RACING NEWS OF THE MONTH.
By E. K.
GRAND PRIX DE L’OUVERTURE.
ROBF,RT BENOIST gave a taste of the quality of this year’s Grand Prix Delage by winning the opening race on the Montlhery track on 13th March by averaging 76.3 m.p.h. for 155 miles of the road circuit, which was in a very wet condition. He also covered a lap at 79.7 m.p.h., and when this is compared with the lap record set up by Albert Diva in the 1925 Grand Prix on the 2-litre Delage at 80.3 m.p.h., it will be seen that the 1927 1500 c.c. racer is a very fast car, which will have to be very seriously reckoned with in the more important races.
Second place in the race which was for cars up to 2000 c.c. was gained by Lescot on a 1500 c.c. Bugatti, who still had two laps to go when Benoist finished ; Eyston on a 2.1itre Bugatti was third, and Esclasson (1500 c.c. Bugatti) fourth. The only British competitor was the Eldridge Special driven by Douglas Hawkes, which retired with supercharger trouble.
The race was robbed of its most interesting feature by the last minute withdrawal of the Talbot, thus preventing a duel between two of the competitors in this year’s French Grand Prix. The Talbot people evidently did not like the look of the wet track, and so announced that Diva could not start, as he had hurt his hand ; as, however, Moriceau was present, this was not regarded as a good excuse by the spectators. For the same reason the expected duel between the 12cylinder 4-litre Talbot, which used to be a Sunbeam, and Benoist’s big 12-cylinder Delage had to be scratched.
The 1100 c.c. race, which was run in two heats on the road circuit, and a final on the track proper, proved a Salmson field day. In the final de Marnier (Salmson) was the winner at exactly 100 m.p.h., and was followed by Goutte and Penot on similar cars. These Salmsons were new racers fitted with Cozette superchargers.
THE FRENCH GRAND PRIX.
FINAL entries having closed for the French Grand Prix, only 10 cars may be expected to start in this important event on the Montlhery road circuit. The cars entered are 3 Delages, 3 Talbots, 3 Bugattis and the Halford Special. While, however, the number is not high, the quality of the competitors is certain to make the race extremely interesting. The Bugattis having won the Championship of the World last year will obviously be treated with considerable respect. On the other hand, whenever they met the Delages last year, the latter proved the faster, and were held back by their unsatisfactory exhaust systems ; as this trouble has now been rectified, the Delages may well be able to avenge such races as last year’s European Grand Prix. As also Benoist was racing one of the cars in the Grand Prix de l’Ouverture last month, they should start as nearly ready as a racing car ever can be. The Talbots have so far only met the Delages in the British Grand Prix, when they suffered defeat. This was due, firstly, to their lack of general reliability, which
the 200 Miles Race has suggested is not likely to reappear this year ; secondly, to an unsatisfactory front axle and brake design, which is being entirely revised for the coming season. The fact also that Diva holds the flying kilometre record in the 1500 c.c. class on one of these cars at 130.51 m.p.h. shows that these racers have actually the highest maximum speed in this class.
Finally, everyone will wish luck to G. E. T. Eyston on his single-handed venture with the Halford Special, which alone will carry the English colours. Though it will probably not be quite so fast as the cars with big factory organisations behind them, it is well known that the race is not always to the (comparatively) swift, and he may have a good chance of victory if the faster cars fail. The other drivers will probably be : Benoist, Boulier, and Morel, who has lately been driving an Amilcar, for Delage ; Dubonnet, Minoia and Conelli for Bugatti ; Segrave, Diva and Count Maggi, the well known Italian amateur, for Talbot.
A PLEA FOR A ROAD RACE.
WHILF, the Montlhery circuit certainly contains many road features, many would be glad to see the Grand Prix return to the public roads. France of all countries has the greatest facilities for running road races, and it seems a great pity that her classic race has now been relegated to artificial tracks. The comparatively poor attendance at the 1925 race, in spite of quite a good field being collected, shows that the public are not nearly so interested in a race on a special circuit
as on the ordinary roads ; and as the expensive sport of motor racing must rely a good deal on the publicity given by it to the manufacturers taking part, the public must be interested as much as possible.
Again, the Montlhery circuit contains only two hairpins and one or two right-angle turns. The rest of the bends are of the” fast ” variety, which, although needing a very great deal of judgment on the part of the driver, do not provide a very severe test of the car. The tendency at present, in fact, is to develop engines at the expense of the rest of the chassis, which is a disastrous proceeding if the standard car is to be developed by racing. Probably the major component of a car which is most likely to give trouble is still the clutch, while as a rule an old car’s transmission wears out while the engine is still in quite good condition. To test clutches, gear-boxes, back axles and, of course, brakes, one needs a road with a succession of hairpin bends, each calling for a change to first, followed by upward changes before the next bend is reached. Let us by all means avoid emulating the 3-speed American track racer, in which nothing but the engine is studied.
With her liberal supply of mountains, France should easily be able to find a course of this nature, coupled with a good stretch of straight level road where the engine would have to run all out. A comparison of the entry list of the Targa Florio and the French Grand Prix easily shows which type of course would prove most popular. Another point is that no one can feel indifferent about the very large element of danger in present day racing which has cost the lives of so many of the best known and admired drivers ; and a course with slow bends which cannot be taken at more than 30 m.p.h., for instance, is obviously safer than one where they are of the 100 m.p.h. order. In the first case, a slight error of judgment on the turn will probably result in nothing
worse than a shaking ; but the driver is unlikely to get off at the higher speed.
Finally, no effort is made at present to develop suspension on racing cars. The specially prepared surfaces of tracks and artificial circuits allow of springs, which are impossible for use elsewhere, a fact which was proved by the awful time Bordino had with the 1500 c.c. Fiat on the comparatively had Sicilian roads in the 1924 Coppa Florio. Ingenious suspension systems such as those used by Sizaire and Cottin-Desgouttes have not been features of racing cars of late ; and if the building of special racing cars is to be justified, their designers must aim at leading in every field of motor car development.
GRAND PRIX DE TRIPOLI.
THE first event of the Italian racing season was run off on March 6th, and consisted of a race of 262 miles over a course near the town of Tripoli. The contest was divided into three classes, for cars up to 1100 c.c., up to 1500 c.c., and over 1500 c.c. Heavy rain had reduced the circuit to a very bad condition, but in spite of this, some very high averages were put up by the competitors.
In the unlimited class the winner proved to be Emilio Materassi on a 2-litre Bugatti, who averaged 82.5 m.p.h. Balestiero on another Bugatti being second. The 1500 c.c. class was won by the straight-eight Maserati, with its builder at the wheel, at an average of 68.8 m.p.h., with Toti and Plate, both on Chiribiris, second and third. The 1100 c.c. class provided yet another victory for the Salmson, as Danesi and Borzachini, both on cars of this make, finished first and second, the winner averaging 60.1 m.p.h. for the 230 miles which this class had to cover. Third and fourth places were captured by Amilcars, driven by Bellincioni and Cabo. The record lap was made by Mate rassi, who covered one round at an average of 89.5 m.p.h.