THE BELGIUM G.P.
A TEST OF STAMINA. CARACCIOLA (MERCEDES-BENZ) WINS THE MOST STRENUOUS RACE OF THE SEASON. FRICTION BETWEEN FAGIOLI AND NEUBAUER
USUALLY considered one of the lesser national Grands Prix, the G.P. de Belgique will this year rank as one of the finest races of the season. Intense heat and the strenuous nature of the Spa circuit combined to test the cars and drivers to the limit. The race was particularly hard on the Alfa-Romeo drivers, who were forced to make up for their inferior speed by taking every corner as fast as they dare. The Mercedes-Benz drivers, on the other hand, could afford to employ less tiring methods by making use of the superior acceleration and speed of their cars on the straights.
The organising club had put in a lot of work on the circuit, which is 14 km. goo in length and is situated between the valley of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. The most dangerous corners were lined with straw trusses. and the spectators were kept at a safe distance from the road. The neighbourhood is not unlike that of the Nurburg Ring, which indeed is not far distant. In front of the tribunes one sees the cars rushing downhill from the Francorchamps hairpin to a very tricky left-hand bend. For a moment they disappear as they round another hairpin, and then one obtains an unforgettable sight of silver, red, and blue projectiles darting up a road cut into the side of a fir-clad hill. Occasionally they are lost to sight as they negotiate a slight kink in the road, but they can he followed nearly to the top of the hill. This stretch is a favourite one for passing.
There were surprisingly few German cars in the long stream that apnroached the circuit from Spa on the day of the race. However, the Belgians themselves are sufficiently keen on motor-racing to form a good crowd. Most of the foreign element came from Holland.
The heat of the sun was positively scorching as the starting hour approached. Contrary to current practice the starting positions were decided by drawing lots, with the result that the slowest car in the race, Lehoux’s 3-litre Maserati, was alongside Dreyfus (Alfa-Romeo) in the front rank. This Maserati, incidentally, ran under the Spanish yellow, as it was the property of the Scuderia ril/apadierna. Behind these two came Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), Wimille (Bugatti), and Chiron (Alfa-Romeo). The third and fourth rows were made up of Taruffi (Bugatti), and Von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz), and finally Fagioli (MercedesBenz), Benoist (Bugatti), and Sommer (Alfa-Romeo). The ” Mercs” were the same cars, of course, that have performed successfully this season. The Alfas had 3.5 engines, as used at Montlhery, and the Bugattis were the 3.3-litre cars as heretofore. The start was quite one of the worst we have ever seen. Several drivers moved forward before the flag fell, but the worst offender was Lehoux. He found himself a length ahead of Dreyfus so he stopped. At that minute the starter dropped the flag, and Lehoux was immediately passed on each side by the cars behind. They had sorted themselves out by the time they reached the bend, however, and we could
see that Caracciola was in the van, a few yards ahead of Wimille and Dreyfus.
The loud speakers announced the progress of the cars round the course, and then with a terrific howl Caracciola’s Mercedes-Benz came past the stands. Two hundred yards behind Von Brauchitsch was just passing Wimille’s Bugatti as they approached the stands. Fagioli was next, so that the following lap would probably see the Mercs in the first three places. Then came Chiron, Dreyfus, Taruffi, Sommer, Benoist and Lehoux. Caracciola’s standing lap had been covered in 5 min. 36 secs., at 159.275 k.p.h.
In between the passage of the cars the loud speakers played the latest American dance-tunes, complete with “boo boop-adoop ” crooners. Incidentally, the broadcasting system was excellent, and was clearly audible a long way from the tribunes. Caracciola was still farther ahead on
the second lap, but the team order had been established and that was all that mattered. Wimille was now leader of the opposition, but the Ferrari Alfas were in close attendance. Chiron and Dreyfus were apparantly driving to a carefully prearranged programme, both of them giving a polished display of driving. Taruffi’s Bugatti was misfiring, the driver signalling to his pit that he would stop on the next lap. When at last he came in a groan of disappointment was heard when it was seen that Wimille was also in trouble. Two Bugattis in the pits after three laps! Wimille got away again just as Lehoux passed by, right at the tail of the field. Taruffi lost a whole lap. The third Bugatti, driven by Benoist, was engaged in a fierce struggle with Sommer’s Alfa-Romeo, a 3.2litre monoposto. This scrap came to an end on the 7th lap when Sommer pulled up at the pits. After a hasty word with
his chief he departed, never to reappear. Later on the news was announced of his retirement on a distant part of the circuit.
Wimille’s Bugatti had been pushed off the road to the back of the pits, suffering from engine trouble, so that now the race settled down to a rather one-sided fight between the ” Mercs ” and the Alfas. The prospect of a 1, 2, 3 victory for the German cars was dispelled, however, on the t5th lap. Von Brauchitsch had passed the pits at his usual speed, but on the long climb beyond the hairpin the silver Mercedes-Benz suddenly slowed. Benoist was. following, and the crowd gave a cheer when the blue Bugatti passed the faltering Von Brauchitsch. He came into the pits on the next lap, and all the plugs were changed. The engine was still misfiring badly, and the car was consequently withdrawn. Chiron (Alfa-Romeo) now drew up into third’ place. He was quite the most popular
figure in the race and received a great ovation when he came in to re-fuel. Dreyfus also got a ” hand,” but not the German team. They all re-fuelled without a change in the order.
