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:: [  Darracq GP Car of the 1908 TT Races ] ::

Fascinating photo taken Easter 1910 and received from Mike Statham, who is part of the Research Team at the Friends of Insole Court, formerly Ely Court, Llandaff, near Cardiff in Wales. Could we identify make of the 'Strip-down Car'  in order for them to try and identify driver. Interesting to note that in the background of the picture is a cca 1904 White Steam Car. 

I had the feeling that the car was a cca 1906 Darracq GP so investigated further and noted that there were two GP cars of note in that period. There was the V8 and the straight 4. This is the 4 cylinder. I also noticed that there were two pipe layouts on the four cylinder engines. One had the two inlet pipes on the inside of four exhausts and the other had the inlets outside the exhausts. This photo has the inlets outside. The radiators are square, rather than 'veed',  and have the then modern Darracq shape.

I also noted that Algernon Lee Guinness drove a very similar car in the 1908 Tourist Trophy. Algernon Arthur St Lawrence Guinness of the famous brewing family, started racing at the age of 21, especially successful with the Darracq, winning events in Belgium and France as well as the British Isles, and setting a world Land Speed Record in 1908. He also took part in circuit events and was a starter in the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man every year from 1905 to 1908, always in Darracqs. He finished third in the 1906 race and second in 1908.

From the photos of the day his car had the inlet pipes similarly on the outside. Unfortunately I have no photo of the registration of the Guinness car, as it did not seem to carry one in the race, Registration on the car above is D 2578. D is Kent County Council and was issued 1907. Unfortunately to confuse me, one write-up states " Algy managed to purchase the famous "200hp" V8 Darracq from the factory in 1906" . I note that ALG then retired after the 1908 TT race but did return to racing with Sunbeams: "In 1914 he returned to racing after several years, driving a Sunbeam, retiring in the TT but winning the Beacon Hill hill climb the following month." 

The 1908 TT regulations limited the RAC rating to 25.6hp, resulting in a maximum cylinder bore of 4ins (101.6mm) for four-cylinder cars, hence the so-called 'four-inch cars'. Other requirements were a minimum of four cylinders, a minimum weight of 1,600lb (725.8kg), and a crew of two comprising a driver and mechanic both of whom had to carry out all repairs using spares and tools carried on-board, as no outside help was allowed. Course distance was 337.5 miles (543km).

"At a meeting of the Highway Board of the Isle of Man held in Douglas on Wednesday last, the application of the Royal Automobile Club for permission to hold a race for motorcars was considered, and it was decided to issue permission for the race to take place on Thursday, September 24th next. Considerable satisfaction is felt in the island at the number of entries for the race; 21 are of British origin and 14 of foreign origin. The course was also fixed for the "Four-inch" race, and it will be the old Gordon-Bennett eliminating trial course, which starts at Douglas, goes through Castleton, to Fordale, to Glen Helen, to Kirk Michael, along the level mile at Ballaugh, to Ramsey, up the mountain and back to Douglas, a total distance of 52 miles. Parts of the course, over which our representative has driven during the last few days, are very bad, especially for racing, and unless considerable attention is at once paid to the roads, broken springs will be numerous. The Manx people are all eagerly looking forward to the races, which will please them more than the T.T. races."

We contacted various of our experts in the period and were fortunate to receive the following reply from Malcolm Jeal:   The easy bit first; - there is no doubt whatsoever that the car (registered D 2578) is one of the 3 Darracq team cars that ran in the 1908 TT race, known as the "4-inch Race" because of the required maximum cylinder bore size. There were never any 'replicas' - in the correct use of that term. I have photos of all 3, driven by Arthur George, Algy Lee Guinness, and, 'Toby' Rawlinson. The inlet and exhaust pipework looks rather complicated as both were on the same side and of similar dimensions, push-rod ohv all on the off-side. 

