A DAY AT RHEIMS
The FangiolFagioli 159B Alfa-Romeo Wins the G.P. d’Europe
at over 110 m.p.h.
IF you have never seep a Continental motor Mee, a Formula I Grand Prix in France, Italy, Belgium, hasten to do so. There is nothing else quite like it outside Europe. Consider this year’s G.P. ([‘Europe. for instance. The 480 mile Circuit Mintier
Permanent de Reints-Gueux has concrete :stands and pits that wouldn’t disgrace the.largrstfootball ground or horse racecourse in England. The long straights, normally open to monsieur’s and madame’s voitures and voiturettes, are perfectly surfaced, not very wide, with a White line down the centre. Colourful French police assist a straw-bale wall to keep spectators off the course—until the race starts, when the sight and sound of modern Grand Prix cars doing all but 200 m.p.h. is amply sufficient. This is a course where, last month, Fangio from the Argentine Set a practice lap-record of 119.999 m.p.h., and a race lap-record of 118.29 rii.p,li. in a 159 Alfa-Romeo —2.4 m.p.h. faster than even Lang’s 3-litre Mercedes-Benz went in practice in 1939, but not quite as fast as Farina went at Francorchamps. It was a hard-fought race, this 375, mile, 77-lap Grand Prix Over this very fast circuit, with continual change of fortune. Fangio, Farina, Fagioli and
• Sanesi on Alfa-Romeos, Ascari, Vilkiresi, Gonzales and Parnell on Ferraris, veteran Louis Chiron, Cabantous, Rosier, Mairesse and Etancelin on Talbots, were amongst those billed to do battle. It is the .day of the year for Rheims, the race of the year to followers of motor racing. No wonder the roads leading to the course, One-way for the occasion, are blocked with cars and all France seems to be wending its way to Thilkiis and down to the Tribunes, from grandinarruna in her all-hlaek Sunday best in the cab of an aged Renault van to debonair sportsmen and I lk,4 iadi,”•s in ,..v-opening Delahayes, Lago-Tall,ots at II I :’ lfa-Romeos.
For our part we took off from. Croydon in a 1947 Transair Airspeed Consul and well under two hours later We Were circling the circuit, prior to landing in the small field of the local aerO-club where the .grass, like that of my lawns at home, badly needs the mower. Two single-engined British private aircraft have already put down here, and we bumpily follow suit.
Champagne airfield has refused us because no Customs facilities exist there— let us say that we fare little better where we have been instructed to drop in, and then change the subject! BAR in big letters over the club house entrance sounds promising and the hooting from fast ears as they . roar eking the adjacent road to the circuit is inspiring. Our pilot, who once had an Alta and made a point of seeing all the Qrandes Epreuves pre-war, is like a boy let out of school and hastily ‘phones for it taxi,
Taxis are some of the best fun on these trips. When we flew per Anson to the I.O.M. (and had to put up a golf umbrella to keep the rain out, when an escape hatch blew away !) we were met by a 1937 Type 120 Packard. Now it was a Scruffy 601 Peugeot, of inordinately long wheelbase, that trundled us towards Rheims.
In that fine city the atmosphere built up, although we were out of it in ten minutes or so. A G.P. Bugatti was spotted standing nonchalantly in a service Station, sans mudguards, and I caught a glimpse in a shop Window of a very stark, vintage three-wheeler in French blue, no doubt a Sandford, perhaps with a history. What do the tourists of the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club know about that”? The traffic now stiffened and Sopa we were crawling, three abreast, ‘along a country road flanked by wide fields, bound for the motor race. An enterprising Frenchman in a Shnea blew a musical horn, under braked, and sailed into the back of’ the 1,100 Fiat Wean in front. Everyone laughed. Some drivers had taken to the fields to avoid the queue, calmly driving over ditches to get there, which in England no doctor racing to a maternity case would so much as attempt. An American saloon is progressing with itsvast bonnet propped up and the passenger, head out of window,
navigating for the ” blind ” driver. Lots of Citroens seem to be overheating.
A Morris Minor on English plates draws up, then a 3-litre Bentley, of whom we lean from our Peugeot and enquire in French, ” Where, Monsieur, is the R.R.M. ? ” Later, when our taxi is halted and we are forced to walk in the boiling sun the Bentley driver gets his own back, refusing us a lift on his ample running boards with the excuse that steam is just showing from his equally ample radiator.
