Continental Notes and News, August 1939
Continental Notes and Newz
No One Really Cared
The tragedy of Seaman’s accident was so overwhelming that it obscured an incident at Spa which might, in other circumstances, have caused the Belgian Grand Prix to be remembered as the most dramatic race of the year, instead of the most disastrous. When Lang, the leader, came in to refuel for a second time, a few laps from the end, the engine did not re-start properly. After he had gone a few yards it stopped, and so Lang decided to make use of the downhill grade. Again and again he gathered speed and let in the clutch, but the engine simply would not fire. On the re-designed Spa course, the road takes a big uphill sweep to the right after the left-hand bend past the pits, and Lang had reached the very bottom of the dip before his Mercedes
picked up. Meanwhile Hasse was right on his tail with the Auto-Union. Another few yards and Lang would have been out of the race. Actually, by that time no one really cared who won, least of all Lang, who
was so appalled by the sight of Seaman’s car on fire that he would have preferred to have retired. At the risk of re-opening a sad subject, I feel that justice has not been done in the British motoring journals to the magnificent behaviour both of the Mercedes-Benz concern and the Royal Auto mobile Club of Belgiaun in honouring Seaman’s passing. At the little memorial service in Spa on the day after the race, Herr Neubauer made a moving address, and in the Chapel were the German Ambassador from Brussels and the
President of the R.A.C.B. Representatives of the Club were also present at the embarkation of the coffin at Ostend. It was noticeable that there was no sign from Britain at the Spa service— not a wreath nor a message from the R.A.C., nor were any representatives of Britain’s national motor club waiting on the quayside at Dover to receive home the body of Britain’s greatest racing driver of recent years. It is perfectly true that Seaman was a member of a German team, but that was all the more reason why Britain—and the R.A.C.—should have
been proud of him. A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country . .
In Germany and Belgium a Grand Prix driver is regarded as a sportsman of the highest importance, and this, I suppose, is a point of view that will never be properly understood in Great Britain. Perhaps it is best to leave it at that.
Le Mans and Lagonda
Most of us who saw the splendid show put up by the Lagondas at Le Mans commented on the fact that the cars seemed very long in the wheelbase as compared with the French sports-cars, and were consequently a bit unhandy on the corners. In one way, of course, this was praiseworthy, for it meant that the cars could carry much more comfortable closed coachwork on the chassis, as raced, than the French machines could. But such
considerations do not count in racing. All that matters is to win.
It is good news, therefore, to hear that an ultra-short wheelbase model is being produced to carry two-seater sports coachwork and that this will be the model that Lagondas will race at Le Mans next year. This modification, coupled with his past experience and the data he gathered at this year’s event, should give ” W.0.” a very good chance of winning the Grand Prix d’Endurance in 1940. Why, if the cars prove to be as reliable as the two which ran in June, he might even get ” one, two, three I ” Incidentally, the fact that a 31-litre unblown Delahaye, with full sports coachwork, lapped the circuit at nearly 97 m.p.h. makes one wonder what one of the Formula German cars could do at Le Mans. Probably something like 115
Tragedy at Monza
Another name was added last month to the long list of drivers who have been killed at Monza Autodrome when Emilio Villoresi met with a fatal accident at the wheel of an Alfa-Romeo. Emilio was the brother of Luigi, the • Maserati driver who has visited Britain on several occasions. He himself, I believe, started racing on a Maserati, but he first came into prominence last year as the leading driver of the 1,500 c.c. Alfa-Romeos. He won the Junior Coppa Acerb° and the race that preceded the Italian Grand Prix. This year he was the only driver to bring home
his Alfette in the Tripoli race. As a driver he was obviously destined to do big things ; and as a man he was liked by everybody. Monza . . . what a fateful name that
is Carnpari, Borzacchini, Czaikowski, Arcangeli, Materassis—and wasn’t Count Zborowski killed there too ? Incidentally, in the cafes of Milan and Turin they are talking about the possibility of the Italian Grand Prix being a 1,500
c.c. race this year. In which case, as it would replace a formula Grand Prix, Mercedes-Benz would presumably feel justified in bringing out their 11-litre cars from their tantalising retirement.
It would only need the presence of the new E.R.A.—and of course a full contingent of Alfas and Maseratis—to make it a real party.
Round About Rheims
That was certainly a lucky escape of
” Bira’s ” at Rheims. He was trying really hard for several preceding laps, and had actually equalled Dobson’s fastest lap with the new E.R.A., which was a wonderful feat.
Then suddenly he was overdue. Prince Chula and Shura Rahm looked down the straight to Thillois, but the blue car did not appear. And all the while the seconds were ticking off on their stop-watches.
The next thing I knew—I was standing on the promenade above the pits, at the time, just over the Chula-” Bira ” equipewas an agitated voice on the loud-speakers asking the driver of the ambulance to go to his vehicle immediately. One or two mechanics and people started to walk and run down the straight, for no apparent reason.
