AUTO UNION WINS ITS FIRST RACE VON STUCK VANQUISHES THE FERRARI ALFA ROMEOS IN THE GERMAN GRAND PRIXFAGIOLI (MERCEDES-BENZ) SECOND AND CHIRON (ALFA ROMEO) THIRD.
EVERY year of motor-racing produces its classic battle between different marques, and 1934 will long be remembered for the struggle for supremacy between the Italian Alfa Romeos and the new German racing cars, Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz. Before going on to describe what befell at the Nurburg Ring, when the German Grand Prix took place there on Sunday, July 15th, it is as well to refresh our memories on the course of the battle from its beginning. Although actually in a fit state of preparation early in the season, the German cars were held in reserve for the Avus race near Berlin, but the plans for a national victory went awry, and it was Moll’s streamlined Alfa Romeo that gained the day, after Stuck’s Auto Union
had promised great things by leading for half the distance. The next” round ‘ was fought again on German territory, the occasion being the Eifel race on the Nurburg Ring. This time the MercedesBenz, driven by Von Brauchitsch, made the score one-all by gaining a clear victory, Chiron’s Alfa Romeo failing to do better than third place behind Von Stuck’s Auto Union. The French Grand Prbc, the blue riband of motor-racing, was a vital issue, and the Mercedes-Benz were heavily favoured to win. The result was in the nature of a debacle, for all the German cars retired with trouble of some sort or other, leaving the three Alfa Romeos to enjoy a processional victory, all the more pleasurable for being so unexpected. Smarting under this overwhelming defeat the Germans determined to have their revenge and to level the score by winning their own German Grand Prix on the circuit that had provided their previous triumph. Now let us see what happened. To start with, both the German teams were handicapped by illness. Manfred Von Brauchitsch, holder of the Nurburg Ring lap-record, crashed his Mercedes while practising, injuring himself to the extent of five broken ribs. The third member of the team, the motor-cyclist Henne, fell ill a few days before the race, leaving Caracciola and Fagioli the only two regular members in action. The directors of the Untertiirkheinn factory
promptly placed two of the works staff, Geier and Gaertner, at the wheel of the practice cars, and after a close observation of their form decided to entrust one of the official racing cars to Geier. Of the Auto Union drivers, Prince von Leiningen was still in Paris suffering from the illness which had prevented him from competing in the French Grand Prix, and that splendid Bugatti driver, Hans Burggaller, was included in the team with Von Stuck and Momberger.
The Scudeira Ferrari were represented by their three crack drivers, Chiron, Varzi and Moll, a redoubtable trio at the wheel of the latest type monoposto Alfa Romeos. In addition to this team the Germans had to face the opposition of the following drivers : Nuvolari (Maserati), Zehender (Maserati), Hamilton (Maserati), Ruesch (Maserati), Flartmann (Bugatti,), Soffietti (Alfa Romeo), Minozzi (Alfa Romeo), Battilana (Alfa Romeo) and Maag (Alfa Romeo).
As to the practice periods, apart from Von Brauchitsch’s accident, there was little to record. Moll made an excellent impression, considering that this was his first visit to the Ring, while it was interesting to observe Chiron putting in some work with one of the new racing Mercedes-Benz. While travelling at full speed a part of the front cowling became detached, locking a brake, but Chiron managed to pull up safely.
In spite of overcast skies the usual colossal crowd assembled at all the vantage points round the course, being officially estimated at 150,000. The excitement grew tense as zero hour approached, and we noticed that Louis Chiron received quite an ovation when he appeared beside his car on the starting line. At last the start was given, and immediately Chiron leapt forward in his own inimitable style, clearly ahead of Varzi and Von Stuck.
