Riley RMB. (1948)
Tim & Nicky Hunter's Riley RMB - Bessie.
When they bought Bessie the '48 RMB in the late 1990s, they were told that she had been raced in the past and that the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu had some records of it, but knew little else.
The event was May 9th 1953, the Daily Express International Production Touring Car Race in which Gilbert Grace came second to Sterling Moss.
The Express sent them a photocopy of the race report, which makes no mention of Rileys. The NMM, however, found a print of just Bessie (below), and a copy of Autosport of May 15th 1953, reporting the event which mentions the Rileys in the race.
Below is a transcript of the report for interest - a real piece of period journalism!
Autosport magazine, May 15th 1953
The Touring Car Race - Silverstone May 9th 1953
Lunchtime sandwiches and liquids were hastily downed by the crowds, in time for the start of the Touring Car race at 12:30pm. There is a particular fascination in seeing the sort of cars one can actually buy being put to the toughest of tests on the racing circuit, and full entertainment was promised by an entry ranging from Moss's Mark VII jaguar, through varying Alvis, Riley, Bristol, (Jowett) Javelin and M.G. strata down to Morris Minors and an Austin A40, with French Panhards, Renaults and a Simca Aronde to add a Continental piquancy.
Continental, too, was the start, conducted in traditional Le Mans fashion, with cars ranked in front of the pits, drivers tensed on the grass opposite. When starter Harry Ferguson dropped the flag there came a brief "padding" of feet as drivers rushed to their cars, a clicking as doors where whipped open, then shut, the whirr of starters and, in a trice, the field was away, Stirling Moss at the head. Despite there being over a score of cars, their departure was strikingly quiet, the whole lot making less noise than a single Formula 2 car. Into Copse they swirled, stop lights flashing, a banshee wail of tortured tyres arising as they took the turn, then sped away out of sight.
Moss's lead on round 1 was a commanding one, and he was enthusiastically clapped
as he boomed past the stands - Stirling was the crowd's hero that day after his
practice crash with the C type. Behind him, Gerry Dunham in the solid looking
3-litre Alvis and G.H.Grace in his 2 1/2 litre Riley were already locked in
combat, followed by Terry Crook and P.B.Buckley in Bristols and a long,
bewildering string of cars of diminishing capacity, with the pre-war Salmson
driver V.W.Derrington sedately bringing up the rear in his 750cc Renault.
The nose of Grace's Riley was practically in the Alvis's luggage boot as the pair tore round the circuit; four laps, then Grace somehow got past; another round and the leaders were already among the "minnows" at the tail, and still Moss led in beautifully clean style. Dunham, it could be seen, was losing slightly to the Riley on the turns, but pulling up on the straights. On the seventh lap he overtook the Riley with a glorious rush, Grace instantly whipping into his slipstream; the crowd simply loved it, and buzzed with excitement as the Alvis-Riley eight-wheeler sped on its way.
Behind, Tony Crook was leading the 2-litre class, only to receive the dolorous news that he had been docked one minute for jumping the Le Mans start; it seems he placed a foot on the track before the flag dropped, but many observers around his pit refuted the charge and Crook subsequently lodged a protest against the decision. A.P.Hitchins and his 1948 Healey were in fine form, hanging hard on to the Bristols, whilst in the 1 1/2 litre class Dick Jacobs was out ahead with his 1 1/4 litre M.G., pursued by W.G.Wright's Javelin and George Phillips, driving Gregor Grant's well-used M.G. All three kept Ray Merrick's 2-litre Sunbeam-Talbot at bay, and Gordon Wilkins was not far behind with the works-entered 850cc Dyna-Panhard, closely followed by Jim Sparowe's fleet little Morris Minor.
The saloon Allard of F.G.Curtis dropped out with locking brakes, Spreckley's Riley made a halt just beyond the starting area, and on lap 8 Len Potter's Panhard headed paddock-wards, emitting smoke and noise eloquent of an engine failure. Grace retook Dunham on the 11th round. and nothing the Luton driver could do thereafter could displace the Riley. Phillips was closing on Wright's javelin through the turns, then losing again on the straights; and all the time Stirling Moss was well out in front, drawing ever farther ahead. Seventeen laps and the Jaguar surged out of Woodcote corner for the last time, out came the chequered flag, and a burst of clapping and cheering went up as Stirling won a popular if unchallenged victory. Grace was next in, then Dunham, Hitching's Healey, A.P.O. Roger's Riley and the rest. Riley took the team prize and Moss, Grace, Buckley, Jacobs and Wilkins won their classes.
Results1. S.Moss (Jaguar) 17 laps in 40 mins 7 secs, 74.42mph.
2. G.H.Grace (Riley) 17 laps in 41 mins 4 secs, 72.70mph
3. C.G.H.F.Dunham (Alvis) 17 laps in 41 mins 12 secs, 72.46mph
4. A.P.Hitchins (Healey) 16 laps in 40 mins 24 secs
5. A.P.O.Rogers (Riley), 16 laps in 40 mins 29 secs
6. P.B.Buckley (Bristol) 16 laps in 40 mins 30 secs
7. T.A.D.Crook (Bristol) 17 laps in 42 mins 19 secs
8. G.Gelberg (Riley) 16 laps in 41 mins 55 secs, 67.03mph (Also 5th in 2-3 litre class)