We waited, Prince Chula and his staff exercised an admirable calm, although their anxiety must have been appalling. Then gradually the news came through, as other drivers pulled into their pits and reported that the E.R.A. had got into a series of skids and counter-skids (and not for the first time) on the fast curve as the road enters the wood before reaching La Garenne. Although there is no steep kerb there, the car eventually readied a point where it was checked suddenly in its skidding, with the result that it rolled right over, depositing ” Bira ” on the strip of sand which now lines the road where trees stood before.
Finally, ” Bira ” returned to the pits as a passenger in Contet’s Simca-Fiat. He got out unaided, and walked with Prince Chula to the back of the pits where the White Mouse lorry stood. His overalls were torn on his hip, and he walked with a limp—due, in part, to his having lost one of his shoes. But it was a tremendous relief to see him comparatively unhurt. The car continued for another two hundred yards or so after its fir§t roll, finishing up in the road, but fortunately to one side, so that the following cars were not impeded. The engine would
still run, but the rest of the car was wrecked, including the expensive and difficult-to-make front independent suspension.
One can only stand in respectful admiration of” Bira’s ” courage in racing again the following week-end at Albi. Of such stuff are heroes made.
British drivers had a justifiable moan about the tardiness of the A.C.F. officials at the weighing-in. They were kept waiting about for hours after the time they bad been told to present themselves, and this part of the organisation. seemed to go haywire. And the man who painted the numbers on the cars ought to have a lesson from his colleagues at Brooklands and Donington. He did his job neatly enough, but painfully slowly. Rheims seems to be a difficult circuit
for choosing the correct gear-ratio. It is easy to over-rev on the straights, but the sharp corners demand good acceleration. Wakefield was cutting out momentarily as he passed the stands, but even then he got the slow-down signal from his pit. Perhaps over-revving had something to do with the retirement of Lang and von Brauchitsdi, both of whom had engine trouble, and of Nuvolari, too. The no-pushing rule nearly caused the undoing of Wakefield when he went to re-start after his pit-stop. Both his mechanics swung the handle until they were exhausted, and then at last the engine fired. Hug had a portable electric starter, like the Germans. Abecassis was
in a quandary. There is no provision for a starting handle on his Alta, so that even if he had not run a big-end it is doubtful whether he would have finished the race. Once he had come in to refuel he could not have started again. Personally I think this rule is nonsense. Racing cars are not meant to be started by hand, any more than the ordinary motorist thinks of starting his 1939 saloon by the starting handle—if it’s got one. If portable electric starters are allowed, I can’t for the life of me see why a push start shouldn’t be. The Auto-Union party in Rheims after the race was a cheery show, because their motorcyclists had scored successes in the Grand Prix de l’U.M.F. (that’s not an American expression) in the morning, as well. Karl Kudorfer, the Press liaison officer, made one of his terrific speeches ; grinning, quivering, and gesticulating all at the same time. It was rather nice of him, I thought, to say that their victory in the Grand Prix was due not only to their wonderful cars, and their marvellous driver in ” mein lieber Hermann,” but also to luck, which always plays a big
part in motor-racing. Say what you like about Hitler, they are wonderful sportsmen, these Germans.
Meier, incidentally, had a bandaged neck as a result of his car catching fire at the pits, but judging by his high spirits he was not in any pain. That was a tense moment when the flames went ” woof ” and shot up higher than the promenade. For an, appreciable pause Meier seemed to be paralysed. Then he frantically undid the steering wheel and was pulled out of the car by willing hands—so willingly, indeed, that he was flung on the ground. The French crowd applauded his pluck for continuing, but oddly enough they also applauded when the announcer told them that there Ix ere no more Mercedes left in the race.
But we were drinking champagne in Rheims, were we not ? It was interesting to observe the almost patriarchal aura which surrounded Nuvolari. Not for nothing is he called the Maestro. The lean, brown-faced, grey-haired little man just sat there, smilingly accepting Kudorfer’s compliments and the company’s applause.
There were two visitors from the rival camp. Doctor Glaser sat near the door where the exuberant Kudorfer soon spotted him and gave him a welcome, and later on von Brauchitsch turned up.
And Chris Kautz was there, too, with his charming wife.
What of Alfas ?
Talking of Kautz brings us to the Mystery of Modena. The two cars he ran at Rheims, and Sommer’s similar machine, are queer sort of cars. In appearance they are like big Alfas. I understand that they are composite cars built up of bits and pieces of Alfas of
various types. It is some time since Alfas raced a 3-litre eight-cylinder engine, and the cars certainly seemed to be no faster than the old 2.9-litre monoposto.
Kautz’s cars had the Swiss cross painted on the scuttle, but I understand that he does not intend to keep them. They will either be sold or else find their way back to Modena.
I have seen it reported that these three cars are the only Grand Prix Alfa-Romeos now in existence. Surely this is wrong. The Corse may not intend to race the sixteen-cylinder car any more this season, but the machine that Farina drove at Spa, and with which he led at the start, must still be in existence.
