Testing Times

2015 FIA WTCC Barcelona

A quick trip to Barcelona last week for the FIA WTCC Media Launch. Under the new regulations introduced last year Citroën dominated the Championship with José María López taking a well deserved title. The French factory team probably expect to continue that state of affairs in 2015.

2015 FIA WTCC Barcelona

However it was clear that Honda has other ideas, there was a mood of quiet optimism present in the JAS Motorsport camp. The Honda has been revised and a lot of work has gone into improving the engine.

2015 FIA WTCC Barcelona

The Championship kicks off in Argentina at Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo on 8th March but the really big news is that there will be two rounds on the Nordschleife in May. That will be the first World Championship event held at the full Nürburgring track since 1983.

It is already on my to do list…………..

John Brooks, February 2015

Testing Times at Brooklands

The Special Correspondent has been spending some time down at Brooklands since finishing his Spa 24 Hours’ history. As is his wont, he regularly finds cars that are rare and/or interesting and the recent VSCC Driving Tests event was no exception to this rule. He shares this discovery with us below.

John Brooks, February 2015

2015 DB General

The Société des Moteurs Salmson made aero engines during the First World War as well as magnetos and other components; they also made some of their own aeroplanes. With the cessation of war contracts they diversified into car production and initially they made G.N. cyclecars under licence at Billancourt in Paris. This is a Salmson-G.N., recognisable by its brass radiator and steel body. Salmson- G.N.s were used after the war by the Paris police.

2015 DB General

This 1923 Crossley 19/6 tourer is powered by a 4-cylinder side-valve 3.6-litre engine. It has no front brakes and a 4-speed gearbox with the traditional right-hand change.
Crossley was a very versatile company, making engines, commercial vehicles and buses at their Gorton, Manchester plant and is remembered especially for its 25 h.p. RFC/RAF staff car which became standard equipment during the First World War.

2015 DB General

This Frazer-Nash BMW 319/55  was first delivered in February 1937. It is back at Brooklands after 78 years, having taken part with Don Aldington at the wheel in the 1937 JCC Brooklands Rally. It has a 6-cylinder o.h.v. engine.

2015 DB General

Rileys were at the peak of their powers in competitions in the Thirties and the factory entered no less than six cars for the 1934 Le Mans 24 Hour race. They were driven down by road from Coventry, calling in at Brooklands for some preparatory laps on their way to France. This Riley Imp, one of two specially prepared Imps for the race, was driven by Jean Trevoux and René Carrière but lost two laps early on in the pits for repairs to the tail following a spin at Mulsanne. This left it 44th and last but it recovered to 12th and 3rd in class. The car made up for this later that year by winning its class in the Tourist Trophy on the Ards circuit.

2015 DB General

Here is the famous Napier-Railton, a brute of a car! Commissioned by John Cobb with a view to tackling the World 24 Hour record, it was designed by Reid Railton and built by Thomson and Taylor at Brooklands. Gurney Nutting supplied the bodywork and Napier the 502 h.p. version of the First World War “Lion” W-12 aero engine with cylinders in three banks of four, giving it a capacity of 23,970 c.c.

The car won its début race in the 1933 August Bank Holiday Brooklands meeting but then went to Montlhéry to try for the 24 Hour record but tyre failures spoilt this. Back there again in 1934 but the very competent Riley driver, Freddie Dixon, crashed it. So it was over to Bonneville Salt Flats in America in 1935 and here the car took the record at 137.40 mph driven by Cobb, Charlie Dodson and Tim Rose-Richards. This success was repeated a year later when Cobb, Hindmarsh, Brackenbury and Rose-Richards pushed the record for 24 hours up to 150.6 mph.

After the war ownership of the car eventually came to the Hon. Patrick Lindsay who raced it at Silverstone in the 1960 Martini Trophy meeting, coming third behind two E.R.A.s. It now resides with loving care in the Brooklands Museum.

2015 DB General

An example of a rare “chain-gang” Frazer-Nash. This is a 1932 “Exeter” model of which only 5 or 6 were made and named after the London-Exeter Trial – Frazer-Nash cars scored twelve Premier awards in the 1931 event. It has the usual Meadows engine but the bodywork is by Corsica.

TAILPIECE

2015 DB General

Here is an offside view of the brute’s engine!

David Blumlein, February 2015

Heavy Load

2015 Retromobile

In Paris for the Retromobile, that great classic car show, that truly brings Gallic automotive flair out for admiration. Sometimes though muscle will beat brains, Goliath gets David and this 70 ton monster was the Big Daddy back in 1944. Nicknamed the Königstiger or the King Tiger it was, perhaps, the most feared armoured vehicle that the Allied soldiers on either the Western or Eastern Fronts would have to face.

