The Battle of Phoenix Park
In spite of rain, the second Irish Grand Prix provides two days of spectacular racing with triumphs for the Riley and the Mercedes. Caracciola wins the Irish Gran Prix
The Irish International races have come and gone for the second time, and for the second time have provide two fast, intensely interesting contests. In the forst, an English car, the Riley, scceeded in lowering the long-victorious colours of Italy, averaging 72.2m.p.h., while the Lea-Francis showed that, apart from bad luck, they could hold the Alfa-Romeos at their fastest - a contrast to last year, when the same drama was enacted with a different result
In the second day's race a thrilling British versus German contest ended in favour of Mercedes at a record speed of 85.88m.p.h. An Alfa-Romeo was second at 78m.p.h., another Mercedes third at 91.33m.p.h., Bentley fourth at 78.85m.p.h., and another Mercedes fifth. Once more a team of Talbots demonstrated their their high speed reliability by averaging 75.83, 74.72 and 74.12 m.p.h., securing 6th, 7th and 8th positions
TWENTY-FIVE cars with engines under 1,500 c.c. lined up for the first day's battle in Phoenix Park for the Saorstat Cup. Six were little Austins, five being supercharged with 12 laps start from the scratch cars, the supercharged Mercédès, which were to race on the morrow. The unsupercharged car had a credit of 18 laps. Four Rileys and a supercharged Amilcar constituted the next class with 7 laps credited to them. Then came five Alfa-Romeos and six Lea-Francis, all supercharged, with three Aston-Martins unsupercharged, the former group having 5 laps and the latter 7 laps to their credit.
Sixty-five laps had to be covered by the Alfas and the Lea-Francis. Sixty-five all out bursts along a two-mile straight; sixty-five times they had to be braked for the Mountjoy corner; sixty-five times the deceptive winding back stretch had to be negotiated with its dangerous turn by the Gough statue before turning into the straight again.
The Phoenix Park lap measures 4 miles 460 yards, about two miles of which is dead straight, some 35 feet wide, and slightly uphill. The surface all round was splendid-smooth, but not slippery. It had been treated with Colfix. There eere sandbags at Mountjoy and on the Gough Statue, the corners at each end of the straight, while on the dangerous bend leading to this latter corner the outside kerb had been smoothed off to meet the road. The bend is particularly tricky, lying, as it does, out of sight of the driver over the horizon of a gentle slope, until the car, at this point, travelling at its maximum is almost upon it. The pits were opposite the main grand stand, approximately at mid-distance on the straight leg.
The course is not, as at appears at first sight, flat. From 92ft. above sea level at Gough Corner, it rises steadily to 162ft. at the pits, and, though it appears to dip here, actually continues uphill as far as Mountjoy turn and a little way beyond, where it reaches 179ft.
Friday morning came, dull and cloudy with more than a hint of rain. The wind was blowing right down the straight, from Mountjoy to the Gough - a factor which would tend to limit speeds up the incline yet more.
By twelve-thirty all the cars save those of Scott, Wilkinson and Mansell had reached the pits, and were lined up in a picturesque assortment of colours - dark blues, reds, green, and light blues, while opposite the grand stands towered upwards, skeleton like, decked out with the flags of the competing nations, England, France, Germany and Italy, and already filled with more than a sprinkling of spectators.
Just before the starting hour the blare of a bugle was heard, and drivers and mechanics were assembled to be given their final instructions by Mr. K Lee Guinness.
Punctually at 2.30 the Governor-General stepped forward. A moment's complete silence and the flag fell. Instantaneously engines seemed to spring to life, and the cars roared off in a bunch down the straight. Higgin's and Dunfee's Lea-Francis and Major Gardner's Amilcar were first off the mark, but nearly all were away in a flash. Only four were left, like jetsam on the sand as the tide ebbs. They were Field's Lea-Francis, Eyston's and Outlaw's Alfa-Romeos, and Whitcroft's Riley. A minute's frantic work, and they, too, were off, though one hundred precious seconds had been wasted before Field's car got away.
