Ecurie Ecosse transporter
Checking the fuel pumps.
Eric Hall and his Healey Silverstone
Roger Byford's replica
spotted in the car park
Sticky Yoko AO48R tyres
On this our second trip to Angouleme we were joined by a small convoy of Sprites and Midgets from the MASC. With JoJO on the trailer behind my Alfa we cruised down to Le Mans on the Thursday. Next day we left the solo Spridgets to enjoy a tour of fairy castles, etc and proceeded to our friend’s home at Champniers, near Angouleme. Visiting the town in the afternoon to collect my ‘goody bag’ from the Mairie we found there were already many classic and vintage cars from the UK, France and other European countries congregating in the streets and squares, and many of the cafes and bars were doing a good trade. From the goody bag I discovered I was entered with the Sports and GT cars including a number of Jag XKs and a C type, plus a Lotus 11, a Peerless and a Reliant Sabre 6. The only similar vehicle to mine was Dick Skipworth’s copy of the ex-Ecurie Ecosse Sprite. Last year my full race 998cc engine with 649 cam and alloy flywheel proved to have minimal torque and, with the 4..55 diff, I had to change into 1st for all 3 hairpins on every lap. This time I had a 1330 engine with 286 scatter cam, which gives good torque, and a 4.875 diff.
On Saturday afternoon we had to go through the painful process of administration and scrutineering. After a lengthy wait at the Hotel de Ville to show my competition licence and to hire a transponder (for electronic lap timing) we proceeded to the paddock for scrutineering (see middle photo above). Last year we had problems with my racing overalls which were not to FIA spec and with my fire extinguisher, which was not ‘in date’. So what would they be after this time? The first hurdle involved my FIVA log book – it seems I should have a full FIA log book for the car. The simple reason I haven’t is that it costs £400 to £500, and for one annual event that seems excessive. Next were the tyres – nothing in the regs to say that we can’t use modern sticky 60 series rubber but clearly what they wanted to see was historic Dunlop racing tyres. Then they didn’t like the distributor being electronic. They photographed the distributor and the carburettors – by which time I was thinking along the lines “Well, if you don’t’ want me to participate I’ll be off to the bar and spectate”. Eventually the necessary sticker was applied to the car and we should have been ready for Sunday practice. We intended to drive back to our digs in the Sebring but it refused to start as the fuel pump was just pumping air. After much grovelling about in the dust under the car, a puff from Midget racer Robert Dean into the tank got rid of the air lock and we were off. Overnight I changed the pump hoses which seems to have remedied the fault.
Sunday dawned fine and sunny – the temperature went above 30 in the afternoon. In practice I was delighted to find I could get round the hairpins, on most occasions, without needing first gear and was passing bigger cars in the twisty bits. However after 4 or 5 laps the oil pressure light was coming on and I decided to come in. I was pleased to find I was 6th fastest out of 14 cars with a lap in 1m 05. There followed a lot of deliberation about the oil pressure problem followed by a dash back to the house for some Penrite 25/75 oil to replace the normal 20/50. This brought the cold pressure up to 60 lbs but clearly the engine wasn’t right. The start of the “race” was a complete fiasco. No-one was quite sure how this was to be effected but someone told me it was with a flag. When all appeared ready a French tricolour was raised momentarily and nothing happened. The front two rows remained stationary. Then cars started moving forward from the back resulting in some bent bodywork to several cars and we were off. The Lotus 11 soon hit a barrier so we had to cruise past it under yellow flags. Then Dick Skipworth abandoned his Sprite on the exit of the top hairpin bringing out the safety car. JoJO was getting very hot, as was I – we had waited 40 minutes in the paddock in the heat beforehand. The oil pressure was dropping below 30lbs and the light kept coming on. Perhaps foolishly I pressed on hoping to finish. The safety car pulled in and 2 cars behind me must have been shown a green flag before I was and rushed past. My gear changes were becoming stiffer and then halfway down the straight the motor seemed to seize so I pulled off. The motor was in fact still running and wouldn’t stop so I shoved it in 3rd to stall it. As a result I ended up with a jammed gearbox as well as a seized engine. I think I had made a reasonable showing, running near the front of the field for 9 laps, and received a standing ovation from some of the grandstands as I toured back on the breakdown truck.o 60 lbs but clearly the engine wasn’t right.
I had had a lot of fun despite the rather unsatisfactory result, and now have to sort out the wrecked centre main bearing and rebuild the engine – AGAIN!
A variety of shots of the Ecurie Ecosse car, above, JJO below, plus a dozing Alan Anstead with his Sebring replica