Even at rest in the Porte de Versailles it has real menace and when the bellowing 23 litre V12 engine was fired up we all jumped for cover. If you are in Paris over the next few days get down to the show, it is packed with great cars.

John Brooks, February 2015

BPR Blues – how we got what we wanted but lost what we had.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series



















I have been at this internet blogging/posting/opinion lark for the best part of 20 years now. I long ago accepted that most of my output will hardly be read, much less commented upon, bloggers write for themselves for the most part. Back in late 1996 I was following the BPR Global GT Series. For a season and a half it had been absolutely fantastic, great cars, great racing but by the last few races in ’96 it was clear that it was doomed. The arrival of the Porsche 911 GT1 run by the factory had changed the landscape irrevocably, those of us who enjoyed the congenial atmosphere of the BPR howled in protest, those who were really in the business made more pragmatic plans for 1997.

The sense of frustration that I felt was articulated in the following piece, posted on, I think, Club Arnage, but I could be wrong, time does that. It had not long been up when I received a short, sharp, phone call from BPR, explaining that I was no longer welcome at their races and that my invite to Zhuhai had been withdrawn. Perhaps I deserved that, you can’t take The Man’s shilling and expect not to be considered a bought man and I was more than a bit direct in my piece. In any case I was just a minnow, easier to make an example of me than Michael Cotton or Jean-Marc Teissedre, a ‘pour encourager les autres’ sort of gesture, not that I would compare myself to those two giants of the sportscar media tribe.

I had severely pissed off Jürgen Barth, the B in BPR and re-reading the piece at the time I saw why, though these days we are reconciled and he later had the good grace to admit that most of what I written was on the money. Well it should be, I had good sources. So I stumbled across this document while looking for something in the archive and felt it was time to give it another airing…………somehow I don’t think that there are any invites left to cancel these days…………….

John Brooks, February 2015

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Since the summer recess and the trip to Suzuka we have had three rounds of the Global GT Championship organised by the BPR.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Four events have dominated the past six weeks. Ray Bellm and James Weaver have secured the title in their GTC Competition Gulf Racing McLaren by scoring victory at Nogaro, while similar results for Porsche Motorsport at Brands Hatch and Spa have threatened the very future of GT racing in Europe. The Harrods backed McLaren; victors at five races in the past year withdrew from the series amid a welter of speculation of family disagreements and financial problems. At Nogaro, the talented and popular GT2 driver, Soames Langton sustained serious head and neck injuries and still lies in a coma as this article is being written which makes all the political posturing and wrangles witnessed over that weekend pretty dam irrelevant.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

In that short space of time the general feeling of well being and contentment that was so evident at Silverstone back in May has evaporated in the face of the performance of the GT1 Porsche. Disbelief at Brands Hatch was followed by depression at Spa and last weekend discord and dissent at Nogaro. The series itself is in danger of falling apart with the three organisers at loggerheads with each other and with the teams.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

How has this state of affairs been allowed to develop and is the situation beyond redemption?

The teams are almost unanimous in their opposition to the decision to allow the works Porsche 911 GT1 to run in the latter part of the season. The objections are based on the fact that the car is not yet for sale in a road going form and is a brilliantly conceived racing car which COULD be adapted for road use – much like the Dauer 962 which won Le Mans in 1994. The guiding principle behind the concept of GT racing was to take road cars and adapt them like the F40 Ferraris and F1 McLarens to race on the track. About the only person who can hold this view of the Porsche GT1 with a straight face is Jürgen Barth who, aside from being the B in BPR, is also a manager in Porsche Motorsport. While Jürgen sees nothing wrong with this conflict of interest others are not so generous.

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The main objections to the newcomer are not based wholly on the crushing superiority displayed by the 911 at Brands Hatch and Spa – though this must feature somewhere, no one would care if it were slower. The objections raised by the more articulate existing competitors are firstly the Porsche is outside the letter and spirit of the regulations as currently exist, whatever anyone cares to say about it. Secondly the appearance of this kind of prototype will drive away the gentlemen drivers on grounds of performance and cost. Cars that develop shedloads of downforce and have ABS on their carbon fibre brakes will be outside of the current driving abilities of the amateur drivers, until recently the raison d’être for the series and certainly forming the backbone of the entry. As to cost, it is said that the Porsche engines will only run for a maximum of 30 hours. That means a rebuild every two to four races against, for instance, the V12 BMWs which are unchanged throughout the whole season excepting a quick check prior to Le Mans. The team overheads would rocket with additional “spanners” required for the ABS system, the turbos, the engine itself and also for data logging; this could amount to 3 or 4 extra guys per car which would put maybe £600,000 plus on to the operating costs for a two car team. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Another consideration with finance is that if the running levels get much above the £1-£2 million bracket that the top teams spend each season, then there is a little man in Prince’s Gate who has the opinion that such wealth should be going into Formula One and should not be wasted in sportscars or anywhere else. As history shows he is not beyond manipulating circumstances to ensure that this becomes the case. Also manufacturers only involve themselves in racing when there is some commercial payback so will not hesitate to up the ante financially till they are winning, driving away the private teams and drivers.

