Castrol - An Enviable Reputation In Motorsport

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Castrol was founded by C. C. Wakefield & Company, suppliers of the famous Castrol lubricating oils. The company garnered an enviable reputation in motor sports due to the substantial financial assistance provided by its creator, the Viscount Wakefield of Hythe, who was particularly keen to assist record-breakers and competitors on land, on water and in the air.

One reason why Castrol is clearly remembered by the nostalgic is because of the splendid pungent smell of burnt Castrol "R" which was one of the main ingredients that made early race tracks such as Brooklands such a great place to be. The castor-base lubricant was known universally as "R", a registered trade descriptive label, that originated as the only lubricant on which it was possible to run First World War rotary aero-engines such as the Gnome and its derivatives, for any length of time.

As it turned out, only castor oil could withstand the extremes of heat and friction to which early high-speed or high-powered engines were prone, which is why it was almost universal for racing for a considerable time. The draw back was that it soon gummed up the moving parts, which meant it was suitable only for engines which were frequently stripped - not a common occurence on everyday cars.

Castrol were not alone in marketing castor-base oil. Even in the 1950's there were other racing oils, such as Pratt's Castor, Essolube 60 Racer, Notwen Castor, BP Energol Racing and Vigzol Golden Race. But the fact is that when the old racing sounds and scents are recalled all castor oils are thought of as the famous Castrol "R".

Another thing which singled Castrol out as different from other oils was the fact that it was made by a Company which specialised only in lubricants. There were other top-class oils to which this also applied - Duckham's, Filtrate, and Sternol come immediately to mind, together with the smaller concerns selling Notwen and Vigzol oils. In spite of what seemed a handicap from the retailing viewpoint, it was estimated at various times, and certainly by 1939, that more than half the motor vehicles in use were lubricated by Wakefield products, despite the commercial might and service station advantages of BP, Esso, Mobil, Shell and BP, etc.

The fashion in which this came about is one of the romances of Industry - the young Wakefield, who was born on December 12th, 1859, entered a firm of oil brokers, preferring this to becoming a Civil Servant. It was a small, three-partner concern. But it gave C. C. Wakefield a sound knowledge of the Trade and he was soon in charge of its affairs. Then, aged 32, Wakefield was offered the appointment of agent to a leading American oil company. He moved from Liverpool to London, commenced World travel in search of orders, and gained such confidence and friendships that, after a flaming row with his bosses in 1898, he felt ready to form a company of his own.

Thus C. C. Wakefield & Co. came into being, with three small office rooms and a staff of nine, which included the travellers. Wakefield was prinncipal, his brother-in-law, WaIter Graham, and James Browne his assistants. At first concentrating on oils for steam locomotives and industrial uses, in 1909 Wakefield's introduced special lubricants for motor car and aeroplane engines - the immortal "R" serving the latter. The car oils were soon called "Castrol".

From its very humble origins, C. C. Wakefield and Co. Ltd. had become a large British oil organisation. The two faithful assistants Graham and Browne retired in 1938 and the Joint Managing Directors then became Holland Y. Blades, and Walter H. Senneck, who had for years acted as His Lordship's private secretary. The new Directors appointed were C. D. Sandison and Alonzo Limb, the latter the aviation and motor-racing adviser to Lord Wakefield from 1926. While the company's lubricants continued to oil countless complicated machines, Wakefield had imposed such a strain on his own body that it broke down irreparably in 1940, the day after his 81st birthday, an he died in January 1941. The Memorial Service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Mark II Fairey monoplane
In 1932 the Mark II Fairey monoplane gained the
World's Distance Record by covering 5,309.24 non-stop miles...

Helping Set Speed And Distance Records On Land And In The Air

A new Board was formed to control the then million pound Company, the Director Capt. G. E. T Eyston, OBE, MC, of motor racing an prolific record-breaking fame, such as World Land Speed Records.

The company would continue to enjoy enormous success, which stemmed from supplying oils that had been the top products of their time: As requirements changed, so Castrol changed to meet each fresh challenge.

As previously mentioned, castor oil was best suited to purging the heat from early air-cooled aero engines, which may have rotated around their own crankshafts but did so in a way that did not adequately make use of the air thus disturbed to dissipate latent heat.

"Archie" Frazer-Nash once remarked, in the 1920s, that a ½-mile speed-trial was one thing but that a kilometre was something far more formidable! There were even racing folk of this era and earlier who denied themselves any benefits a good oil could endow, preferring to reduce drag to a minimum by draining engines and transmissions before embarking on a sprint record. Reflecting on those early days, it is evident how comparatively slowly the technique of lubrication had progressed, right up until the Fairey "Postal" Long Range monoplane of 1928 which was arranged with two oil-filters on parallel circuits, thus enabling one to be removed for cleaning while the other remained in use. At that time this aeroplane had to fly non-stop for 4500 miles to break the World's Duration Record.

It was in 1932 when the Mark II version of the Fairey monoplane (with retractable under-carriage and single Napier Lion engine) gained the World's Distance Record for Britain, by covering 5,309.24 non-stop miles. These were halcyon days for the Brits, who also held the World's Altitude Record (Vickers 210-43,976 ft), the World's Air Speed Record (Supermarine S6B-407.5 m.p.h.) and the World's Land Speed Record (Campbell's Napier-Campbell - 253.97 m.p.h.). Every time Sir Malcolm had broken the Land Speed Record he had used Castrol oil.

