The Siamese Prince

Bira, Maserati, klemcoll

Here is Prince B. Bira of Siam with his Maserati 4CL in its Siamese colors at the Jersey International Road Race which took place on the Channel island of Jersey on May 8,1947. After the War, racing on public roads was forbidden in England. However, that law did not apply to places such as Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands where the public roads could still be used.

The entry in the early postwar grand prix and voiturette races were of course prewar racing cars, such as the Maserati 4CL and British ERAs. The Maserati had a four cylinder motor with four valves per cylinder and a Roots type supercharger. It produced slightly over 200 hp at up to 8000 rpm. The various prewar 1.5 liter ERAs used a highly modified engine based on a 6 cylinder Riley block and produced power similar to that of the Maseratis

There were 29 entries for this race on Jersey, the first British postwar grand prix race, which ran through the town of St. Hilier. Most of the cars were 1.5 liter supercharged Maseratis and ERAs with some larger-engined normally aspirated Delages, plus a Bugatti, a Darracq and a Delahaye. Bira, who had real racing talent, was by a good margin fastest in practice with a lap at 2′ 6.6″, but there would be strong competition from the 4CLs of Reg Parnell and Louis Chiron.

Once the race started, just near where this photograph was taken, Bira damaged a wheel by hitting a curb and his pit stop put him out of contention. The race control effort was pretty amateur. It seems that there was confusion over the lap charts, to the extent that they existed.  Chiron’s crew thought he was leading with Parnell second until just before the finish when the order was shown as being the reverse. There was considerable opinion at the time that Chiron was indeed leading at the finish but it was not to be.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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One comment

  1. Jim sitz · · Reply

    The event so typical of racing then, so many cities would stage racing
    through their streets. Another venue in United Kingdom was Isle of Man
    which was better known for the epic Tourist Trophy motorcycle event..
    France certainly hosted many of these.!

    Bira, a loyal customer to Maserati which allowed him to be one of first drivers
    to purchase the wonderful 250 F car in 1954, along with Moss and Louis Rosier.

    Jim Sitz


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