31st July 2012

BRITISH EMPIRE TROPHY
Douglas, Isle of Man

PARNELL MAKES HARD WORK OF IT

This should have been an easy day for Reg Parnell and the extremely powerful V.16 B.R.M BUT just as in almost every one of its appearences this season, the car did not run cleanly for the whole distance and in the end Reg was somewhat fortunate to come away with the victory. Three other drivers all had a shot at winning but two crashed and the other lost all his the pace just as he hit the front.

ENTRY

This race was run on an almost four mile circuit that used some of the pit straight of the motor cycle T.T. circuit, including the pit area. However, it turned right soon after the start and then followed a basically triangular course, skirting the northern edge of Douglas before rejoining the T.T. course briefly before leaving it again, to run down into the centre of Onchan, turning sharp right to run back along the T.T. start and finish straight.

The entry for the race was, as expected, predominently British although there were four foreign cars and two drivers not from these islands. Prince Bira from Siam was there, of course, with his 4.CLT Maserati, while young Roy Salvadori and David Murray from Scotland also had 4.CLTs. The other foreign car was also Scottish-driven; this was Duncan Hamilton in his green Talbot Lago. The other non-British driver was, rather surprisingly, the Argentine Froilan Gonzales who had accepted an invitation to try his hand at a V.16 B.R.M, partnering regular driver Reg Parnell. Subsequently, I imagine that he wished he hadn't bothered,

The remainder of the entry is entirely British, as long as one allows for Rob Walker's E.R.A-Delage in the hands of Tony Rolt, as usual. There will be no less than six E.R.As competing, with Leslie Johnson in the new E-type and Gerard, Harrison, Mays, Ashmore and Peter Walker in the older, upright cars.In addition both the Altas are to run, Crossley and Kelly being the drivers, while Stirlig Moss and George Abecassis will be handling the small but nippy H.W.Ms.

PRACTICE

Reg Parnell was the quickest driver in both practice session, and Stirling Moss was second to Reg in both. The gap between them was over 2.5 seconds although in a three minute lap, this was not a huge margin. Reg was fastest in the second session of practice but only a fraction quicker than Moss, neither driver beating his first session time.

Salvadori, Hamilton and Bira were next up in practice 1 but a huge margin behind the front two, over four seconds from Moss and almost seven from Parnell. Salvadori failed to improve on his time in Practice 2 but Bira jumped to third, reducing the gap to Moss, while Hamilton improved too but remained 4th. Mays and Johnson in their E.R.As both got ahead of Salvadori on the grid; Johnson being extremely smooth in the long E-type E.R.A but he was not as quick as Raymond Mays who benefitted from a widened rear track on his car and went absolutely magnificently,

The other E.R.As were well spaced with Walker close to Mays, Gerard three seconds back and the other two a further seven behind Bob's bright green car. A time of 3 minutes 22 was a triumph for Cuth Harrison who had a woeful first session, spinning frequently and hardly putting in any decent laps at all. His time in that session was almost three and three quarter minutes. As expected, the Delage and the two Altas brought up the rear, but what of Gonzales and the second B.R.M? In the first session the car was all over the place and the Pampas Bull could hardly get it around the corners. His best time was 12 seconds down on his team-mate. In between sessions the team changed the gearbox and made various other alterations and although Froilan improved his time by five seconds, the car was still clearly not behaving as it should.

Here is the full grid order the 36 lap race:

   1.
2
R. PARNELL B.R.M V.16
3.06'02
   2.
7
S. MOSS H.W.M
3.08'59
   3.
17
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
3.10'05
   4.
5
D. HAMILTON TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.10'42
   5.
4
R. MAYS E.R.A B-type
3.12'44
   6.
16
L. JOHNSON E.R.A E-type
3.12'53
   7.
6
R. SALVADORI MASERATI 4.CLT
3.12'62
   8.
9
P. WALKER E.R.A B-type
3.12'71
   9.
1
F. GONZALES B.R.M V.16
3.14'00
   10.
8
G. ABECASSIS H.W.M
3.14'64
   11.
3
R. GERARD E.R.A D-type
3.15'56
   12.
12
D. MURRAY MASERATI 4.CLT
3.16'66
   13.
10
C. HARRISON E.R.A D-type
3.22'71
   14.
11
J. ASHMORE E.R.A B-type
3.22'80
   15.
14
G. CROSSLEY ALTA
3.23'82
   16.
18
T. ROLT E.R.A DELAGE 15S.8
3.27'30
   17.
15
J. KELLY ALTA
3.29'32

THE RACE

The V.16 B.R.M's tendency not to run cleanly for a whole race distance was never shown better than in Douglas. Reg Parnell took an expected lead from the start but Duncan Hamilton, from the outside of the four-car front row, stuck resolutely to the tail of the B.R.M with his green Talbot and initially refused to be shaken off. Six laps in the gap was only half a second with Moss, already 15 seconds adrift. Duncan was unable to maintain this pace and he fell back quickly leaving Moss in second place and Bira, who had made a terrible start, falling down to 9th place early on, in third. Approaching half distance, the first three remained in the same order and the gaps remained roughly what they were from about lap 10 - although Bira edged a little closer to Moss.

