If you are a follower of motorsport from the days when men were men and when what went on in the cockpit was visible from the spectator bank, there is really only one event which gives you two full days of pre-1961 racing action; the Roycroft Trophy. 2014 was the fourth time the Waitemata Branch of the VCC have run their premier racing event and again, Hampton Downs was the venue for this celebration of racing for proper cars. With fields of pre- and post-war sports and racing cars, Formula Junior, saloons and a demonstration of classic motorcycles, there really was something for everyone. There would even have been a Durant, but instead I swapped driving duties for officiating ones. It’s easier on the car if not the nerves!
The Roycroft family have donated one of Ron’s trophies and given the name of the event but for the majority of the racing, the only reward was a chocolate fish. To keep with the Roycroft connection, Terry Roycroft was again competing in the car his father made famous, the type 35A Bugatti, now back in Bug-Jag configuration, the Bugatti engine and gearbox have been removed for safekeeping, replaced with Jaguar units so it is now running as our older readers will recall it when it was campaigned by Ron.
The event saw two very significant New Zealand cars running; Richard Anderson had brought the newly restored RA-Vanguard Special out for some exercise and the rear-engined Hec Green masterpiece looked very Auto-Union-ish in its silver livery with wire wheels. Also present was the Northland Special, which began life in 1950 as the Jackson Special and holds a special place in local motor sporting history as the winner of the first New Zealand Grand Prix driven by John McMillan, held at Ohakea in 1950.
To keep a period feel to the pits, modern cars were shepherded into a leper colony all of their own, well out of sight and local car clubs were invited to bring their old cars and were parked up in the paddock area. The Auckland branch of the VCC had their veteran Renault Charabanc there on the Sunday and gave rides in the lunch break. I would imagine the blue behemoth now holds the outright record for the slowest lap of the track, assuming someone had an hour-glass there to time it! Spectators with pre1970 cars also had the opportunity to do a lap behind a safety car and the queue on the dummy-grid seemed to go on forever; this seemed a rather popular pastime!
If you needed to take a break from the on-track action, hide from the sun or were looking for food and drink, the cafeteria had a jazz band playing outside, Southwards Museum had brought its Alfa-Romeo 6C1750 Zagato along to be displayed while inside were books, tin signs and plenty of other distractions on sale. Garth Thomas had displayed his partially completed wooden framed JAP engined recreation of the Jappic, a rather curious cyclecar which raced and held several records at Brooklands. It looks to be a rather frightening contraption to drive but I have already volunteered my services as reserve works driver! With this parked alongside the ex-Yeoman Credit Moss/ Brabham Cooper Climax, the evolution of the racing car was right there for all to see.
The racing on Saturday came to a premature finish due to the tragic accident involving the Cooper Formula Junior of Len May but Sunday morning saw the event continue, although as a mark of respect for their friend and colleague, the Formula Junior contingent decided to withdraw. Despite this, the event was a great success and I can only hope that the Waitemata VCC team decides to continue with this unique celebration of the older racing car. There certainly is place for it on the motorsport calendar.
Oliver Midgley’s Ford Model A Special showed the effectiveness of a bit of American grunt by winning the Waitemata Trophy race
Grant Clearwater’s Zephyr succumbed to head gasket failure before the end of the meeting
Roman Schiff’s blown Riley was one of the best looking pre-war cars on the grid
Ian William’s Austin Seven Special didn’t quite look this good by the end of the weekend
Not your normal pit scene. Steve Aldersley’s supercharged Austin Seven is pushed out ready for action, while Anne Thompson’s 14.25 litre Darracq sits alongside Olivia McNair’s little Delage
Terry Roycroft preparing for action in the Bugatti-Jaguar
The RA-Vanguard lives and breathes again