The Junior Car Club's Double Twelve Hour race was a significant highlight in the Brooklands calendar for just three inter-war years, those of 1929, 30 and 31. Unlike France, night racing had been banned in the U.K. and so races were run from 8:00a.m. until 8:00p.m. on each of the two days, with cars being held in park ferme overnight. The races attracted many of the top manufacturers and drivers of the period resulting in large crowds flocking to the famous Surrey circuit.
The 1930 race followed this pattern. There were 62 entrants of which 59 were to start. Amongst the factory sponsored teams were Bentley, Aston Martin, Lagonda, Talbot, Alvis, Austin and Fraser Nash, whilst some of the privateers drove Rileys, Bugattis, Alfas and Amilcars, quite a 'potpourri' of cars! The list of drivers competing was also a veritable who's who of the period. Included in this list were two peers of the realm, Earls' March and Howe, an Italian Count - Giovanni Lurani, Malcolm Campbell, Sammy Davis, George Eyston, Kaye Don, Archie Fraser Nash, 'Tim' Birkin, Boris Ivanowski, Max Aitken and many other 'notables' from home and abroad.
M.G. had made a big effort for this race and had built 5 specially prepared M Types Midgets. (Another 'standard' M Type no. 81, also took part driven by Ivins and Hearne, but this car did not have the modifications as detailed below) The 'factory' cars differed from the standard customer version by being fitted with two single 'staggered' leather clad seats, cut away doors, front cycle wings and a straight mesh windscreen which could be folded flat to the scuttle. The engines had not been ignored and all were fitted with high performance camshafts, which became known later as the '12/12 cam'. A Solex carburettor and a gas flowed exhaust system which exited on the nearside of the car were amongst other clearly visible differences. A brown fabric body and bonnet, contrasting with silver painted wheels and wings was the colour scheme chosen, apparently by Cecil Kimber himself.
On the Friday morning of the race the weather was particularly 'unhelpful' in that it was cold and the forecast was for rain. The forecast proved correct and showers of rain continued throughout the course of the day. This did not seem to deter the race fans who began arriving at the circuit from 6:00 a.m. onwards in readiness for the 8:00 a.m. start.
The race was started by the Managing Director of Rudge Whitworth Ltd who were donating the main prize The Rudge Whitworth Trophy. A Le Mans style start meant that the drivers had to scamper 100 feet across the track to their cars which were then started on 'the button'. Contemporary reports say that all of the cars bar two, Scott's Riley and Wilkinson's Amilcar, got away "loudly" and without incident.
Unlike the previous year when the Alfas dominated, 1930 was to be the year the British cars made their mark. From the outset the big green Bentleys dominated, closely followed by the similarly coloured Lagondas and the surprise package for 1930, the team of three white streamlined Talbots who were all 'mixing' it in the top ten. The Midgets started well with the exception of the privateer Ivins in car no. 81 which was destined not to finish the race along with 32 other starters. The pits were busy throughout the day and The Motor reported that there were only 3 or 4 minutes during the whole of the 24 hours of racing when a car was not in the pits receiving some attention. The five Midgets surprised many with their pace but more so with their reliability, as none of the cars called into the pits for unscheduled stops only for their regular refueling and driver changes.
Friday was marred by tragedy when at 7:05 p.m., just 55 minutes before racing was due to conclude for the day, when an incident occurred involving two of the Talbot team and Eyston's Alfa Romeo. Both Talbots crashed badly whilst Talbot no. 22 driven by Col. Rabagliati ploughed through the iron railings at the trackside and into the dense throng of spectators watching the race from that vantage point. Rabagliati's mechanic was killed outright as was another spectator who had been trapped under the car. Ten other spectators were treated in hospital for their injuries. Despite this tragedy the race was not stopped and this caused much controversy and debate at the time.
Black and Stisted's car no. 80. Mechanic leans out sidecar racing fashion to assist with balancing the car in the bend.
The 42 remaining cars were locked away in 'park ferme' overnight with the race being led at that stage by the Bernato and Clements Big Six Bentley. The Davis and Dunfree Bentley was second followed by Whitcroft's Riley and Bertelli's Aston Martin. The leading Bentley had averaged an amazing 90mph for those first twelve hours!