Ever on the qui vine for vintage machinery, I delight in two elderly ” 11.4″ Citroens, the aged Renaults and the many 301 Peugeots that jostle with the elegant automobiles of La Belle France.
Have you, dear reader, sat in the draughty scaffolding that passes for grandstands at Silverstone, your umbrella at the ready, as the cars are manhandled in confusion on the grid ? Imagine, then, the scene at the Circuit Emdier Permanent Reims-Gueux, where each racing car is pushed to its place, its driver walking beside it, while the National Anthem of his country booms out and the gendarmes stand stiffly to attention. And where 70,000 knowledgable spectators, dressed only as Continentals can dress (especially the girls !) line the fields and pack the stands under an almost tropical sun tempered with a cool breeze.
Ascari’s Ferrari shares front row on the neat grid with Fangio’S and Farina’s A l fa-Reineos.
The great Charles Faroux lifts his fingers to tick off the minutes. Before he lowers his last two, Villoresi and Sanesi (the latter with the de Dion axle Alfa) creep forward, hastily the Tricolour goes up, the pack snarls forward, Farina’s back tyres almost on lire, and the 1951 Grand Prix d’Europe, greatest of the Formula I motor races, is on.
In the vast, two-tier, glass fronted Press box charts are at the ready, and kept throughout the race, radio commentaries are yelled into microphones in half-a-dozen languages and as that ace-efuunieler Rodney IValketly stubs out his 100th cigarette and lifts his field glasses to his eyes, an immaculate French girl, with zip-fasteners wherever zipfasteners might be needed, makes a little grimace as .Ascari, not Rosier, leads the field.
The rumours are over—those about the B.R.M. and why it did not arrive, and how Brian Shawe-Taylor, following an argument as to the lack of efficiency of the brakes of the Thinwall Special Ferrari, • was asked to stand down by Tony Vandervill. Brian flew home, leaving Reg Parnell to take over the Thinwall. Now the race is on, and a 4i-litre Ferrari is in front of the all-conquering Alfa-Romeos1 Alas, already Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari is out with a gasket gone.
The message box comes up on its wires to the Press box and rattles up and down to draw attention to itself, but no one heeds it. The ears, little coloured blobs against the cornfields in the background, are exceeding 170 m.p.h. downhill along the Gurrenne-Thillois straight and somehow contriving to slow for the crawlpace corner at the end of it. And still Ascari is 2 sec. ahead of Farina, lapping at—yes !–116 m.p.h. For nine laps the Alfa pit saw Ferrari lead them, then, amid intense excitement, Aacari pulled in for 14 see., troubled about his gearbox and his fading brakes. A lap later he climbed out, his race temporarily finished, one Ferrari wheeled away and sheeted over, eschewing the dead-car park, however, for the ‘privacy behind the vast Ferrari vans.
SO Farina led for Alfa, but Fagioli had left the road momentarily and Fangio was in dire trouble with his ignition system and lost 11 Minutes. Sanesi was delayed by the same trouble.
The veteran Fagioli was going well, passing Villoresi in last year’s ” Monza” Alfa-Romeo with the small extra cockpit fuel tank. but he stopped early for fuel and tyres, Fangio taking over. Meanwhile Fagioli waited for mechanics to fit a fresh magneto to the Fangio car, so that he could resume in that. All rather confusing but, rightly we think, a race of this sort is won by a car rather than an indiVidual driver.
Farina got his pit stop over before Gonzale.Q. Ferrari could pass him, and Villoresi was then third, Fangio in Fagioli’s Alfa-Romeo fourth, Reg. Parnell in Vandervell’s Ferrari fifth and in the Alfa pit consternation.
Fangio broke his 1950 lap-record by 5.94 m.p.h., and went into third place. Ferrari saw a big chance yet and, to boos from Argentinians, put ASeari into Gonzales’ car when it refuelled.
The excitement of this great race was unabated. Villoresi’a Ferrari caused anxiety by flinging oil and exploding smoke. Then drama, as Farina, leading Fangio but only I min. 368 see. ahead of Aseari, threw the off-sidefront tyre. tread and overshot its pit. by some 50 yards 1 Mechanics rushed wheel and big jack down to the car but calmly it was ordered back, and 8 min.. 15 sec. were lost, letting Aseari in the Gonzales Ferrari lead Fangio, Farina back to third position. Standing right out in the centre of the road where the cars came by at some 160.m.p.h. the Alfa pit controlinan displayed his board with ASCA, FANG, ‘FAR, VILL, PAR inscribed .vertically on it. Incidentally, the Alfa in which Fangio had started had the horizontal mud-shields, in place behind its front wheels but. these had been removed from the other Alfas just, before flag-fail.
