EUROPE’S FASTEST ROAD RACE MULLER (AUTO-UNION) WINS FRENCH GRAND PRIX, BRITISH DEBACLE IN 1,500 c.c. RACE.
TERRIFIC speeds in the French Grand Prix thrilled a huge crowd at Rheims, where the triangular road circuit is now the fastest in Europe. Indeed, the speeds reached this year at Rheims
almost vied with those in the Tripoli Grand Prix, in spite of three sharp corners on the French circuit. Hermann Lang in his Mercedes actually lapped the 4i mile course at 114.8 m.p.h., and was averaging 110 m.p.h. when at about three-quarter distance he had to retire with engine trouble. For the first time since the famous French Grand Prix of 1934, all the Mercedes drivers had to retire, leaving the rival Auto-Unions masters of the field. Muller scored his first big victory, and Georg Meier, the new recruit to the Auto Union team was second. Both Muller and Meier have been brought on in the hard
school of motor-cycle racing, and only recently Meier won the Senior T.T. on a B.M.W. The Grand Prix, which was run over a distance of 51 laps, or about 250 miles,
was preceded by the 14-litre race for the Sporting Commission Cup. This event was over 88 laps, or 185 miles. The 14-litre race might have been one of the best contests of the year, had
not a variety of reasons caused many absentees and non-starters. As it was, it was most disappointing. Mercedes did not run their 1 i-litres because of their declared policy of not running the small cars over the same circuits on which the 3-litre formula machines are engaged. Political reasons
kept away the works Alfa-Romeo and Maserati drivers, as the Italians are not playing in France this year.
So the race ought to have been a good thing for England, offering indeed such a hollow victory that our boasted supremacy in the 14-litre class should have been more sufficient. But, to the disappointment of the hundreds of English enthusiasts who had gone over to see the new E.R.A., this elusive machine was again absent, and is rapidly challenging the reputation of the well known non-starter, the S.E.F.A.C. Incidentally, this French car was in the list of entries for the Grand Prix, with the words added in the programme (humorously intended, or not ?) “depart
improbable ! ” Should English programmes copy ? However, joking apart, it Can at least be recorded that the new E.R.A. put up a promising display in practice, showing a fine turn of speed and remarkable
road-holding. Arthur Dobson lapped at nearly 101 m.p.h., though it seemed that he still had something in hand. He is believed to have been reaching about 150 m.p.h. on the downhill straight from the Virage de la Garemie to the Virage Thillois.
Then overheating developed, caused by the pressure of air entering through the radiator, and unable to escape sufficiently quickly even when additional vents were cut. The engine was damaged, and, with no spare unit available, the car had to be withdrawn.
Raymond Mays was without an entry, since he is now an independent, and at the time that entries closed, as king ago as last March, it was thought that he would be able to drive one of the two cars entered by the works. As it was, the second works entry was handed Over to Robin Hanson, whose old type KRA, was in none too good form, having a main bearing partly in its proper place and partly in the dl filter.
” B. Bira ” had crashed in practice, and had had an extraordinary escape. On a fast bend between the Virage de Gueux and the Virage de la Garemie (this stretch, once narrow and full of bends, has now been widened and straight ened out) ” Bira ” went off the road at 100 ni.p.h. His E.R.A. overturned, and the Siamese was thrown clear, nor was the somersaulting car was able to catch him up, though it tried to roll on him. ” Bira ” suffered only a deep cut
in his thigh, and was brought back to the pits, quite cheerful, in one of the Sinica Fiats. So all that was left for the race, over which, for British eyes, a veil may be drawn, were Hanson and Con Pollock, with old type E.R.:A.’s, Abecassis’s Alta, several independent Maseratis (one driven
by Johnny Wakefield,) and three Simca Fiats, of Le Mans type. The struggle evidently lay between Wakefield and Hug, the Swiss driver, who had one of the new type sixteen-valve four-cylinder engines (like Wakefield’s, in his Maserati), Hug’s engine was still new and stiff, and Wakefield took the
lead. Soon, however, his brakes began to fail, and he overshot the corner at Thillois, before calling at his pit for adjustments.