From away on the far side of the course the faint whine of exhausts could be heard, and the cars took the curves at full throttle. At the Gough Higgin and Dunfee were leading, and a few moments later they crashed past at a fierce speed. Three Lea-Francis were in the van, closely persued by lvanowsky and Kaye Don. The battle had begun!
Two things were clear from the start. First, that the pace would be high and secondly, that there were barely a mile an hour to choose between Lea-Francis and Alfa-Romeo. The peculiarly harsh and penetrating note of their exhausts made the English cars sound the faster, but the cornering of their Italian rivals was fiercer and more hectic. At the Gough, viewed from a hundred yards away along the straight, the cars seemed almost to bend as though made of rubber as they flung their tails outward and straightened up after the curve. On tle second lap Paul's Lea-Francis was leading, followed in turn by Higgin, Dunfee and Sutton, with Don and Ivanowsky hanging on like grim death and ready to step into the leader's place at the first slip, the first misjudgment, on the part of their rivals.
Next time round the kaleidoscope had changed once more. Paul still led, but Don's Alfa had moved up to third place, and Ivanowsky would have been higher had he not skidded wildly at the Gough in a fierce endeavour to avoid his team mate. He had take to the footpath near the Guards' Depot. Luckily for him, the sharp rise of the kerb had been smoothed out this year, and what twelve months ago would have spelt disaster now meant nothing more than a fright for the spectators and a jolt for the car.
By the fourth lap Dunfee had repassed Paul and all but lapped the slowest Austin, such was the speed at which the race was being run.
Meanwhile the weaker brethren were beginning to find trouble. Eaton's Aston-Martin, whose exhaust had never sounded too crisp, drew up with shrieking brakes at his pit. He got away again a minute later, but the trouble - valve timing - was too deep-seated for emergency repairs, and ten minutes later he was back again, finally to retire. This left Davis and Bertelli of the Aston-Martin team. Both were going well, Davis travelling the faster. and lapping at 71.7.
Within half an hour of the start Dunfee was also in a.t the pits. Hard lines, when his car had been travelling so well, It proved but the first of many stops that finally led to his retirement just past Mountjoy. Barne's Austin also came to roost for a short space.
While these pit stops were in progress, reports began to come in of thrilling corner work at Mountjoy and the Gough. Gillow in particular was handling his car in a most lurid manner. On one occasion he caught and passed an Austin at the Gough, skidded on to the pavement, and down a bank at least a foot high back on to the course. Needless to say, the crowd applauded enthusiastically and asked for more.
Wild though his driving seemed, Gillow rose from equal fifth place at ten laps to first position on handicap after twenty laps had been covered. His low green car was travelling magnificently and lapping the phenomenal speed for its class of 72 m.p.h.
But even on handicap the Alfas and Lea-Francis were by no means out of the picture. Cyril Paul was now running seccond in the race, while Ivanowsky and Kaye Don roared round with only a second toseparate them. The two Alfas tucked themselves in behind their respective Lea-Francis drivers and refused either to pass or to be shaken off. Lap after lap they came round in a bunch, the stocky Ivanowsky almost invisible as he crouched characteristically behind the wheel. So close were the four cars that passing and repassing became thrilling in the extreme, and a signal was hung out to the driver of the Italian car warning him to keep farther to the right.
Among the smaller cars.
Among the smaller cars, Major Gardner's vivid red supercharged Amilcar was running particularly well, and had a healthy note. Wilkinson's sister car being a non-starter, he was upholding the honour of France alone, and was doing it well. Indeed he was keeping level, some ten seconds to the rear, with Davis's Aston-Martin, with whom he was on equal terms as regards handicap. The Amilcar's brakes squealed as the car slowed for the corners, while flames flickered dangerously through the burnt silencer as the driver cut out - so dangerously that once or twice an alarm of fire was raised; but the car never slowed, and fears proved groundless.
By the end of thirty laps Gillow's meteoric Riley had established a solid lead of 1m. l3s. over his nearest rival. Paul dashed up to the pits on his twenty-fifth lap and splashed oil and water into the tanks of his Lea-Francis. But three minutes counts for much in a close race, and when he drew away again Paul was not in the first five. His place had been taken by Sutton's Lea-Francis, while still Ivanowsky and Don continued their relentless pursuit, third and fourth. In fifth place now appeared the supercharged Austin, driven by the ever jovial Frazer Nash.
