Jump to content


Photo

William Bethel Thompson raced in the UK?


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 john medley

john medley
  • Member

  • 1,155 posts
  • Joined: November 02

Posted 21 February 2003 - 00:26

W.B.Thompson was perhaps THE outstanding Australian racing driver of the 1930s, with a remarkable winning record. Born 1906, he wasted a bit of time on leaving school before departing Sydney and heading for the UK where he according to his own words mucked around at places like Brooklands. This was probably around 1925 - 27, but I have no record of what that ' mucking around ' consisted of. I would like to know more, and what better place to ask than TNF?
One small clue that may be no more than a couple of coincidences: the cover photo 'Australian Motor Sports' September 1946 shows Australian Joan Richmond driving a Frazer Nash registration number PF 1861 at the Crystal Palace circuit in mid 1930s. According to David Thirlby's 'The Chain Drive Frazer Nash'(1965) page 163 that car, a Boulogne model of 1926, was first owned and sand raced by W.B.Thompson ( who probably lived near Darlington ) circa 1926 - 27. The question is, was THAT WB Thompson William Bethel Thompson and , if so, what were the rest of his ' mucking about' details?
Thanks in advance.

Advertisement

#2 David McKinney

David McKinney
  • Member

  • 14,156 posts
  • Joined: November 00

Posted 21 February 2003 - 06:13

W B Thompson in his Frazer Nash won both scratch races at a sand meeting at Seaton Carew on 23 June 1927, but in the handicap rolled into the crowd, injuring two spectators.
I thought a good way of confirming whether or not this was Aussie Bill was to check English sand-racing results for later years, when our man was known to be back home. This exercise produces reference to Bill Thompson in an Austin Seven finishing second in the 100-mile race at Southport on 13 August 1932. What I don’t know is whether this is the former Frazer Nash driver or not, so we’re no further ahead.
I expect to see David Thirlby tomorrow so will ask him what he knows

#3 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,685 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 21 February 2003 - 23:20

August 1932 is right in the middle of the gap between the 1932 and 1933 AGPs...

Did WBT race in any Australian events in this period?

Also, Thompson's car for the 1933 event was described by the esteemed author of that section of The Official 50-race History of the Australian Grand Prix as having been an ex-works car (ie. from England) en-route to its new owner in New Zealand.

Could he have been in England in this period, lowered himself to compete in an Austin 7 and also arranged to use the Riley that he might well have learned about at the 'works' and perhaps, even, helped with the customs duty on the car on entry to NZ by making it a bit older on the way?

John, I note that your aforementioned esteemed co-author wrote at the conclusion of his 1939 AGP story, referring to drivers of this pre-war period, "There had been the emergence of tremendous driving skill, including that of Kleinig, with possible genius in Barrett and Tomlinson. Thompson, clearly, was a great in the early years."

Do you think he's underestimated Thompson's ability?

#4 john medley

john medley
  • Member

  • 1,155 posts
  • Joined: November 02

Posted 22 February 2003 - 02:47

David..amazing info ( thanks!), and a useful start towards answers.. even though even at this early stage it appears that it's not our man.... although
Ray... Australian WB Thompson, according to my records, ran 2 events at the end of July 1932, no events in August, with his next recorded event 10/09/32. Even thogh those records show an August gap there still would not have been sufficient time for WBT to get from Sydney to the UK, race an Austin 7, and get back... so I think we can safely say that WBT( Aus) and Austin Bill Thompson were two different people. At this stage while it appears unlikely that WBT and Frazer Nash WBT are the same , the jury is still out....
In regard to the comments of that esteemed author re the skills of Kleinig, Barrett, and Thompson, I would agree that the general view was that Kleinig was a terrific operator in sprint events and on ovals, but less than Barrett as a roadracer. Barrett I think quite rightly was regarded as Australia's best immediately prewar and postwar: his record speaks for itself and with a n old car ( and I still recall how impressed I was at Mt. Druitt in January 1954 to realize that it was the legendary Alf Barrett practising in Peter Whitehead's C Type Jaguar, going quickly and competitively, and with absolutely no acknowledgement over the PA system or in the programme....if one didnt recognize him , one didnt know...)Basically Thompson was from another era, even though they were of similar age, WBT born 1906, Barrett 3 years later. One of the things that impressed about Thompson was his standard of preparation ,as well as the fact that he was always intensely competitive. Like Barrett, he was regarded as Australia's best of that slightly earlier period, but I get the impression that Thompson competed in a wider range of events with great success, prepared his cars beautifully, was a super competitor, and no less skilled than Barrett. I suspect that Thompson could be regarded as close to a professional racer. It's impossible to make proper comparisons but my guess is Thompson was the better. Certainly John Snow who raced against Kleinig, Barrett, and Thompson, ranked them as I have, and REVERED Thompson.It was Snow( whose most recent event had probably been 1936 Spa 24 Hours) who spoke those lines after ex MGK3 driver Thompson gave new MGK3 driver Snow a demo at Victor Harbour 1936: " Never before or since was I made more painfully aware of my own limitations" and eulogized about Thompson's skills( in conversation with me 1980)

#5 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,685 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 22 February 2003 - 08:20

And though it may seem to be a favourite hobby horse of mine... what about Tomlinson?