Much of the early magic of Castrol stemmed from the fact that Lord Wakefield played such a prominent part in pre-war record-breaking and racing activities. He owned the racing boat "Miss England" , spending some £40,000 on her. He gave very generous sums of pre-war money to the leading drivers and aviators. Sir Mallcolm Campbell in particular benefited, but arguably his favorite driver was Sir Henry Segrave. When Segrave was killed in the "Miss England" mishap, Lord Wakefield was the only person besides the family to attend the funeral. So obviously all the great records by these two drivers, from Campbell's 150 to over 300 m.p.h. in his "Bluebirds" and Segrave's 150+, 200 and 230 m.p.h. runs in the 4-liter VI2 Sunbeam.

Captain George Eyston's Twin 12 cyl.
Rolls-Royce Merlin Aero, which
took out the World Land Speed Record in 1937/1938...

Lord Wakefield's Sizeable Contribution To Motorsport

Lord Wakefield also materially assisted the light-aeroplane movement of those days, by presenting DH Moths to struggling flying clubs. All the time, Castrol oils were being developed to meet new technical challenges. It is true that lubrication problems of engines were eased by such innovations as the general adoption of aluminum in place of cast-iron and steel pistons, a move which alone reduced oil consumption by 45%, by the change from splash to force-feed oiling via drilled crankshafts, and by the discarding of white-metal and lead-bronze bearings for the modem thin-shell type, so that complexities such as oil coolers and dry sumps could be disposed of, and mineral oil became acceptable even to those who had been diehards for castor oils, as much for the pleasant exhaust aroma as for the lubrication benefits, it sometimes seemed.

Nevertheless, the lubricants themselves had to keep pace with ever higher power outputs, heavier bearing loadings, longer servicing periods, and the idiosyncrasies of things like sleeve valves, rotary valves, compression-ignition engines, etc. Castrol were well aware of this and the fact that their products were always at the forefront of progress resulted in a Company that had been floated with a few thousand pounds eventually turning over millions a year for its shareholders.

In 1935 Wakefield's introduced Patent Castrol, which had the claimed exclusive minute ingredients of chromium and tin both soluble in oil, the former additive to protect cylinder walls against chemical corrosion from the burning gases, the latter to put a brake on the oxydisation process that results in sludge, which blocks oil-ways, gums up piston rings, and could cause sticking valves. This was followed in 1938 by lighter oils to reduce drag, in 1949 by the addition of new inhibitors to give the lubricants more durability, and in 1952 by the introduction of anti-scuffing additives and rust and corrosion inhibitors applied to Castrol hypoid axle oils.

In the pioneering days of fast motoring on two, three and four wheels the failure of mechanical parts such as valves, pistons and bearings was often blamed on materials when, in fact, inferior lubricants were the cause. Because oil is required in correct quality and quantity to conduct away excessive heat, which otherwise destroys mechanical parts. The ingenious Granville Bradshaw used oil in lieu of water-wetting to cool his vee-twin Belsize-Bradshaw engine, literally sinking the cylinders in the crankcase, and he even applied the method to a multi-cylinder Belsize car and a motorcycle engine.

Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, Bert Hinkler, C. W. A. Scott, etc.,
used Castrol for the air-cooled motors of their Moths and Avians...

Lubricating Thunderbolt, Bentley, Riley and Famous Aviators

Captain George Eyston lubricated his racing cars, from 750 c.c. MG to 73,000 c.c. Thunderbolt, with Castrol. Bentley used it at Le Mans, Keech at Indianapolis, Divo (Bugatti) in the Targa Florio, Birkin in the blower Bentley at Brooklands, Dixon in his TT Riley, Brian Lewis for the Mannin Moar 3.3 Bugatti.

In the air the heroic long-distance light aeroplane pilots, Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, Bert Hinkler, C. W. A. Scott, etc., used Castrol for the air-cooled motors of their Moths and Avians, in the days when it was all a tremendous adventure, and the attire was leather coats and leather flying helmets with goggles. Famous racing motorcyclists and crack steam locomotives such as the 125 m.p.h. Pacific Mallard found Castrol suited their mechanicals.

You may think, however, that it was the pre-First World War long duration stuff which truly proved the worth of Castrol oil. It was specified by M. Paulhan when he won the Daily Mail London-Manchester Air Race in 1910, Harry Hawker's Sopwith-Wright monoplane flew for eight hours on it in 1912, Coatalen used Castrol for his victorious Coupe de l'Auto Sunbeams and his Brooklands Sunbeams, and perhaps the seal was set when both trans-Atlantic crossings by the R34 airship and the Alcock and Brown Vickers-Vimy were made with the aid of Castrol.

Brilli-Peri had it in the engine of his P2 Alfa Romeo that won the 1925 Italian GP and Sir Alan Cobham was an enthusiastic Castrol man, Cobham's Puma-powered OH 50 in which he flew 17,000 miles from England to Rangoon and back in 1925 and which was towed through the Lord Mayor's Show sans its wings and tires, bore the inscription "Sir Charles Wakefield" on the sides of its fuselage.

From the Lympne motor-glider contests of 1923, when Castrol lubricated the winners of the speed, reliability and altitude prizes and the 87½ m.p.g. 697 c.c. ANEC, to the time in 1934 when the Macchi-Castoldi sea-plane with its 24-cylinder contra-prop. 3,000 h.p. Fiat engine which took the Air Speed Record to 440 m.p.h., Wakefield's lubricants were in the news.
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