Posts Tagged ‘Raymond Mays’

jersey pit

Jersey Maserati line up of ; #1 Chiron 4CL, #2 Pagani 4C, #3 Sommer 4CL, #4 Bira 4C…

‘MotorSport’ announced the first British post-war international race at St Helier, Jersey on 8 May in its April 1947 issue…

‘The course embraces 1.5 miles of the St Helier promenade and measures 3.5 miles per lap, the race is a scratch contest over 160 miles, under Formula Rules ie; supercharged 1.5 litre and unsupercharged cars of 4.5 litres. There are no fuel restrictions and lady drivers are barred…Already everyone in the country seems to be booking accommodation…for the Jersey Road race will attract immense crowds of spectators’ MotorSport said.

Saint Helier is the capital of Jersey, the largest of the North Sea Channel Islands which had been liberated from the Germans less than two years before. The race was the first of five held on the island (1947-1950 and 1952), Brooklands having been bomb damaged during the war and there were problems with the authorities using a circuit on the mainland…

jersey ray era workshop

Raymond Mays supervising the preparation of his ERA D Type ‘R4D’ on 1 April 1947. The workshop shot is of interest as is the girder chassis of the car, 6 cylinder supercharged engine awaits installation on the bench (Getty)

Starved of racing opportunities the race was well supported by British entrants and was also the first meeting supported by drivers from the continent; Maserati 4CL’s were entered for Reg Parnell, Louis Chiron and Raymond Sommer, 4C’s for Bira, Ian Connell, Nello Pagani and Robert Ansell.


Louis Chiron surrounded by his team and well-wishers on race-day. Maser 4CL 2nd but probable winner of the race…(Bert Hardy)

A swag of ERA’s were entered; George Abecassis and Joe Ashmore in A Type’s, B Types for John Bolster, Bob Gerard, Peter Walker, Cuth Harrison and Billy Cotton/Wilkie Wilkinson, a D Type for Raymond Mays and E Type for Peter Whitehead.

Other notable entrants were Pierre Levegh’s Delage D6.70 these cars also entered for Henri Louveau and Jean Achard. Leslie Johnson was entered in a Talbot T150C.

jersey parnell

Victor Reg Parnell’s Maserati 4CL (Bert Hardy)


mays color

Raymond Mays ready to practice his ERA at St Heliers on 4 June 1947 (Getty/Popperfoto)

Bira set the quickest time during practice on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 2.6.6 but all three Scuderia Milano Maserati’s; Sommer, Chiron and Pagani were under 2.10.

bira in pits

Bira Maser mirror adjustment in the pits, fastest by some way in practice (Bert Hardy)

Melted pistons in several of the blown cars was a problem causing MotorSport to speculate about the impact of missing fuel company expert technicians. Whitehead ran well until a split fuel tank in the ERA E Type dumped its contents on the road, the tank was repaired for the race, not well as it turned out!

maser mechanics

Maser mechanics fetting (Bert Hardy)

Johnson did a good time of 2.17 in the sports Talbot, the ‘Ecurie Delsac’ Delages of Louveau, Levegh and Achard slower.

The front row comprised Bira on pole from Pagani, Chiron and Sommer with Mays, Gerard and Ansell on row two and Whitehead, Parnell, Walker and Dixon on row three.

parnell grid

Parnells Maser being pushed onto the grid (Bert Hardy)


chiron grid

Chiron’s Maser 4CL being pushed onto the grid (Bert Hardy)


jersey start

’47 Jersey Road race just prior to the start. The front row L>R Sommer, Chiron, Pagani with Bira on pole all in Maserati’s (Jersey Evening Post)

MotorSport reported ‘The start was quite colossal…the entire field hurtled off with a crash. Impressions were difficult to analyse during the first mad rush, with the howl of the engines rising to a scream and the confusion of the blurring colours. Pagani took a slight lead from teammates Chiron and Sommer while Whitehead’s ERA hung slightly on getaway so that the Talbot and two Delages of Johnson, Levegh and Achard closed up like a released rubber band’.

‘After about 90 seconds of silence the leaders dived out of the Bayview Hotel corner, brakes on and slowed for the pedestrian like hairpin, Sommer in the lead from Bira 2 seconds back then Pagani and Parnell. There was an appreciable gap…to Mays, Ansell and Whitehead’ the latter retired the ERA E Type with a recurrence of the split aluminium fuel tank.

jersey bira

Bira correcting a slide in his Maser 4CL on the harbour front road (Klemantaski)

Bira got in front of Sommer before lap 5 but the Frenchman got the lead back but couldn’t hold it, Bira pitted on lap 10 to change a wheel having boofed a kerb.

bira racing

Bira Maser 4C from Sommer Maser 4CL early in the race at Bel Royal corner (Jersey Evening Post)

The Thai Prince lost only around 24 seconds but Derby’s Reg Parnell was in front by 45 seconds, a lead he never lost.

Sommer set a lap record of 2.6.2, 91.28mph on this road circuit before retiring with a ‘worn engine’.


