Etancelin had had an adventurous journey from Bologna. At Arles his touring car had suddenly burst into flames, and was completely burnt out. However, he arrived at Pau in good time. The day of the race began with rain, and for some time it looked as though the attendance would be a good deal smaller than last year. At midday, however, the sky suddenly cleared and the sun was soon shining brilliantly. In consequence, the spectators came out in their thousands.
When the starting flag was dropped, Sommer got slightly the better of Wimille, with the initial get away, as did Martin with Etancelin, but Whale was out to set a cracking pace and he was well ahead at the end of the first lap. The young Bugatti driver steadily increased his lead, until at the 5th lap he had a good half-minute advantage over Sommer, who was closely followed by Martin, Etancelin, Villapadierna, Lehoux, Brunet and Delorme. Mlle Hellé-Nice was already out of the fight, having crashed into the straw barricades at the Station corner and sustained a broken arm.
After his slow start, Etancelin gradually began to warm to his work. He caught Martin, and on the 12th lap passed Sommer, but Wimille was still a long way ahead, and was increasing his lead by one or two seconds on every lap. A grand scrap was going on behind him, for Sommer was grimly hanging on to Etancelin, and Marcel Lehoux, driving the very same 2.3 Bugatti with which Varzi won his famous Monaco duel with Nuvolari, had slipped past Charles Martin to take 4th place.
Quarter-distance (25 laps) saw the cars in the following order : 1. Wimille (Bugatti) ; 2, Etancelin (Maserati) ; 3, Sommer (Alfa-Romeo) ; 4, Lehoux (Bugatti) ; 5, Martin (Alfa-Romeo) ; 6, Villapadierna (Alfa-Romeo) ; 7, Delorme (Bugatti). Raph (Alfa-Romeo) had retired with a split carburetter-float, while Brunet had found that a brake drum had been buckled by his slight accident in practice, causing him to retire.
Wimille looked a safe bet, but on the 30th lap the unexpected happened. He pulled into the pits with a noise of clanking metal—his brake-operating mechanism had come adrift, and the favourite was out.
Etancelin was now leading, but only just. A few yards behind him was the relentless Sommer, who in turn was being closely followed by Lehoux and Martin. It was anybody’s race.
This tightly packed formation proved to be the undoing of Lehoux. A shower of small stones and dust was thrown into his eyes by the wheels of Sommer’s Alfa while they were rounding a difficult corner, and he was momentarily blinded. The Bugatti bumped over the kerb on to the pavement, and the strain burst one of the tyres. By the time he had changed the wheel he was a lap behind his rivals.
Sommer passed Etancelin and at half-distance the order was 7 1, Sommer (Alfa-Romeo) ; 2, Etancelin (Maserati) ; 1 sec. behind ; 3, Martin (Alfa-Romeo) 5 secs. behind ; 4, Lehoux (Bugatti) 1 lap behind ; 5, Villapadierna (Alfa-Romeo) 3 laps behind ; 6, Delorme (Bugatti) 11 laps behind. A few minutes later Delorme was out with a broken valve, thus leaving only five cars in the race, with fifty laps to go.