Last April, in congratulating Leslie Johnson on his 181.88 miles in the hour at Montlhery with his XK 120 Jaguar, we gave The Sports-Car details of some other sports-car “Hour” hour runs. This led Mr. John G. Henry, of Toronto, to take us
to task in the correspondence columns last month, and quite rightly too, for omitting the 135.42 miles in the hour achieved at Montlhery in 1936 by the late Robert Benoist in a 3.3-litre Bugatti. This great achievement was accomplished in a road-equipped Type 575 with all-enveloping bodywork, during a 24-hour record run with Wimille, Veyron and Williams as co-drivers. The Bugatti took the 24-hour record at 123.93 m.p.h. Thus fifteen years ago Bugatti not only bettered Johnson’s Jaguar ” hour ” by 8.59 m.p.h., but exceeded
the 24-hour figure set up by Moss, Johnson and the Jaguar in 1950 by a matter of 16.47 m.p.h..
Peter Hampton pointed this out in Bugantic.s, official organ of the Bugatti Owners’ Club, last January. Some confusion arose, however, when one of the Sports Editors of an eminent motoring weekly, referring to Johnson’s 13183 m.p.h. “hour,” wrote : “The international class hour record in the appropriate class (8,001-5,000 c.c.) stands at 135.42 m.p.h., to the credit of Robert Benoist with a stripped 8.3-litre G.P. Bugatti, which is not so very much faster than the Jaguar’s speed with wings, lamps and full equipment “—italics ours.
In view of this we played for safety in compiling our table of “sports-car hours” and gave the fastest run to Johnson. However, although modestly refraining from further comparisons, the May issue of Bugantics confirms Hampton’s earlier statement that Benoist’s hour record was made with an unsupercharged sports and road-equipped Bugatti. Consequently, we have leasure in handing the fastest sports-oar hour back to the 57S Bugatti, a photograph of which we reproduce with the kind permission of Buganfics.
It seems likely that our contemporary was confused not only by the very high speed of the sports Bugatti, but perhaps by the fact that when, in 1937, Wimille won the 400,000 franc prize offered to the first driver to lap Montlhery’s road circuit at over 91 m.p.h., this outstanding performance was accomplished with a “stripped 3.8-litre G.P. Bugatti.” He set a lap record of 92.44 m.p.h. which still stands, and covered 162 miles of this difficult 12-mile course at an average of 91.13 m.p.h., only fractionally slower than the former lap-record by Brauchitseh’s Mercedes-Benz.
The Bugatti achievement of 1936 is little short of amazing, beating, as we have said, the Jaguar’s hour run (both were from a standing start) by over 81 miles.
No doubt the wonderful new Type ” C ” Jaguar could better the Bugatti figure, for whereas Wimille and Benoist, driving an identical Type 57S, won the 1987 Le Mans race at the then record average of 85.18 m.p.h. and Wimille and Veyron the 1939 Le Mans race at 86.80 m.p.h., again a record, in an all-enveloping Type 57C Bugatti (of which we reproduce a picture on page 895 with the co-operation of Ruganties) we know that on its very first appearance a Type C Jaguar, driven by Walker and Whitehead, won this year’s Le Mans race easily at 93.49 m.p.h.
This is a prodigious average for a 24-hour road race, inclusive of night driving and pit-stops, and while one hour round Montlithry isn’t the same as 24 hours’ racing at Le Mans, the immense performance of the new Jaguar would point to its being able to better the speed of the 15-year-old Bugatti’s hour run, which Johnson’s XK 120 was patently unable to do.
Incidentally, this little bit of clarification recalls what a truly great motor-car the Bugatti is. It is to be hoped that the Bugatti Owners’ Club, at present at low ebb, will pull through, and be able to go on issuing its delightful bi-monthly magazine, available to non-members, by the way, at 2s. fld. a copy. The Club’s move of materially reducing its subscription at a time of financial trouble deserves to be met with the same success as Morris’ drastic price-cuts during the 1919 slump, when other car manufacturers were raising their prices in large chunks—which move put Morris on the road culminating in the successful Nuffield enterprise of the present day.
[Photo by courtesy of Boa. THE TYPE 578 road-equipped Bugatti which covered 135.42 miles in the hour at Montlhiry in 1936, the greatest distance ever accomplished in this time by a sports car, in spite of the efforts of Jaguar, Bentley, Lagonda and others in the immediate pre-war and postwar period. This achievement still stands as an International Class D
record. Last month’s Le Mans report was in the nature of a stop press account of the world’s greatest sports car race by ” E.K.H.K.” It remains to pay warm tribute to the Jaguar Le Mans victory by the Peters—Walker and Whitehead
—and record lap by Stirling Moss. Rumour about a tubular chassis Version of the XK 120 started last year and by Christmas the first was completed. The Type C XK 120 retained the six-cylinder twin o.h.c. 8 to 1 compression engine, developed, during a process of ” hotting” that Jaguars have announced for any XK 120 engine, to give approximately 190 b.h.p. The new tubular chassis has an 8 ft. wheelbase, torsion bar non-independent rear suspension as well as the torsion bar i.f.s. and with new, very low streamlined body the car weighs 19 cwt. dry.
Without ballyhoo and shouts of” no racing until it’s absolutely right,” a team was prepared, almost in secret, and at Le Mans Jaguar put Britain right back as “wearers of the green,” in the proud place we occupied in those glorious Bentley days of 1927-30. It was magnificent, and every credit is due to William Lyons and the men at Jaguar Cars, Ltd., for the accomplishment. Especially as the cars were not “absolutely right,” for two retired with broken oil pipes after Moss had lapped at a staggering 105.2 m.p.h., this in the course of normal racing and not in breaking up the opposition as at first imagined. Mr. Lyons will now have to face strong temptation in respect of Formula I racing, for with the Type C Jaguar doing 160 m.p.lt. at 5,800 r.p.m. in sports form, it might well enter G.P. racing.
The DB II Aston-Martins put David Brown second only to William Lyons as a producer of the best sort of green highperformance motor cars ! They finished third, fifth, seventh, tenth and thirteenth in general classification, dominating the 3-litre class. Jowett ran a lightened, better streamlined prototype Jupiter R.1 with 8.5 to 1 compression ratio and 4.1 to 1 top gear, but it fell a victim of the old blown-gasket bogy and the other ” works ” Jupiter dropped a valve. It was left to the less well-prepared Jupiter (how they treat these journalists) driven by Marcell Becquart and Gordon Wilkins finishing 23rd, to win the 1i-litre class, after all Sims opposition had retired— but the average speed was only 70.99 m.p.h., 0.87 m.p.h. slower than that of the 850-cc. Dyna-Panhard. Frazer-Nash failed to keep up the high promise shown elsewhere, losing power and oil pressure, bat the new saloon Nash-Healey prototype, raced hard all the time by Rolt and Duncan Hamilton, was a most creditable sixth.
Only the 41-litre Talbots were worthy of the Continent amongst the faster sports cars—we shuddered to read somewhere that they were “developed from G.P. oars ” ! The Lancia Atuelis. and Porsche won high honour in their respective categories, the Lurani-I3raeco 2-litre saloon averaging 82.12 m.p.h. into 12th place. Grand, too, was the winning of the Biennial Cup by a Monopole with 610-c.c. Dyna-Panhard engine, in spite of half an hour spent in a ditch ! The American Cunningham challenge melted, but to try was a good effort.