Traditionally the French Grand Prix is the greatest of the Formula 1 races and when this event takes place on the splendid Reims-Gueux circuit few will argue. Consequently this year the Editor joined the photographer in journeying out in the latter’s Austin-Healey 100M to meet the Continental Correspondent who was reporting this and the accompanying pair of 12-hour sports-car races, A very satisfying long weekend this proved to be.
Air Charter laid on their usual excellent and super-rapid service in flying over on the Thursday morning, and as we progressed along N43 and N37, through the battlefield areas of 1914/18, it became evident that many English tourists were awheel, for GB plates were commonplace and the English picnic, with spirit stove close to the roadside were frequently encountered. Leaving Calais where the Bristol Freighter makes its convenient landing from Southend at Marck airfield of war-time memories, the first town we came to was St Omer, where RFC pilot of that other world war used to ferry aeroplanes from Brooklands and other bases at home— and very far inland it must have seemed to many of them in the SE5s and Bristol fighters of those times, especially in bad weather. After this the names of the towns continued to recall the “bow-and-arrows war—Bethune, Arras, Bapaume.
At Peronne we made a detour in order to drive round the Picardy circuit where in 1931 Raymond Mays won the Picardie GP des Voiturettes at 91.3 mph in a works ERA, and to look at the huge memorial erected in memory of Trintignant, brother of the Trintignant who drove the new Bugatti in the Grand Prix, and Guy Bouriat, both of whom crashed fatally in their Bugatti, at the same corner. the former during practice.
The circuit, on public roads of course, is quite unbelievable, until the British visitor has gone farther and seen the present Reims circuit ! The immense length of the straight and the many farm buildings abutting onto another leg of the circuit, calling either for faith or firmness in spectator marshaling, are a marvel to those of us who can never see roads, even on Salisbury Plain, being shut for motor-racing. The Trintignant/Bouriat memorial is in a reasonable state of preservation, standing impressively at the junction of N 37 and N 236. Two bullet-holes have penetrated Trintignant’s face and the commemoration plaque on that side has at some time broken away, and it is good to note how carefully it has been renewed.
Reims. a pleasant town dominated by its cathedral, was so full ol British cars that they seemed more numerous than those of the French. Before our hotel was a new Sunbeam Rapier and, on the corner of the square, Tony Vandervell’s Bentley rested on a deflated front tyre, as if in sympathy with Vanwall’s bad luck in practice. This part of France is not prolific with elderly, cars but of those which remain the jolly little 7.5 Citroens (and an occasional 11.4) predominate, so that with 2 -cvs everywhere and the DS19 now not uncommon, Citroen dominates the roads of France as Ford does at home. Really aged Peugeots and Renaults have virtually disappeared (although an old Renault lorry is a familiar sight in Calais), so that the vintagent’s main interest is how many Bugattis he will encounter. In the Grand Prix car parks we counted three Type 57s, and a road-equipped Type 37 driven by two enthusiasts was making its way to the course early on the Sunday morning. Before practice began on the Friday, we took the opportunity of driving out to Chateau-Thiery, scene of some of the earliest French speed hill-climbs, in the Continental Correspondent’s Porsche. Here 54 years ago, Gabriel, in his Sixty Mors, made ftd up a hill which it is still easy to find, the road climbing at an average gradient of about 1 in 11, to cross the railway (long since disused with its track removed) to a plateau overlooking this town on the banks of the Marne. Hurrying back to Reim before the road was closed, our minds were brought back to the present when the Porsche three up had to exceed 100-mph down the Reims straight, to pass an 850-cc flat-twin DB Panhard saloon which was holding a genuine 85 mph six-up !
Another diversion, while waiting for the racing, is to drive round the old Reims-Gueux circuit, a road circuit in the true sense of the term, where racing began in 1925 with victory for a Bignan, drivers of the calibre of Etancelin. Chiron. Dreyfus, Lehoux and Wimille, won what was then the Marne Grand Prix of subsequent years and Nuvolari, in his well-loved Alfa-Romeo, the first of the Reims French GPs in 1932, at 92.26 mph.
