A WONDERFUL FINISH IN THE VICHY GRAND PRIX
WHITNEY STRAIGHT FAILS TO CATCH COUNT TROSSI BY 5 SECONDS AFTER WINNING HIS HEATETANCELIN HANDICAPPED BY FAULTY BRAKES.
THERE is a growing tendency among Grand Prix organisers to run heats-and-a-final, as opposed to 6 single long-distance race. The latest event of this description is the Vichy Grand Prix, held on July 15th, and for sheer excitement any spectator would testify to the superiority of this system over the orthodox race. The circuit itself was an interesting one, having a length of 2 kilometres 357 metres, and running through the streets of the town. The longest straight was 450 metres in length, and the course included no fewer than 7 right-angle corners. The two heats were run over 30 laps (70 km. 710 m.) and the final over 1.500 c.c. Bugatti. The next morning Lehoux reduced his time to 1 min. 40 secs., followed by his old rival Etancelin (Maserati) 1 min. 40.8 secs., Dreyfus (Bugatti 3.3) 1 min. 42.8 secs., Trossi (Alfa Romeo) and Falchetto (Maserati) 1 ruin: 43 secs., and Straight (Maserati) 1 min. 44 secs. The rest of the drivers took from 1 min. 45 secs. to 2 mins. 7 secs. Rain again interfered with the last practice, when Philippe Etancelin made the fastest time in 1 min. 40.2 secs., one-tenth of a second faster than Lehoux. Trossi clocked 1 min. 41.1 secs., Straight 1 min. 42.3 secs., Dreyfus I min. 43.2 secs., and FaIchetto 1 min. 43.6 secs. Some excitement was caused when Gaupillat
60 laps (141 km. 420 m.). Three massed starts and three finishes ! No wonder the whole of Vichy turned out in full force to see the fun, to say nothing of thousands of visitors from the surrounding country. There were twenty entries, and these were divided into two heats of ten. The final was decided by the first four finishers in each heat, and the faster of the two fifth-place finishers, making nine cars in all. On such a winding circuit a good position at the start is essential, and the practice times were therefore contested with great vigour. On the first day a heavy shower delayed the proceedings and only four drivers turned out. Of these, Marcel Lehoux made the fastest time in 1 min. 48.6 secs., driving a Monoposto Alfa Romeo. The second car of the Ferrari stable was driven by Marinoni, although Count TTOSSi was to drive it during the race. The other two ” trainers” were Mlle. Helle-Nice, with the 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo owned by Lehoux, and Mme. Itier, with her fast found himself going too fast before a corner, and clapped on his brakes hard. His Bugatti spun sideways and turned right over, coming upon to its wheels again with the driver still in the cockpit. The only damage sustained by the car was connected with the petrol filler-cap and the steering wheel. Gaupillat himself was uninjured, and promptly set about putting his car in good shape for the race
The weather was threatening rain when the cars lined up for the start of the first heat, on Sunday, July 15th. There were nine cars in all :—-Etancelin and Falchetto on Maseratis, Trossi, Scaron, and Zanelli on Alfa Ronieos, and Delmo, Veyron, Mme. Itier, and Gaupillat on Buottis. The starter dropped his flag, there was a terrific roar, and the pack disappeared round the right hand bend semi after the line. Now Etancelin had been expected by many people to win the first heat, but the Rovennais was wisely saving his car as much as possible. And so at the end of
the first lap it was the Ferrari president, Count Trossi, who was in the lead, followed by Falchetto, Etancelin, Scaron, Delmo, Gaupillat, Mme. Itier and Veyron. For some time this order remained unchanged, the cars tearing along the streets in an Orderly, albeit extremely rapid procession. Then things began to happen. Etancelin gained second place ; Gaupillat retired on the 8th lap ; Delmo lost a wheel of his Bugatti, fortunately without hurting either himself or anybody else ; and Falchetto misted Etancelin once more for second position. The only alteration then until the end of the race was that Veyron passed Mine Itier.
RESULT OF FIRST HEAT.
I. Trossi (Alfa Romeo), 52m. 45.9s., 80.405 k.p.h.
2. Falehetto (Maserati), 53m. 17.4s.
3. Etancelin (Maserati), 53m. 44.6s.
4. Scaron (Alfa Romeo), 55m. 27.8s.
5. Veyron (Bugatti), I lap behind.
6. Mme.lItier (Bugatti), 2 laps behind.
After a brief interval of a quarter of an hour, the start was given to the eleven competitors in the second heat. They were as follow : Lehoux, Mlle Helle-Nice and Farina on Alfa Roineos, Straight, I3iondetti, Sommer, and de Villapadierna jlaseratis, Dreyfus, Brunet, Lord Howe, and Eonnet on Bugattis.
By now the clouds became more than a threat, and as the cars accelerated away from the line the rain began to fall heavily. The leader at the end of the first lap was Whitney Straight, who was caught unawares by the wet surface and slid round in a complete circle near the starting line. Fortunately he had built up such a. useful lead, even in one lap, that he got away again before Lehoux (Alfa Romeo) could pass by. Behind the Ferrari driver came Dreyfus, Earl Howe, Brunet, Biondetti, Sommer, Farina, de Villapadierna and Eonnet. The rain made a good deal of difference to the lap times. In the first heat Trossi got round in 1 min. 42.2 secs., but in this race Straight’s best time was so far 1 min. 55.5 secs. As time went on the surface dried a little, and the speeds got faster and faster until Lehoux got it down to 1 mm. 44.5 secs. On the splroewceeirl.ing circuit Straight was one-tenth
In spite of the most determined efforts on the part of Lehoux, Whitney Straight staved off his challenge by dint of really first-class driving. On the 20th lap there *as a gap of 9 seconds between the two cars, but Lehoux brought it down to ” a wheel ” on the 25th circuit. For five laps the two cars raced neck and neck, providing a magnificent spectacle of motor racing at its best, and victory finally went to the brilliant American driver by the margin of 1.1 sets. Earl Howe overcame the handicap of a smaller and slower car to the extent of finishing 4th, behind Dreyfus.
