THE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
Sweeping Victory for Alfa-Romeo
FOLLOWING close upon the 24-hour race at Le Mans, the Belgian Grand Prix, which was run this year on the 5th and 6th July, is an event very similar and yet very different to the Grand Prix d’Endurance.
It is a 24-hour road race for ” touring ” cars, but instead of there being one prize for the car which covers the greatest distance, and another for that which puts up the best performance under the rather complicated rules for the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, there is in theory no one general winner and the entry is divided into classes according to cylinder capacity, while the rules with regard to replacements are much less strict than in the case of the French event. The curious part about the entry list was that French cars, which were conspicuous by their absence in their own national race, predominated in this event, and the Belgian and Italian entries gave the affair an international character which was only spoiled by the lack of British cars, which were so numerous at le Mans, and which here were represented by the solitary M.G. Midget. When, in fact, the starters were drawn up on the Circuit of Francorcharnps, near Spa, on Sunday, 5th July, they consisted of the following : Over 3-litres : Chrysler I. (Stoffel and de Costieres), Chrysler II. (de Joncy and Sabipa), Chrysler III. (Renard and Barthelemy), Bugatti VI. (Blin and d’OrimontAndre), Delage (Jacques and Ogez), De Soto II. (Hommel and van Hoye). Under 3-litres : Bugatti I. (Chiron and Bouriat), Bugatti II. (Reinaatz and Minsard), Bugatti III. (Orban and Demoulin), Bugatti VIII. (Sigrand and Bouquet), Bugatti IX. (Dreyfus and Schumann), Georges Irat (Cornil and Museaux), De Soto I. (Pesato and Morel), Hotchkiss (Heleartz and Varelle). Under 2-litres : Alfa-Romeo I. (Marinoni and Ghersi), Alfa Romeo II. (Canavesi and Zehender), Alfa-Romeo III. (Ivanowski and Cortesi), Imperia I. Thelusson and Leduire), Imperia II. (Diericks and Lambert), Imperia III. (Fauconnier and Claessens). Under 1,500 c.c. : Bugatti IV. (Evrard and Traseuter), Bugatti VII. (Pierre and Thys), Chenard et Wakker (Breyre and
S.C.A.P. I. (Menage and Guibert). Under 1,100 c.c. : Aries (Duray and Laly), Tracta I. (Ufa and Moulin), Tracta II. (Gouvion and Vallon), Tracta III. (Debeuguy and Vasena), Tracta IV. (Ingels and Meyer), B.N.C. I. (Dore and Treucret), B.N.C. II. (Siregols and Manuel), Salmson (Vasipol and Billy), Rally (Cuvellier and Vilain), M.G. (Samuelson and Kindell), S.C.A.P. II. (Remond and Durnaret), Amilcar (Seo and Franz).
The most notable absentees were, of course, Lady Dorothy Paget’s team of three supercharged 4i-litre Bentleys, though their withdrawal was known some time before the start of the race. Considerable disappointment was also caused by the non-appearance of the front-wheel-drive Cord, whose performance would have been watched with great interest. In the absence of the Bentleys all the competition was expected to lie between the 2,300 c.c. supercharged Bugattis and the 1,750 c.c. Alfa-Romeos, and this forecast was soon justified. The start was given in the usual manner, the drivers running to their cars, scrambling on board and getting the engines going with the starters. They all got away in a bunch, but Louis _Chiron on the Bugatti was the first round again, followed by the three AlfaRomeos in close formation, then Dreyfus and Andre on the next two Bugattis and Jacques on the 8-cylinder Delage. This last car was rigorously standard, and went remarkably well. During the first few laps Chiron was travelling extremely fast, and gradually increasing his lead on his
Italian rivals. Alfa-Romeo II. also, driven by Canavesi, had to make several calls at the pits, as apparently the oil pump was not working satisfactorily. He kept going, however, and in that was luckier than Gouvion on Tracta. II. and Vasipol on the Salmson, both of whom were forced to retire early on in the proceedings.
While Chiron was busily scrapping with the Alfas, the team of three Imperias were behaving as if they had hardly realised that this was a race as opposed to a highspeed reliability trial. As a matter of fact, these cars, which had 1,800 c.c. 6-cylinder slide-valve engines and comfortable 4-seater saloon bodies, had been picked at random from the showroom by a representative of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium, and were sealed and entered in the race without any alteration whatever. They travelled round the course in close company and even stopped together to fill up. All three went through without a single vestige of trouble, and they provided a remarkable demonstration of reliability.