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However it must be acknowledged that, after Formula One, only Touring Cars provide an adequate TV audience and exposure for the investment required. Peugeot went into the Grand Prix arena in 1993/94 and reduced it’s outgoings from the stratospheric levels required to run a pseudo-F1 car at Le Mans for 24 hours. It was reported at the time that over £30 million was spent in 1992/93 which really is commercial lunacy, even for those receiving state subsidies on a French scale.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Those of us who witnessed a strong sportscar Championship, Group C, disintegrate in 1991 and 1992 will feel an uncanny parallel with the circumstances that are unfolding around us. Porsche indeed may regret their approach if they succeed in remaining eligible for the 1997 Championship. With the demise of ITC there are a number of teams and manufacturers looking to find an outlet for their sporting ambitions. It would not be beyond the bounds of reason that a Mercedes or an Alfa Romeo could commission Zakspeed or Dave Price Racing to build a two seater Grand Prix car which would blow the doors off the GT1 Porsche much like Jaguar, Sauber and Peugeot did to the 962 in Group C after 1987.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

The row over the eligibility of the Porsche has given a focus to the general discontent with the BPR Organisation. The teams have had problems with the way that the series is run. The proposal (made in June) to introduce two rounds to be staged in Brazil during mid December angered those who had already finalised their plans and budgets. Even when these events were no longer to be points-scoring, they seemed to be symptomatic of management that acted on day to day reactive basis, without any strategic considerations or appreciation of the obstacles faced by a team in running a race programme.

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At Nogaro the ire of the teams was further inflamed when Jürgen brought round representatives from Enna, which has been touted as the location of the first round of next year’s Championship. No one wants to visit Enna (and this has been made pretty clear in the past two months) or indeed any circuit which does not have proper facilities for the teams and media (such as Anderstorp, Nogaro, Paul Ricard, Brands Hatch or Moscow). The teams contend that there are plenty of locations with modern facilities that are crying out for the great package that is GT racing and that there is no need to return to any backwaters, no matter how friendly the locals. Sometimes it is held that this is not the fault of the clubs but of indecision on the part of BPR. At Anderstorp the organising committee put forward a proposal to alter the layout of the pits which would ease the problems faced by the teams but this went largely unheeded by BPR.

96BPRSuzuka_003

Where all this will go is anyone’s guess but the status quo will not be maintained. The three BPR founders, Jürgen Barth, Patrick Peter and Stéphane Ratel, are having a summit this weekend and the word on the street is that only B and R will be around to meet with Bernie Ecclestone next week. The FIA is expected to take over the TV rights, and possibly the series, which will leave the survivors out in the cold. Even if this does not happen then there are serious threats from the proposed German GT series which is being set-up out of the wreckage of the ITC failure, with big funding and the backing of manufacturers which will dilute support for the European series. There have also been rumbles from other parties who have threatened to do a BPR and arrange an international championship, properly funded and run through the FIA, and these are serious threats.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

As if this was not enough, Andy Evans was at Spa, having allegedly purchased IMSA (I lost track of THAT story while on holiday), and he was courting teams to go to his new GT based championship in the States. He had the fervour of born-again Christian when talking about GTs and sportscars, declaring that we have to get the young people involved (God not them again, can’t we just have a series for old farts like me, somewhere safe for us to dribble on about the good old days, when Oasis was something that Omar Sharif shot people over). Evans has the ear (and pocket) of Bill Gates of Microsoft and has to be taken as a heavy shaker and mover. Some of his pronouncements were a little hard to understand such as the assertion that he had agreed the take-over of TV rights on sportscar racing from Bernie…..as this is the real substance of the “Bolt’s” control over motorsport I found it hard to accept that this asset would be transferred but Bernie is almost always ahead of the pack, so it COULD be true for some arcane reason – perhaps it is the final expression of his contempt for this form of competition.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

While all this wretched politics has been going on what has the action from the tracks been like?

Well, the three locations of Brands Hatch, Spa Francorchamps and Nogaro gave an interesting contrast. Brands Hatch is a fantastic place to race and spectate but is dated in terms of 1990s motorsport with a lack of run off areas and cramped pits, it has the air of a faded 1960s or 1970s rock star trying to live off former glories when in fact the show has moved on.