Slow though they seemed by comparison, the Austins were well up on handicap. Their cornering was less spectacular but none the less rapid, though once Waite's car hit the bank at the Gough and skidded across the road. Only the unfortunate Poppe's car was replied as "going slow,'' and came in to the pits at a quarter to four to retire from the fray. In addition, Sullivan's Lea-Francis broke a rocker, which put paid to its chances; and so the field began to thin.
But it was amazing how close the race was. One minute forty-six seconds covered the first five cars, and there were the pit stop's for fuel and oil yet to come. One jammed filler-cap, one plug oiled up, and the whole face of the race would be changed.
At the end of his thirteenth lap Nash did, in fact, decide to come in for a fill up, taking three precious minutes in the process, and then scuttled off again faster than ever to make up for lost time. At the same time Higgin, whose face was getting blacker and blacker, brought the Lea-Francis in for the same operation, taking only ninety seconds over the job, and then shot away with a roar that drowned the loud speakers.
By now the crowd at Mountjoy was five deep, and as the speeds went up, so the skidding went up in proportion. Higgin crashed head on into the sandbags, removing five of them; reversed, and dashed away again. Fierce duels were going on, Sutton scrapping with Ivanowsky, Whitcroft's and Gillow's Rileys cornering fast and yet their drivers were finding time to wave to each other. Horton's Riley retired, and then, to everyone's disappointment, Whitcroft's car packed up with crankshaft trouble.
At 4.40 the score board showed Gillow to be still in the lead with Ivanowsky second but the amazing thing was that, below these two, twelve cars ran almost neck and neck. As Ivanowsky crashed past the grand stand his pit held out a signal. It was an arrow slanting upwards, and its meaning was not hard to guess. lvanowsky put on yet more speed, but as he came round again the signal still urged him on to greater efforts.
Davis came in for oil and petrol, and, after what appeared to be a second's delay in obtaining the oil, dashed off once more. Still Gillow continued, spectacular as ever, broadsiding the corner at Mountjoy; and then, just as Ivanowsky looks like making a real fight for victory, Fate brings him to a standstill with engine trouble at the Gough. In vain his pit waits for him. The seconds pass, turn to minutes, and then at last, six minutes late, here he is again. But that stop has cost him second place. Hard lines indeed!
Don, too, had been leaving his share of trouble. On his 37th lap he was forced to change plugs. Again, on his 39th he was once more at the pits. The fiercest driving could do nothing to retrieve such a handicap, and Eyston, third and last member of the team, was left to carry on the fght.
A New Adversary.
Then came the rain. It had been drizzling at intervals all day, but this was something more than a drizzle. Sliding across the road at Ashtown on the far side of the course, Field's Lea-Francis buckled its near-side front wheel. He completed the lap with his wheel wobbling dangerously and came into the pits to change it, using the opportunity for refuelling at the same time.
Then disaster descended on Horton's Riley, which apparently found itself with nothing left but top gear. At Mountjoy it was so slow as almost to appear to stop altogether. But still the driver struggled on manfully.
Gillow's machine, on the other hand, was running faster than ever. By now he was six whole minutes ahead of Eyston, and leaping over kerbs and down banks as he roared past other cars with the agility of a mountain goat. It was amazing that the car stood some of the shocks it must have received. Travelling faster and yet faster, Gillow caught and passed Davis on the 1,500 c.c. Aston-Martin and was gobbling up the Austins like little fishes. On the fifty-ninth lap he wrested the lead on distance from Waite's Austin, to which he had had to concede nine whole laps.
But yet one could not help noticing that if Gillow cracked (and it seemed impossible the car could last the course), only Eyston stood in the way of a whole bunch of Lea-Francis, Aston-Martins, Alfas and Austins. It was still anybody's race. And then, next lap, it seemed for a moment as though Gillow had cracked. He came past the pits quite slowly, and gazing apprehensively at his rear wheel. But his amazing luck did not desert him and the next time round he dashed past as fast and as cheerfully as ever.
