Preparing for the International
Great Britain’s Trophy and Vase team selected after strenuous tests at Bagshot Heath and Brooklands.
This is my 100th Speedtracktales Blog Post and whilst this is not as expected the final instalments of the 1939 issue of the translated Motorrad report, here is an article that appeared in the 6th July 1939 issue of ‘the Motor Cycle‘ and covers the event held by the ACU to arrange the selection for the official British teams sent to take part in the ‘Great Escape’
I would like to dedicate this post to Taff Isaacs .. who was part of the original idea and also to an old friend and Six Day rider, Bill Kershaw, who I was lucky to talk to today and has always been a rich seam of knowledge and experience in my past years with the Welsh enduro scene.
GREAT Britain’s Trophy Team in this year’s International Six Days Trial will be George Rowley, Vic Brittain and Allan Jefferies on solos and H.J.Flook, with his brother as passenger, the side car member. This decision was arrived at last week after sixteen of the selected riders had been put through strenuous tests on Bagshot Heath and at Brooklands.
The selection of the teams this year has been more than usually difficult because the trial has been altered in several respects. The most important change is the substitution of a cross-country test for the speed test at the conclusion of the trial. This in itself has meant a revision of ideas in regard to the preparation of the machines, and while it is not yet known what this cross-country course will be like, most of the British riders are preparing trials-type machines instead of modified racing models.
But high-speed reliability and easy starting are also essential features for successful machines, because high averages will be set on the autobahnen during the course of the trial, while on each morning it is probable that a severe easy-starting test will be used.
Thus the selectors had several new things to bear in mind when choosing the final team.
It was a glorious day for the tests and everyone was in high spirits at The Jolly Farmer, Bagshot, where the party assembled. Soon after nine o’clock a move was made to the Heath, where the first tests were to be held. The Bayswater Club’s scramble course had been marked out by the Army the day before and headquarters were established at the start.
Naturally there was a good deal of activity; riders were making final adjustments to their machines, numbers were being tied on, and the Barbour representative was doing his best to get the measurements of everyone so that their International suits can be made.
There was little novelty in the way the machines had been prepared. Nowadays people have similar ideas on the best way of coping with likely trouble. Punctures are still the greatest cause of worry, but quickly detachable wheels, special tommy nuts and compressed-air bottles have lessened their seriousness, and these fittings were the general rule.
Charlie Rogers had a neat holder for his two tyre levers on the front down tube, but most people held their levers to the machines with rubber bands. Spare fork springs were popular, for cross gullies can put paid to a spring, particularly if one has to make up time on this sort of section. R.Wilkinson had a spare spring complete with to plug attached to a special bracket on the front engine plate. This machine had obviously been prepared yery carefully for there was a separate chain oiler behind the saddle, a holder for spare plugs under the saddle, while split pins and spare brake yoke pins were wired to the front tank bracket out of the way, yet handy enough if required.
The three Ariels of Heath, Povey and West all had a separate feed to the rear of the cylinder barrel, but Len was the only one who had a spring frame. Most people had air cleaners. And the one on Rogers’ Royal Enfield was by far the largest; it is a modification of the standard air cleaner fitted to the 1939 Royal Enfields. The machine is a three fifty, but the new 500c.c. brake and forks are fitted.
Several of the riders had the new Dunlop sports tyre on the rear wheel, but wear for the front wheel was by no means universal. The new tyres have been produced specially for the “International”; the tread is very similar to the present competition tyre, the main difference being that there are side knobs in each row of studs instead of in alternate rows.
Proceedings began officially with two practice laps of the scramble course, with W.A.West leading the way as he knows the course as well as anyone. On the second lap some of the men went off the route and arrived at the top of Red Road instead of at the bottom. Allan Jefferies was obviously trying hard to memorise the course, for he just pottered round a goodway behind everyone and, incidentally, missed all the dust.