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Spa offers Brands Hatch a vision of what is possible as it is probably the greatest circuit in the world, magisterial in scope and setting. It arose out the ashes of the original Spa public road course, which by the early 70’s was outdated for modern motorsport, though admittedly the Belgian alternatives were pretty grizzly, Zolder or Nivelles). Nevertheless the old Spa was a place of dreams and nightmares, representing the brighter side of the traditional track at the weekend were those sportscar icons backed by Gulf Oil, the Ford GT40 and the Porsche 917. This raised a sparkle in the eyes of those who witnessed Pedro and Seppi door handling their 917s into Eau Rouge in the 1970 edition of the 1000Kms. The revised circuit has distilled the essence of the great original in a way that the new Nürburgring has signally failed to do. The drivers love it as if you achieve something in the Ardennes it gives a sense of intense satisfaction, a job well done. On Friday night at the BPR dinner Lindsay Owen-Jones was bursting to tell someone (in this case me) that he had managed 2:22:0 on a track that was still drying off and from the look on his face and the emotion in his voice he had conquered his own personal Everest.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Nogaro was somewhat less grand than either Spa or Brands Hatch and epitomised the problems of racing at these upmarket club circuits. First it should be recognised that there is great enthusiasm and passion shown by the clubs at places such as Nogaro, indeed most of us would go back just for the food and wine, especially the wine…… but the pits were wholly inadequate for international racing with all the equipment having to be transported under a tunnel from the transporters and then back for each session. The accident which befell Soames Langton was handled in an exemplary fashion from the medical side. However one would have to question the judgement of those who did not bring out the pace car when the full extent of the incident and the length of time that it would take to extract the stricken driver became evident. (I have subsequently learnt how easy it is to be an armchair critic of Race Control and generally how wrong much of such criticism is and how easy it is to be wise after the event.) This is highlights one of the biggest problems facing the BPR series in the difference in attitudes and approach between those who go racing for a living and those who do it for fun and reconciling these two philosophies has not proved easy.

BPR Global Endurance Series

As for track action at both Brands Hatch and Spa it was as if a third class had been introduced above GT1 and GT2 with the appearance of Stuck and Boutsen in the Porsche. At both circuits the car was in a completely different race to all the others. It had more power, had better fuel economy, had better downforce, ABS brakes and in Stuck and Boutsen really experienced, very quick drivers, in short it had everything. The team had a vaguely embarrassed look on their faces when the car crossed the line for victory at Brands Hatch and then Spa.  Thierry Boutsen managed to introduce a Formula One-style bullshit press statement with some lame swill about how hard it had been and that something could have gone wrong at any time, blah, blah, blah. The Belgian got out of the 911 at Brands Hatch looking like he had taken granny for a trip to the shops, not been in a two hour stint behind the wheel of a racing car, he is not demonstrative at the best of times but here he was almost asleep. I don’t mind Porsche building a better car within the rules, but I do feel insulted when they try to convince me with PR gibberish that my eyes and brain are deceiving me as to the real action on the track.

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Ray Bellm and James Weaver took the title at Nogaro and most in the pit lane would say that they deserved it. Ray is far and away the best of the non-professional drivers and if he can be a little prickly to deal with, he has earned the Championship with five wins in 1995 and five in 1996 (if you ignore the Porsche at Spa). The partnership with James had the right combination of speed and pragmatism that title victories are made of. GTC Competition took a long hard look at why they were pipped at the post in 1995 and put these minor problems right and the result is there for all to see. Congratulations are due…..

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

At Brands Hatch and at Spa first lap indiscretions led to great comeback drives which ultimately did not get their just reward. John Nielsen tripped up at Druids and then drove the West McLaren on the limit for three hours but ran out of petrol within sight of the line, losing third place to the second Gulf F1 GTR of Lindsay Owen-Jones and Pierre-Henri Raphanel. At Nogaro a Touring Car-style attempt to win the race at the first corner by Peter Kox (substituting for a Japanese-bound John Nielsen) led to Jean-Marc Gounon in the ENNEA Ferrari F40 and Jan Lammers in the Lotus taking a trip into the barriers. Gounon got pushed back onto the track and appeared to wait for the race to be restarted by blocking the racing line, when that did not work he set off in pursuit already a lap and a half down. He drove the doors off the F40 and was visibly quicker than anything else out there. With 20 minutes to go he came in for a splash and dash while just 20 seconds behind the leading McLaren, Jean-Marc gave the clutch death by dropping it on the rev-limiter, braking a driveshaft or so it seemed from my angle. A poor reward for such a epic drive. He kicked the car in frustration………

BPR Global Endurance GT Series

Down in GT2 the decision of the Konrad and Roock teams to dispense with any further attempts to make the EVO 911 GT2 work and concentrate their efforts in GT2 has upped the ante for all the competitors in the class. At Brands Hatch and Nogaro Bob Wollek and Franz Konrad emerged triumphant after a long battle with the Marcos of Cor Euser and Tommy Erdos and the Roock Racing 911 driven by Ralf Kelleners, Gerd Ruch and Bruno Eichmann. The class victory for the season will now go to Ruch and Eichmann which, like their GT1 counterparts Bellm and Weaver, is thoroughly deserved, a solid performance from team and drivers, always on the pace.