Claes and Rosier walked in from wallsmacking and transmission-bursting episodes. reSpeetively, to clapping from the crowd, wIlich missed nothing. Then Aseari came in, taking 33 see. to have his brakes adjusted, so that Fangio established a minute lead—dramatic all right. Chiron’s Talbot refuelled but went on with the same Dunlops. So here was an Alfa in the lead, but with Farina’s car now falling victim of the magneto trouble which the heat and 9,000 r.p.m.. had produced, so that two
Ferraris sat behind Fangio, and Parnell’s was rapidly catching Farina’s sick Alfa. Moreover, Fangio’s Alfa had only the cockpit. extra tank and would need more fuel, whereas Ferrari, now second, third and fourth, for Reg. had passed Farina, would not. The pace had fallen a shade but the cars, seen as little dots as they rounded Thillois hairpin before, growing in size, they screamed past the animated pit area at the speed of a 1927 Land Speed Record car, were still a magnificent sight, especially when an Alfa was baulked by a Talbot and swung first right then left, to go by partly on the grass verge I
Now down this long straight another dot was spotted, sometimes stationary, sometimes crawling, as Sanesi pushed in his Alfa Romeo, chocking its back wheel with a stone as he rested awhile from this up-hill task. Iris magneto made no sparks at all. As he came nearer photographers crowded round and a gentleman in an immaculate lounge suit came in haste from the Alfa pit to prevent anyone touching, and so disqualifying, the car. And Sanesi got it over the line RS Faroux, in his tight knickerbocker trousers, flagged the Winner home, the French spectators cheering Consalvo more than they did Fangio I Fangio had won, for his fuel atop had occupied. Only 35 seconds, drink included and Aseari hadn’t passed. So ended a Magnificent race, ably organised by l’Atitomobile Club de
Champagne for the and the like of which we never see in England. The Fangio/Fagioli Alfa-Romeo had averaged 110.6 m.p.h. and beaten Villoresi’s Ferrari by 58.2 sec. No wonder the Argentinians present were calling for their hero.
Very soon the traction avant Citroens of the Corps Diplonudique, many of’ them with exceedingly elegant ladies aboard, were driving onto the circuit, joined by Earl and Countess Howe in their VI2 Lagonda (the Countess had a fine collection of hats on the back seat I). A veteran Renault (larger than another we had espied in Rheims) went by, followed later by a big Peugeot tourer of the immediate preor post-1914/18 period, with twin rear tyres and ca-sting its Oil smoke behind it. We sought our Peugeot amongst the press of Citroens, from Six to 4CV, Renaults, Dyna-Panhards, Fiats, and more Peugeots, glanced at LagOTalbots, Rosengarts and a Georges Irat, spotted a Norton motor-cycle and a modern sports Alvis and drove to the tier° club through a Rheims spending its Sunday evening at the open-air cafe tables. While we waited for two members of’ our party whose parents were on tour (they duly arrived in the Hillman Minx which Silver City Airways had flown over the Channel and which, after much mileage to Norway, Germany, etc., looked as if it had left Devonshire Rouse only yesterday) our pilot remarked that as the field was small for a Consul he would drink citronade but that we would be advised to take champagne. We did, and French beer as well, and England appeared in no time at all (1 hours, actually). It remained only to watch one of our party depart in his smart DB II Aston-Martin with its chromiumed wire wheels, climb into the Morris Oxford
and drive home, trying not to hoot., as the French do, at English Sunday motorists doing 20 m.p.h. in the middle of the road, and keeping a continual watch in the mirror for gendarmerie in big black WoLseleys.
The 1951 Grand Prix d’Europe was over. Alfa-Romeo had won again, in spite of the prophetic cover of the programme, which showed an unmistakable Talbot in the lead—but then it also depicted a B.R.M. in second or third place ! Ferraris, however, had harried the 159B Alfas throughout, EIS they had started to do at Monza last year and our own Parnell a splendid fourth. Chiron had the best of the Talbots. Now for Silverstone, we thought. . . .—W. B. Results :
1st, Famdo-Fagioll (151) Alla-ltomeo), 3 hr. 22 min. 11 see., 110.6 m.p.h.
