The Relay Grand Prix (July 1931)

Torrential rain does its worst, an excellent and well organised event. Austin success at over eighty miles an hour

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To organise a race of the calibre of the Relay Grand Prix, a race of a type never attempted previously, and involvmg a larger entry than had ever been seen before in a single race, is a feat of which the Light Car Club may well be proud. It required courage, and it required hard work - exactly how much only those who have tackled a like problem can appreciate.

Of the total entry of sixty-nine cars, sixty-sixgathered together at Brooklands on Saturday morning last. Trouble there had been before ever the rice started. M. A. McEvoy's Hornet chose the evening before the race to explode as to the transmission with a thoroughness that bent the propeller shaft, tore out the gearbox and sent the floorboards flying. This occurred at 70 m.p.h. Nevertheless. the car appeared and ran.

It was a cosmopolitan collection of cars that drew up at their stations by the Fork. The latest thing in supercharged Midgets rubbed shoulders with the aged 200 Miles Aces Race Horstman. The works entry of racing Austin Sevens stood alongside Chaplin's bright yellow chummy model, a car with many thousands of miles to its credit.

Brooklands was honoured by the presense of Mr. Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Transport, and Mrs. Morrison. The Minister broadcast a few words to the competitors.

The loud speakers then opened proceedings by delivering a homily to the assembled band of drivers and mechanics. They were reminded of the international code of flag signals, and generally given good advice and encouragement. The fatal hour of 1.30 drew near. A. F. Ashby, whose special four-carburetter Riley was in its first bigevent, whiled away the time by wearing two crash helmets superimposed and sucking an orange. An anonymous enthusiast dropped a bottle of beer in the midst of the track, whence a huried party collected the fragments.

Punctually to time the two limit cars got away and the race had begun. They were Littlewood-Clarke's M.G. and Randall's Austin. For the rehandicapper had been busy, and had shorn off two minutes of the start alloted to No. 23 Midget team. At the end of this first lap. the M.G. was ahead, but next round the Austin had established a lead which all of Littlewood-Clarke's later efforts could do nothing to diminish.

During the pauses in the departure, by ones and twos, of the cars, it was possible to take a general survey of the handicaps. For one reason or another various last-minute alterations were announced, the most important of which was the increase of No. 2 Midget team's handicap from 8min. 30 sec. to 25 min 30 sec. The official team of Austins was paying the supercharged Midgets the compliment of accepting a three minutes start - though that was no great matter in a 280 mile race. The struggle would be watching.

By this time the track was filling up with cars. Outlaw's Riley was travelling very well with a good crackle of the exhaust, and lapping at 78.4 m.p.h.

Hamilton's was the first supercharged Midget to start, being teamed with an Alvis and Chaplin's Austin. He had cut extra louvres in the top of the bonnet to improve the cooling, but it soon became clear that he was not likely to repeat his Double-Twelve success, for the engine was spitting and misfiring. Within fifteen minutes he returned to his pits, the first casualty of the race, to change plugs.

Noble's Salmson looked unsteady and far from comfortable as it dashed over Brooklands' more notorious bumps. Chetwynd's Lea-Francis was not travelling too well, and the exhaust note seemed "wooly". It was no surprise when, to the accompaniment of a fanfare on the horn, he too, rolled up to the pits to change plugs. His luck was better than Hamilton's, for the change put new life into his engine, while Hamilton's car continued to pop and to bang until at 2.15 p.m. he gave up the unequal struggle and gave place to his "B" car. As it happened the machine in question, Holmes' Alvis, had broken a connecting rod in practice, so that the third car, Chaplin's Austin, had the rest of the distance to cover. The little yellow car went off amidst applause, and cries of "Only seventy-eight mpre laps"; but practical purposes Hamilton's team had shot its bolt.

Nor was all well with Conan Doyle's white racing car, the Slug. Time and again he came into the pits with water spouting from the radiator, and the engine never sounded at its best. The Slug thrives better on sprint hill-climbs than on ninety-mile track runs.