In the French Grand Prix the Alfas were outpaced by the unblown. Darracqs, which went extremely well. Le Begue’s car, which had a five-speed gearbox, was unofficially timed, with a onehundredth of a second stop-watch, to be doing 153 m.p.h. down the GueuxThillois straight. In the same place Lang and Nuvolari were clocked at 192 m.p.h. !
Suddeutsche Renngemeinschaft I have seen the names
I expect you have seen the names Dipper and Joa fairly frequently lately as the drivers of Maseratis in Continental events. Here is some information about them. They are two young Germans who race in partnership under the title Suddeutsche Renngemeinschaft, which, being interpreted, means South German Racing Association. They have an office a Erfurt, and their workshop is at Freiburg. Their Maseratis are six-cylinder jobs, painted silver with red numbers—exactly like Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Unions. Their badge is a shield on which there are
rampant horses. They tow their cars about on open trailers behind saloon Mercedes.
Heinz Dipper comes from Stuttgart and drives a B.M.W. as well as his Maserati. Leonhard Joa concentrates on his Maserati.
A somewhat fantastic race was held at
Angouleme last month. This magnificent old walled city has a road running round the top of its ramparts, and although it is only three-quarters of a mile round, someone decided that it would make a good circuit for a motor-race.
Of course it was tremendously hard work for both the cars and the drivers. In the first heat of 40 laps only two cars finished, but in the second race six managed to stay the course. The 70 laps final was full of incident. Sommer (3-litre Alfa-Romeo) was chased a bit at the beginning by Roger Loyer, the motor-cyclist Maserati driver, but the latter had his usual bad luck—this
time the car took fire. Sommer then went on safely in the lead, but the places were being fought out fiercely. Joseph Paul (Delahaye), the winner of the first heat, was in front of Horvilleur’s Vs-litre Maserati for some time, but then he overdid it on a corner and crashed into a wall. This left Horvilleur in second place, with Durand on a 1,500 c.c. I3ugatti third. The result was :
1. It. Sommer (Alfa-Romeo), 70 laps in 111 25m. Os. Speed 39.2 m.p.h.
2. Horvilleur (Maserati), 3 laps behind.
3. Durand (Bugatti) 3 laps behind.
4. Contet (Delahaye), 4 laps behind.
5. Trintignant (Bugatti), 7 laps behind.
6. Herkuleyns (M.G.), 10 laps behind.
Hug’s accident at Albi brings up the old controversy once more as to whether crash-hats should be made compulsory.
His injuries were pretty well confined to the head, and there is no doubt that had he been wearing a helmet he would not have been so badly hurt.
That seemed to be the opinion of many of the drivers, too, for eight of the fifteen starters—an unusually high percentage— wore them in the race.
It is queer, when you come to think of it, that none of the Grand Prix drivers wear them. It is true, of course, that in some cases where extensive bodily injuries are sustained, for example—it is probably better to be killed outright than to linger on as a cripple, but on the other hand cases do occur where a crash helmet enables a driver to come out of an accident almost scot-free.
In motor-cycle races, of course, they are compulsory.
The racing conduct of some of the British drivers, I am afraid, created an unfavourable impression. The excessive skidding of one of them was described by a French journalist as” acrobatics,” and two of them were advised by the same writer “to control their passion in order to avoid being a danger to other drivers,” and “to take lessons before entering for another race.”
No one can accuse the journalist in question of being anti-British, because he went on to castigate the local gendarmerie in no uncertain terms for their failure to salute while “God Save the King” was being played. The National Anthem, incidentally, was played three times at Albi, twice for Fergus Anderson, the motor-cyclist, and once for Wakefield.
And Now for Berne
There are radical alterations this year in the programme of the Swiss Grand Prix meeting to be held at Berne on August 20th. To begin with, the Prix de Berne for 1,500 c.c. cars ceases to exist as a separate race, and will be merged in the Grand Prix itself. The latter, instead of being one long race, is to be held in two heats and a final. I would like to make it clear, however, that the Prix de Berne will still be a race for 1,500 c.c. cars, although run concurrently with the Grand Prix. The 1,500 c.c. cars will compete in the 1st heat and the G.P. machines in the second. The best finishers in each heat will run together in the final competing for separate awards.
If the field were to be limited to cars like E.R.A.s and the latest Maseratis, it would not be so bad, but the chances are that there will be all sorts of sluggish machines there as well.
The programme at present consists of the following : Friday the 18th, practice from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ; Saturday the 19th, practice from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. ; Sunday the 20th, at 10 a.m. the start of the Prix de Bremgarte.n (Swiss national drivers only), at 11.20 a.m. the start of the first heat of the Grand Prix, at 2 p.m. the start of the second heat, and at 3.40 p.m. the start of the final.
The heats will be over 20 laps, or 145.6 kilometres, and the final over 218.4 kilometres. First prize is roughly pm second :f,250, and so on. For the 1,500 c.c. cars a separate first prize of roughly £200 will be given.
Time, gentlemen, please . . .