MY YEARS OF MOTOR RACING ENGINEERING

Ralph O. Watson, 8/2/85

Although I had competed in Club events with a Singer Le Mans, my introduction to motor racing on a larger scale occurred in 1949 at the first race held on the Wigram airfield circuit. I was asked to help in the pit crew of Ron Roycroft and Harry Chatteris, who were racing a rather special Austin Seven. This was one of the 1931 single seater Brooklands racing cars with an offset drive, low seating position, and strengthened supercharged motor producing approximately 56 b.h.p.


Supercharged Austin Seven No.1, Ron Roycroft. 1949 Wigram 105 mile, Championship Road Race.

The clutch on this car, which had cast iron linings, suffered from slip when Ron tried a practice lap so we carried out the usual cure of pouring petrol into the clutch housing. This was accomplished with a funnel, which had to be held alongside the hot exhaust pipe while Ron revved the motor and Harry lay on the road holding a plug in the hole in the bottom of the housing. This procedure seemed to add to the excitement with a certain sense of danger!

Several other problems prevented Ron doing any worthwhile practice and when Halsey Logan, with whom I had become friendly, asked me how I thought the Austin would go, my reply was that it was in trouble and would not do any good. However this was to prove a poor prediction on my part.

On race day, Ron started from the back of the grid and was well through the field by the first corner. Later in the race a battle developed between Ron and Hec. Green, both having pit stops en route. Ron's first stop was to change a wheel as his outside rear tyre had lasted only 75 miles. On restarting a plug oiled, so he came in again and we changed all four. He eventually finished in sixth place.

Interesting specials at this meeting included Hec Green's Wolseley. This was a single seater fitted with a modified six cylinder, single overhead camshaft motor originating from an English Wolseley, special police model. The chassis was light and simple with quarter elliptic springs front and rear. It was quite quick and was to win the race the following year.

Halsey Logan's entry consisted of a 1936 Singer Le Mans motor in a Fiat Mouse chassis, and Pat Hoare had a similar car. When seen again in 1952, both of these cars were supercharged and Pat's had been fitted with a Vauxhall motor.

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