In the meantime Chiron held the lead unchallenged until, after he had covered about 220 miles, he came in to refuel and hand the car over to Bouriat. Thereupon it was discovered that the dynamo driving belt was broken, and this took some time to replace. By the time Bouriat got away, the Bugatti was some Way behind both Marinoni and Ivanowski’s Alfa-Romeos, but the relief Bugatti driver proceeded to show. that he was nearly as fast as the great Chiron, and by the time he handed the car over to his team-mate again he had made up more than five minutes on Marinoni. At the end of 6 hours, quarter way through the race, the order of the leaders was as follows :
Among the smaller cars Pierre and Thys on a Bugatti headed the 1,500 c.c. class, followed by the Chenard et Walcker, while in the 1,100 c.c. division Dore and Trennet on the B.N.C. were first, followed by Duray and Laly on the little Aries. This latter car had been entered on the initiative of its drivers, and is the identical machine which started its racing career in 1926.
When Chiron got away for the second time he was determined to cut down the Alfa-Romeo lead. But apparently the repairs which had been made to the dynamo belt did not prove altogether satisfactory, for soon after dark the car came into the pits with no lights, and was finally withdrawn. This robbed the race of much of its interest for the Alfa-Romeos now seemed to have things all their own way. As a matter of fact the Bugatti had been entered for the race at the last minute and very hastily prepared, so that Ettore Bugatti himself was distinctly averse to its starting. Chiron, however, was particularly anxious to get to know something of the Spa circuit under racing conditions by way of intensive practice for the European Grand Prix, and the car therefore started, although the chances of nothing going wrong seemed small.
The darkness was responsible for several other casualties, among which was one of the Chryslers driven by Barthelemy, which crashed after turning completely round at the Bamouvillc corner. The driver was taken to hospital unconscious, but fortunately news soon arrived that he was not in danger. Shortly afterwards the Georges Irat ran off the road and hit a tree, and although the driver was fortunately unhurt, the car was placed hors de combat.
When dawn came the Alfa-Romeos were still well in the lead, and at half-time, twelve hours after the start of the race, the order of the first few cars was as follows :
The Alias were going marvellously and seemed to have the race well in hand. In the early morning, however, Ghersi arrived at his pit, and leaping out of the car caught his foot on the side of the body and fell. He landed on the knee-cap which he broke during a fall in the motor-cycle T.T. the other clay, and which, hardly healed, gave out again. He was unable to drive any further, and this left Marinoni to carry on by himself, which he did quite cheerfully until in the final stages of the race he was relieved from time to time by various other members of the team who were off duty from their own cars. In spite of this handicap, however, there was no catching the flying red Alfas. Soon after mid-day de Joncy and Sabipa’s Chrysler which had been going very well at the head of its class retired with a broken oil-pipe, and shortly afterwards trouble which delayed the 5-litre Bugatti driven by Blin and d’Orimont Andre for some time at its pit, let the remaining Chrysler, driven by Stoffel and de Costier, into the lead. (cotstd. overleaf.) The final order of the finishers was as follows : 1, Marinoni and Ghersi (Alfa-Romeo), 1,632 miles ; 2, Ivanowski and Cortese (Alfa-Romeo), 1,623 miles ; 3, Canavesi and Zehender (A1f4-Romeo), 1,504 miles ; 4, Dreyfus and Schumann (Bugatti), 1,455f miles (winner of 3-litre class, speed 60.6 m.p.h.) ; 5, Stoffel and de Costier (Chrysler), 1,4061 miles (winner of over 3-litre class, speed 58.6 m.p.h.); 6, Jacques and Ogez (Delage), 1,387 miles ; 7, Hellaerts and Vaselle (Hotchkiss), 1,3211 miles ; 8, Hornmal and van Howe (de Soto), 1,29n miles ; 9, Dore and Trennet (B.N.C.), 1,284/ miles (winner of 1,100 c.c. class, speed 53.5 m.p.h.) ;
10, Evrard and Trasentier (Bugatti), 1,264 miles (winner of 1,500 c.c. class, speed 52.7 m.p.h.) ; 11, Duray and Laly (Aries), 1,241+ miles ; 12, Breyre and Mues (Chenard-Walcker), 1,236 miles ; 13, Debeugny and Vasena (Tracta), 1,168 miles ; 14, Sirejols and Manuel (B.N.C.), 1,158+ miles ; 15, Samuelson and Kindell (M.G.), 1,146 miles ; 16, Pesato and Morel (de Soto), 1,140f miles ; 17, Thelusson and Ledure (Imperia), 1,076+ miles ; 18, Dierick and Lambert (Imperia), 1,076+ miles ; 19, Fauconnier and Claessens (Imperia) 1,076+ miles ; 20, Cuvelier and Vilaise (Rally), 1,033 miles ; 21, Remond and Dumoret (S.C.A.P.), 890+ miles.
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