Soames Langton, Rest in Peace

Soames Langton, Rest in Peace

If any illustration was needed of the great highs and terrible lows that involvement in motorsport will inflict on you the Lanzante Team will serve as a good example. Last year as a private team (with some help from the factory) they triumphed at Le Mans. Since Suzuka at the end of August it has all been downhill. Soames Langton wrote off the car in practice at Brands Hatch. Then a struggle with engine maladies at Spa appeared to end with a podium finish, till they were disqualified for Paul Burdell not doing the required time behind the wheel. Then came the accident at Nogaro last week with Soames suffering grievous injuries. Those of you waiting to read on your Ceefax of Damon Hill’s triumph in Japan (hopefully) will also get a message (page 366) that Soames is out of his coma and on the way to full recovery, at least that’s what will happen if there is any justice in this world.

Next it is off to China if there is still a series.

“It’s a funny old world” as someone once declared.

jb

Well I got the China bit wrong and tragically Soames never did wake up. He finally passed away in 2011, a blessed relief for his family and for him. I paid tribute to him back then HERE

The photos are from the 1996 season and give a small reminder of a time when GT Racing was flourishing. Indeed Stéphane Ratel celebrates the twentieth anniversary of his SRO outfit in 2015, bulging grids and great racing in his flagship Blancpain-backed GT3 series illustrate perfectly that he learnt the lessons from the problems encountered in 1996 to 1998 seasons. We are lucky that he did not allow the ship to founder.

John Brooks, February 2015 

Sonoma Sunshine

2001 ALMS Sears Point

Back to 2001 and Sears Point, that great little track across the bay from San Francisco for the X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma. Emanuele Pirro leads Dindo Capello in the werks Audi R8s, but by the Chequered Flag, the positions were reversed. A decent crowd turned out to witness the contest, a typically competitive affair in the American Le Mans Series during the early years.

John Brooks, January 2015

Everyone’s a Winner, Baby

1999 24 Hours of Le Mans

Is Smokin’ Jo on the hot chocolate? This impressive group of winners were attending the 1999 BMW Driver’s Training Camp in the Dolomites. Between them they have racked up sixteen victories at Le Mans, including 1999, so the training must have worked then, even if Jo is still on the gaspers. Some things never change.

John Brooks, January 2015

A New Year at Brooklands

2015 Brooklands New Year
The gathering at Brooklands on New Year’s Day grows ever bigger – over 1,100 cars turned up within its sacred borders! The weather stayed dry this year and amidst the rows of tedious MGBs, MX-5s etc., there were, as usual, some real gems for the true enthusiast to enjoy:
2015 Brooklands New Year
A.C. cars were very active on the Brooklands track during the Twenties, scoring many successes and setting many speed records. It was, however, John Weller’s superb overhead camshaft 6-cylinder engine which forged A.C.’s reputation, this unit staying in production for some forty years. Here we see one of the final expressions of the vintage 2-litre A.C. Sixes before the Hurlocks took over the company in 1930, ushering in a new era.
2015 Brooklands New Year
The M.G. 18/80 was introduced at the Olympia Show in 1928 but so was the first M.G. Midget. And it was the Midget line that would go on to create a future for M.G. The 18/80 was the first to use the traditional M.G. radiator and was a dignified model with many Morris mechanicals beneath the surface including a 6-cylinder overhead camshaft engine. The big M.G. came in Mark Ι and Mark ΙΙ forms and there were even five Mark ΙΙΙs, the Tigresse model. One of these, in Cecil Kimber’s favourite cream and brown colours, tackled the 1930 Brooklands Double Twelve race but it was soon clear that the heavy car was no opposition to the Aston Martin and Alfa Romeos. It mercifully faded early on, not with the advertised carburettor problems, but with run bearings. And that spelt the end of the 18/80 as a serious competition car – it was all Midgets from then on.
2015 Brooklands New Year
One certainly does not expect to see a Borgward 2400 at Brooklands! This is thought to be the only one in the country. Carl Borgward introduced this bigger model in 1952 to compete with the Mercedes 220 and Opel Kapitan. It had a 2337 c.c. 6-cylinder engine with hemispherical combustion chambers giving 80 b.h.p. and came with either a 3-speed box or the Hansamatic transmission which was to cause serious problems. Originally the car, a full 6-seater, had a sloping back but a fully booted version was introduced in March 1953. Sales were small with only 1132 made of which 356 were the second series with a 2240 c.c. 100 b.h.p. engine. The model was withdrawn in 1958.