Chiron’s Maserati 4CL Klemantaski)

There was considerable confusion about race positions the scoreboard and broadcast announcer at odds ‘It was not until 3 laps from the end that Parnell was shown as the leader with Chiron 2nd …Certainly (Parnell) was driving as if he thought he was 2nd, unlike Chiron who was driving as if he was sure he was 1st’.

jersey spectators

Spectators as confused about race positions as the drivers and their crews? The scoreboard says its #7 Parnell from #4 Bira and #18 Gerard on Lap 15 (Bert Hardy)


jersey chiron pitstop

Chiron pistop for fuel (Bert Hardy)

Further back ‘Mays drove as he has seldom before, climbing ruthlessly up the ruck to 3rd place once he got the car running on all six’.


Sam Gilby in his Maserati 6CM ‘Went well indeed but he should remember that in his first race, style, driving manners and a complete lack of baulking are are more important than dicing hard. Style and correctness are still the first things to learn’ MotorSport noted! (Klemantaski)

‘Johnson, playing a waiting game behind Louveau’s Delage…lost top gear, just when his pit signalled him to take Loueveau during the last third of the race’.

parnell race

Parnell (Bert Hardy)

‘Final placings after all the protests and shouting had died down were’;

Parnell Maser 4CL from Louis Chiron Maser 4CL, Mays 3rd in ERA D Type then Ashmore’s ERA A Type, Henri Louveau Delage D6.70 and Leslie Johnson Talbot T150C.

Picture Post…

jersey pic post

For the winner the spoils; Reg Parnell on the ‘Picture Post’ 24 May 1947 cover (Bert Hardy)

The inspiration for this article is the amazing work of Bert Hardy who was the principal photographer for the ‘Picture Post’, Britains most influential news-pictorial magazine, who took many of the shots used in this piece.

The magazine’s life spans around 30 years from 1938 to 1957, very quickly achieving sales of 1.7 million copies per month. What took my breath away is the sheer breadth of coverage of Hardy’s work, pretty much the progress, daily lives, sport, politics, contemporary culture and all of the conflicts in which the UK became enmeshed is shown in the archive. If you are a Brit take the time to have a look at the work. The disadvantage of the Getty Images (who now own the archive) format is that the low res scans don’t have the details of each shot unless you click on them and it ‘kicks you out’ after every 5 0r 6 clicks but its worth persevering.

Here is a link to the images;

And here is a long but very interesting article about Bert Hardy, as an Aussie i have never heard of the man but he was truly an amazing photo-journalist;


bira gridding

Bira preparing for the off , Maser 4C (Bert Hardy)


jersey gay ray

The top shot is Parnell’s Maserati 4CL being refuelled, the lower one Ray May’s, preoccupied but looking after the autograph needs of young fans (Bert Hardy)



Car #15 the Leslie Brooke ERA B Type passes the pits DNF engine failure (Bert Hardy)


Motorsport April and June 1947

Photo Credits…

Bert Hardy, Louis Klemantaski, Jersey Evening Post, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Ray Mays ERA D Type independent  front suspension detail…

ray smiling

22 April 1947


brm m sport v16 cover

About 15 years ago, I got a phone call from my father, telling me that his brother, my Uncle Henry had passed away at his home in Derbyshire, UK…

I remember Henry from the early 1960s, my dad’s dashing brother, who never married, but whenever he visited, arrived on or in interesting machinery. My first ride on a bike was on his Vincent Comet and then on a legendary Black Shadow. A Mini Cooper was thrilling, even more so, a Cooper S.

We moved to Australia, but news came occasionally of the succession of Lotus, Porsche and latterly turbocharged Nissans of the Silvia and Skyline variety.

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BRM V16, Ken Richardson, Folkingham 15 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

I was pleased to receive, as part of a modest inheritance from Henry, a packet of photos, reproduced here. They are obviously very early BRM shots, which I had never seen before. I thought they may have been taken by him as a young man, but 2 of them appear elsewhere on the interweb, so I can only assume they are part of a postcard pack, or press pack. I would date them around 1950/51.

(Contributor/Historian Stepen Dalton advises the photos are BRM Press Kit shots, the cars launch was at Folkingham on December 15 1949, Stephen suspects Henry may have been a ‘BRMA’ or ‘ORMA’ member, the BRM supporters groups. The members of those groups were perhaps provided with copies of the shots. See membership badges below. Stephen has also indicated the likely dates of the track sessions and drivers, i have changed the captions accordingly.)

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1488cc, centrifugal-supercharged, DOHC 2 valve V16. (Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

I have always had a fascination with the BRM. It has been written about extensively, so I can only add my personal take on this machine.

Mark Hales described it as like ‘The Victorians trying to build a moon rocket, and they very nearly succeeded’.