Then, at Mountjoy, Clive Dunfee coasted round with e a dead engine and retired, walking disconsolately back to the pits with his mechanic. He had not had the best of luck, and trouble with engine, and steering had destroyed his chances.
So the race drew to its close. There were still thrills to be had as Gillow, Cooke, Paul, Kaye Don and Ivanowsky took Mountjoy in one solid bunch with inches separating wheel from wheel, while fierce duels were still continuing between Lea-Franeis and Alfa-Romeo. But everyone knew that, bar accident, Gillow had the race in his pocket. Gillow knew it, too, and each time round his smile grew broader and broader.
The Final struggle.
The interest of the race lay now in the struggle for third and fourth places. At fifty laps Waite's unsupercharged Austin lay third and Paul's Lea-Francis fourth. At sixty, Frazer Nash had at last got past Waite, and Paul was fifth. But now Kay Don, despite his pit stops, was making fierce efforts to regain the time lost, and in the last lap succeeded in scraping past Waite to attain fourth place. For a most unfortunate thing happened. Waite was signalled in a lap too soon. He completed one more lap at touring speed, only to find on his arrival that a mistake had been made. There was nothing for it but to reckon his last lap as occupying some six minutes - as it did, since Waite imagined the race to be over and was only touring round the course. On this reckoning he finished fifth; but had he run the lap at no greater speed than his total average for the whole race - 4m. 21s. - he would have been classed third. Waite most naturally entered a protest.
So the race ended. The winners came in. Gillow, obviously a popular victor, was seized and chaired by his friends, apparently finding that method of travel rather more uncomfortable than a racing car.
The bouquets were duly presented by the wife ot the Governor-General, while the slower competitors still roared past at intervals in their endeavours to reach home before closing time. Then the crowd, damp but contented wended its way out of the park - and began be to look forward as eagerly as ever to the next day's race.
|Place||Driver and car||Time
h. m. s.
|1||Victor Gallow (Riley)||3 36 01||72.2|
|2||G. E. T. Eyston (Alfa-Romeo, S)||3 42 05||74.83|
|3||A. Frazer Nash (Austin, S)||3 44 52||65.94|
|4||Kaye Don (Alfa-Romeo, S)||3 45 22||73.74|
|5||A. C. R. Waite (Austin)||3 45 45||58.89|
|6||B Ivanowsky (Alfa-Romeo, S)||3 47 08||73.17|
|7||S. C. H. Davis (Aston Martin)||3 47 48||70.71|
|8||S. A. Crabtree (Austin, S)||3 48 06||65.01|
|9||A. T. G. Gardner (Amilcar, S)||3 48 55||70.36|
|10||R. M. V. Sutton (Lea-Francis, S)||3 51 18||71.85|
|11||Dan Higgin (Lea-Francis, S)||3 53 23||71.21|
|12||A. C. Bertelli (Aston-Martin)||3 53 33||68.97|
|13||R. S. Outlaw (Alfa-Romeo, S)||4 00 31||69.09|
|14||J. D. Barnes (Austin, S)||4 08 13||59.74|
|15||J. F. Field (Lea-Francis, S)||4 10 14||66.40|
|16||G. V. B. Cooke (Austin, S)||4 23 24||56.27|
|Driver and Car||Laps Completed|
|W. Sullivan (Lea-Francis, S)||21|
|A. H. Davey (Alfa-Romeo, S)||22|
|Clive Dunfee (Lea-Francis, S)||48|
|Cyril Paul (Lea-Francis, S)||67|
|H. S. Eaton (Aston-Martin)||16|
|G. Poppe (Austin, S)||25|
|R. T. Horton (Riley)||34|
|C. R. Whitcroft (Riley)||42|
|R. A. Linton (Riley)||69|
S = Supercharged
Class H - The Irish Independent Cup
Won by Sir Herbert Austin (No. 51, Austin, S)
Driven by A. Frazer Nash, Time: 3hr. 44min. 52sec.
Speed: 65.94 m.p.h.