2015 Brooklands New Year
One of these cars took a fine 3rd in the over 2-litre class of the 1953 Italian Sestrière Rally driven by Count Von der Mϋhle and former Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team driver Hans Hugo Hartmann who was to take charge of Borgward’s competition department.
2015 Brooklands New Year
And one also does not expect to find a New York taxi at Brooklands! This is one of the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victorias, for years the staple diet of the yellow cab fleets. It was an old-fashioned body-on-frame design. In 1992 it was given a 4.6-litre overhead camshaft V8 and in 2003 it had an all-new frame with re-designed front suspension and rack and pinion steering. The last one made came off the line at St Thomas, Ontario, Canada in September 2011.
2015 Brooklands New Year
A Riley once more on the Members’ Banking! Rileys were among the most competitive cars at Brooklands in the Thirties; this one wasn’t born then but the RM series carried on in many ways the company’s fine tradition in the early post-war years. They offered either a 1.5 or 2.5-litre version of the splendid high-cam 4-cylinder engines and boasted torsion bar independent front suspension unashamedly cribbed from Citroën’s Traction Avant.
2015 Brooklands New Year
During the Fifties Dick Jacobs was a familiar participant in British motor sport, invariably involved with M.G. cars for which his Mill Garage in Essex were dealers. He purchased this YB 1.25-litre M.G. saloon to enter for the 1952 Silverstone Production Car Race where its chief opposition came from Jowett Javelins especially that of Bert Hadley. In the race Jacobs managed to tuck in behind Stirling Moss in the big Mark VΙΙ Jaguar while being lapped and this slip-streaming brought the M.G. nearer Hadley whose Javelin then started to emit steam – thus Jacobs managed to win the class. In 1953 he did it again and in 1954 he won the class for the third time! This car is therefore special in M.G. racing history but soon was put back to family duties
2015 Brooklands New Year
To understand the weird Trojan it is necessary to appreciate some of the ideals of its designer Leslie Hayward Hounsfield. He had strong views about the place of the car in society and believed that speed was a bad thing for all concerned. He also disliked the idea of a car indicating social status, believing that style and fashion should have no place.
No danger of his contrivance conveying status! This odd machine has an under-floor engine, a twin-cylinder (with two pistons per cylinder) two stroke which drove through an epicyclic transmission with a big flywheel. The output was 11 b.h.p. at 1,200 rpm with exceptional low-end torque. He originally planned to have no bonnet, Lanchester-wise, but was advised that no one would buy a car without a bonnet, even though it was empty!

2015 Brooklands New Year
But they did buy them, some 25,000, and these were made for Trojan under licence by Leyland Motors from 1922-29 in their Kingston-on-Thames factory where Sopwith planes had formerly been made. And a Trojan stood alongside the big new Leyland Eight on the company’s stand at the 1922 Motor Show. Which of the two was most successful?

2015 Brooklands New Year

The Alvis 12/50 was an ever present part of the Brooklands vintage racing scene. C.M. Harvey used a special racing version to win the JCC 200-mile race in 1923 whereas the normal production car scored notable victories at the track including best on handicap at the 1927 Essex Six Hour race and winning outright the JCC 4 Hour Sporting Car Race that same year.

2015 Brooklands New Year

Here is a superb example with the duck-back tail treatment; the other is the beetle-back version.
2015 Brooklands New Year
It is indeed appropriate to see a Bentley Brooklands at Brooklands! Bentley produced two distinct models: a full-size luxury saloon replacing the Mulsanne (1992-1998) as shown here, and a fixed head version of the Azure, first seen at Geneva in 2007.

2015 Brooklands New Year

Just 550 of these were built up to 2011.
TAILPIECE
2015 Brooklands New Year

How can anyone suggest that Jaguar’ current F-type is prettier than this XK 120 Coupé?

2015 Brooklands New Year

David Blumlein, January 2015

Dockland Express

In automotive terms, if not in other aspects, 2015 is off to a great start, especially here in London with the first London Classic Car Show. Who better than ace snapper, Simon Hildrew, to bring us a peek at the riches on display? Put a date in your diaries for 2016, 18-21st February, you know it makes sense.

The Price of Freedom

Kerry Morse dropped me these lines regarding the murderous deeds that happened in Paris yesterday. I am currently bound for Maastricht and unable to access my archive. However, his words need publishing and I will add more photography in due course.

