ERA

English Racing Automobiles were Britains only credible pre-war single-seater manufacturer. The Bourne, Lincolnshire firm built 6-cylinder, Riley-engined cars for Voiturette (effectively F3) racing in the UK & Europe.

Encouraged by founder Raymond Mays’ love of hillclimbing many of the 17 cars built pre-war competed on the hills and hence, when the BHC was initiated immediately after the war ERAs were right at the sharp end of the competition.

Two ERAs claimed the BHC title in the late-40s, early-50s. May’s own car R4D won the inaugural championship in 1947 before winning again in ’48 & ’54 whereas R11B ‘Humphrey’ hit the top in ’52 & ’53.

These most desirable of all historic racing cars are still regularly exercised on the hills today, especially at Wiscombe Park and Shelsley Walsh.

Rivers Fletcher ERA R4D

Rivers Fletcher exercises ERA R4D at Prescott in the mid-80s (thanks to Steve Wilkinson)

 

The Day The ERAs Came !

In May 2007 the greatest gathering of ERAs ever assembled on the hills participated in the VSCC’s Vintage Wiscombe meeting in memory of marque stalwart Martin Morris. Here is a report of that special day:

Wiscombe Park – May 13th/14th 2007
The hardy marshals and spectators at Wiscombe Park braved rain, wind and mud to witness one of the most spectacular events ever seen in British hillclimbing. The sight, sound and smell of pre-war ‘voiturettes’ blasting through the Devon countryside at the VSCC’s annual event will never be forgotten by those of us lucky enough to have been there.

The celebration was in memory of Martin Morris. Martin was the owner of ERA R11b ‘Humphrey’ for over 45 years and raced, hill climbed and sprinted the car throughout that time. He was consistently among the top three drivers of these tricky cars and enjoyed some thrilling battles with the likes of Anthony Mayman, Willie Green and Patrick Lindsay, his smooth delicate driving style often allowing him to take an easy win when his competitors struck trouble. Sadly Martin died in February 2006 and his family set about organising a fitting tribute at his local venue.

After months of early morning and late night phone calls, and not a few headaches, Martin’s sons David and Miles managed to arrange for 14 ERAs, of the original 19 built, to not only gather at Wiscombe but to compete !

Saturday morning started with drizzle (well it is Wiscombe) but this didn’t deter the 11 drivers who had come to practise at the 500OC meeting, a couple of which were having their first taste of proper hillclimbing. Goodwood star Ludovic Lindsay, driving R5b ‘Remus’, declared “’The Esses’ should be renamed ‘The Zs’” after a particularly hairy run through in practise which saw the blue machine facing the trees several times, many loud blasts of throttle saw him sort it all out though !

The wet hill dried through the day and became very slippery with damp patches under the trees. The pace of the frontrunners was stunning and saw David Morris(‘Humphrey’), Paul Richardson(R14b) and Lindsay locked in battle. ‘Humphrey’ was a bit sick so in order to guarantee a run the blower oil return hose was blocked off but the resultant plumes of smoke didn’t slow Morris too much and he charged to victory.

The drivers were faced with an absolute wash out on Sunday morning. The heavens opened as only they can at Wiscombe and the event came close to being abandoned but the spectators who stood it out were rewarded with a fantastic display of committed driving.

Again by lunchtime the hill started to dry, albeit with rivers running across the track on Wis Straight, the exit of The Gate and the entry to Sawbench. In order to guarantee 2 runs the ERAs ran twice in consecutive batches, and what a half an hour it was.

The 1500cc class saw a scrap between Tony Stephens(‘Hanuman 2)’, Stephen Curtis(R10b) and Miles Morris(R6b) which Curtis won with a beautifully smooth second run despite a big twitch through the Wis watersplash ! Unfortunately Morris got out of shape through the river on the exit of The Gate and the borrowed car hit the bank. Miles was perfectly ok, if a little embarrassed, but the same can’t be said for R6b’s front axle.

The 2-litre big hitters predictably led the way overall however with David Morris and Lindsay being joined by Paul Mullins(R7b). Morris narrowly led the way in a still misfiring Humphrey from Lindsay at the break. But by the second runs the silver car was firing on six again, and it needed them all as Mullins charged through to beat Morris’ first run time. David dug deep and hustled the car through The Esses to improve by over two seconds. Expected winner Lindsay spun the chance away with a huge moment between Bunny’s Leap and The Gate.

A last minute plug change had worked and it was truly fitting that David, driving ‘Humphrey’, had taken the win. Not only was it the best possible tribute to his father but a great reward for all of his and his wife Suzy’s hard work in making such a wonderful, once in a lifetime event happen.

Martin Morris, ERA R11b, at Wiscombe Park in 2001