23rd July 2013

ULSTER TROPHY 1 - BALLYCLARE

FARINA WINS - AS EXPECTED

IT WAS CONSIDERED A REAL COUP ON THE PART OF THE ORGANISERS OF THE TWO ULSTER TROPHY RACES, THE FIRST OF WHICH WAS ON THE ROAD COURSE NEAR BALLYCLARE, THAT THEY HAD PERSUADED/ENTICED ALFA ROMEO TO SEND ONE OF THEIR ALMOST UNBEATABLE 158s OVER FOR THE TWO RACES. NATURALLY IT WAS EXPECTED THAT THE DOCTOR WOULD WIN WITH EASE AND HE CERTAINLY DIDN'T DISAPPOINT.

ENTRY

The Ballyclare circuit is made up of a series of roads that pass through the green country side to the south-west of the town after which the circuit is named although the small town the track passes through and where the start/finish point is is called Ballyrobert. The capital of the province, Belfast, is a mere 10 miles to the south-east.

Whether the news that there would be a factory Alfa taking part was responsible for so many European drivers arriving in Northern Ireland is not known but although Ferrari and Gordini chose not to enter there was a decent contingent of cars and drivers from outside Great Britain who did choose to compete. Maseratis were driven by Prince Bira, Louis Chiron and Toulo de Graffenried from beyond British shores, plus Davids Murray and Hampshire as well, all five with 4.CLTs. Talbots abounded in the hands of Phi-phi Etancelin, Louis Rosier, Johnny Claes, Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Guy Mairesse along with Duncan Hamilton with his green one. One Ferrari graced the entry - the green Thinwall Special 375 in the hands of the experienced Reg Parnell.

The 'local' entries showed six E.R.As but with a couple of new faces behind the wheels. For the first time this season we saw Ernie Wilkinson about who nothing seems to be known and Philip Fotheringham-Parker from south London. Regular E.R.As were handled by Bob Gerard, Peter Whitehead, Brian Shawe-Taylor, who is actually from the Republic of Ireland and Peter Walker, the latter once again in the much more up-to-date E-type car. One Alta was entered, to be driven, not surprisingly by Irishman Joe Kelly, this car's performance having improved steadily as the season has progressed.

PRACTICE

In some respects, the Ballyclare circuit resembles a typical French road circuit in that it is basically triangular in shape with fast section joining the three major corners, much in the style of Albi or Reims. The longish lap gave practice times that ran to three minutes and more. To the surprise of no-one it was Dr. Farina who led the way in the first practice session. The Italian ace recording a lap in 3 minutes 6 seconds, to head Chiron, Parnell and de Graffenried at the top of the time sheets. Rosier was next quickest with the very impressive David Hampshire, who has already won twice this season, very close behind the Talbot. At the other end of the list came most of the E.R.As although Whitehead did very well to put his car into 13th place, much the quicker of the older E.R.As and right behind Walker in the much more modern E-type. Although it was no surprise to see Mairesse down among the British cars, to find Phi-phi Etancelin there in 17th was. However, the flat-capped Frenchman was confident that he could improve on his best time in the following day's session.

As the drivers familiarised themselves with the Northern Irish roads so lap times began to tumble but when the final practice session was flagged off it was quite a shock to find that Farina's Alfa was not on the front row of the grid. Nino had reduced his lap time by around 4 seconds but found that three others had improved their times by even more. Top dog and pole sitter turned out to be Louis Rosier who produced an excellent lap just one second over the three minute mark just enough to pip Reg Parnell's Thinwall Ferrari by three tenths with Swiss de Graffenried completing the front row a similar distance behind the green Ferrari. Farina was next up but there was the strongest feeling that he had not been putting absolutely everything into his laps but was just learning the circuit, confident that his highly superior car would be able to control the event the following day. Chiron's Maserati joined him on row 2 with Bira up next followed by four more Talbots. Etancelin's prediction had been correct and he jumped up to 10th with a lap that was miles faster than on day one. Hampshire was one of only two drivers who failed to improve their time in the second session; the other being Whitehead. Thus, Hampshire dropped from 6th to 11th while Whitehead fell from 13th to 17th. The five older E.R.As were all at the back with only Shawe-Taylor being able to get ahead of a non-E.R.A - the Alta of local man Joe Kelly slotting into 16th with the other 4 E.R.As behind him.