2nd, Aseari-Gonzales (4.5 Ferrari), 3 hr. 23 ruin. 9.2 see.
3rd, Villoresi (4.5 Ferrari), three laps behind. 4th, Parnell (4.5 Ferrari), four laps behind, in 3 hr. 22 mm. 48.5 see.
501, Farina (159 Alta-Romeo), four laps behind, in 3 hrs. 23 min. 51.3 see.
6th, Chiron (4.5 Talbot), six laps behind. 7th, (41raud4labautous (4.5 Talbot).
8th, Citabourt (4.5 two-seater Talbot), eight laps behind.
Oth, Mairesse (4.5 Talbot), II laps bellintt loth, Sanesi (159 Alts-Romeo), 19 laps behind. 11th, Fagioli (159 Alia-Romeo), 22 laps behind. Fastest lap,: Fangio, lap 22-115.29 m.p.h. BOREHAM—-continued from page 880
gear change out. of Railway, was neatly repassed on the inside by the air-cooled car. Ron Willis’ 13.M.W. went well until it retired and Webb spun round in the Turner. The last race, starting some 100 minutes late, was a rather dull procession, ably led by Rolt in the E.R.A.Deluge at over 87 m.p.h. without any real opposition, Butterworth nevertheless going great guns behind in the A.J.B. which, the butter not melting, was second. Do what he would, 1)unliain just couldn’t poke his Alvis ahead of Iloworth’s sports Jaguar, but he did try. MOSURS
5011 C.,!. FORMULA III, JrIRAT 1 (5 LAPS): 1′. .1. i•ollins. (498m.c. J.B.S.), at 79.97 m.p.h.; 2nd •. B. Beelestone (499-e.e. Cooper); 3rd : It. M. Dryden (499-ex. .7.14.8.).
500 C.0. FORMULA III, Ilswr 2 (5 LAPS): 1st., A. Brown (500-c.e. Cooper) at 79.16 m.p.h.; 2nd, K. Watkins (497-ex. Bineryson); 3rd, B. W. Wise (497-e.e. Cooper).
500 0.13, Fottuci,A III, FINAL 05 LAPS): 1st, B. Brandon (500-e.e. Cooper), at 80.76 m.p.h. ; 2nd, A. Brown (500-ex. Cooper); 3rd, B. Ecelestone (499-c.e. Cooper).
SPORTS CARS SUicATull RAOR, 850 0.e. 8/e., 1,500 ex. U/S. (10 LAPS): 1st, 1. M. Hawthorn (1,496-e.e. Riley), at 78.26 m.p.h. ; 2nd, .7. Mayers (1,467-e.e. Lester-M.G.); 3rd, G. Ruddoek (ILR.G.).
SPORTS CARS SCRATCH ItAmt, 851 ex. TO 1,5(8) Sic. and 1,501 C.C. To 2,500 0.0. U/S. (to. la.rs): Mt, T. A. D. Crook (1,971-e.e. Frazer-Nash), at 77.66 m.p.h.; 2nd, A. Stokes (2,443-e.e. Itealey) ; 3rd, H. Kemp-Place 12,443-c.e. Healey).
SPORTS CARS SCRATCH RACE, OVER 1,501-c.e. S/e. AND 2.501-c.o. lila. 00 LAPS): 1st. T. A. 0. Crook (1,971-e,e. Frazer-Nash) at 82.99 m.p.h. ; 211d, F. Ruworth (3,442-e.e. Jaguar); 3rd, T. L.
Allard (3,0 1 7-e.e. ).
RACING CARS SCRAM( RACY., vi. TO 1,100-0.0. Sic. AND 2,000-c.c. U/S. (15 LAPS): 1st, R. Merrick (1,132-e,e. Cooper), at 85.03 m.p.h.; 20, K. McAlpine (1,767-ex. Connaught); 3rd, 0. Moore (1,980-e.e. Ii.W.M.).
RAMO CARS SCRATCH RAVE, 1,101 0.C. AND OVER, S/e., AND 2.001 ex. AND OVER WS. (15 LAPS): 1st, A. 1′. R. Bolt (1,4$6-e.e. Wage). at 87.34 m.p.h. ; 2nd, A. J, Butterworth (4,425-e.e. A .J.)3.); 3rd, F. lioworth (3,442-e.c..Jagnar).