Dick Seaman and Herr Heck in their Mercedes’ at Crystal Palace in 1937…
This promotional shot dated 7 October preceded the ‘International Imperial Trophy’ race, ‘the first international road race organised in London’ on 9 October. The event was the decider of the 1937 ‘BRDC Gold Cup’ between B Bira and Ray Mays ERA’s.
The cars above are Seaman’s Mercedes W125 GP car and Heck’s 1903 Mercedes Tourer. Seaman, a works Mercedes driver was back in the UK having contested the 1937 Donington GP a week earlier. He retired from the Leicestershire event after a collision with Muller’s Auto Union having started on the outside of the front row, Bernd Rosemeyer’s Auto Union Type C won the thrilling race.
Seaman did not contest the International Imperial Trophy race but was scheduled to thrill the crowds with some demonstration laps in his Mercedes. The race was significant as the first ever live BBC TV outside broadcast of motor sport.
The entry included Britain’s best plus the Scuderia Ambrosiana, which fielded Maserati 4CMs for Count Piero Trossi, Count Johnny Lurani and a Maserati 6CM for Luigi Villoresi. Private Maseratis were driven by Robin Hanson and Peter Aitken (6CM’s) and Archie Hyde (8CM). They were challenged by the ERA’s of Ray Mays , Arthur Dobson, B Bira, Ian Connell, Peter Whitehead and Charlie Martin.
During Thursday practice Mays blew his ERA’s 1100cc engine, becoming a non-starter and effectively giving the ‘Gold Star’ to Bira by 3 points.
Leiff Snellman reported the race in 8w.forix.com thus; ‘The race was run in two heats plus a final and raced as a handicap event with Hyde and his 3 litre Maserati starting from scratch, the 1.5 litre Maseratis and ERA’s having a 10 seconds advantage and the Austins, MGs and the MG-Riley having a 50 seconds advantage’.
‘Winner of the first 10 laps heat was Maclure (Riley) followed by Dobson (ERA), Lurani and Whitehead. Villoresi retired with an engine problem. Trossi (Maserati) won the second heat after a tough fight with Martin (ERA) and B Bira (ERA) who finished second and third with Goodacre (Austin) fourth’.
Between the races Seaman jumped into the ‘Benz W125 and carefully did several laps in 2 min 4s, about the same speed as the cars during the heats. Many of the spectators must have heard stories about the spectacular show by the German cars the week earlier and were as thrilled by the speed, wheel spin and noise from the ‘Silver Arrow’ as the Donington crowd had been.
‘Twenty cars started in the 15 laps final to fight for the £150 first prize. The race became a great duel between ERA drivers Bira and Dobson who left the rest of the field behind. Bira won by half a car length while Dobson received the Jarvis Trophy for the fastest lap. Goodacre’s Austin finished third. The Scuderia Ambrosiana cars were unable to challenge for the lead with Trossi an early retirement and Villoresi and Lurani having problems to follow the ERA’s. Villoresi finally finished in fourth place’.
The Mercedes W125 went on display at the Mercedes-Benz showrooms in Park Lane, as was Rosemeyer’s car at the Auto Union showrooms.
Fox Photos, Imagno, David Savill, Central Press
Leif Snellman’s Crystal Palace article in 8w.forix.com