GRAND PRIX PROSPECTS
By OUR CONTINENTAL CORRESPONDENT
THE 193840 International Formula, with its minimum weight limit and recognition of unsuperchargecl cars, does not appear to be encouraging the rivalry and the spectacular racing we saw under the old limited weight formula. The change in formula of course is not sufficiently great to account for this, and the real trouble lies in the positions of the firms competing.
Of the front rank firms engaged in racing, Mercedes-Benz alone is satisfied with its cars and its personnel. The cars with their twelve-cylinder engines and novel rear suspension are pretty sound, though Neubauer says they have not quite reached the peak of their performance. The drivers, Von Brauchitsch, Caracciola and Lang are all experienced and brilliant drivers.
Now that the Abyssinian war is no more, Alfa Corse may expect to receive a little more attention from the parent factory, but things are still in a pretty muddle. In March it was announced that the new Formula car was to be a 3-litre supercharged ” eight,” but at Tripoli two new models were seen, one a twelvecylinder and the other a sixteen. Neither of these seemed very successful, and one gathers that now attention is being focused on producing an eight-cylinder If litre, quite an easy matter when one already has the 3-litre ” sixteen.” The if litre class is extremely popular nowadays in Italy as well as in other countries, and I should not be surprised if Alfa’s concentrated on the small car rather than engaging in what is apparently a vain attempt to win back the supremacy which the 2.0-litre and later models of the famous monoposto cars held in Grand Prix racing.
The same more or less may be said for Maserati’s activity, their ” don ” at the moment being yet another model of 14-litre car, said to be due at Albi this month. They have however produced a ” formula ” car as well, quite an interesting-looking job with two of the four cylinder blocks in line.
Again in our survey I suppose we must not forget the new unblown cars which the formula is producing, Delahay-e, Talbot, and Delage. I fancy that their field is more in the sports-car field, as was’ seen in Dreyfus’s terrific lap at Le Mans and the successes of the other three cars.
First credit in this direction is of course due to the E.R.A. concern, with Humphrey Cook as the inspired backer, Berthon and the late Murray Jamieson the designers, and Mays, Lord Howe, Prince Birabongse and the other drivers who have demonstrated the capabilities of these fine little cars. It is rather unfortunate that the Nuffield Trophy and the Albi race happen
on the same week-end, which Nil 1 prevent the ” Masers ” and the E.R.A.s from fighting it out once again.
Not content with their successes in the 1i-litre field, however, at Bourne they are pressing on with the Grand Prix car. This is due to make its first appearance at the Swiss Grand Prix on August 21st. This actually is rather an unfortunate race in which to try to compete with the 3-litre cars, since the circuit is nearly all either straights or flat-out bends, where the superior speed of the big cars can be used to the best advantage. Still it will be interesting to see them do their stuff.
Two Litres or Over
The chassis will be similar to that of the car Mays drove at Peronne, with fore-and-aft swinging with suspension for the front wheels and hydraulic shock
absorbers. However, the Grand Prix car will have independent suspension at the rear too, with an all-synchromeshed box combined with the diff. Mays told me he had almost forgotten how to use a “straight “gearbox for racing after having used the Wilson type for so long, but anyhow he must be well accustomed to the delightful synchromesh box on the Bentley which he uses continually between races. The blower will be mounted alongside the engine, allowing a shorter induction pipe and also making the cockpit considerably more comfortable. In the present cars of course the supercharger, which is well over a foot in diameter,
projects between the driver’s legs. In order to pack the blower into the narrow bonnet the engine is slightly off-set in the frame. Keeping to the present engine layout, with a very ” stretched ” cylinder block and a new crankshaft the capacity can be brought up to about 2.2-litres, while of course the chassis will still be equally suitable for housing the 11-litre engines for limited-capacity races. Ultimately E.R.A.s intend making a twelvecylinder 3-litre engine but for the present are content with developing the all independently sprung chassis.
A Two-Stroke Design
Au interesting query has just been submitted to the F.I.A.C.R. Do the present rules allow the use of two-diameter pistons to supplement crankcase compression on two-stroke engines ? This system, it will be recalled, was employed on the Dunelt motor-cycle engines, and is virtually equivalent to the use of a supercharger. As Mays says, no one except the Germans are likely to go to the trouble and expense of developing an engine working on these lines, and anyhow such
form of boosting would seem to bring the engine into the supercharged class. Myself I should imagine that the added weight of the large-diameter piston skirts would discourage designers in these days of high piston speeds, but the proposal at any rate shows the fresh fields of inquiry opened up by the present superchargedtuisupercharged formula.
I have purposely refrained from referring to the plans of the Bugatti factory until the last. With the French Grand Prix over I can set on paper the little that Jean Bugatti had to tell me. Work on the new 3-litre formula car has not proceeded beyond tests of a new engine, and Monsieur Ettore had no intention of competing in this year’s Grand Prix. However, frantic appeals were addressed to him by the organisers of the race, who were afraid that they might have none but foreign cars competing in France’s most important race. Four days before the race Jean Bugatti at Molsheim was told that some sort of 3-litre car must be got to the starting line at Rheims, so the one and only test engine was ripped off the test-bed, clapped into one of last year’s Grand Prix chassis, and after day and night work and a 10-kilometre test on the road the car arrived in Rheims the night before
the race. A pretty sporting effort by the Maison Bugatti. Jean Bugatti said quite firmly that he did not expect to have any cars ready to run under the formula rules until next
year. Private-car production, building the rail-cars and the extra expense and reorganisation entailed by the new forty-hour week are plenty to occupy the factory for the present. and development of the new racers can only take place slowly.
The position of Bugatti seems to be the position of all the factories except Mercedes and perhaps Auto-Union. The new supercharged formula cars will in most cases not be ready until 1939. Unsupercharged racing-cars, especially Delahaye, are better advanced, but as their output can hardly be expected to exceed 200 as compared to the 300 to 350 of the supercharged 3-litres, one can scarcely expect an unsupercharged car even to be first past the chequered flag.
The 1i-litre category is gaining in popularity and one may safely hazard a guess that the 1941 cars will be built under that formula. E.R.A., Maserati, and Alfa-Romeo are enough to make interesting running in that direction, and one hopes that sometimes Altas will develop the necessary stamina for longdistance events. Bugattis are definitely not interested in this category, but Mercedes plans are wrapt in the usual veils of mystery. Anyhow we can look forward to swift motoring on all sides for the remainder of this season, and some really exciting Grand Prix racing again next year, if and when the cars at present being developed are seen on the Grand Prix circuits.