Disappointed to retire from a stirring lead scrap with German Alvis driver Rudi Friedrichs last September, Bentley Engineering Director Dr Robin Tuluie struck Pre-War Sports Car gold at Spa-Francorchamps on September 27. Tuluie’s unfeasibly svelte hand-crafted Pirate – a fusion of British Riley chassis and six-litre American Menasco air-racing engine – tore round the 4.352-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit on a wet but drying track on Friday morning to secure pole position. The combo overcame Tim Llewellyn (Bentley 3/8 Special), later to spin, among stout opposition to win the damp evening race.
Unable to live with Tuluie’s monster as the rain fell, Gareth Burnett (Alta Sports) backed off to finish a safe second and claim Standard and Modified car honours. Third overall, and darling of the spectators, was the gallant 1260cc Morgan Super Aero of Ewan Cameron/Sue Darbyshire, whose aspirational rain dance was not quite answered. Staggeringly, the intrepid Cameron, who started Sue’s black three-wheeler, was quickest of all through the speed trap over the weekend, clocking 98.85mph on lap three of the race!
Four weeks after the Formula 1 World Championship’s Belgian Grand Prix, from which Charles Leclerc emerged a first time winner for Ferrari, 31 cars arrived at Spa, the country’s hallowed temple of speed since 1922. First time out, Charles Gillett’s Frazer Nash TT Replica – a works entry for LG Williamson in the inaugural 1934 South African GP, a handicap race on East London’s 15-mile Prince George road circuit – was a star turn. Also a Brooklands and Brighton Speed Trials veteran, the red car was entrusted to Eddie Williams/Steve Smith. Better still was the smiling presence of Charles, humour and indomitable spirit undented by his massive Jaguar E-type crash in the Spa Six Hours 12 months previously.
Also attracting much attention in the paddock and on track was German Stephan Rettenmaier’s gorgeous British Racing Green Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM – a sister car to Lord Howe’s 1931 Le Mans winner, albeit this example failed to finish the French classic – plucked from the family’s mouthwatering collection of Italiana and fettled by Ingo Grimm.
In improving conditions, Tuluie laid down the best lap of 3m 43.158s (70.21mph) on his final shot, 0.718s quicker than former Ginetta Junior racer Oliver Llewellyn in the Bentley Special passed down from grandfather to father to him. Fresh from an enlightening trip to Northampton Motorsport’s rolling road – which resulted in an output of 84bhp from the JAP V-twin engine to George and Sue Darbyshire’s amazement – the Morgan gridded third. Not without drama, for a plug tip detached on the opening lap, thwarting Cameron’s initial effort, but a change soon had him on his way again.
Sue had to go flat out in the session’s dying embers to match Ewan’s time, her ultimate 3:45.136 charge pipping it by half a second. For a fleeting moment she was quickest of all in the three-wheeler before young Llewellyn, then Tuluie, strung together final flourishes. Despite a gyration at the chicane, Burnett set a class-leading 3:46.353 in the unsupercharged Alta for P4 on the grid. As ever, the versatile Irishman would be a force in the race.
Fleetest of the three Nashes was the familiar 1928 Super Sports of Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards on 3:51.138. This was four seconds swifter than a gaggle comprising Richard Hudson/Stuart Morley (Bentley 3/4½), Justin and son Ben Maeers (GN Parker Special), Martin Halusa (Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Zagato Spyder) and Clive Morley/Duncan Wiltshire (Bentley 3/4½), the last combo inside four minutes.
Michael ‘Rubens Barrichello’ Birch’s Talbot AV105 Brooklands team car completed the top 10, clear of Williams/Smith in the red FN on 4:04.321. German Heinz Stamm’s Aston Martin 2-litre Speed Model, sporting a replica of the windcheating period ‘Spa Special’ body, was 12th quickest, with the Riley 12/4 TT Sprite Replica of VSCC Speed champion Alexander Hewitson (shared with Colin Wolstenholme), Andrew Hall/Mike Grant Peterkin (FN Super Sports) and Spa debutants Angus Frost/Jim Edwards (Morgan Super Aero) in hot pursuit, blanketed in the 4:06s.
On their heels were Alan Middleton in the famous ex-Le Mans/Mille Miglia Aston Martin Speed Model ‘Red Dragon,’ Spa virgin Richard Iliffe – the 1973 BTRDA Gold Star rally champion in his Ford Escort RS days – aboard his Riley Kestrel Sports, and the indefatigable Jock Mackinnon, going great guns in his trusty Bentley 3-litre Tourer.
With rapid son Richard unavailable, Edward Bradley soloed his Aston Martin Ulster to 19th, ahead of Till Bechtolsheimer’s beautiful Talbot Lago T150C, the Bentleys of Sue Shoosmith/Gerard McCosh (3/4½) and Martin Overington in his Goodwood-winning Blower. It was great to see Sue’s long-serving car back in the fray, repaired since a thoughtless van driver hit it en route to the Silverstone Classic and scarpered!
Invicta guru Trevor Swete, the Delahaye 135CSs of Graham Goodwin and Freddie Smith, and the Bentley 3/4½ of William Elbourn pere-et-fils all circulated inside 4:30. Rettenmaier’s rangy Alfa, Dutchman Luc Slijpen – a welcome late entry with his white Talbot 90 – the Bentleys of Vivian Bush/Sebastian Welch (3-litre) and Guy Northam (4½) and the Aston Martin International of Polish stalwarts Marian Stoch/Jan Potocki rounded out the photogenic field. Incidentally, Jan is related to late 1960s’/early 1970s’ F2 racer Count Adam Potocki!
Tim Llewellyn blasted his torpedo-bodied Bentley ahead at the start of the 40 minute race, pursued initially by Tuluie, Maeers Sr, Burnett, Cameron, Wakeman, the fast-starting Birch (already up three places), Clive Morley, Hudson and Williams. Overington made most ground on the opening lap, growling his Bentley from 22nd to 17th.
Llewellyn Sr spun on lap 2, thus Tuluie took up the cudgels with Maeers, Burnett, team-mate Birch and Cameron chasing. Having posted fastest lap before rain intensified, Maeers relayed son Ben in to the Parker Special, but the twitchy hybrid was retired when a broken exhaust primary made its Curtiss aero engine sound rough. Tuluie and Burnett made their mandatory stops from the lead on successive laps, Cameron, Williams and soloist Birch coming in together after Robin.
As the order stabilised, Tuluie increased his lead over Burnett, while the super-consistent Darbyshire fought off Blakeney-Edwards to land an astonishing third place. Birch survived a spin at La Source hairpin to finish fifth from Stuart Morley who passed Halusa’s gorgeous Alfa on the last lap. Wiltshire guided Clive Morley’s Bentley home eighth, ahead of Middleton and Iliffe, who had enjoyed a corking battle with Stamm before the German slipped back and was lapped in the closing stages. Nonetheless, he was classified 12th, four seconds behind the Llewellyns, whose stop cost them much time. They finished third of the Bentley crews.
Hewitson/Wolstenholme, Overington, Mackinnon, Shoosmith/McCosh, Swete, Bradley and the Elbourns all completed 10 laps. Smith, Bradley, Rettenmaier, Northam, Bush/Welch and Slijpen did nine and the Polish Aston Martin crew one fewer. Among the retirements were Williams/Smith when the 1500cc Meadows engine’s cam gear broke, Bechtolsheimer’s Talbot with an engine problem and the Frost/Edwards Morgan which slid off-piste at Bruxelles corner.