1956 World Speed Championships
Taken from Aeromodeller January 1957, volumeXXII Number 252
FIRSTLY AN APOLOGY to those who expected to read this report in the December issue. Rarely is the AEROMODELLER behind with its news, but on this occasion a fantastic series of mechanical mishaps to the Editor's car prevented him reaching home territory in time to make Press day. Not only man-made contrivances provided the bad luck which dogged the whole trip. On the way out, early snow on the Furka Pass halted all progress some 500 metres from the top, and a return to the Simplon (open all the year round they said!) disclosed an avalanche which necessitated a 200 mile detour to the Grande St. Bernard. Struggling over this 8,700 feet pass, we finally reached Italy (perpetual sun they said!) whereupon it rained without pause for two days! However, that is another story, sufficient to say that the extremes of wet were soon replaced by intense heat when we reached the picturesque town of Florence, scene of the 1956 World Speed Championships.
Arriving on the morning of Saturday, September 29th, at the Piazza del Cascade, we were greeted by the snarl of high speed motors, the sweet cloying smell of Nitro and Methanol stinging our nostrils as we crossed the generous area of tarmac specially barricaded for the event. The Piazza is situated in pleasant parkland and along one side the flags of competing nations hung limply in the intense heat above a grandstand erected for the benefit of the Italian public. On the other side of the square the Agricultural College of Florence provided welcome shade for contestants, whilst out on the tarmac officials and timekeepers sweated it out in their special "chicken house", which gave a clear and protected view of the two speed circles.
Soon we met the British contingent, headed by Team Manager, Eddie Cosh, comprising "Gadget" Gibbs and Pete Wright plus the glider boys, not forgetting Norman Butcher from our contemporary and Pete Hoskinson, who came along for the ride. The party, together with teams from fifteen other nations, were housed in a very impressive Italian Youth Hostel, set in beautiful surroundings on the fringe of the town. Unfortunately, poor organisation necessitated constant and irritating queuing for meal tickets and bad catering provided endless lengths of cold spaghetti!
After a morning of test flying the first round of the contest proper commenced in the afternoon, with two rounds to follow the next day. With the atmosphere so hot and dry the thought occurred that speeds might not be high. A thought quickly dispelled by Sladky, the tall well-built Czech, who, suitably attired in shorts, put in the first notable run of 194 k.p.h., which bettered his own winning speed the previous year by 14 k.p.h. This performance was subsequently, equalled by three of Sladky's team mates and also Prati of Italy, all four of them tying for sixth place. Prati was flying a special experimental Super Tigre, which sounded terrific, but on his first attempt he ground looped and lost a prop.
Unfortunate too, was the Finnish boy Jaaskelainen, whose odd flying style resulted in disqualification for whipping. On his second attempt we judged his wrist well in the pylon, but the judges thought otherwise, so he lost his first flight. Not so observant were the judges when other F.A.I. rules were flagrantly broken. We refer here to the rule which states, that contestants must start their own motors. This was cheerfully ignored throughout the contest by many of the teams, although Messrs. Gibbs and Wright rigidly wielded their own digits!And "Gadget" wielded his with a vengeance-using the famous Carter Special motor that has stood him so well these past twelve months he put in a cracking run of 206 k.p.h., a performance which set the pits a-buzzing and brought the crowd to its feet.
This terrific run following so soon after Sladky's certainly emphasised the tremendous increase in performance that these top speed boys had obtained since the previous year. Batllo the Spaniard, who can make Super Tigres go faster than the Italians themselves, and who many people tipped as a possible winner, could not get away, and with his balance sheet showing a deficit of two props, failed to record a flight in this first round.
Then we espied the lanky figure of Pete Wright making his way to the flight circle. His model was built to the standard of perfection we have come to expect and we doubt whether there was a better engineered model on the field. He was using one of the two Carter engines that Fred Carter had made specially for this event. They were only completed a week or two before the contest and although fast by normal standards, did not equal the performance of the earlier motor used by "Gadget".
They employ a Super Tigre crankcase, whereas the older version uses a sleeved down McCoy 19. Pete nevertheless, managed a promising run of 173 k.p h.
A new motor, the Barbini B.40, made its debut when Cellini of Italy recorded third fastest time in this first round of 192 k.p.h. A really superb piece of Italian engineering, it is glowplug, has front rotary induction, uses two ball races on the main bearing and, believe it or not, employs a minute roller-race big-end bearing.
At the close of this first day's flying, nine out of twenty-nine competitors had failed to record a flight, but with the whole of the following day devoted to the remaining rounds, there was plenty of time for surprises. Sunday morning seemed even hotter than the Saturday the fierce Italian sun heating the tarmac of the Piazza till it could be felt through the soles of our shoes.
There was, however, no time for siestas, foreign friend Batllo soon made up for his frustration the previous day by clocking 195 k.p.h. with Smejkal and Vydra of Czechoslovakia, running just 1 k.p.h. slower. Cellini and his Barbini decided to liven proceedings up a little more with a magnificent run of 200 k.p.h., which delighted the Italian crowd, who were also entertained by a jet stunt model in the between-round periods.
Further entertainment occurred when the jet motor cut whilst the model was inverted, whereupon a foolish, but well meaning Italian caught it on the glide, to relinquish it albeit hastily when his hand closed upon the red-hot tail pipe!
Once again it was the turn of "Mistair Geebs" as the announcer called him. Complete with entourage of photographers, officials, Pete Wright his helper, and a somewhat harrassed looking Eddie Cosh, who discovered that being team manager to the man with the fastest model, provided additional headaches.
Soon we were listening to the delightful howl imparted by the Carter engine as it reaches the 17,000 revs. per minute mark, and "Gadget" was kicking the circle marker number out of his way as he struggled to keep pace with the model. As the run concluded, with "Gadget" tottering on his heels, came the announcement, "206 k.p.h. Inghilterre Geebs!" Well this was identical with the first flight and still another round to go for possible improvement, not that any of us expected it.
The afternoon wore on with flight following flight. Battlo finally got going and showed more of his true form with a speed of 195 k.p.h., which placed him third behind Cellini at the end of the second round. As the light began to fail a breeze sprang up, which cooled the air and pointed to the possibility of faster times. Smejkal of Czechslovakia, quickly displaced Battlo from third position with a fine run of 196 k.p.h., whilst Cellini tried in vain to close the 6 k.p.h. that separated him from Gibbs.
Out came the maestro once more to set the seal on his already breathtaking performance, and what a finale he provided, and what a tribute to the genius of Fred Carter. We could hardly believe our ears-"Mistair Geebs 211 k.p.h." In English terms this is 131 m.p.h. an increase of 20 m.p.h. on the fastest time recorded at last year's championships. Truly a tremendous achievement.
But we were not finished with our thrills for Vitkovics of Hungary, who had shown no promise in earlier rounds, came out of the blue (or to be more exact, out of the black, for it was almost dark) to make a splendid effort of 205 k.p.h., thus taking second place.
Then as if for an encore "Gadget" decided to attempt a World Record, changing to thinner lines in his quest for extra speed. We must confess that during the run we could not see "Gadget" himself, never mind the model, but apparently the timekeepers were satisfied as they recorded an identical 16 seconds, giving the astonishing speed of 225 k.p.h., which is being submitted to the F.A.I. as a new world record.
Results - 2.5cc Speed