On this day in 1949, we ran speed trials on the promenade at Weston-Super-Mare and for the first time, cars left the line side by side. Big names attended; 17 year old Peter Collins (future Ferrari F1 driver), Joe Fry (a leading hillclimber and competed in the British Grand Prix the following year), Reg Parnell (F1 driver and constructor), W Shakespeare (not that one) and N Mansell (not that one). Here’s the programme and how it was reported in our Journal.
Weston-Super-Mare Speed Trials
8TH OCTOBER, 1949
It is difficult to say at what precise moment this year’s speed trials commenced. For me, perhaps it was the sound of an “R” type M.G. being revved up on Thursday evening or the entry of H. C. Lones and party with Tiger Kitten on a trailer on Friday afternoon. Anyhow, scrutineering was well under way by 9 a.m. on the morning of the trial.
Use of the “rhythmic” timing device prevented any creeping at the start, thought some competitors just could not wait for the green light!
Practice commenced at 10.55 a.m. and it was soon apparent that the promenade offered less grip than the road, particularly at the start. McAlpine spun his rear wheels for 200 yards on getaway and snaked away into the distance. Lones got away well and made second fastest practice time in his class. Tipper was quiet and very fast in the Monaco. Mrs T. Woodall, driving a tubular framed car of ununual and original design broke a chain on getaway. Butterworth was fast, and impressive and a duel was anticipated with the Fry brothers but the Freikaiserwagen did not appear for practice.
In the Paddock all was not well. Garnsey’s “R” type M.G. had Iost a valve collet and the valve had almost dropped in. G. N. Richardson, with his R.R.A, looked slightly oily but albeit very cheerful. Hampshire (E.R.A.) and Murray (Maserati 4 clt.) were warming up tramsmissions on the jack. Norton (Alta) had been up till 3 a.m. repairing a fracture in the tubular front axle and then had to make the journey to the meeting. He said he wan too tired to practice, go his second run of 24.47 was very creditable. By this time Class 1 cars had been warmed up and called to the line, so over to the start.
CLASS 1. UP TO 500 c.c.
Great keenness was shown in this class. Out of 26 entries only five failed to come under the starter’s orders. Cars were started in pairs and ran steadily, times only varying by five seconds between fastest and slowest. C. A. N. May (Cooper) had a piston pick up, but got his clutch out in time and had the high spot removed and the motor running again in time for his second run. N. F. Rowland (Cooper), driving in his first event, was consistent and as fast an most of the bunch. Jeremy Fry in the Parsenn had some difficulty in starting up and was not outstanding. Tipper, driving the Manx Norton-engined Monaco, beat Lones in practice and went even faster on his second run to win from Parker (Parker Special) and Moore (Wasp).
CLASS 2. OVER 500 c.c.—NOT EXCEEDING 1,100 c.c.
The fireworks in this class were certainly provided by the Fry Brothers. J. G. put up a cool 21.13 secs. on his first run, and D. H. C. 22.38 on his second. The acceleration was colossal and the car disappeared from view before an “R” type M.G. had completed half the course. Dowson (Lightweight Special) sounded very crisp, and his unique engine certainly produces a lot of b.h.p. for 746 c.c. He made two good runs but had not quite got the legs of the Friekaiserwagen. Mrs. Trudie Woodall (Woodall) was not slowest with a steady 34 secs. on the promenade side, but stalled her engine after crossing the start line on her second run.
CLASS 3. OVER 1,100 c.c. AND NOT EXCEEDING 1,500 c.c.
J. Buncombe (H.R.G.), driving the only really standard sports car entered, had the misfortune to be paired with Richardson on his first run but had the legs of Hartwell’s Bugatti on the second run. Hampshire had the Parnell L.R.A. going very nicely indeed, and Norton perhaps felt better after his 24.47. Richardson’s note sounded a bit ragged in 3rd. but held the road very well and was certainly motoring at the finish.
CLASS 4. OVER 1.500 c.c. AND NOT EXCEEDING 2.000 c.c. UNBLOWN.
Tyrer was calm and fast with the FN-B.MW and Dudley Folland could not beat his time of 25.33. Toole, with the new Lea Francis-engined Special went well, although he was conceding 200 c.c. to the Fraser Nashs. Tony Taylor (Caesar Special) belched forth black smoke from his stub exhausts at the start but was nearly slowest. There was little between the rest of the field as most of the power units were similar.
CLASS 6 OVER 2,000 c.c.
A lot of famous and interesting cars were entered in this class and the atmosphere was a little tense as McAlpine took his second run on the road with Fry’s time to beat. Butterworth blew up opposite the Swimming Pool and scattered bits and pieces on the course. Rolt (Alfa) made a colossal getaway on the road, snaking all the way up through the box. Lloyd-Jones (Triangle Special) made two consistent runs but was not quite fast enough. Andrews in a V8-engined Diesenburg, was comparatively slow, as was Scott-Russell, both lacking in speed at the top end.
A solo run by a Fraser-Nash—no one quite knew why—closed the meeting. The rain which had held off came down in earnest and trailers and cars moved off into the murk. As the tail light of Turner’s Special trailer winked away into the distance I trudged across to the timekeeper’s caravan to get the result sheet. Peter Evans said : “That’s the end of motoring for another year, but not your sort of motoring perhaps.”
D. V. CROSS