road backwards over a sharp drop, landing right way up and quite unperturbed in a field. Looking round he saw a convenient gap so restarted and drove back onto the course and round to the pits. Here he found, however, that the crash had damaged the brake mechanism and other details, and he was forced to retire.
C.M. Harvey won the 1,500 c.c. class on his Aston-Martin. He is seen here leading Widengren's Maserati.
With Earl Howe out of it, Campari was doing all he knew to catch Birkin, for the official team had had their eyes opened by the two English drivers who were leading them on the same type of car, and the revs, on the gears were terrific as he forced his car after Birkin.
At this point the handicap leaders were Hall and Crabtree, going round almost wheel to wheel, with Birkin only a few seconds behind on handicap.
Campari was only about half a mile behind Birkin, and slowly drawing up, and the lap record went once again when he clocked 10. 9s., 80.7 m.p.h.
Hamilton was now actually in fourth place on handicap and going well, with Parker on another M.G. fifth.
Brian Lewis was still going very fast and steadily, and the other Talbots were also going well but Hindmarsh's car had been missing slightly for some time and he came in for adjustments at the end of nearly two hours running.
Lewis was holding a consistent lap speed of 10m. 15s., a really astounding performance for any unsupercharged car, and his cornering was faultless. The Hall-Crabtree duel came to an end after two hours running when Hall retired with engine trouble at Comber, and Crabtree continued alone.
Campari's effort to catch Birkin had failed for the moment, and the gap was widening again. Both drivers were all out everywhere possible, and cornering with considerable violence. The result of this was another jerk to the lap record which was re-taken by Birkin in 10m. 6s.
Borzacchini was then given the signal to go all out and his lap speed went up to 10m. 9s. for the next lap and he followed with a wonderful lap in 10m. 5s., thus setting up yet another record for the circuit and his speed of 81.25 m.p.h. remained unbeaten at the finish.
Sir Henry Birkin was still leading on handicap at 1.30 p.m., the order being Birkin, Crabtree, Campari, Hamilton, Borzacchini, and Norman Black, who thus brought his M.G. into the picture for the first time.
Hamilton set up a new record for the 750 c.c. class actually reaching 70 m.p.h. for a lap, but shortly afterwards had to retire with valve trouble.
The speed of the supercharged M.G.'s was simply amazing, and it was only on the fast winding portions of the course that one could realise what their performance really meant, and the way in which they were hanging onto much larger cars, while the even scream of their exhaust told of perfect tuning and colossal revs.
Birkin, although being hard pressed, seemed to be in a fairly safe position, but we were soon to see how, in a race of this sort, the slightest thing may change the whole complexion of the race. When Birkin came in to fill up he took 1 m. 37s., but when Campari came in he was away again in 40s., which gave him an advantage which many fast laps would never have done.
Birkin piles up.
Sir Henry Birkin preparing to extricate his Alfa-Romeo after his crash at Comber. Aldington is passing in his Frazer-Nash.
However, more serious trouble was in store than a few seconds lost at a pit stop for Sir Henry, leading Campari into Comber, slightly overdid his approach. With screaming tyres he slid down to the corner but could not pull up sufficiently and went head on into the sand with locked wheels, and Campari, following, shot up the slip road to avoid him. Birkin and his mechanic worked on the car but the front brake rods were damaged and he had to proceed with practically no front brakes and was now definitely out of the leaders. Hard luck after such a splendid drive but all in the game of racing.
M.G.'s were now in a very strong position, having suddenly jumped into the first three places, though Hamilton's retirement robbed them of one of these almost immediately. Norman Black was now putting on speed and the 2 p.m. order on handicap was Crabtree, Hamilton, Black, Campari, Parker and Borzacchini. This gave M.G.'s four out of the first six places with the Alfas as their only real challenge.
The Riley team were putting up a very fine show indeed, and although not quite fast enough on handicap to challenge the leaders were a model of consistency in a race of many retirements.
A spot of bother. Cook working on his Aston-Martin to cure his carburetter trouble.