Hug now took the lead, with a lap of 99.27 m.p.h., and Wakefield chased him. So far it seemed that prophecies that Hug and Wakefield would break one another up might be fulfilled, in which case Pollock had been advised to keep back and step in later. Unfortunately gearbox trouble on the E.R.A. spoilt this plan, and when Hanson also retired, not with the suspected bearing, but owing to running out of fuel with only 14 laps (about 68 miles) covered, the British challenge was over. Abecassis had retired on the first lap with a big-end gone.
Wakefield was never able to catch Hug again, and both kept going, Hug increasing his speed steadily as his engine became run in. Third place remained in the hands of the German driver of a Maserati, Dipper, while the three Simca Fiats ran merrily along behind.
RESULTS 1. A. Hug _ (Maserati 93.55 m.p.h.
1. A. Hug _ (Maserati 93.55 m.p.h.
2. S. P. Wakefield (Maserati), 1m. 57s. behind.
3. A. Dipper (lifsserati), 2 laps behind. C. n et laps behind
4.. C. t Slam%Gloortdin(i (Sime),a), 6 laps behind. 6
6. J. Paul (Shwa), 7 laps behind.
The 1,500 c.c. race had been run for the most part in pleasant sunshine, but in the interval before the big race,which seemed unnecessarily prolonged, a shower of rain fell, and clouds began to gather ominously. By the time that the Grand Prix cars lined up, the crowd had almost doubled its size. Auto-Unions had four cars against three Mercedes-Bc..nz, for Seaman’s place in the latter team had not been Mercedes had the practice honours, with laps at 117.5 m.p.h. by Lang and. 116.7 m.p.h. by Caracciola, but Nuvolari
(Auto-Union) was not far behind with 110.6 m.p.h. Practice times do not rank officially for records, and the record lap thus remained in Lang’s hands at 105.97 m.p.h., set up during the race last year.
The rest of the field was made up of three 44-litre unsupercharged TalbotDarracqs, two Delahayes of similar type, and three 3-litre blown Alfa-Romeos. Two of the Alfas belonged to C. Kautz, and were driven by Chinetti and Martin, while the third was handled by Raymond Sommer. Sommer had already driven a Maserati in the 1,500 c.c. race, and was the only driver to take part in both races. The Talbot Darracqs driven by Le Begue and Etancelin were really of twoseater type, with off-set single-seater bodies, but the third car, driven by Raymond Mays, had a new chassis with the propeller shaft set at an angle, and a cortral seat for the driver. It also had a five-speed preselector gearbox, but was about L1 cwt. heavier than the other two. it was the experimental chassis designed for the sixteen-cylinder blown engine, if and when this materialises, Lang, Caracciola, and Nuvolari had the front rank, and at the fall of the flag Nuvolari made a meteoric start, leaping ahead of the field. The seven German cars swept down upon the first corner between the start and the hairpin at
Gueux in one fighting bunch, all striving for position before the narrow bottleneck.
Last year it was one of the Auto-Unions which came to grief at Gucux on the first lap; but now it was none other than the old campaigner, Caracciola himself, who met disaster thus early in the struggh, ” Caratsch ” put his foot down hard on the corner, and the tail of the Mercedes swung round and struck a wall. The tank was damaged, and fuel gushed out. Caracciola was quite unhurt, and sprang from his car, but a mere glance showed him that to proceed was impossible. Lang had hesitated at the start, but on the second lap was hot on Nuvolari’s
heels. Muller on his Auto-Union was third, and Meier’s Auto-Union fourth, with von Brauchitseh (Mercedes) fifth, and Stuck (Auto-Union) sixth. Already there was a big gap between the white cars and the rest of the field, headed by the three Talbot-Darracqs, in the order Etancelin, Mays, Le Begue. Nuvolari broke the lap record at over 113 m.p.h. on the third lap, but Lang was not to be shaken off, and was fractionally faster still ! On the same lap
von Brauchitseh moved up ahead of Meier, but was still some way behind Muller. On the fourth lap Nuvolari still led, but on the fifth there was a murmur of excitement, as the Auto-Union and the Mercedes were seen across the cornfields streaking down towards Thillois at 185 m.p.h. neck and neck ! As the two cars h ft the turn, Lang just drew ahead, and the two came hurtling along the straight towards the stands almost level. At the
stands Lang led the maestro by secs. ! ‘ For two more laps the great duel con
tinued, but then Nuvolari sadly drew into his pit with something broken in the engine, and, covered with oil, had to retire.
