MERCEDES-BENZ HAT TRICK MANY RETIREMENTS IN GERMAN GRAND PRIX. SLIPPERY COURSE AT NURBURG RING
At the end of one of the strangest races ever held at the Niirburg Ring, only one Mercedes-Benz, and one Auto-Union was left running in the German Grand Prix, out of the nine cars in the two teams which had started.
Caracciola ended his long run of bad luck by a masterly victory for Mercedes.
He not only drove with all his old skill on the slippery course, but won his victory by splendid tactics, using only just sufficient speed to keep his rivals at bay. Quite early in the race all his team mates had fallen out, and he was fighting alone battle against three Auto-Unions. When the 22 laps (about 300 miles) were over, only Muller survived in the latter team.
Caracciola thus completed a hat trick in the German Grand Prix for Mercedes. He himself won in 1937, and last year was the occasion of the late R. J. B. Seaman’s famous victory.
Rain fell at intervals during the race, and none other than Nuvolari himself stated that he had never known the track so slippery, as the showers were never sufficient to make the surface really wet. During practice, on the other hand, the weather had been warm, and carburation, set for different conditions, was badly affected.
There had been some really terrific speeds in practice, during which Hermann Lang lapped the 14-mile course, the most tricky in Europe, with more than 120 corners, at no less than 87 m.p.h. With a time of 9 min. 43.1 sec., he beat Rosemeyer’s unofficial practice record, set up in 1936 with one of the 6-litre cars by 3 sec.
During the actual race, however, these speeds were not reached, and Caracciola’s winning average of 75.14 m.p.h. was the lowest on record since the modern formula cars began in 1934. Caracciola himself made the fastest lap at 81.65 m.p.h., and the official record thus remains in the hands of Lang, who set up a speed of exactly 86 m.p.h. during the recent Eifel races, and averaged 84.14 m.p.h. for ten laps.
Fast practice laps by Lang (9 min. 43.1 sec.), Von Brauchitsch (9 min. 51 sec.), and Caracciola (9 min. 56 sec.) had given the three Mercedes aces the front positions on the starting grid.
The best Auto-Union lap had been 9 min. 59.3 sec. by Muller, for Nuvolari had been handicapped through his car catching fire during practice, and it was only just repaired in time.
The skies were dull and threatening when the maroon went off, and the seventeen cars were let loose. Besides the five Auto-Unions and the four Mercedes, there were three Delahayes, Sommer’s Alfa-Romeo, two of the 3-litre Maseratis, and two 1-litre Maseratis. Lang and Von Brauchitoch shot away in the lead, while both Caracciola and Nuvolari made a slow start. The long procession of white, red, and blue cars snaked off into the hills, and the crowd, not quite so large as usual, settled down to await news from the announcers dotted round the course. At the Karussell hairpin the order was Lang, von Brauchitsch, Muller, Caracciola, and Pietsch, with one of the 3-litre Maseratis. When they reached the grandstand at the end of the first lap, Lang was out on his own, with a lead of 27 sec., having averaged 79.92 m.p.h. from a standing start. As the others drove by, there was a murmur of surprise, for Pietsch was now fourth, having passed Caracciola, and Nuvolari had picked up to sixth place. On the next lap came a series of sensations, bringing gasp after gasp from the crowd. Lang was signalled first, as expected, on the indicator board giving the order of cars approaching along the straight, but as he appeared he was slowing for his pit, and a red car was close behind, about to flash by and take the lead! It was Pietsch in his Maserati, showing a terrific turn of speed.
No von Brauchitsch! It was Nuvolari who came next, having passed Caracciola. At last the missing Mercedes appeared, and von Brauchitsch joined Lang at the pits. Plugs were changed on both cars, and they got away, fallen from their proud position. Nuvolari and Caracciola had been close behind Pietsch, the former, indeed, shaking his fist as he tried to pass. Before the Karussell Nuvolari had taken the lead, but Caracciola had fallen back a little and Miller had passed him. Pietsch’s car was beginning to feel the effects of his great dash, and at the end of the third lap he was fourth, behind Nuvolari, Muller, and “Caratsch.” Meanwhile the other 3-litre Maserati, driven by Villoresi, was stopping almost every lap at its pit, while Stuck retired with a broken petrol pipe, and was brought in to the pits seated on the tail of Sommer’s Alfa-Romeo, which was misfiring badly, and also retired.