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Any tragedy is driven home when one has the slightest memory of an individual.

One of the twelve murdered in Paris was Georges Wolinski, aside from being a brilliant artist, he was responsible for several art cars that ran at Le Mans among other venues. The GT2 that was one of his most recognizable canvases is among the most loved of all Porsche models.
Wolinski’s art will always be remembered……
Kerry Morse, January 2015

The McLaren of Jane Austen – or The Pie, The Bull and other things…

The events that led to this fine story took place a few years back, when my friends Lizett Bond and Kerry Morse paid a visit to the UK. As usual when Kerry is around things get a little out of focus, nevertheless this tale is worth repeating and New Year’s Eve is as good as any time to do so. And it is also an appropriate time to remember those who are no longer here to celebrate a New Year, one such individual was Jim Bamber, the great cartoonist and artist who passed away in the summer. He is greatly missed by his friends.

So to those who persevere with this site, may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2015. 

John Brooks, December 2014

2013 General

Think of Jane Austen country. What comes to mind? Landed gentry, leisurely strolls through verdant pastures, sheep, cattle and, of course, the horses? Yet, might there be horses of another type hidden in those peaceful, green hills? Sense tells us this is prime horse country, what if sensibilities were interrupted by the roar of something that travels on four “legs” of a different kind?

I love horses. I cut my teeth on “National Velvet”. One of my favorite daydreams consisted of riding The Pie across a pasture, wind whipping my short hair. In this daytime fantasy, Mi coached from the fence line.

Imagine how I jumped when the opportunity arose to actually spend some time in the English countryside. When I discovered that the village of Bentley, my destination, was in Jane Austen territory, I adjusted, trading in Mi and The Pie for Colonel Brandon, Mr. Willoughby, and romance.

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Jane Austen country, so steeped in history, was soon to provide some modern surprises, and the contrast between historical and modern would prove pretty striking.

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There were several reasons to be in Jane’s neck of the woods.  First, the MP4/3 McLaren.  A Formula One racecar with historical significance and modern interest, I would have the privilege of observing the shakedown of this fine steed at the famous Donington Park racetrack.

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The second was to spend time with a Jaguar XJ and a bright yellow Porsche 997 Carrera. These fine carriages, provided by the manufacturers, awaited our arrival at Heathrow Airport after a flight from Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic.

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Our destination was the Bentley Mill Inn. Cars aside, during my visit I wanted to meld into the community and meet the locals. I wanted to belong, if only for a short time.

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It was dark as we rolled into the outskirts of Bentley, and after an unplanned tour of the small village, we found our lodgings.  Ann and David Hallett, proprietors of the converted mill, proved the quintessential English hosts. A cross between English country gentleperson farmers and extremely cultured, worldly travelers, we were welcomed into their home.  In spite of the comfort and quaint ambience of this establishment, there was an air of quiet refinement, as one would expect. A paper mill, originally built in 1640, the Bentley Mill sits virtually atop The River Wey.

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And there were more delights to follow. A short walk from the Mill sits the Bull Inn. The classic English Pub, right down to the fireplace, the locals and the atmosphere, The Bull Inn serves breakfast, bar snacks, drinks and dinner.  Oh, heaven!  If I wanted to experience another world firsthand, I’d found it. Or as Ms Austen would say, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other”. The regulars at the Bull Inn are right out of a PBS Masterpiece Theatre production.  Sandy, an occasional bartender at the Bull, is the perfect character to stand behind said bar, a lot of fun, and “Sex In the City” has nothing on her. One would expect an old curmudgeon, but instead, the owner of this establishment is an ultra modern sophisticate, driving a Porsche and vacationing in Vail, Colorado.

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Feeling as if this was now my local, dinner at the Bull became a nightly ritual. One special evening at the Bull was topped off by dinner with renowned race cartoonist and artist, Jim Bamber and his wife Sally.

How could one resist the urge for further exploration? In order to access the hamlet of Bentley from the Mill Inn, one has two choices; get in a car and trek the A31 or, the best to any traveler, stroll right out the front door, turn right on the narrowest country road ever and hit the footpaths through the pastures.  Bentley was meant for ambling and the juxtaposition of historical cottages and new mansions was marked as I sauntered along.  The imagination is well exercised with a pasture promenade and, like Jane Austen, I preferred “taking a turn in the shrubbery”.  I fancied an encounter with Miss Steele as I traveled the footpaths to the little village of Bentley.

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Another day trip included a visit to Austen’s home in Chawton, where she resided for the last eight years of her life and penned some of her best works.  The house is now a museum.