After a wait of just over 11 minutes the cars appeared once more, and German sentiments were amply satisfied at the sight of Von Stuck’s Auto Union in the lead, followed by Carraciola (MercedesBenz), Varzi (Alfa Romeo) and Chiron (Alfa Romeo) all in a solid pack. On the second lap the Ferrari hopes were somewhat dashed by the retirement of Varzi with gearbox trouble, and on the same lap H. C. Hamilton stopped at his pit with a broken piston. This was particularly to be regretted, for Hamilton is as familiar with the Nurburg Ring as most drivers, and would have probably finished in a good position. It did not take long for the German cars to make known that on this day, at least, they would be extremely difficult to beat. After Varzi’s retirement, Chiron held 3rd place for some time, but he then lost the use of 3rd gear and Fagioli, on a Merc.’cles-Benz, was gradually closing in on him, with the result that on the 5th lap then rder was as follows :—
I. Von Stuck (Auto Union), 54m, 43s.
2. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), 54m. 47s.
3. Fagioli (Nlercedes-Benz), 55m. 21s.
4. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), 55m. 23$.
5. Moll (Alfa Romeo), 56m. 49s.
6. Nuvolari (Maserati), 57m. 12s. Two laps later another thunderbolt fell on the Ferrari camp, for Guy Moll’s Alfa Romeo was announced as having retired with the usual gearbox trouble. Battilana, on a 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo, also fell out at this stage of the race. Chiron was now in the unenviable position of having to do the work of pushing the leaders for all he was worth, in the hope that they would break up, at the same time remembering that he himself was unsupported in the event of experiencing trouble. Meanwhile, Von Stuck was driving magnificently in first place, and a hasty tyre change by Caracciola allowed the Auto Union to gain a lead of 2 minutes by the time the 10th lap was reached. Fagioli was 2 minutes behind Caracciola, and was in turn 20 seconds ahead of
Chiron. Momberger, on an Auto Union, had passed Nuvolari some time ago, so that altogether the chances of a German victory were just about as certain as they could be.
Von Stuck was due in for refuelling, and completed the job in 1 min. 30 secs. By the time he got going again Caracciola had reduced Stuck’s lead to a mere 8 seconds. Determined to get the better of his old hill-climbing rival, Caracciola put all he knew into his driving, and eventually scraped past at Le Canourel. In doing so he set up a new lap record of 10 mins. 44 secs. (the previous best was made by Von Brauchitsch in 10 min. 55 secs.). The strain was too much for his car, however, and he had to pull up, subsequently retiring from the battle.
Once more Von Stuck was comfortably in the lead, some two minutes ahead of Fagioli, Chiron was now third, three minutes behind the Mercedes, and four minutes to the good of Momberger’s Auto Union. Still another retirement was announced, namely Soffietti’s Alfa Romeo. Burggaller did not seem happy with his Auto Union, eventually retiring. The trouble was found to be that he used 2nd, 3rd, 4th and top gears all the time, whereas Von Stuck only uses 4th and top. The gear-box gave in under this treatment. By now the race was becoming a trifle monotonous for the general public. Stuck was miles ahead, and his car seemed
quite happy, setting up a new lap record in 10 mins. 43 secs. In any case Fagioli was second, and it was hardly likely that both their cars would give trouble. At all events the end came with the Auto Union an easy winner, a fact which was highly appreciated by the German crowd and the designer and manufacturers of the car. At the last moment Momberger dropped out, so that Nuvolari got fourth place. Geier finished fifth, and his driving was considered good—albeit not of the same class as the ” masters.”
Sixth came Maag, the young Swiss driver. who was afterwards disqualified from the race. It was alleged that Maa.g had stripped his Alfa Romeo of certain parts before the race in order to reduce its weight to accord with the Grand Prix regulations, and that he had afterwards replaced the said parts for the race. Naughty boy ! The distribution of the prizes took place in an atmosphere of national selfesteem, but a sporting tribute to Chiron’s performance in the face of adversity was
made by the chief of German motoring. The score was now level, two wins each, while the next ” round ” was to be contested the following Sunday on the Circuit of Montenero in Italy.
Result (334 miles).
I. Von Stuck (Auto Union), 4h. 381n, 19s. 75.14 m.p.h.
2. Fagioli (Mercedes-Benz), 4h. 40m. 26s.
3. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), 411. 46m. 22s.
4. litivolari (Maserati), 4h. 55m. 10s.
5. Geier (MercecWeBenz), 4h. 59in. Si.
6. Zeliender (Maserati).