Unfortunately a very short career, and virtually all of it totally remote from the mainstream of the competition. Just those two events at Lobethal... and precious little information about the one in which he showed his ultimate speed.

And, of course, all of this in a car that must always remain virtually unknown.

#6 john medley

john medley
  • Member

  • 1,155 posts
  • Joined: November 02

Posted 22 February 2003 - 23:23

Ray, re Tomlinson.I know! I know! ( but as you know I dont know the answer). Tomlinson's performances in that brief period border on the unbelievable. There is little doubt that his was the fastest MGTA ( the only?) ever, and the evidence indicates he was as prepared for his races as any of the hotshots from the east -- or even more so.I think it's likely that the straighten the crankshaft at bearing changes story is true. I think the MG factory comment re best prepared/ fastest MGTA is true. And we have to accept that his Lobethal laptimes ( and estimated speeds) are true. And as I told you all my investigations just bewildered me ( and others) :Using a pair of dividers, I sectioned an accurate Lobethal map into standing and flying quarter miles, estimated time taken for each section, and added them up; this proved that neither Tomlinson nor his car could have done the times he did in actuality (!!!). I then attacked the problem in reverse: taking his overall lap time I sectioned this so I ended up with a pretty good line on for example how many seconds he took to go from the Onkaparinga Woollen Mills corner to the Gumeracha turnoff up through the main street of Lobethal township --- and then tested this.Ross Hodgson is a very good racing driver, his car in 1990 was a 1989 EA V8 Falcon, his passengers were me with all my calculations/ race reports/original laptimes/ stopwatches and longtime MG expert Tom Stevens who actually saw Tomlinson do the deed at Lobethal ( both times), the latter having done what might be called an engineering analysis of what you could have done to a TA to make it go. All firmly belted in, we blasted up through the Gumeracha Turnoff but after an orgy of shrieking smoking tyres and maniac understeer, Ross gave it away ( 'this is too hard')before we crested the rise near where the Itala V8 crashed in 1948 -- but only after I had to tell him he was already outside Tomlinson's estimated time. We concluded that since he actually did those times ( and for example had to have reached 120mph regularly), the engine had to be a big fat one ie a big MG motor not a TA -- we turned a blind eye to the photo evidence that it WAS a TA motor ie like all human beings we werent comfortable with the impossible so we invented a convenient if false excuse.
So, my view on Tomlinson? Clearly he was unbelievably good..... and my impression is that he was seen that way in Western Australia at the time. To the eastern staters he must have been quite a shock.

#7 Marcor

Marcor
  • Member

  • 1,198 posts
  • Joined: July 00

Posted 23 February 2003 - 00:37

I don't know if it is the same Thompson but I've in my records from 1927,
16 July, Brooklands, Sportlife Meeting
5th race (handicap), 2nd, Thompson, HNT
6th race (including all classified in first 5th races), 3rd, Thompson, HNT

17 September 1927, Brooklands meeting
Handicap 9 miles 1/3, 3rd, Thompson, HNT.

And perhaps it was Thomson (different sources)...

#8 john medley

john medley
  • Member

  • 1,155 posts
  • Joined: November 02

Posted 23 February 2003 - 04:49

Marcor. Thanks for your work... but what does 'HNT' mean in your post ? And were there initials shown?
For those familiar with Sydney, the road from Chatswood down to the Lane Cove River ( the name of which escapes me for the moment) was the scene of William Bethel Thompson's earliest 4 wheeled speed endeavours. From near his parents' house on that road he rushed a World War 1 billycart down what must have been a fairly forbidding slope winding down to the river

#9 Criceto

Criceto
  • Member

  • 201 posts
  • Joined: August 00

Posted 23 February 2003 - 08:55

Sorry, I'm afraid I've got to rule out the Brooklands Thompson connection with your man.

I've got no record of WB Thompson taking part in any contest there, and the Thompson, HNT referred to is HN Thompson (no given names known) who drove an "HNT" special.

Now, I hasten to add - my records aren't complete. I do need access to a dozen or so more race cards to sort out the late twenties for sure, but certainly I've got no information on WBT in either the entry lists I've seen or any of the Brooklands race reports from Autocar, Motor or Motor Sport.

#10 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,685 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 23 February 2003 - 09:42

Tomlinson's comment, John, was that he was the only one to bolt the supercharger on the cooler side of the engine...

One wonders who it was that was timing him during his three weeks of endless practice prior to the 1939 race. He might have been able to give a clue about actual times being achieved on different sections of the course, because he was able to go to Tomlinson et al and tell them that they would win. He knew from the times he was taking...