Things begun to change around lap 20 when the B.R.M commenced its usual misbehavious. Parnell's lap times lengthened dramatically and in no time Moss had passed him with the little H.W.M, going superbly as usual. Bira too was struggling at this point and he dropped back to 40 seconds behind Parnell and only just ahead of the steady Hamilton. Moss led by 6 seconds on lap 24 and was looking good but on lap 29 the H.W.M left the track on a fast curve and was out of the race. Parnell's plight had worsened and within just ten laps, he lost a full minute to Bira, who suddenly found some speed, setting fastest lap on lap 28. With but six four mile laps left, it appeared to be all over but suddenly the B.R.M engined decided to behave properly and this coincided with Bira's Maserati doing just the opposite. A 20 second deficit was rapidly erased and the Siamese Prince could do nothing as Parnell swept by to take an expected but hardly convincing victory.

In fact, there was a point around lap 30 where Duncan Hamilton looked as though he might surprise them all but he overdid it at the slow right-hander after the start and damaged the rear suspension of his Talbot, putting himself out of the race. The retirements of Moss and Hamilton meant that third place was magnificently achieved by Raymond Mays in his black E.R.A, which had run in the top six all race and once he got the better of Leslie Johnson in the newer, E-type E.R.A, he was promoted to a brilliant third at the end. Johnson ran smootly all race and was a delighted fourth, followed home by two more of the venerable old E.R.As of Joe Ashmore and Peter Walker. Behind them came a very disappointed David Murray, whose Maserati was never running properly all weekend and finally the gallant Tony Rolt in the Delage which sat firmly in last place for the entire race although he was not so far behind Murray at the end.

Over half the cars that started never made it to the finish. Both Roy Salvadori in his Maserati and Froilan Gonzales in the second B.R.M made some progress but both retired with cars that were failing - engine in Roy's case and the Argentine, who is a brave man, decided to put his own safety first and gave up the struggle with the car as it was beginning to frighten him. Abecassis did not last very long with his H.W.M and both Altas retired although Joe Kelly said he thought they were making some progress with the cars. Only two of the E.R.As retired - Bob Gerard, who found his car handling rather poorly and took things very gently before abandoning the event with braking difficulties and Cuth Harrison, who lasted until lap 30 before retiring for the same reason.

Here is the full result of the 36 lap race:


1.
2
R. PARNELL B.R.M V.16
1. 59. 10'65
2.
17
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
1. 59. 28'44
3.
4
R. MAYS E.R.A B-type
2. 00. 42'73
4.
16
L. JOHNSON E.R.A E-type
2. 01. 38'31
5.
11
J. ASHMORE E.R.A B-type
35 laps
6.
9
P. WALKER E.R.A B-type
35 laps
7.
12
D. MURRAY MASERATI 4.CLT
34 laps
8.
18
T. ROLT E.R.A DELAGE 15S.8
34 laps

Fastest lap:   B. BIRA,   MASERATI 4.CLT,   on lap 28,   3.09'67

Retired:
 
5
D. HAMILTON TALBOT LAGO T.26         30 laps
 
10
C. HARRISON E.R.A D-type         29 laps
 
7
S. MOSS H.W.M         28 laps
     3 R. GERARD E.R.A D-type         25 laps
 
1
F. GONZALES B.R.M V.16         20 laps
 
15
J. KELLY ALTA         17 laps
 
6
R. SALVADORI MASERATI 4.CLT         13 laps
 
14
G. CROSSLEY ALTA           9 laps
 
8
G. ABECASSIS H.W.M           3 laps

DOUGLAS DOODLINGS:

  • One of these days a B.R.M is going to run faultlessly and the rest won't see which way it went.
  • Reg Parnell was a very relieved man at the end. It had been a difficult race but at least it finished well.
  • Both Hamilton and Moss were very annoyed at having crashed. Both feel that they might well have won.
  • Bira was disappointed that his car's engine went off-song towards the end because he undoubtedly had the pace to win.
  • A fractional increase in the rear track measurement seems to have transformed the handling of the Mays E.R.A.
  • Other E.R.A owners are expected to follow suit - some even before the upcoming Gransden Lodge Trophy.
  • Strangely (or maybe not) BOTH Altas shed their left front whells. Clearly a weakness there.
  • The excellent reliability shown by the E-type E.R.A was maintained. It doesn't seem to matter who drives it, it finishes.
  • Roy Salvadori was disappointed with the performance of his Maserati. It seemed to have very poor straight line speed.
  • There are only nine cars entered at Gransden Lodge and Reg Parnell would seem to be favourite with a 4.CLT Maserati.

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