Goodwood Motor Circuit had its Edwardian motor racing baptism of fire this week when the first of the aero-engined behemoths taking part in the first S.F. Edge Trophy at the 74th Members’ Meeting took to the track for testing.
It was the first time at Goodwood that one of the Brooklands-era speed machines has driven the circuit at racing speeds – and GRR wanted to know what it was like…
But first take in this 10-second guide to the test day debutant, a MORS Le Sanglier: 1907 chassis, 1915 Curtiss aero V8, 8.2-litres and 90bhp, 1500rpm red line, four-speed gearbox, chain drive and geared to do 90-100mph in top. Oh, and ‘brakes on the rear wheels only and they are not the best’ according to the person who built the car.
So what was the first lap like, and in damp conditions too?
‘It wasn’t terrifying at all,’ said the car’s owner and driver Niall Dyer. ‘In fact the car was surprisingly predictable. I just left it in top apart from the chicane. There were only two braking points. And the thing that really surprised me was how much faster it felt than a lap in the Bugatti Brescia.’
Niall is also fielding a Brescia in the S.F. Edge Trophy race – the Bugatti’s jewel-like 1,500cc 16-valve twin-ignition engine is the antithesis of the MORS’s aeroplane lump – and also a Maserati 250F for Simon Diffey to drive in the Brooks Trophy, as he has done in every latterday MM. But it’s the S.F. Edge Trophy for the Brooklands-era cars that Niall is excited about.
What can we expect when the flag drops? ‘I predict it will be utter mayhem: smoke, flames, rubber, sideways… it may not be as quick a race as Goodwood is used to but the entertainment factor will be sky high.’
Cars that the MORS will be up against include not just ‘pur sang’ machines like the Bugattis (and Bentley, Alfa, Mercedes, Delage and Darracq) but also many other massive-engined specials built after the First World War to take advantage of out-of-date chassis and a ready supply of cheap, reliable and powerful aeroplane engines.
All Niall’s cars are looked after by Ollie Way. He put the MORS together from bits in 2008, sourcing the V8 from the US and making a racer out of what would have been a four-seat tourer in 1907.
‘It’s what people did in the 1920s as a cheap way of getting into motor sport,’ said Ollie, who has prepared two other aircraft-engined cars for the S.F. Edge Trophy, a 10-litre Austin Hall-Scott and a Brasier powered by a 12-litre Hispano-Suiza engine.
Because they are road registerable, most of these cars do their testing on public roads. ‘I have just rebuilt the MORS engine and its first run was down to Goodwood today – in some ways it’s better for it than driving around a circuit.’
Does Ollie have any concerns about the MORS on race day? ‘I am worried about it over-revving. There’s a lot of space at Goodwood to get the speed up… oh, and those brakes, if you could call them brakes.’
Are they expensive cars?
‘For the fun they offer they are not expensive at all,’ said Ollie Way.’ The MORS would be a fraction the cost of the Brescia. But there are no spares so everything you need for them has to be made.
‘Edwardian racers are a bit of a secret corner of motor sport, but once people see them here at Goodwood there will hopefully be more interest in them and more events.’
That would please owner Niall Dyer.
‘I grew up with vintage cars then went into bikes and a modern Ferrari, but found myself getting drawn back into this world of weird and wonky specials. The people are fun, the cars are fun, it’s all such a good giggle.’
Photography by Tom Shaxson and Bob Murray