The second day got underway to cold ,windy but bright sunny weather. The expectant crowds were even larger than on Friday and were hoping to see a British victory. Before resuming racing the teams were allowed a sevicing period during which tyres were changed as were oils (pre-warmed being used) and the myriad of other necessary adjustments to clutches, brakes and steering etc. was carried out. The Midgets started where they had left off the previous day and at 11:00 a.m. still had a 65 mile advantage between them and their main rivals, the Austin Seven team. By 3:40 PM this advantage had dramatically disappeared and the Austin Seven team was leading!
In the early evening the weather once again played a part in the proceedings as torrential rain began to fall on the circuit. It was during this period that the Midget team regained the ascendancy over the Sevens, an advantage they were not to loose again. It had also been very clear for some considerable time that the two Bentleys were in invincible positions at the front of the field, if only they could continue to run until the end. This they did although not totally without incident.
As the race concluded at 8:00PM it was apparent that it was going to be almost a clean sweep for the British cars. Eight of the top ten finishers were cars manufactured in the U.K. Just the two Italian Alpha Romeos in fifth and eighth places spoilt the party. The Midgets finished closely grouped together in 14th,15th, joint 18th and 20th places, assuring MG of the team prize. The race winning 6.5 litre Bentley of Bernato and Clement had completed 2084 miles in the 24 hours at an average speed of 86.68 mph. By way of a comparison the highest placed 847cc Midget completed 1449 miles at an average speed of 59.32 mph. Just 27 cars made it to the finish from the 59 that had started the race the previous morning. The 1930 12/12 had been a truly attritional race.
The Midget team members were not household names then (although known in racing circles) and are not well known today and so it is appropriate that this page commemorates and celebrates their collective triumph. They were, in finishing order:
14th H. H. Stisted and N. Black in car no. 80
15th C. J. Randall and F. M. Montgomery in car no. 76
18th (joint) R. R. Jackson and W. Townend in car no. 75
18th (joint) G. Roberts and A. A. Pollard in car no. 74
20th (joint) Miss Victoria Worsley and D. G. Foster in car no. 73
Did not finish: F. Ivins and H. Hearne in standard M Type car no. 81.
Later that year a small factory sponsored team of two Midgets was entered for the Le Mans 24 Hour race in France. The cars remained basically similar to those that had taken part at Brooklands with the exception of the fuel tank being moved from the scuttle to the rear of the car and fitted with a quick release cap. A spare wheel was also carried on the side of the nearside. Unfortunately neither car finished the race. That was not to be the Midgets last continental excursion in 1930 as a solitary Midget entered the 1930 Belgium 24 hour race but that is another story!
Acknowledgement: Much information gleaned from The Motor Magazine May 15th 1930 edition.
Addendum: Double Twelve Midgets at this 1930 race are an ongoing subject of debate amongst the officianados of these lovely cars. Were the cars fitted with Solex carbs? There is an argument that Zenith carbs were the chosen option. And what of the downdraught SU? The colour of the wheels is said by some to have been silver and not cream and no one can agree on the final number of factory 12/12 Replica cars built to commemorate the win. Was it 19 or 21? Any reader with conclusive evidence to support any of these arguments please contact the PWMN.
The M.G. 8/33 Midget or 'M' Type was the sporting variant of the humble Morris Minor. It achieved much sporting success, the pinnacle of which was winning the team award at this prestigious meeting. The MG 'M' Type was the founder of the Midget lineage which continues (with some notable interuptions) to this day. This follows the summer 2008 re-commencement of production of the TF model at Longbridge by the Nanjing Automobile Corporation (N.A.C.) of China.
A pre-event photograph of the five factory prepared cars together with their drivers. Victoria Worsley is seated in car number 73. (LAT plate ref. Red 7762)
Randall and Mongomery's race car being driven home after the race by owner William Edmondson.
(Photo Rivers Fletcher)
Factory images of the MG 8/45 Midget Brooklands 12/12 Replica marketed by the company to capitalise on their success in the May 1930 race. Around 20 were manufactured and sold to the public at £245.
Midget numbers 76 (Randall & Montgomery) and 80 (Sisted & Black) on the railway banking. This is an iconic image from the 1930 race and can be ordered from LAT Photographic quoting plate reference B3739.
F. Gordon Crosby programme design for the 1930 Double Twelve Race