Straight from the plate: Varsity Velocity, February 1932


Held in a distinctly laid back manner, which prompted The Motor Cycle’s man to reflect: “The paddock – anywhere you liked in a huge, undulating field – was a joyous sight to those with affectionate memories of the ‘straight’ speed trials of bygone years,” there was a strong entry, topped by Eric Fernihough (brace of Excelsior-JAPs, in quarter and half-litre capacities), with among the supporting characters 1931 Senior Manx GP winner Jock Muir (350cc Velo and 500cc Norton), Steve Darbishire (500cc Norton), John ‘Crasher’ White (350cc Velo) and the irrepressible Noel Mavrogordato, Scott mounted of course. Sommerville Sikes’ blown Ariel four flattered to deceive – problems had already meant a change of head gasket in the pits, while the blower wasn’t – and though Fell (746cc Douglas) took the unlimited class, he was still bested by Ferni, ultimately.

The timed course lay over 600 yards of the drive, was about 10 foot wide, had a reasonably good gravel surface and ran slightly downhill. Apparently: “The fun really began when competitors crossed the finishing line at anything up to 85mph, they had only about 70 more yards before the drive passed through a distinctly narrow gap in a tall hedge, and became a winding path through a shrubbery…”

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Though dubbed a Cambridge v Oxford contest, only three dark blues had come to play. Nothing was being taken too seriously… Said Motor Cycling, tongue firmly in cheek: “Promptly at midday, just about one and a half hours behind schedule, the first motorcycle crackled down the straight and narrow,” while The Motor Cycle noted, affectionately, that: “Not worrying is a characteristic of these inter varsity shows. Nobody worries if the affair actually starts an hour and a half late, as this one did… Officials played with miles of telephone wire, not worried by the fact it was half an hour past the advertised starting time.”

Fernihough’s winning time in the 500cc class was 17 seconds dead, a speed of 72.5mph, not bad going for what was almost a standing start; there was a little area to gain speed before the timing line, but it was reckoned machines were only doing 12mph or so at that point. Darbishire was class runner-up, in 17.9s – a speed he replicated in his unlimited class run, this time finishing runner-up to Fell (17.6s, 70.9mph). Fastest 250cc machine was also Fernihough, on his second Excelsior-JAP, at 62mph in a time of 19.8s, best 350 was Muir (19.3, 64mph) from White, while Gardiner was the best of the three-wheelers, taking 25 seconds, a speed of 49mph. bike

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