1934 French Grand Prix




By his success at Montlhery on July 1st, Louis Chiron further confirmed his reputation as a fearless driver who even in moments of stress keeps his head and spares his car. Displaced from the lead by Stuck on the Auto Union, and strongly challenged by Fagioli on the Mercedes, he made no mistakes, and had the satisfaction of leading the Ferrari team to victory, the only cars which survived the gruelling test of the French Grand Prix.

The single-seater Alfas have been in existence for four years, but not until the present season have cars been built which could hope to stand against them. Mercedes had been first and Auto Union second at the Nurburgring a few weeks before, and though the German drivers must have gained heavily over Chiron by being better acquainted with the winding course, the first trials of the German cars at Montlhery showed that their success on their home ground was no mere flash in the pan. The Mercedes team visited the course a fortnight before the race, and Fagioli beat Nuvolari’s record of 5 min. 17 secs. by no less than 5 seconds. The Auto Unions arrived there on Thursday, the first day of practising, and Stuck managed to equal Nuvolari’s record the first time round. Changing over to Momberger’s car he quickly improved on this figure and finished off with a lap of 5 mins. 7 secs. On Friday the Ferrari Alfas had arrived in force, and a number of fast laps were recorded, the best being put up by Chiron. who managed 5 mins. 61 secs., only to be surpassed by Brauchitsch on a Mercedes who carried it to 5 mins. 51 secs., or 92 m.p.h. The wildest kind of rumours were circulating about the size of the Mercedes engines, which were said to have a capacity of 5 litres, which would make the cars too heavy for the 750 kg. weight limit. Whether this were true or not, there was every prospect of a fine race, and in many quarters it was thought that the German cars would have an easy victory.

The Bugattis had been prepared at the last minute, so that France might be represented in her great national car race, but beyond increasing the capacity to 3.3 litres there had been no time to get them going properly. On the first mornings they had suffered with plug trouble, but on Saturday Benoist, who was driving as well as in the old days of the Delages, effected a lap in 5 mins. 13t secs., Etancelin, who was driving the Maserati he used at Monte Carlo, had been troubled both with ignition and carburetion, while Zehender’s car, which was an old-type two-seater, did not shine. The third Maserati was to have been driven by Peter de Paolo, but injuries received in Penya Rhin race the previous month had prevented him from driving.

The Auto Unions had had some trouble with their fuel pumps, but this was put right in time for Saturday’s practise, while the Mercedes showed an alarming appetite for tyres, and also suffered from steering troubles, owing to the high speeds and the rough surface to be met with on some of the straight stretches. Except for one instance of gear-box failure the Alfa-Romeos ran trouble-free.

Weighing in took place on Saturday afternoon, and a blazing sun had displaced the grey clouds of the morning. Chiron’s car was the lightest of all, weighing only 720.5 kg. (14.15 cwt.) without tyres and water, but with oil and a small quantity of fuel. Trossi’s weighed 721.5 kg. and Varzi’s 730 kg. The other weights were :-

Auto Union : Stuck, 740.5 kg. ; Momberger, 738.5 kg.

Mercedes : Caracciola, 739.5 kg. ; Brauchitsch, 737 kg. ; Fagioli, 739 kg.

Bugatti Nuvolari, 747 kg. ; Benoist, 747 kg. ; Dreyfus, 749.5 kg. Maserati : Etancelin 748.5 kg. ; Zehender, 735 kg.

All the other cars were completely drained, and it will be noted that Dreyfus’ car got through with only a pound to spare, the maximum being, of course, 750 kg. (14.73 cwt.).

Sunday morning saw half Paris on the road which runs through the village of Linas-Montlhery, 15 miles south-west of the metropolis, decrepit old cars, fairly sagging under their weight of humanity, motor buses packed to the rear platform, with here and there a lordly Hispazio or a Rolls. The crowd was reinforced by pedestrians as the cars toiled slowly up the steep road which leads to the track, and, as usual, they were well provided with yard-long loaves of bread, bottles of wine in Standard bottle racks, and all the other accessories of a French ” piquenique.” By 10 o’clock the enormous stand was already filling up, and the crowds which gathered below it and beneath the flag-decked grand stand gave some indication of the number of spectators round the course. To fill in the interval before the arrival of the racing cars, a number of record breakers made the circuit of the banked speed track. Mrs. Stewart, the holder of the track speed record, looked tiny behind the bonnet of her Derby, and George Eyston’s Panhard, holder of the world’s hour record, somehow seemed too insignificant for such a feat. The Austin Yaw), the Delahaye, the Renault and the Hotchkiss, all long-distance record breakers,