Meanwhile Cook's Aston-Martin had retired with plug trouble. It was reported that the plug threads had crossed and jammed. Certainly some cdd catastrophies overtook various entrants. One M.G. driver was held up for some while with crossed plug leads and the consequent refusal of the engine to start. The Midgets, however, were impressive. Their exhaust note was earsplitting and their lap speed in the neighbourhood of ninety. Two other cars that were running with notable regularity were Littlewood-Clarke's M.G. and Berry's Frazer Nash. But at half-past two disaster overtook the latter. By the Member's bridge his magneto petered out, and the driver hurried back to hand over the sash to Ponting. Maclachlan's Lea-Francis, of No. 8 team, was lapping at 95 m.p.h., and was one of the fastest cars in the event.

By now all the "A" class were in the race. Lowe's Morgan three-wheeler, the scratch mmachine, was crackling round at high speed, keeping amazingly close to the outside edge of the track and going all it knew at 91.38 m.p.h. to make up nineteen laps on the limit men. These latter, of course, were still leading. The actual order at 2.20 p.m. being No. 22, Miss Worsley's Austin team, first, at 77.15 m.p.h, followed by Marriage's Austins at 70.14 m.p.h. , and then Littlewood-Clarke's M.G. Midgets.

Then Randall, of No. 22 team, stopped on his twenty-ninth lap by the aeroplane sheds, with a broken valve, and almost at the same time Higgin came to grief with a gasket blown. He dashed back and passed on the token to Barnes. It was now ten minutes to three, and Marriage's Austin, still leading, compleated its thirty laps, leaving D'Arcy Browne to take up the chase. Then Anthony's Astor-Martin and Noble's Salmson finished almost neck and neck, but the former's partner was the first to get away.

At three o'clock No. 21 Marriage's Austin team, were in the lead, while Anthony's team had moved up to second place, followed by Cyril Pauls "mixed grill." But the back-markers were gaining ground, and - an ominous sign - great black clouds were piling up from the west.

One after another the "A" cars arrived home, glad to have completed their task before the weather broke. The Earl of March, driver of the supercharged Midget 3B, ruefully remarked that he always got the rain. And this time he certainly did. At five minutes past three the drops began to fall. By ten past it was coming down heavily, and by 3.15 the heavens had opened and it was streaming down in sheets.

Rarely has Brooklands experienced such a storm. The track grew waterlogged. Puddles became pools. Pools became lakes. The track became a sea. Marshals splashed along ankle deep in water. Dnvers, mechanics, spectators, all were soaked to the skin. Visibility was measured in yards. As cars approached the pits from the Byleet banking they were hidden in spray from the hubs downward. It is literally true that a car going under The Autocar bridge was invisible from the Fork. Speeds dropped by thirty miles an hour. The unfortunate Morgan drivers could hardly make headway at all. Water rose on all sides like the explosion of shells, deluging all within range.

The drivers stuck to their jobs amazingly well. The Austins, especially Waite's team, were magnificent, lapping at 80.3 m.p.h., and dashing through the blinding rain at full throttle. Once Barnes skidded badly at the Vickers turm, but carried on without slowing.

Martin's Riley hit the bank after only two laps as the driver attempted to adjust his visor, and retired. Masters found that the rain had short-circuited three of the four plugs of his Aston-Martin, and Gardner twice complete set of plugs for his M.G.

On the far side of the track Mrs. Chetwynd's M.G. skidded on the rain soaked surface, spun round and capsized. The driver's first thought was for her mechanic. Finding him uninjured, she started to walk back to the pits, and it was not till she had almost completed her journey that she was discovered to have injured her arm sufficiently seriously to need hospital treatment. A very plucky show.