RESULT OF SECOND HEAT.
1. Straight (Maserati), 56m. 12.4s., 75.820 k.p.h.
2. Lehoux (Alfa Romeo), 56m. 13.5s.
3. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 57m. 3.9s, 4, Earl Howe (Bugatti), 59M., 35.6s.
S. De Villeapadierna (Maserati), 59m. 41.1s. 6. Farina (Alfa Romeo), Ih. Om. 12.9s,
7. lVflle. Hell; Nice (Alfa Romeo), 1 lap behind.
8. Eonnet (Bugatti), 2 laps behind.
Now came the final, over a distance of 60 laps. The issue seemed to be between four men, Etancelin, Whitney Straight, Lehoux and Trossi. Two Alfas and two Maseratis, with Dreyfus and his Bugatti always ready to snap up a position should the leaders falter. Falchetto (Maserati), Scaron (Alfa Romeo), Earl Howe (Bugatti), and de Villapadierna (Maserati) could not hope to do more than supply useful opposition.
Over a short distance no driver can afford to relax from pushing his speed to the limit, and since the Vichy course demands constant braking and acceleration, the race was likely to prove an interesting test of brakes, engines, transmission-and the stamina of the drivers. The fiery Etancelin immediately shot ahead when the flag fell, hotly pursued by Lehoux. The latter, however, was a little too impetuous in his chase, and collided with the kerb on a corner. His stop at the pits to change the buckled wheel put him definitely out of the running, but did not deter him setting off once more and driving like the wind. The first lap, then, showed Etancelin a leader by twelve seconds, the order of the rest being Trossi, Straight, Dreyfus, Falchetto, Scaron, Veyron, Villapadiema, Howe. A pleasurable surprise for the French crowd occurred when Rene Dreyfus put
on speed and passed both Straight and Trossi to take second place. Etancelin was fully aware of the danger from this quarter, and by covering a lap in 1 min. 41.9 secs. he placed himself 18 seconds ahead of the blue Bugatti. Meanwhile Whitney Straight gradually closed in on Trossi, finally passing him to take 3rd place on the 13th lap. The race was holding everyone on tip-toe, for the slightest mistake on the part of the leaders would upset the present positions. Just before half-distance two important changes took place. Trossi was urged by his pit to make a real effort, for his team-mate Lehoux could not hope to climb back into the picture. The result was a tremendous sensation, for Trossi quickly passed Straight and Dreyfus and made an appreciable reduction in Etancelin’s lead. This is how they stood at half-distance :
1, Etancelin (Maserati), 52m. 22.9s.
2. Trossi (Alfa Rosneo), 52m. 36s.
3. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 52m. 40.7s.
4. Straight (Maserati), 52m. 56.7s.
5. Scaron (Alfa Romeo), 54m. 32.4s.
6. Lehoux (Alfa Romeo), 55 in. 3.7s.
7. Earl Howe (Bugatti), 55m. 50.3s.
Etancelin was feeling far from happy. An inherent fault of the 3-litre Maserati is inadequate brakes, which decline in power on a winding circuit. It will be remembered that this mechanical defect had deprived Etancelin of victory at Montreux, and now the French driver could see the same fate befalling him here.
Trossi began to creep nearer and nearer, and on the 33rd lap was only 2 seconds behind. The following lap saw the Ferrari driver in the recognised Ferrari position, and at the same moment Straight passed Dreyfus to return to 3rd place. Some of the cars began to show weaknesses under the strain of constant acceleration and braking, Villapadierna’s Maserati, Falchetto’s Maserati, and Veyron’s Bugatti all retiring.
The wretched Etancelin threw his arms up in despair as he passed his pit, for the Maserati brakes were causing him to drive with a restraint quite foreign to his fiery nature. On the 48th lap he lost another place when Whitney Straight roared past in pursuit of Trossi, and the rest of the race consisted of a stirring duel between the latter drivers. Trossi flung his red Alfa round the corners with tremendous gusto, but he could not prevent Straight from drawing closer on every lap. Eighteen seconds separated them on the 50th circuit-ten laps before the end-but Straight had reduced this to 5 seconds when Trossi shot over the finishing line amid terrific excitement which found an outlet in the crowd invading the road immediately afterwards.
RESULT. 1. Count Trossi lh. 45m.
1. Count Trossi (Alfa Romeo), lh. 45m. 44.6s., 80.250 k.p.h.
2. Whitney Straight (Maserati), lh. 45m. 49.65.
3. P. Etancelin (Maserati), 1h. 46m. 52.4s. 4. R. Dreyfus (Bugatti), lh. 47m. 13.4s,
5. M. Lehoux (Alfa Romeo), lh, 48m. I8.3s.
6. J. Scaron (Alfa Romeo), 59 laps in M. 46m. 54.3s.
7. Earl Howe (Dugan* 58 laps in 111. 48m. 13.3s.
V-E-V Miscellany., June 1972, June 1972
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