Cook's Aston Martin was in at the pits fairly often with peculiar carburettor trouble, but got going again each time. Harvey, on another Aston was going well and looking fairly safe for the 1500 c.c. class winner as Penn-Hughes who had been keeping going very well on his Frazer-Nash, came in on three cylinders and had to retire after investigation, with supposed piston trouble, and Aklington, who had also been going consistently was about 8 minutes behind him and unable to increase his speed owing to slight clutch slip.
Half an hour later the leaders were Crabtree, Black, Campari, Parker, Borzacchini, and the ever consistent Lewis on the Talbot, who had run non-stop from the very start.
The class leaders were now Field's Invicta in class C, Brian Lewis in class D, Harvey in class F, Staniland's Riley in class G and Crabtree in class H. Black was now putting on the winning spurt, and at 3 p.m. had caught Crabtree and was leading the race on handicap. Campari and Borzacchini were third and fourth and Lewis fifth. Parker's M.G. was sixth, Campari seemed to be slowing slightly, due apparently to a broken valve spring, and Borzacchini, who was driving with grim determination and lapping the course consistently at well over 80 m.p.h., was catching up. To catch the leading M.G. he would have, to average 10m. 7s. till the end, however, and he was about two seconds a lap down on this. He was now half a minute ahead of Campari, and gradually increased this to over a minute, and at 3.30 p.m. he was in third place, the order being Black, Crabtree, Borzacchini, Campari, Lewis and Parker.
Black and Crabtree were now on their 28th lap with 52 secs. between them, and the leading Alfa driver was steadily roaring up in pursuit, but 4m. 49s.. behind Black. It was certain that if Black held out the M.G. would win, but only just, and the excitement became intense as the cars started their last lap.
Right round the course the order was unchanged, but Borzacchini and the Alfa were eating up the gap which separated them from the M.G. Black was through Comber, Ballystockart, then Dundonald, then the finish. He had won a fine race and the crowd rose and yelled themselves hoarse. The excitement was not over, though, and all eyes were strained towards Dundonald. Two cars appeared, one of them Crabtree's M.G. Then a third and the scream of the Alfa drowned the cheers of the crowd as Borzacchini shot past Crabtree and snatched second place. A fine finish to a wonderful drive! Lewis caught Campari and took fourth place after running from start to finish without a stop of any kind. Once more the Talbot had shown its consistency. Then came Staniland and the Rileys claimed another team prize, and well they deserved it.
So ended yet another T.T. and a good one for British cars, while we must all take off our hats to Borzacchini for his wonderful effort of 79.05 m.p.h. for the distance of 410 miles.
And that was that. Norman Black, the winner bringing his M.G. over the finishing line.
1st. Norman Black (M.G. Midget 746 c.c.), S., 67.90 m.p.h.
2nd. B. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo 2,336 c.c.), S., 79.05 m.p.h.
3rd. S. A. Crabtree (M.G. Midget, 746 c.c.), S., 67.62 m.p.h.
4th. Brian Lewis (Talbot 2,970 c.c.), 77.13 m.p.h.
5th. C. S. Staniland (Riley 1,089 c.c.), 70.35 m.p.h.
6th. C. Campari (Alfa-Romeo 2,336 c.c.), S., 78.4 m.p.h.
7th. H. P. Parker (M.G. Midget, 746 c.c.), S., 66.92 m.p.h.
8th. G. E. T. Eyston (Maserati, 2,494 c.c.), S., 77.29 m.p.h.
9th. Leon Cushman (Austin, 748 c.c.), S., 65.99 m.p.h.
10th. R. R. Jackson (M.G. Midget, 746 c.c.), S., 65.85 m.p.h.
11th. C. R. Whitcroft (Riley 1,089 c.c.), 68.94 m.p.h.
12th. D. Barnes (Austin 748 c.c.), S., 65.10 m.p.h.
13th. W. P. Noble (Riley 1,089 c.c.), 67.61 m.p.h.