Here is the full grid order the 40 lap race:

   1.
4
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.01'00
   2.
17
R. PARNELL THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
3.01'34
   3.
15
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
3.01'73
   4.
9
N. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 159
3.02'51
   5.
16
L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT
3.04'59
   6.
7
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
3.05'69
   7.
6
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.07'16
   8.
8
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.08'67
   9.
10
D. HAMILTON TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.08'70
 10.
21
P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.09'89
 11.
11
D. HAMPSHIRE MASERATI 4.CLT
3.10'14
 12.
23
D. MURRAY MASERATI 4.CLT
3.10'23
 13.
18
P. WALKER E.R.A E-type
3.11'56
 14.
5
G. MAIRESSE TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.13'55
 15.
3
B. SHAWE-TAYLOR E.R.A B-type
3.17'20
 16.
25
J. KELLY ALTA
3.17'29
 17.
19
G. WHITEHEAD E.R.A B-type
3.19'58
 18.
2
R. GERARD E.R.A B-type
3.23'52
 19.
20
E. WILKINSON E.R.A B-type
3.23'75
 20.
11
P. FOTHERINGHAM-PARKER E.R.A B-type
3.26'06

THE RACE

Was Farina taking it east during practice? The first couple of laps of the race answered that question - yes he was. It took him no time at all to take the lead and within a few laps he was over the hills and far away from the rest. With 8 laps on the board he was 24 seconds ahead, which was all he needed. Reg Parnell made a poor start but by lap 15 he had worked his way into 2nd place but the Alfa Romeo was already out of reach so Reg settled for a steady drive to the finish and he was always able to stay far enough ahead of Rosier who couldn't reproduce his practice pace in the race. Chiron and de Graffenried ran 3rd and 4th early on but neither of the Maseratis made it to half distance, both crashing out in the Irish lanes. The best Maserati at the end was that of Bira who was simply pleased to have made the finish after a run of retirements. The Siamese Prince was the last unlapped runner.

Giraud-Cabantous was the only Talbot retirement and it was Duncan Hamilton who finished as the next best Talbot to Rosier. Four Talbots finished almost in line ahead but Hampshire spoiled the quartet by getting into 7th place behind Claes but ahead of Etancelin and Mairesse. Four E.R.As brought up the rear with Shawe-Taylor again proving to be the best of them. Whitehead's car was the only one of the five older cars not to finish but surprisingly, the E-type retired, for the first time this season.

So the first of the two Ulster Trophy races went as expected and the whole group packed up their caravans and set off for round 2 at Dundrod.

Here is the full result of the 40 lap race:

1.
9
N. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 159
2.05.23'06
2.
17
R. PARNELL THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
2.06.52'41
3.
4
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.07.02'03
4.
7
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
2.07.48'54
5.
10
D. HAMILTON TALBOT LAGO T.26
39 laps
6.
8
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
39 laps
7.
11
D. HAMPSHIRE MASERATI 4.CLT
39 laps
8.
21
P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26
39 laps
9.
5
G. MAIRESSE TALBOT LAGO T.26
38 laps
10.
3
B. SHAWE-TAYLOR E.R.A B-type
38 laps
11.
2
R. GERARD E.R.A B-type
37 laps
12.
20
E. WILKINSON E.R.A B-type
37 laps
13.
11
P. FOTHERINGHAM-PARKER E.R.A B-type
37 laps

Fastest lap:   N. FARINA,   ALFA ROMEO 159,   on lap 5,   3.02.05

Retired:
 
15
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
37 laps
 
25
J. KELLY ALTA
24 laps
 
16
L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT
17 laps
 
18
P. WALKER E.R.A E-type
15 laps
 
6
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
14 laps
 
23
D. MURRAY MASERATI 4.CLT
6 laps
 
19
P. WHITEHEAD E.R.A B-type
2 laps

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