On this day in 1949, we were invited to the MG Car Club’s Gymkhana. A.W. Morrish decided to write a review for the club’s journal, which rather amazingly shows that what would be a very small event today attracted prize money for the winners!
M. G. C. C. Gymkhana
This was a most enjoyable and friendly event, and was held in a field at Corston, on a very warm afternoon.
There were six items on the programme, and apart from prize money for first, second and third in each of these, a cup was for best performance of the day, this to be decided on best aggregate score, marks being allotted in the ratio of 3, 2, 1 for the first three places in each event.
Proceedings opened with the evergreen parking test, distances being measured from the front and nearside of vehicle. Touching a plank entailed disqualification. Cliff Salter parked his car beautifully, and I thought he was set for a certain win. The front measurement was nil, front wheel half-an-inch, and rear wheel two-inches. I was surprised when it was announced that he was third, the winner only losing two inches. However, a quick correction followed. and he moved up to second place. I touched the plank each time and scored nothing. A good start.
Next came a blindfold test. Competitors were required to reverse out of a garage and reverse back in again as quickly as possible, being directed by their passengers. This was an extremely difficult maneuver, and the successful attempts were few and far between. Early on, Cuff with his Cuff Special, put up a remarkably quick time of 24 seconds, which proved unbeatable. This caused me to reverse faster than I wished, and once again I touched a post each time.
The musical chair variation was now used, tyres taking the place of chairs. Gilbert Best ran well, accompanied by his Alsatian, which thought it was a grand game. He stayed in till four from the end, and tried really hard. Competitors drove their cars in a circle, stopping when the radio ceased. I was the third car to be knocked out, so once again I gained no marks. By now I had given up all hope of a chance of the cup.
For the first time the marks gained so far were announced. Cuff was leading with 4, two others had 3 each, and Salter and I had 2 each. This surprised me, but on enquiry, I found that I had been second in the blindfold test, my time being fast enough to make up for the marks lost by hitting a post. Thus encouraged, I decided to try hard to catch up.
Event 4 was a Catherine Wheel. Four times round a post, with a string attached to the rear of vehicle, said string not to be broken during the run. Cuff looked mighty fast, reminding me of a tractor ploughing at full speed, and I thought he would take some beating. However. I managed to knock a fifth or so off his time, only to be pipped by Warburton (Ford 8 saloon) by 2/5 second. There was another run to come, so I lowered the pressure of my rear tyre and cut straight across the circle and out of it over the finishing line, finding I had saved 2.4 seconds. This was good enough to add three points to my total score. Cuff now had 6 points, while I was running him close with 5.
My beloved wiggle-woggle followed, it being the usual zig-zagging between posts, with a return ticket to the starting line. This was a gift from the gods, as Cuff’s car was too big to get round at speed, and it was not difficult to make sure of another three points.
The position now, with one event to go, was myself—8 points, Cuff and Warburton—6 each.
The last dish on the menu shook me. Drivers had to stand inside a tyre (Wot! Me, with my big feet !) run fifty yards to their car, start it up, drive fifty yards, and stop astride a line, switch off, and run fifty yards back to the tyre. First, I cannot run (not like other people anyway; even Mrs. Best says I seem to have two left legs!) and secondly, my clutch and starter are both operated with the left foot, so I felt it was pretty hopeless. Anyway, I went down fighting and tried hard for a point. My first effort was four seconds slower than the third best time. Finally, by starting to run carefully; and not slipping about, and leaving the M.G. in first gear ready to run forward on the starter, I knocked off the four seconds, only to find the third best time had still eluded me by 2/5 second. Hard work, all to no avail, and was it hot! An exciting wait while results worked out, and then I heard two fresh names given in first and second places, Warburton being third.
So the final aggregate score was myself 8, Warburton 7, Cuff 6. A very close fight, and quite exciting in its way.
The M.G. Car Club (Western Centre) are to be congratulated on a very interesting and well thought out afternoon’s sport, with a novel way of scoring.
A. W. MORRISH