Caracciola was still leading by a large margin from Fagioli, with Chiron and Dreyfus close together some distance behind. We had been told that Fagioli would prove the eventual winner, and we wondered when he would make a spurt to catch Caracciola. We were not left in doubt for long. After the re-fuelling, the Italian driver put on speed. He had already made a new lap record on his t3th • and 14th circuits with a time of 5 mini. 27 secs. (163.64 k.p.h.), a good deal faster than Brivio’s record last year of 5 mini. 45 secs. (155.02 k.p.h.). Now he set out to catch the leader in deadly earnest, and at the 20th lap he was tailing him.
TliE BELGIUM G.P.—conlinued.
In doing this he had ignored the repeated signals of Herr Neubauer, warni* him not to start an internecine struggle with Caracciola which might easily jeopardcse the chances of the cars finishing the race. ” Caratsch ” would not be passed, however, and Fagioli was immediately ordered to stop completely, which he did. Words followed, ending in Fagioli’s place being taken by Von Brauchitsch. Officially the Italian had retired from fatigue ! Fagioli’s misbehaviour had cost the Mercedes-Benz second and third places, for both the Ferarri Alfa-Romeos had
roared past while the car was at the pits. Von Brauchitsch was told to catch them, and the spectators were treated to a magnificent race. Von Brauchitsch does not possess the genius of a Caracciola, a Fagioli, or a Chiron, but he gets amazingly good results all the same. His approach to a corner is always rather ragged, and involves a great deal of vigorous work with the steering wheel and some violent use of the brakes. Now he had his opportunity to show us what he could do. On the 27th lap—there were 34 in all— the ” Mere ” was right behind Dreyfus as they passed the stands. Up that long hill the superior acceleration of the Mercedes-Benz carried it past the Alfa in a glorious rush, and the pursuit of Chiron was begun. It took two laps for the cars to come to close quaters, by which time the excitement was terrific. For a moment it looked as though both of them would crash on that difficult corner just past the stands. Both drivers had to fight their mounts, and it was interesting to observe the behaviour of the two cars under the
stress of really urgent braking. Up to the hairpin they roared, and then the crowd expected to see Chiron devoured in the same way as Dreyfus had been a few laps earlier. But the Alfa showed surprising resistance, and it was not until they had nearly reached the top of the hill that Von Brauchitseh got by. Herr Neubauer now had his cars in the leading positions once more, but he was still not satisfied. What he wanted was a close finish, as at Montlhery. He therefore signalled to Caracciola to slow down,
for the latter was i min. 23 secs. ahead of his team-mate. No response was forthcoming. Von Brauchitsch continued his terrific progress, and on the 31st lap he was loudly cheered for breaking Fagioli’s lap record by four seconds, getting round the splendid average of z65.666 k.p.h.
Now it was the turn of the Ferrari equip, to experience some anxiety. Just when Chiron and Dreyfus appeared to be holding their positions comfortably—for Benoist was several laps behind—Dreyfus pulled into the pits on the 31st lap. The able Marinoni was at his side as the car came to a standstill. There was no delay in his taking the wheel, while Dreyfus flopped into the pit in a state of complete exhaustion. The heat and the fierceness of the fight had proved too much for him, and he spent the rest of the race stretched out on the ground while people fanned him and gave him drinks.
And so Caracciola came home first, having averaged 157.506 k.p.h. for so° gruelling kilometres. Von Brauchitsch was a popular second, I min. 37 secs. behind the leader. On top of it all they had to hold their right arms outstretched while the interminable German anthem was played. Then Chiron came in, and the playing of the Marseillaise followed. Louis was “all in,” and staggered to the microphone like a boxer out on his feet. For a moment he could say nothing. His eyes were shut and he had the appearance of being asleep standing up. Then he murmured that it had been the most exhausting race he had ever known. In a moment he, too, was stretched out on the floor of the Ferrari pit.
34 laps of 14 k.m. 864 metres, 500 km.
1. Caracciola (Mereedbs-Benz), 3h. 12m. 31s., 167.606 k.p.h.
2. Fagioli, relieved by Von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz), 3h. 14m. 88.
3. Chiron (Alfa-Romeo), 3h. 14m. 47s.
4. Dreyfus, relieved by Isfarinoni (AlfaRomeo), 3h. 17m. 64s.
5. Benoist (Bugatti), 31 laps in 3h. 13m. Osees.
6. Taniffi (Bugatti), 81 laps in 8h. 15m. 17sees.
7. Lehoux (Maserati), 31 laps in 811. 17m. 14sees.