provided contrasts in streamlined allenclosed coachwork. The appearance of Benoist on his Bugatti showed that zero hour was approaching, and the three ‘Alfas lined up behind the gates leading from the road circuit and roaring like lions after their prey. In a short time all the cars had made their way to the pits, plugs were changed, drivers grouped round their team of the grand stand, and as the name and successes of each driver were given out they applauded vigorously, Chiron, Nuvolari, Varzi and Etancelin being particularly favoured. The cars were lined up by threes and twos in front of the last end of the stand, the order being decided by ballot. Varzi and Stuck were by themselves in front, since Leiningen on the third Auto Union

chiefs, and all the usual stir of activity before the start of a great race. The crowds put down their wine bottles or left their tables at La Potiniere, the restaurant behind the grand stand, and made a critical survey of the representatives of France, Germany and Italy. The heat was intense, a brisk trade was being done in sun-glasses, while the concrete of the track scorched through the soles of the thickest shoes. With a quarter of an hour to go the loud speakers summoned the cars to their starting positions, and one by one cars and drivers filed past the grand stand, the Mercedes equipe blocking their ears with cotton wool to deaden the unbearable scream made by the superchargers on their cars. The crowd was on its feet, to the considerable danger was a non-starter, Caracciola and Momberger next, Chiron, Nuvolari and Benoist in the third row, Brauchitsch was in the fifth and Fagioli right at the back.

Mechanics leaped to the starting handles, and a full-throated roar filled the air, while above it all came the disquieting bansheelike wail from the Mercedes. The Vicomte de Rohan. President of the Automobile Club de France, raised his flag, the seconds ticked out, then before the tricolour had reached the ground Chiron had threaded his way through the other cars and was abreast of the leaders before another wheel had moved. Taken by surprise as they were, the field was quickly away, and the brightlycoloured cascade of cars roared down ‘between the naTrow walls leading from the banked. track to the “Circuit Routier.” All the cars got away cleanly, with Caracciola and Varzi leading the crowd. A breathless silence, then Varzi was announced still in the lead at the Biscomes corner, the bend which marks the western extremity of the course. Another two minutes and the boom of the Alfa and screams of the Merc. were heard behind the western banking of the track, then round flashed Chiron with a lead increased to 100 yards. In a bunch behind him came Caracciola, Fagioli, Stuck, Varzi and Von Brauchitsch. So at last there was a real challenge to Ferrari supremacy.

Away they shot again, Chiron still reported in the lead, and remained so at his next passage past the stand. Stuck had picked up two places and had put up the fastest lap so far, in 5 min. 131 secs., or 89.74 m.p.h. The Mercedes cars did not seem to be showing the high speed they had realised in practice, but were close enough to step in if the leaders failed. Meanwhile Stuck was making the best of the terrific acceleration of his rear-drive car and overtook Chiron near the Biscornes, his third lap being accomplished in 5 min. 9I secs. The Monogasque was, however, only 5 seconds behind, with Fagioli and Caracciola another 100 yards to the rear and Varzi and Trossi at a similar distance.

The Bugattis were not distinguishing themselves and the wretched Nuvolari made two calls at his pit for plugs, and finally, after eight laps, handed over his car to Wimille. All the cars seemed to be suffering from their old fault, a choking when getting away from the corners, which did not clear itself for 100 yards. Etancelin, who can usually be relied on to put up a good fight with the Alfas, was having an off day, and the increasing smoke from the exhaust of his Maserati showed that something was seriously wrong with “the works.”

Stuck was driving valiantly and actually increased his lap speed, but Chiron was alive to the danger and even managed to cut down the Auto Union’s lead by a second. The two Mercedes were still 3rd and 4th, and though no one could know whether the two German teams were acting in unison, probably not in view of the fact that the victor was to have State support from the Reich, the Alfa was matched by three cars which kept it fully extended.

An early phase of the race. Caracciola on his beautifully streamlined Mercedes holds his own with Varzi.

Order at 8th Lap.

1. Stuck (Auto Union), 42m. 1115. Speed 88.9 m.p.h.

2. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), 42m. 151s.

3. Fagioli (Mercedes), 42m. 271s.

4. Caracciola (Mercedes), 42tn. 4515.

5. Varzi (Alfa Romeo), 42m. 491s.

6. Brauchitsch (Mercedes), 53m. Sfs,

7. Trossi (Alfa Romeo), 43m. 131s.

8. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 44m. 291s. red car swung off the banking alone. Pits and stand waited for minutes with no news then it was learnt that it had left the road and had damaged his brakes. Caracciola, the second string, was still holding his place though his engine sounded less healthy, and came into the pits for re-fuelling and

It was interesting to compare the three rivals on corners. The front wheels of the Alfas always flapped on leaving a first bend, while the German cars, with their independent springing, held a straight path, particularly the Auto Union.Accelerating away from bends there was nothing to choose between, the other cars, though the vicious whine of the Mercedes supercharger as the driver charged down was more stirring than the roar of Alfa and Auto Union. The Bugattis showed themselves steady on bends, but the carburetion trouble was all too evident as they accelerated.