16 cylinders, each of less than 100cc, highly supercharged, spinning at 12,000 rpm, air suspension, disc brakes, with all this componentry, supplied by dozens of different companies, motivated to show ‘Johnny Foreigner’ that British engineering was still the best in the world. Inevitably, when there are so many suppliers involved, with so many radical parts, the project was delayed, time and time again, until the great day when the car had its first race start. It travelled about 3 feet, after breaking an axle at the start.

brm v 16 cutaway

Chassis was tubular comprising double-tube side members, 4 cross members, aluminium body. Suspension at front by Porsche type trailing arms and Lockheed air struts, de Dion rear axle located by a single radius rod each side and Lockheed air struts. Brakes Girling 3 shoe drums,(Mk 2 had discs) Wheels Dunlop centre lock wires with 5.25 inch wide x18 inch diameter wheels at front and 7 inch x17 inch diameter at the rear. BRM 5 speed gearbox with ZF ‘slippery diff, gearchange on RHS, transmission angled to pass to the left of the driver. Engine specifications with engine cutaway drawing below. Weight at the start line circa 862Kg. (Tony Matthews)

The cars were extensively sorted over 3 years before they became reliable. Exhausts changed from full length, to in front of rear wheels, to stubs behind the front wheels. Radiator intakes increased and decreased, oil cooling and filtration revised, nearly every part was altered and changed.

When some cars were being properly restored during the 90s, the original dyno shed was discovered, and on the walls were all the different firing orders tried. I don’t know that the final order used was ever identified.

Of course there is the sound.

I don’t know if it is the greatest sound in the automotive world, but it has to be in the running. I played a recording of the BRM to an engineering colleague, who makes drag racing engines. He thought the BRM sounded like an extremely angry Funny Car, and took some persuading to be convinced that all that fury came from only 1500 cc.

brm 3

BRM V16, Folkingham, Ken Richardson 15 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

None of the drivers really liked the car, as it was unreliable and difficult.

‘The V16 was a thoroughly nasty car,’ said Moss. ‘The brakes were OK, the acceleration was incredible – until you broke traction – but everything else I hated, particularly the steering and the driving position. Handling? I don’t remember it having any…’

Raymond Mays, (Who I think is driving in the photos) ‘Before we went to Albi in ’53, I drove Fangio’s car at Folkingham Aerodrome and I had it up to 190mph on the 2000-yard runway. It was quite frightening, because you could re-spin the wheels at 9800 in fourth gear. I reached 11,800, with a high gear in…’


Ray Mays, BRM V16, Daily Express Int Trophy Meeting, Silverstone 26 August 1950 (J Wilds)

Mays again ‘By the end of that lap, though, Fangio detected a misfire, and, as Mays admitted, ‘When you got a misfire on the V16, it could have been 1001 things… We worked through the night, and at 3.30am it was decided that I would test the car. At that time of the day – early dawn – there were horses and carts about, farmers coming out of gates, but on this long straight road I had the thing up to 180, and I scared myself stiff.’ How wide was the road? I asked. ‘Narrow’. said Mays. ‘Narrow.’

So the cars were ultimately irrelevant, only winning races in Formula Libre after time ran out for them when F1 changed to the unsupercharged 2 litre formula.

brm 4

Handsome side profile undeniable.(Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

The world is a better and more interesting place for the BRMs having been made. It would be unlikely to happen today, as the risks were far too high, but they were, like so many of the automotive and other objects that we so treasure, a delightful folly.

The recording is of Nick Mason’s BRM in 1998, driven by Mark Hales, from ‘Into the Red’.

brm 5

BRM V16 Folkingham. Perhaps Ray Mays on the cars first trial run, 3 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

Restoration and Maintenance of This Car, Type 15 Chassis #1 Owned by the British National Motor Museum…


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Another shot at what appears to the be the launch of the BRM Type 15. (Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

brm board

Raymond Mays at right doing a bit of ‘stakeholder management’.R>L: Mays leaning, behind him Peter Berthon. Beside Peter, publicist Walter Hill, to his left Bob Henderson Tate from the Ministry of Supply. Standing, still going R>L are members of the ‘British Motor Racing Research Trust’ Bernard Scott and Denis Flather of Lucas, Alfred Owen far left. Seated in front of the table is administrator and later company secretary of BRM James Sandercombe. The meeting is in the study at Eastgate House, Mays family home in 1948. (photo unattributed but caption details ‘BRM Vol1’ Doug Nye)

brm engine cutaway

135 degree all alloy, 1488cc V16 with cast-iron wet liners. 10 bearing crank. DOHC 2 valves per cylinder, Rolls Royce 2 stage centrifugal supercharger fed by 2 SU carbs. Ignition by Lucas coil and 4 Lucas magnetos.Mk 1 Type 15 power 330bhp@10250rpm 1950-460bhp@11000rpm 1951.(unattributed)

BRM V16 crank

BRM crankshaft, centre power take-off clear. (Stephen Dalton Collection from the ‘BRM Ambassador for Britain Booklet’)

BRM V16 Vandervell ad

(Stephen Dalton Collection from the ‘BRM Ambassador for Britain Booklet’.)


‘Owen Racing Motor Association’badge.


Scratchy ‘BRM Association’ lapel badge.

brm postcard

Photo and Other Credits…

Tony Matthews cutaway, Motorsport magazine, Stephen Dalton Collection, J Wilds, ‘BRM Vol 1’ Doug Nye