Whitney Straight and the legendary Giulio Ramoni wait for the start of the 1934 race.
Now the organisers could set about obtaining the necessary guarantees to finance their brainchild. Starting point was a beachfront hotel, where Bishop had just completed a news interview. With the problem of starting money uppermost in his mind, he decided on a bold plan; he tackled A.F.B. Curran, a shrewd Irishman, and host at the hotel. Though not entirely convinced that the newsman was staging “the biggest sporting event the country had ever seen”, Curran nevertheless headed the subscription list with a generous donation of £25.
This was just the right impetus for Bishop’s enthusiasm, and after 48 hours he had sufficient funds to pay the starting money required by the overseas visitors. Newspapers all over the country were supplied with a barrage of news and the organisers worked tirelessly to make the race a success. Other entries soon materialised: Michael, younger brother of Whitney Straight, was to drive his first race in a Railton Terraplane and L.G. Williamson, a Johannesburg-based Briton, entered a Frazer Nash. There were 14 local entries, being for the most part stripped and tuned touring cars with special bodies.
Two weeks before the race, which was to be held on 27 December 1934, all roadwork on the circuit was completed. It was announced that Oswald Pirow, Minister of Railways and Harbours and Defence, was to present the prizes, which consisted of: 1st place: 250 guineas and a replica of the Barnes Trophy; 2nd place: 200 guineas and a gold medal; 3rd place: 50 guineas and a gold medal. In addition, 10 guineas and gold medals would be awarded for fastest lap, fastest race time and the most meritorious performance.
Sending their cars on ahead by sea, Whitney and Michael Straight, accompanied by Dick Seaman, had left England on 10 December in Whitney’s De Havilland Dragon (DH84). Their route was over the Mediterranean to Tunis, Cairo and then down Africa to East London. The vicissitudes of the journey were many and varied, including a forced landing (entailing the dumping of much of their personal baggage), but they arrived safely in East London on 22 December. The organisers heaved a sigh of relief. Their dream was yet another step closer to reality.
Incidentally, Michael Straight was the subject of a cause célèbre in the later years. He returned to the United States in 1937, becoming a well-known novelist and editor of New Republic magazine. In 1963, he confessed that he had been a Soviet spy since his Cambridge days and exposed Anthony Blunt, of Britain’s Royal Art Collections, as the man who recruited him in 1937.