14th. C. M. Harvey (Aston-Martin 1,494 c.c.), 68.49 m.p.h.
15th. J. S. Hindmarsh (Talbot 2,970 c.c ), 72.93 m.p.h.
16th. P. M. Montgomery (M.G. Midget 746 c.c.), 62.41 m.p.h.
17th. C. Goodacre (Austin 748 c.c.), S., 62.80 m.p.h.
18th. A. C. Bertelli (Aston-Martin 1,494 c.c.), 66.42 m.p.h.
19th. T. H. Wisdom (Invicta 4,467 c.c.), 70.84 m.p.h.
LAPS COMPLETED BY NON-FINISHERS, INCLUDING CREDIT LAPS.
B. O. Davis (7,020 c.c. Mercedes-Benz, S.), 12; G. Field (4,467 c.c. Invicta), 27; T. Nuvolari (2,336 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, S.), 2; Earl Howe (2,336 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, S.), 6; Sir Henry Birkin (2,336 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, S.), 29; W. Esplen (2,276 c.c. Talbot), 29; T. B. Rose-Richards (2,970 c.c. Talbot), 28; E. Fronteras (2,494 c.c. Maserati, S.), 3; W. P. Lockwood (2,356 c.c. Arrol-Aster), 9; H. J. Aldington (1,496 c.c. Frazer-Nash), 29; C. Penn-Hughes (1,496 c.c. Frazer-Nash), 11; T. G. Moore (1,496 c.c. Frazer-Nash), 25; H. W. Cook (1,494 c.c. Aston-Martin), 23; V. Gillow (1,089 c.c. Riley), 0; A. F. Ashby (1,089 c.c. Riley), 29; H. Widengren (1,078 c.c. Maserati, S.), 25; G. V. B. Cooke (747 c.c. Austin, S.), 17; H. Kayley (747 c.c. Austin, S.), 24; C. W. Fiennes (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 27; Major A. T. G. Gardner (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 15 & R. T. Horton (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 13; S. W. B. Hailwood (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 11; B. R. Hall (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 10; H. C. Hamilton (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 19; D. Higgin. (746 c.c. M.G. Midget, S.), 6
Class C. 5,000 c.c.
T. H. Wisdom, Invicta, 70.84 m.p.h. (only finisher).
Class D. 3,000 c.c.
B. Borzacchini, Alfa-Romeo, 79.05 m.p.h.
Class F. 1,500 c.c.
C. M. Harvey, Aston-Martin, 68.49 m.p.h.
Class G. 1,100 c.c.
C. S. Staniland, Riley, 70.35 m.p.h.
Class H. 750 c.c. N. Black, M.G., 67.90 m.p.h.
1st Riley Team.—C. R. Whitcroft, C. S. Staniland. and W. P. Noble. 29 points.
2nd, Austin team.—L. Cushman, Barnes and C. Goodacre.
A Little Bit of Fluff.
Cheerful, and why not? Norman Black, the Earl of March and a smiling crowd, when the race was over and won.
As we go to press the following telegram arrived from Mr. H. J. Aldington of Frazer-Nash Cars (A.F.N., Ltd.) :— " The joke is on us perfectly good motor car withdrawn officially with engine trouble discovered main jet one carburetter choked by fluff—Aldington."
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Nuvolari was prompted to drive with even more dash than usual, when he found that the English Alfa drivers were so hot. And he swore that he would do the lap in under ten minutes on the day of the race. But it was not to be.
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On all sides one heard regrets expressed that the Bugatti contingent were absent from the T.T. For weeks supporters had been eagerly awaiting the event with the hope that the "Bugs." would be competing, only to be disappointed.
* * *
Victor Gillow's part in the race lasted for just about 300 yards, for his wild cornering finished in his overturning his Riley at the very beginning. Actually, when he inverted the motor, his speed was only about 20 m.p.h. It hit a bank and rolled slowly over.
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After his sensational entry backwards into a field, Earl Howe appeared quite unperturbed ; he even stopped to apologise to the farmer for any damage which may have been incurred to the crops!