At four o'clock Marriage's team was still leading, but J. Street's entry, No. 9 team, was now in second place having averaged 76.03 m.p.h. Third came Anthony's team, and fourth Miss Worsley with three more Austins. D'Arcy Browne dashed in for a refill of oil and was away again. Stonard's Riley, which had been lapping very consistently in the rain at 86 m.p.h., was delayed with a choked fuel pipe just as it was making a bid for third position.

But behind all these teams two of the back-markers were steadily gaining. They were Waite's and Elwes' teams. Goodacre, Waite's third driver, was gaining eight seconds a lap on Elwes, and the latter was definitely slowing. At 4.52 p.m. Elwes came into his pit. Three minutes later Goodacre passed him, and almost exactly at five o'clock he reached first place by passing de Bellerocho the "C" driver of No. 21 team. It was useless for Bellerocho to skid to his pits with locked wheels in his hurry. The official supercharged Austins were amazingly fast and amazingly consistent.

Nothing save a calamity could now rob Austins of their win, and ten minutes later the chequered flag waved and Goodacre, soaked to the skin but triumphant, flashed over the line. The team's speed was no less than 81.77 m.p.h., including the change over of the token. Two minutes later the second team, entered by Elwes and comprising a Lea-Francis, a Riley and an Austin, was flagged in, and within four more minutes the third prize winners, P. W. Marriage's Austin team reached home. Austins first and third, with an Austin in the second team as well! Truly a triumph and a real revenge over their friendly rivals the M.G. Midgets for their Double-Twelve and Dublin defeats. And by the irony of chance it is the M.G. Challenge Trophy, the gift of Mr. Cecil Kimber, that will commemorate their victory.

Relay Grand Prix Results
Entrant Driver and Car Handicap
m. s.
Finishing Time
h. m. s.
1. A. C. R. Waite L. Cushman, Austin (S)
J. D. Barnes, Austin (S)
C. Goodacre, Austin (S)
11 30 81.77 3 45 17
2. J. C. Elwes A. N. Maclachlan, Lea-Francis (S)
A. M. C Jameson, Riley
J. C. Elwes, Austin (S)
13 0 80.14 3 47 28
3. P. W. Marriage P. W. Marriage, Austin
A. d'Arcy Browne, Austin
R. R. M. de Bellerocho, Austin
52 0 65.01 3 51 49
4. J. Street R. L. Duller, Bugatti
J. A. Robinson, Bugatti
G. G. L. Willis, B. C. Special
14 30 76.03 3 56 4
5. Hon. Mrs. Chetwynd Hon. A. D. Chetwynd, Lea-Francis (S)
Hon Mrs. Chetwynd, M.G. Midget
F. S. Hutchens, Wolseley Hornet
30 0 68.50 3 59 7
6. C. Anthony C. Anthony, Aston Martin
C. E. Wood, M.G. Midget
A. Jones, M.G. Midget
40 30 64.46 3 59 11
7. Earl of March H. D. Parker, M.G. Midget (S)
Earl of March, M. G. Midget (S)
G. K. Cox, M. G. Midget (S)
8 30 75.18 4 4 15
8. C. A. Paul R. S. Outlaw, Riley
C. H. Masters, Aston-Martin
C. A. Paul, Windsor
46 30 60.69 4 13 41
9. R. Littlewood-Clarke R. Littlewood-Clarke, M.G. Midget
S. Pepper, M.G. Midget
P. H. Lim, M.G. Midget
54 0 58.25 4 16 34
10. R. R. Jackson R. T. Horton, M.G. Midget (S)
R. R. Jackson, M.G. Midget (S)
A. T. G. Gardner, M.G. Midget (S)
8 30 70.14 4 18 23
11. Miss V. Worsley E. C. H. Randall, Austin
Miss V. Worsley, Austin
A. G. B. Wood, Austin
54 0 56.17 4 26 2
12. G. H. Goodall H. C. Lones, Morgan
A. C. Maskell. Morgan
T. A. Rhodes, Morgan
5 0 71.84 4 27 0

(S) = Supercharged