With respect to Sam Clutton (Letters, Motor Sport, February 1989), the Type 35B Bugatti won races for reasons other than its “enormous torque”. Its torque curve was impressive, but the amount derived from the fact that its 2.3-litre engine was substantially the largest Grand Prix unit on the circuits at the time.
The victories came because the car: a) had a brilliant chassis, b) ran in the period 1928-30, when the international Grand Prix formula was either “libre” or based on fuel-consumption, and was ignored by the other manufacturers, and when France was exceedingly prosperous and blessed with an unusually large number of wealthy amateur racing drivers, c) was the only Grand Prix car readily available for purchase by the private owner in some numbers, and d) was challenged on the circuits only by the left-oven from the earlier 2-litre and 11/2-litre GP formulas, and a residue of sports and touring cars.
I imagine no-one is too impressed by the Bugatti victories in the 1926 Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France and the 1928 San Sebastian Grand Prix, in both of which Bugattis were the only starters. But many of the minor Grands Prix in France were run with similar entry lists, and even in major races where other makes took part they made strange company.
At the 1930 Grand Prix of the ACF, the 14 Bugattis were opposed by one 11/2-litre Grand Prix Delage and five sports or touring-based cars, from Birkin’s 41/2-litre blower Bentley (which finished second) to a Model A Ford Special. If the Belgian GP that year (eleven Bugattis versus Georges Irat and Aries four-seater touring cars, a sleeve-valve Peugeot, four Belgian slide (not side)-valve Imperias, two more Model A Ford Specials and an 1100cc Lombard), Frenchman Edmond Cohin wrote: “The Bugattis are without any adversaries worthy of the name, all the major racing car manufacturers continuing to shun a formula which has no interest to them.”
I think we may conclude that the 35B was competitive only into far as the competition was weak. If a good big engine will usually beat a good little one, a good little chassis will beat a good big one likewise. Ettore Bugatti enjoyed the best of all possible worlds in that threeyear period.
Anthony Blight, Callington, Cornwall