This is the start of the British Empire Trophy race which was held on the Douglas Circuit, a course set out on public roads in and around the town of Douglas on the Isle of Man, on August 21, 1947. The Isle of Man is a self-governing island in the Irish Sea where public road racing is still allowed and still used for a major motorcycle competition. The street Circuit at Douglas had been used for some prewar races and as set up in 1947 was about 3.9 miles in length. The front row of the grid had Prince Bira on the left in his Maserati 4CL then Peter Whitehead with an ERA B-Type and, on the right and leading just after the fall of the flag, George Abecassis with his modified older ERA A-Type.
The race was for either 1.5 liter supercharged cars or those of 4.5 liters normally aspirated. These were the normal displacement limits for Grand Prix cars in the immediate postwar years. The new Formula One Championship for Drivers which started in 1950 used the same limitations. The Trophy race was preceded by the Manx Cup for “voiturette” types – supercharged cars of 1.1 liters or two liters unsupercharged.
Abecassis, a very talented “gentleman driver,” seen here at the left, led the initial laps of the 40 lap race, pursued closely by Whitehead, until stopping to correct an oil leak. After 20 laps Whitehead held the lead with Bob Gerard’s ERA B-Type not far behind (n. 22 in the photo of the start). Abecassis had recovered from his unplanned stop and was up to third place.
Shortly thereafter Abecassis overcooked his brakes in his attempt to catch up and retired having missed the hairpin. Other drivers needed to refuel except for Gerard who had fitted a larger fuel tank holding 50 gallons and ran without a stop to win from Whitehead by one minute 43 seconds.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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