After 8 laps Fagioli received his orders and proceeded to chase up the first two cars, with a record lap at 91 m.p.h., while his colleague, Brauchitsch, stopped to examine his supercharger. Chiron, meanwhile, had made a great effort and regained the lead, loudly cheered as he came round. On the 10th lap Fagioli again broke the lap record, and a third time, in 5 min. 6* secs., or 91.8 m.p.h., which brought him into 2nd place. This monumental three-sided battle seemed to prove too much for the Auto Union, which came into the pits at a reduced speed, leaving Fagioli to carry on the fight. After only twelve laps the rear tyres were worn out, and the tyre change and refuelling cost 2* minutes, a heavy handicap in such a close race. The other Auto Union car came in shortly afterwards and retired, apparently with steering trouble. Fagioli meanwhile was pressing Chiron closely, only a second separating them on the twelfth lap, with Caracciola in support a minute behind, then a breath-taking lap in which both champions further raised the lap record to 5 mins. 6 secs. Another five minutes, then the Alfa roar, without the attendant whine of the Mercedes, and the a change of tyres. Fagioli then limped round to retire, the driver safe and sound, but the car disabled by a broken brake pipe. Then ” Caratsch ” failed to come round and was reported abandoned at the far end of the course, and to complete the

Order After 16 Laps. 1. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), lh. 23xn. 34s. Speed

1. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), lh. 23xn. 34s. Speed 89.77 m.p.h.

2. Varzi (Alfa Romeo), lh. 24m. 428.

3. Stuck (Auto Union), lh. 28m. 56s.

4. Benoist (Bugatti), lh. 29m. 47s.

5. Zehender (Maserati), lh. 29m. 52s.

6. Moll (Alfa Romeo), lh. 30m. 4s.

7. Wimille (Bugatti), 1h. 35m. 32s.

8. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 1h. 36m. 18s. The Alfa Romeo and the Bugatti teams were still intact, but Trossi’s car had lost

first and third gears. However, Moll begged to be allowed to take over, and set off amid cheers just after the conclusion of the Chiron-Fagioli duel. Chiron came in next lap, no doubt glad of a moment’s rest after his exciting passage with Fagioli, and Varzi passed into the lead, only to lose it again on making his stop for refuelling.

Of the Bugatti’s, Benoist’s car was going steadily and well, though unable, of course, to compete with the Alfas. Dreyfus toured round to the pits, and after much plug changing and attempts to restart his machine, it was pushed to the dead car park, and the same thing happened to Wimille shortly afterwards. Stuck settled down to a slower pace, but was able to keep going in third position, while mechanics worked furiously on the rear spring-clips of Zehender’s Maserati, which was finally retired owing to the amount of time which had been lost. Chiron and Varzi were now safe in the first two positions and had eased down slightly, though still putting up a very useful average of over 86 m.p.h. As has been said, these cars were far from easy to handle on bumpy corners, and on the first bend near the finish of the road section, the one on which, incidentally, Asc,ari was killed, daylight could be seen beneath the

Hans Stuck, whose Auto Union led the race

tale of disaster Brauchitsch was also compelled to retire with a renewal of the supercharger trouble. Never was there such a disastrous three laps, and the German commentator, whose remarks were being relayed from the Water Tower and broadcast throughout the Fatherland, had every excuse for ” drying-up ” on hearing the tale of woe.

jar 32 laps, at speed On one of the straights. wheels. The course is either concrete or tarmac, and particularly on the section at the beginning of the road course is uneven, and even potholed. The Alfas seemed to jump sideways a yard at a time, which must be unpleasant at 140 m.p.h., and the Mercedes also seemed to suffer from this fault, but the independent springing of the latter cars undoubtedly gave the

pilots an easier ride. The Auto Union seemed particularly good on uneven roads, but presented rather a comic effect from the rear, for the two half-sections of the axle swung up towards one another as though the car was pushed down by a giant hand.

The German came in to refuel again at the 21st lap and Moll, who had already passed Benoist, stepped into third place. The Auto Union proved very hard to start, though since the starting handle fitted on at the rear two men were able to get hold of it. Stuck had a drink and a gargle, which was loudly cheered, and went on.