Worse still, Lang came in again to his pit. His carburetter setting was hopelessly amiss, and as it would take half an hour to alter it, he withdrew. Last place in the Mercedes team had been given to Brendel, the young cadet driver, and on the third lap he showed his paces by averaging no less than 81.10 m.p.h., which for a long time stood as the fastest lap of the race. This effort had brought him up to fifth place, but, as the rain was beginning, and the experienced Lang was now idle in the pits, Neubauer, the Mercedes team manager, signalled to him to come in for Lang to take over. Brendel, elated at having passed Muller on the fourth lap, tore by the stands and failed to come in, despite further signals. Then a few minutes later, the speakers announced that Brendel was in the ditch at the Wehrseifer S-bend, and was unable to continue! Lang threw down the seat-cushion which he had been holding in readiness, Neubauer threw down his famous flag, and there was consternation in the Mercedes pits. A little later Brendel telephoned innocently asking for a car to fetch him back. This was the last straw. Seizing the telephone, Neubauer roared down it that he could—well walk back. Caracciola, at any rate, was moving up, and on the sixth lap took the lead when Nuvolari made a momentary stop at his pit. Von Brauchitsch, however, came in also, and though the wheels were changed and the car refilled, it was decided to withdraw it, because the auxiliary fuel tank was leaking on to the magneto, and there was risk of fire.
This left one Mercedes against four Auto-Unions, lying second, third, fourth, and seventh. The odds were lessened slightly when Nuvolari made another stop, this time for about 2 min. while plugs were changed, but on Caracciola’s car the engine was beginning to sound none too good, and Muller was gaining ground.
At nine laps the leader stopped for refuelling and fresh tyres, and plugs were also changed. Amid excitement Muller followed to his pit, and got away in 44 sec. while “Caratsch’s” car was still stationary! Hasse now led for Auto-Union, with Muller second, Caracciola third, and Nuvolari fourth. Pietsch had stopped twice at his pit, but was still fifth. Hasse’s car was refuelled on the following lap so quickly that he did not lose the lead, and so the same order prevailed at half distance (eleven laps).
Caracciola’s car was now going much better, and on the twelfth lap he moved up ahead of Miller. Next lap Hasse solved the question of the lead by running off the road during another shower of rain, and thereafter “Caratsch” had matters his own way. Meier also retired with his Auto-Union, the reason given being that the front axle had broken, though after the race this appeared to be quite intact.
Pietsch was another to run off the road, but he recovered and arrived at his pit, going off again with his beautiful car undamaged and as hearty as ever. These Maseratis have only to find more reliability to be a power in racing.
Caracciola made a lightning stop on the eighteenth lap, refuelling in only 18 sec., but next lap Nuvolari came in with steam pouring from his engine, and without delay the car was pushed away. Muller’s last refuel was even quicker than Caracciola’s, taking a mere 15 sec., but the old master now had a secure lead, and went on to victory. The Delahayes had been running consistently, though at no great speed, behind Pietsch, and were fourth, fifth, and sixth.
THE SPORTS-CAR HOUR RUN
S. C. H. Davis certainly set a fashion that has been widely followed since he asked the R.A.C. to officially observe an hour’s running of Aldington’s original, white Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. round and round Brooklands. At Brooklands last month Mrs. Jill Thomas took out her Type 328 B.M.W., fully equipped—the car she and her husband so often race—and, timed by the B.A.R.C., averaged 101.22 m.p.h. for the hour’s lappery. This is excellent testimony to the real speed which you buy when you invest in a Type 328 Frazer Nash-B.M.W. This run compares with Davis’s original 102.2 m.p.h. and with the fastest stock-car hour run yet observed Benoists’ 112 m.p.h. with a Type 57SC Bugatti saloon.