An excursion to the city of Winchester also provided some timeless contrasts. Being December, the weather was quite chilly and rather dreary, but a Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral, along with street musicians and the aroma of assorted treats, set the mood. I was transported to another century. Walking into Winchester Cathedral, I was struck by the presence of the humanity who had trod these floors before me.

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However, leaving Winchester in the comparative safety and luxury of a new Jaguar XJ jolted me back to modern times.

However, speaking of centuries past, The Bishops of Winchester inhabited Farnham Castle in the village of Farnham, for over 900 years. Bentley is just a stones throw from Farnham.

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Since my countryside reverie was about to be interrupted, combined with, or attached to, a trip to Farnham, I began to wonder just what this little escapade would bring to the table.  How could it possibly compete with Bentley, and Ann of the Mill, or Sandy of the Bull Inn, of sheep in the pasture, or ancient bibles, and, well, all of it? But seriously, as the purpose of the trip was car stuff, what could complete this trip more than a visit to the “shop” of a major historic racecar player?

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Once there, the contrast took my breath away.  Obviously a horse and cattle operation in times past, the fantastic barn had been restored to its original splendor. What was behind those wooden doors?  How about a fantastic collection of vintage racecars.  Vintage, in Jane Austen country, is a relative term.  What constitutes a vintage car?  Well, cars are a relatively new creation and Ms. Austen would not have known them, so we are modern/historical in a relative sense.  Our prejudices are just challenged. But I digress.

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The purpose of the visit is a photo shoot. And not just any old vintage racecar either; a McLaren MP4 Porsche powered F1 rolling stock. To record the event, eminent racecar photographer John Brooks is on hand, with all his paraphernalia, along with racecar historian Kerry Morse.  Their goal, to photograph the McLaren, in the mist, in the cold, in the historic setting, to express the essense of the car and the people who influence racing.

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But, wait, there’s more! Did I want a ride in an F1 GTR McLaren?  The ex Ray Bellm 1996 F1 GTR still in Gulf Oil colors?  Of course!  Did I realize what I was getting into?  Of course not!  This fabulous looking McLaren rolled out of the shop, still wearing those championship Gulf colors of blue and orange. It was, well, romantic and loud and full of horsepower. It was Colonel Brandon and I was in Jane’s countryside. It was The Pie and a steeplechase. I wanted to cut my hair short and pretend!  Did I turn down the ride? Of course not.

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I pried myself around the roll cage and into a tiny racing seat located to the left of the driver, as the McLaren is a center steer. Strapped into a seat that allowed for NO movement, I decided my safety was in the hands of my driver.  “These cars are built for catastrophe,” I told myself, and, “Hey, this guy knows what he is doing”. I plastered a quivering smile on my face and we were off. Nothing compares to a drive through the English countryside in a McLaren “street legal” racecar with a proficient driver.  Behind us, yet another McLaren F1 followed, this example being of the production type. Bringing up the rear came Brooks and Morse, in the yellow Porsche 997, trying their best to keep up with the McLaren duo.

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I could scarcely turn my head, partly out of fear, and partly out of, well, the inability to turn my head in such tight seating.  Feeling a bit like Plato’s workers in the Allegory of the Cave, I was aware only of what was going on directly to the front of me.  Conversation with my intrepid driver was impossible.  He couldn’t hear my silent screams, and his reassurances would fall on deaf ears. Not that he seemed to feel any need to comfort me.  I could see, in my peripheral vision, people staring at the ride. I focused on the road ahead, foot mashing an imaginary brake pedal.  Seriously though, is there anything cooler than traversing speed bumps, in front of a school full of teenaged students, in an extremely rare and fast car?

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As we sped into the countryside, cows, horses and sheep grazed quietly in a pastoral setting, not even raising their heads at the roar of the McLaren. I was able to see these creatures, sort of…they went by so fast!  I felt as if the cows were tigers about to be churned into butter.  Finally, we pulled into what appeared to be an upscale dairy.  Upscale, indeed. We’d arrived at a warehouse chock full of historic racecars.  Let’s see, historic racecars in a modern warehouse in the middle of land that makes me think that all creatures are truly great and small.   Old, new, old…wow, forget Mi and Colonel Brandon, even Mr. Darcy…bring me Mr. Firth, bring me Mr. Rickman!

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Eventually, I had to come back to reality, to my own half of the world.  I had to say goodbye to Ann and David of the Mill, Sandy of The Bull Inn and to Brooksie….the ‘other half’ of SportsCarPros.  A confession; the countryside, the Jag, and the sightseeing took precedence over Donington. While the intrepid crew of SportsCarPros was shooting away at the track, I was tooling around in that beautiful black Jag or in my own black riding boots, which doubled as walking boots.  After all, as Jane once wrote, “Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

Lizett Bond, December 2006