The cars were sold off after the race and various people owned examples at various times, and in 1913 G R N Minchin had one, which he then had rebodied, and which was written about in the Autocar May 3rd 1913.  In Veteran and Vintage Magazine June 1969 there is a photo sent in by Minchin of the 3 TT cars in 1913 with the then three owners at their respective wheels. These are identified as Malcolm Campbell (who had raced his car at Brooklands in 1911 when he called it "The Flapper"), Kenelm Lee Guiness, and, Neville Minchin. 

We can see from other pictures that in 1913 Campbell's car was registered LN-870, the Guinness car LA-9513, and the Minchin machine BJ-578, again, no doubt about these registrations. Eagle-eyed you will have noticed that the Registration in the photo sent to you is D-2578 and Minchin's car carried the number plate: BJ-578. The last three digits are identical. Coincidence? I think not. The car in 'your' photo is in itself not a problem, I assume that whoever is in it then, was a pre-Minchin owner as the Campbell car it almost certainly is not  and we can reasonable assume that the Guinness brothers kept theirs from the TT days. 

So the waters are a bit murky as to which precise car this. It seems to be folklore that Minchin was not particularly pedantic about which numberplate his cars carried, so this could well be the Minchin car. We also know that Algy Guinness raced one of these three Darracqs in the 1908 TT and that he then retired. We also know from Friends of Insole Court that the owner of Insole Cour, Eric Insole, where the photo was taken, that: ... perhaps the car may be a Sunbeam Grand Prix - because we know the Insoles had one in 1914 - it was raced at Porthcawl sands and Weston sands and the Caerphilly hill climb that year but no photos of these events have be found.  Sunbeam it is not, but we also know from the earlier researches that Algy Guinness returned to racing in 1914, driving a Sunbeam. So putting two and two together and coming up with 22, it could be one of the Guinness brothers visiting Eric Insole to talk introductions to Sunbeam racing??

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Since the above was written, we have been advised of the following article in the Motor Sport Magazine 1994 which appears to confuse the issue even further:


However, we know from the 1913 photo above, and the Motor Sport 1994 text, and confirmed on photos elsewhere, that that Malcolm Campbell had the LN 870, that Kenelm Guinness had the LA 9513, and Minchin, BJ 578. On the Motor Sport photo it is just possible to make out 'Blue Bird (??)' on Minchin's car. Assuming The Guinness and Rawlison registrations were kosher, it would be nice to find out when they obtain these registrations. LA 9513 is London cca June 1911, LN 870 is London cca Jan 1907, and BJ 578 was East Suffolk mid 1908. One would have somehow assumed the cars would have been registered at the same place and at the same time?

The Motor Sport article suggests Minchin was chided by Campbell for suggesting in 1913 that the George car carried 17, which it indeed it had done, and Campbell stated that Guinness car carried 17, which he did not. The George car was not 30 as according to Campbell, because that number was carried by the Rawlinson car. Original photos of the Guinness car in 1908 TT show it carrying racing number 4, the George car carrying racing number 17, and Rawlinson car carrying number 30. So it seems that Campbell in 1913  may have caused some of the confusion, and we are really no nearer to nailing the car down.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find any photos of the three Darracqs in 1908 wearing roadgoing numberplates, nor any entry list showing any such numbers. It is therefore very difficult to follow the various car's individual life sequences. One thing is for sure thanks to the 'Insole' photo; one of the cars was definitely D 2578 when photographed at Insole Court at Easter 1910.  D 2578 was Kent County Council registration, issued 1907. The shenanigans with the registration have generally been attributed to Minchin and the car was carrying registration BJ 578 when photographed outside Campbell's house in 1913.

So it is unlikely the people who shenaniganned with the registrations were the original unnamed seller of the George car to the Doctor up north, or the Doctor up north who sold it to Welsh coal mine owner (presumably Insole?). The car appears at Insole Court as D 2578 at which point it seems to have been sold to Minchin.

Now here is an interesting hypothesis. We know from pictorial records that one of the Insole Rollses had a shenaniganned numberplate and now there seems to be another potentially shenaniganned car, the Darracq, at Insole Court. Interesting coincedences? It certainly seems evident that Insole and Micnhin knew each other and that Guinness may not have been the connection?


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Permission to reproduce the Motor Sport article has been requested.