Two hours from the start the heat was still intense, but the crowds on the densely packed stand, which was full for the first time since it was built, were content watching the three red cars in the lead, Stuck’s silver cigar, and Benoist on the Bugatti. The seats were hard, but anyhow it was fine and a holiday, the Eskimo pie sellers were doing a brisk trade, and one could always hoot at the announcement that the chauffeur of M. Flaudin, the Minister of Public Works, was missing. However, about five o’clock the Bugatti started misfiring, which led to some frantic work with brace-handled plug-spanners, and a two-minute spell on the small starting handle, before the car would fire again. Stuck, on the Auto Union, came in at the same time for a final fill-up, and had even greater difficulty with starting, though three men wound away at the rear. He got going again amid a cloud of steam, completed another lap and came in again, to retire with a defective water pump on his 32nd lap. This left only four cars, and Benoist again came into the pits with his Bugatti misfiring. Plugs were again changed and

Chiron received the chequered flag, made another triumphal circuit of the course and pulled up outside the timing box amidst great applause, and after the wreath of victory had been conferred was almost engulfed in a rush of photographers.


All the Grand Prix cars built to the new formula have been described in previous issues of MOTOR SPORT, but some further details which have since come to hand are given here.

If a French car could not win, at any rate Chiron on an Alfa was the next best thing ! Varzi and Moll were half a lap behind, and Benoist had done something to salve French pride by keeping on to the end, though his car was misfiring, and was flagged off at the 36th lap. Experience had triumphed over experiment once again,

he got away with difficulty. Varzi came in for a final fill-up and changed two wheels in I* minutes, while Chiron was away in half the time, as he did not change his tyres. All was now set for a team win for Ferrari, which was brought off in the desired order by Moll calling at the pits while Varzi passed.

but the German cars had shown themselves fundamentally sound. Final Order,

1. Louis Chiron (Alfa Romeo), 3h. 39m. 14s. 85.55 m.p.h.

2. Achillo Varzi (Alfa Romeo), 3h. 42m. 31s. 84.12 m.p.h.

3. Trossi and Moll (Alfa Romeo), 3h. 43m. 23s. 83.98 m.p.h. Benoist (Rugatti) was flagged off after 36 laps.

All Romeo.—Three-litre engine fitted in large Type B monoposto chassis, as described in January, 1934, issue. Externally can be distinguished from the 2.6-litre cars by their wider bonnets, larger cockpits and wider axles, especially the rear one. External oil cooler no longer used.

Auto Union.-16-cylinder 3.5-litre engine with camshaft between blocks. Valves operated by push-rods enclosed in tubes. Vertical finned supercharger at rear drawing mixture from two Zenith carburettors. One magneto for each bank of cylinders driven by timing gears at rear end. Sparking plugs on inlet-valve side of each cylinder. Petrol pump driven from off-side of timing gears. Five speed gear-box and rear axle casing, rear axle split with each half pivoting on centre casing and with laminated half elliptic spring passing over top. Radius rods from frame to steady half-axles.

Front wheels carried on links swinging parallel to side members. Lower ones sprung on Porsche torsion-rod system, upper ones fitted with large friction dampers. Front brakes hydraulic, rear cable operated. Elektron brake-drums.

Tubular chassis used for conveying cooling water from engine to radiator in front. Main fuel tank behind driver with change-over tap in fairing behind driver’s head. Spare petrol tank and oil tank in front of driver.

Coachwork heavily doped aeroplane fabric stretched over light metal frame.

Bugatti.—Identical with cars described in MOTOR SPORT, except that capacity has been increased to 3.3 litres by boring out the block. Maserati.—Etancelin’s car was a narrow single-seater, as described in the February issue. Zehender had an old two-seater

chassis with one of.the new 3-litre engines.

Mercedes-Benz.—-Double overhead camshaft engine, 3.8-litres capacity. Vertical supercharger in front taking air through scoop in radiator. Complicated induction pipe with four blow-off valves branching into eight pipes feeding each cylinder. Magneto drive from timing gears at rear of engine and projecting into cockpit.

Five-speed gear box and rear axle unit in one, fixed to frame, with swinging half axles controlled by coil springs. Petrol tank at rear with auxiliary on dash. Pressure feed.

Fixed front axle with king-pins suspended on links parallel with axle beam. Lower links made as bell-cranks acting on horizontal coil springs. Divided trackrod. Chassis box section about 3 inches wide by 2 inches, and liberally drilled. Brakes hydraulic. Large finned friction shock-absorbers front and rear.

Aluminium coachwork beautifully curved to fair front axle and radiator. Body now has streamlined head-rest for driver. Increased width of bottom of body solely to comply with international regulations of width. Side members much closer together.