C. A. N. May’s Book “Wheelspin Abroad”

I have added another rallying book to my library.  This new book “Wheelspin Abroad” was written in 1949 by C.A.N. May.  This book is mainly about competing in two events – the Lisbon Rally in 1948 and the Alpine Rally in 1948.  Usually when I discuss a book I will show the cover of that book, but unfortunately the cover of this book has been lost forever.  The following image comes from a page inside the book.

May Book Cover

Cover Page From May’s Book

For the purposes of this post I will focus on the first part of this book which discuss C. A. N. May’s participation in the 1948 Lisbon Rally in a MG Y sedan.  This was one of the first major international rallies that took place in Europe after World War II.  The part of the story of this rally that left the biggest impression on me is the description about how difficult it was to simply take part in an international rally at that time.  Taking currency out of a country was very difficult, therefore taking British pounds out of England to France, Spain, and Portugal was extremely challenging and involved difficult exchange procedures and protocols.  Further gasoline was still being rationed, so finding and buying gas during the rally was very difficult.  The war did not simply end in 1945 – the effects of the war lasted for many years after.  As a resident of North America, I don’t think that I truly understood this.

For the 1948 Lisbon Rally there were several alternative starting locations, but May and his two other teammates, John Heath and George Mansell, decided to start in Paris.  Competitors were free to choose their own route to Lisbon, but there were several time controls that the cars were required to pass through.  Cars were permitted to arrive at the Time Controls early, but the timing officials at each Time Control would take the Route Instructions from the competitors and not hand them back until the team’s designated out time from that Time Control.

The details of the route followed by the author’s team are shown below.

Lisbon Rally Itinerary

Distance, Timing And Time Controls Along Route Taken By C. A. N. May & Crew For The 1948 Lisbon Rally

The map below shows the route taken by May from Paris to Lisbon through each Time Control.

Lisbon Rally Route

Route Taken From Paris To Lisbon

The idea to enter the 1948 Lisbon Rally started with John Heath.  He was awaiting the delivery of a new MG TC and wanted to enter this car in the rally.  However when the rally rules came out he found out that only saloon cars or drop-head (convertible) cars were permitted.  The roadster design of the MG TC with its plastic windows or side curtains did not meet the letter of the rally rules.  It turns out that his parents were awaiting the delivery of a new MG Y sedan and through some family negotiation, it was decided to enter the MG Y sedan in the Lisbon Rally.

This was helpful in terms of having the ability to have three drivers in the car instead of the just the two drivers who could fit in a MG TC.  If you look at the required average speeds in this rally, that there are no planned stops.  The cars either have to be on the moving continuously or get far enough ahead of schedule that they can stop for a few hours to catch some sleep and eat.  Having three drivers in the MG Y gave the team more options.

To better show a MG Y sedan as discussed in the book I have included a picture below that I took of a MG Y sedan at the Lime Rock Historic Festival in 2012.

MG YA 1950 (6)

A MG Y Sedan

The book does not give any sense that they had difficulty meeting the timing requirements as they made their way from Paris to Lisbon.  The car performed well and they easily made the times at the Time Controls.  The difficulties in this portion of the rally were in buying gasoline, getting acceptable, legal currency to spend, and crossing international borders.

Lisbon Rally Photos 1

Pictures In May’s Book From The Lisbon Rally

The final placements in the rally essentially came down to the times taken for a test in Lisbon.  The layout of the test is shown below.  The times taken by the cars were measured to the 1/100 second.  Each car was scheduled to do two runs of this test.

Lisbon Rally Test

The Final Test Of The 1948 Lisbon Rally

The MG Y sedan, with its 1,250 cc engine was competing in the 1.5 litre class.  None of the drivers were particularly experienced in rallying or racing.  The time they took during the first run of the test was reportedly charitably described in a contemporary report as “not notably fast”.  During their second run the throttle cable broke causing the car to stall.  As a result their car did not have a good finish in the timing portion of the rally.  The bottom picture below shows the their MG Y sedan after leaving the starting line of the test.

Lisbon Rally Photos 2

While C.A.N. May’s team did not do well in the timing portion of the 1948 Lisbon Rally, they did win first place in the Concurso De Elegancia E Conforto portion of the rally.  This type of competition was not unusual in international rallies in that era.  The Monte Carlo had such a concours class as well.

Lisbon Rally Photos 3

The Concours Winning MG Y Sedan With Some Local “Glamour”

I found C.A.N. May’s book interesting and informative about the difficulties in competing in international rallies in the era just after World War II.  In a future post I will discuss the other portion of this book which focuses on the 1948 Alpine Rally.

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