This left Muller second, but at ten laps he was already 44 secs. behind Lang, who, in the stress of his battle with Nuvolari, had been averaging 110 m.p.h. Branchitsch was still third, and Stuck had gone up to fourth place, in front of Meier. Such was the pace that the leaders had already lapped the Talbots, though Etancelin and Le Begue were actually averaging 97.5 m.p.h. ! These two were travelling in close company, and were
putting up a great show. In practice Le Begue had shown the speed of his car by lapping at 105 m.p.h., quick enough for anyone. Mays had had to retire with a split fuel tank. and he, too, had been making a creditable show. Von Brauchitsch scarcely seemed in his usual dashing form, and his engine
began to sound less healthy. Stuck bcgan to catch him up, and then after seventeen laps Brauchitsch drew in to the paddock without bothering to stop
at his pit. Piston trouble was said to be the cause. Now there were only four German cars left, three Auto-Unions against one Mercedes !
Lang showed no signs of discouragement, and indeed at once set about raising the lap record still higher, preparatory to refuelling. On the nineteenth lap he got round at 114.28 m.p.h., and on the twentieth was three-quarters of a second quicker, at 114.8 m.p.h.
The Auto-Unions were the first to refuel, coming in on successive laps. When Meier’s turn came, the mechanics were so anxious to get him away that they forgot to shut off the fuel hose, and fuel flooded the cockpit. As the engine fired, flames sprung up. Meier, receiving his baptism of fire with a vengeance, seemed penned in his seat, wildly flapping his arms. No one lost their heads. Meier was hauled from his seat and rolled on the ground to extinguish his burning overalls. More men brought out a huge extinguisher in a trice, and almost before the excited crowd realised the imminence
of disaster, the fire was over. Meier, who had only been slightly burned, leapt back into his seat, and drove off amid applause, actually with little time lost. Lang had refuelled in a mere 35 secs., and was thus still strongly entrenched at
the head of affairs. At thirty laps he was leading Muller by 1 min. 35 secs., and had averaged just over 109 m.p.h. But then his engine began to emit clouds of smoke. The pace that he had set had been too nmch, and he began to slow. Nothing could be done, and on the thirty-sixth lap the last Mercedes driver retired. Muller was averaging 107 m.p.h., and Stuck was now second, about 2 wins. behind. Yet Stuck did not enjoy this
position for long, as his engine, too, began to misfire, and soon Meier passed him. Only two German cars were running properly, and one of these had been on fire ! The Talbots were still running beautifully, and had not stopped at all, keeping up their average of over 97 m.p.h. Before long Stuck’s crippled Auto-Union had been eaten up, and the Talbots were
third and fourth Was it to be the case of the hare and the tortoise ? The French crowd cheered on their favourites every lap.
But Muller and Meier made no mistake, and the Talbots had to be content with third and fourth places. Stuck was eventually passed also by Sommer’s AlfaRomeo, which had been leading the remainder of the field, but which had been altogether outpaced.
1. H. Muller (A lit Un ion ), 105.25 m.p.h. 51 laps in 2h. 2m. 11 s.
2. G. Meier (Auto-Union), 50 laps.
3. R. Le Begue (Talbot-Darraeq), 48 laps.
4. P. Etaneelln (Talbot-Darraery). 48 laps.
5. R. Sommer (Alfa-Romeo), 47 laps. 0. H. Stuck :Anto-Unlon), 47 laps.
7. R. Dreyfus (Uelahaye), 45 laps. 8. L. Chinetti (Alfa-Romeo), 45 laps,
9. P Ralph (Delahaye), 44 laps.