Then eight of the riders were sent off at half minute intervals to cover five laps as fast as they could. Those men who knew the course had a distinct advantage and G.Eighteen was not long in catching up the man in front of him. The Rudge riders, MacGregor, Leslie and Edward. Went round in close company after the first lap, and Leslie seemed the neatest of the three on Red Road. On the last lap MacGregor came past with his left foot on the exhaust pipe; the footrest had gone in a spill.
In the second batch of riders, West was the fastest and was obviously riding as quickly as he could Heath was little slower on time, but by comparison he appeared to be touring and the rear springing made the machine rock steady at many of the points where the “rigids” were bouncing about badly. Rogers and Jefferies were fast without firework, but Tiffen did not seem to be exerting himself. On the last lap West’s filler cap flew off, and over a bad bump petrol splashed out of the tank and momentarily blinded him. He was travelling quickly and took a heavy toss.
The riders then dispersed for lunch and were told to gather at Brooklands at two o’clock. The prospective Army riders – 12 are to be chosen to go to Germany – then covered two laps of the course. L/Sgt. Rist (B.S.A.) was faster than most of the civilian riders, and G.M.Berry(Triumph) also put in two very useful laps. Several men had falls, and Lt. Reilly did a spectacular somersault almost under the noses of the little group of people who were watching the tests.
After lunch Dr. Galloway gave the riders medical examination and also advised some of them as regards diet. The doctor proposes to give the team-men gland treatment at a later date, and this announcement naturally caused a good deal of humour.
several men had their wheels out while others were still unpacking their tools
A move was then made to the Fork, where the sliders were lined up at the side of the track. At a given signal they had to remove the rear wheel, take out the tube, show it, put it back, refit the wheel and do a fast lap of the Outer Circuit.
The really quickly detachable wheels were an immense advantage here, and several men had their wheels out while others were still unpacking their tools. Allan Jefferies was easily first to remove the tube; he had it in his hands in one minute from the signal! It was a pleasure to watch him working, for he was not flustered in the least. It was noticeable that the fast men put their wheel back in position before blowing up the tyre.”
First to finish the complete job was C. N. Rogers, but he put his tools away, and in that short time Bob MacGregor had got away, closely followed by Alan Jefferies, and then came Rogers. These men had done the whole job in some 3½ m. ! Others were not so speedy: George Rowley mistook the instructions andtook his tyre right off the rim which delayed him; Jack Arnott had bent his spindle in the scramble tests and had bother getting the wheel out, while George Eighteen struggled hard to get his tyre off with levers that merelv bent.
The next item was five laps of the Outer-Circuit at high Cruising speeds, to see whether the machines would stand the autobahnnen tests. There was some delay because Len Heath’s rear tyre was going down, and when the tube was taken out it was found that it had been nipped.
While checking over his chain, Rogers found that the spring clip was missing; he borrowed another one and fitted it and later discovered he had knocked off the clip in turning the wheel backwards.
In the test everyone averaged the speed required, and the Rudge men were lapping a good deal faster than necessary. T. C. Whitton had some obscure petrol feed trouble which slowed him on one lap, and Jack Amott found that his engine would not take more than half throttle. Several men did an extra lap, but George Eighteen did seven laps instead of five because he said the motor was running so well.
The speed test was the official finish of the day’s proceedings, but most of the riders adjourned to the Dunlop depot to see a demonstration of tyre fitting, which Mr. Butler had arranged after watching the tyre-changing test! All that remained was to wait for the announcement of the teams. But it was two hours before the Committee broke up, and then it was stated that Brittain’s place in the Trophy Team was subject to his passing certain tests this week. Vic had been unable to attend the official test owing to business ties.
Trophy Team.-G. E. Rowley (A.J.S.), A.Jefferies (Triumph), V. N. Brittain (Norton),H. J. Flook (Norton sc.).
image – Vase ”A” Team ISDT 1939 (speedtracktales collection)
Vase “A” Team.-L. Heath (Ariel), G. F. Povey (Ariel) , W. T. Tiffen (Velocette).
Vase “B” Team.-W. A. West (Ariel). J. H. Wood (Triumph), C. N. Rogers (Royal Enfield).
General Reserve.-R. MacGregor (Rudge).