Matters of the moment

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36

A bad month

July was a sad month, for Varzi was killed during practice for the European Grand Prix, Kautz crashed fatally during that race, and in an earlier crash Trintignant was seriously injured. The thousands of spectators at Berne stood in silence for one minute before the race in memory of Varzi, little realising that before the day closed another driver would have lost his life and yet another be in hospital, gravely injured. It is the luck of the game  —  and motor-racing has been singularly free from such sad happenings for a long time  —  but no less regrettable for that. Varzi was one of the great veterans of the game and in his prime, as when he scored his three great victories at Tripoli,  in 1933 with a Bugatti, in 1934 with an Alfa Romeo, in 1936 with an Auto-Union, his name was coupled with those of Nuvolari and Chiron.

Varzi commenced his racing career on two wheels and was several times champion motor-cyclist of Italy, his fine style and quick reactions earning him the even more significant title of the “motor-cycling Nazzaro.”  In 1928 he bought a 2-litre Bugatti and later changed this for the ex-Campari P2 Alfa Romeo, with which the new owner put up a memorable drive in the Italian Grand Prix; 1929 saw Varzi, so new to four wheels, first at Alexandria,  Rome, Montenero, San Sebastian and Monza, which gained him the championship of Italy in his first full season of car racing. In 1930 Varzi got a place in the official Alfa Romeo team and, reverting to the elderly P2 for the Targa Florio, he won after a magnificent drive, greatly handicapped by having to refuel due to a small fuel tank. Other outstanding successes were the French Grand Prix in 1931 with a Bugatti in company with Chiron, the Monaco G.P. of  1933 for Bugatti, the Targa Florio again in 1934 for Ferrari after he had finished 3rd in that race in 1931 and 1932, and victory in the 1934 Mille Miglia at the wheel of a “2.3” Alfa Romeo. Of him in Eyston’s Motor Racing and Record Breaking  it was written:  “… outwardly calm,  he drives with as much dash as Nuvolari yet always with a certain caution. His handling of a car is splendidly controlled and, no matter how fast his approach to a corner, he appears confident and safe and sure.”  Varzi drove for Auto-Union being 2nd at Tripoli in 1935 and winning at 129.62 m.p.h. in 1936, when he also made fastest lap, at 141.3 m.p.h. Other Auto-Union successes included 2nd at Monaco in 1936, 2nd that year in the Swiss G.P., 3rd at Avus in 1935, and victory in the Coppa Acerbo  at  86.62 m.p.h. in 1935, followed by 3rd place the following year. Since the war Varzi was a member of the Alfette team, his 1946 placings including 2nd behind Wimille at Geneva, 1st at Turin at 61.62 m.p.h., ahead of Wimille and 2nd at Milan, behind Trossi. Last year he was 2nd in the Swiss, European and Italian Grands Prix. It was in 1-1/2-litre Alfa Romeo that he was killed, at the age of 44, after skidding in the rain near Jordenrampe, on July 1st. 

Christian Kautz, who crashed at Berne while cornering too fast in his Maserati, was a Swiss who, before the war, shared with Fagioli the distinction of driving both for Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz. With a Mercedes-Benz he was 4th in the 1937 Belgian G.P.,  and 3rd at Monaco that year. During the war he flew as a test-pilot for Lockheed, but after hostilities ceased racing proved of greater lure than flying and Kautz, who, incidentally was educated at Cambridge, drove a Maserati in European races, winning at Rheims last year, 95.8 m.p.h.

Trintignant, who was driving a Simca at Berne, had competed in Continental races since the war in Delahaye, Delage and Simca-Gordini cars. 

At Spa, the new British driver Richard Stallebrasse, who was 26 and lived at Redhill, was fatally injured when he overturned his 2-litre Aston-Martin.

***

The new gaffer

Last February Major G. Dixon-Spain resigned his longstanding post of Competitions Manager to the Royal Automobile Club and joined the Bugatti Owners Club as its Secretary  —  he is now happily installed at Prescott House in order to ensure time the cointinued smooth-running of the uncommonly successful Prescott speed hill-climbs. 

Major Dixon-Spain’s successor, Colonel F. Stanley Barnes, is well-fitted to fill the vacant position of Gaffer” to motoring sport  in this country, for he has had past experience not only of the administrative side of the game, both from the aspect of organizing clubs and as team manager, but he has driven in trials and rallies with considerable success. Colonel Barnes’ experience as a competition motorist extends over twenty-nine years, his early exploits being at the wheel of G.N., Eric Longdon Eric Campbell and similar cars. He commenced serious racing with an Austin Seven in the first Ulster T.T. and has driven M.G., Triumph and Singer cars in such events as the R.A.C. and R.S.A.C. Rallies, the Alpine Trial, the Paris-Nice Trial, the Monte Carlo Rally, the Ulster and Donington T.T.s, the Le Mans 24-Hour race and the sports-car version the French Grand Prix. In wishing Colonel Barnes sucess and enjoyment in his recently-accepted calling we also congratulate him warmly on two fine achievements which he has brought about during the brief period he has been in office. We refer to the R.A.C. Press Committee and  —  Silverstone.

***

And a track at last

At last all our anxieties over the absence of any suitable track where races could be held, cars tested, and experiments carried out are finished. With commendable initiative the R.A.C. has done what everyone hoped it would do and has leased a site for a proper racing circuit. This circuit is at Silverstone airfield, recently used by Rootes Securities for testing their products. It is very conveniently located, 65-1/2 miles from Hyde Park Corner and 5-1/4 miles from Towcester, accessible by main roads from the South and the Midlands alike. The R.A.C. will lease this airfield for twelve months and, if the circuit proves suitable for car racing and testing, thereafter hopes to secure it as a permanent track and to develop it accordingly.  

In announcing this breath-taking development we do no more than our readers would desire in sincerely congratulating the R.A.C. on its enterprise. Much of the credit must go to Mr. Wilfred Andrews, Chairman of the R.A.C. who announced his Club’s hopes in respect of the new track at a meeting in London on June 30th.  That evening the R.A.C. gave the news to the world  — which is evidence of more enterprise on somebody’s part and is a spirit which argues well for the future of Silverstone.

***

Do you belong?

The organisers of the recent Bo’ness Hill-Climb had in mind banning all non-union photographers from the course. They were persuaded to raise the ban at the last moment, but much ill-feeling apparently remains at what was contemplated.

***

Ulster A.C. Handbook

We have received the 1948 edition of the Ulster A.C. Handbook. The results of past Irish races and other events, Club rules, list of members,  a brief history of the Ulster Club, motor law and much useful data is contained therein. Such a publication greatly enhances the prestige of the Club that issues it. 

 

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