This fantastic Grand Circuit Routier de Competition du Reims, which entails closing the main Soissons-Chalons road, can be used for testing as well as for races and on July 1st it looked its best, with the great new grandstands and the Press box (which we illustrated last month) full of keen spectators, the vast (but dusty!) car parks packed with vehicles in neat rows, tribute to the efficiency of the police who control the arrivals with natural politeness (and megaphones after the dust clouds have concealed them from view).
Overhead fly Esso’s happy man and the Remington (razor) and Total (oil) balloons, while every so often a police helicopter takes to the sky. The scoreboard is a giant girder-structure mounted on a turntable so that it can be turned as required. BP advertising signs serve as a reminder that the famous oil firm is backing the Grand Prix, to the extent of £10,000 first prize and good money down to £400 for 7th place. At the free Press luncheons there is as much champagne as the journalist can carry …
To fill in time between the races various parades and demonstrations were staged, such as processions of Lambretta motor-scooters, Velam-Isetta “bubble-cars” (the Velam being the French version of the German BMW and Italian Iso), trailer caravans, Kodak’s photographic publicity van, the lot .. Most intriguing, of course, was demonstration lappery by the new Renault gas-turbine car, which has Dunlop wheels and inboard Dunlop disc-brakes, and is destined for record-attacks in America. It made nice noises and looked nice, but it didn’t go at all fast.
After its runs it was taken back to the showronms of the local Renault agent and put on show with a nicely turned-out veteran Renault, while not far away was another Renault which would palpitate the hearts of VCC members, but which is a familiar sight in Reims, so that the Editor was more intrigued by the vintage Talbot truck (what we would call a 12/40 Darracq) which he discovered inside the circuit.
Incidentally, a plaque on the back of the elaborate timekeepers building (where a team of spotters, lap-scorers, time-keepers and calculators keep the electrical timing apparatus functioning efficiently), remind us that this area played a big part in the military preparations for driving the Germans back towards the end of the war, and—nice gesture—just beneath is a bigger plaque which is a National tribute to Jean Pierre-Wimille, France’s greatest racing driver, who won the 1936 and 1937 Marne Grands Prix with Bugatti, and the 1948 French Grand Prix at this circuit in a 159 Alfa-Romeo at a speed id over 102 mph, after sharing with Sommer the Bugatti which won the 1936 French Grand Prix, also at Reims for sports cars. Wimille, of course, was killed in a Simca while prartising at Buenos Aires seven years ago.
After the racing, the “human-drama” aspect of which ranged from one of the Chancel brothers being carried from his pit unconcious after the DB Panhard he was driving had sprayed him with exhaust gas, to Peter Collins driving away victorious in his smart Ford Zephyr–excellent advertisement for British cars. The Austin Healey brought us easily back to Calais, its overdrive a boon on French roads. We made one short pause to photograph a now rare sight, in the form of a showman’s FWD lorry, its radiator, high up above the ground, proclaiming it to have been made by The Four Wheel Drive Auto Co, Clintonville, Wisconsin, USA. Behind and below the cab could be seen the big engine with its cylinders in two pairs of four and this pioneer FWD lorry, the like of which you would encounter today only in France, for it dates back to the days a the 1914/18 war, runs on exceedingly good 36 by 6 solid tyres, and tows a solid-tyred van with spoon brakes ! Long may it continue to serve. A similar sight was a USA lorry, residue also from the Kaiser War.*
So we left France, its climate like ours on this occasion, but gay banners in the towns proclaiming the fetes, music festivals, ball traps and the Tour de France. typical of July on the Continent. At the airport, we were fortunate, because a Bristol Freighter from Ostend was waiting for a fellow Austin-Healey that had been delayed, due to faulty fuel-pump contacts, and when this arrived the two British sports cars were loaded into the fuselage and we were borne away. The thought remains, that until you have seen a Continental Grand Prix you haven’t seen real motor-racing. So get busy now— there are still the German Grand Prix on August 5th, the Italian Grand Prix on September 2nd, and Modena on September 30th.
• Perhaps the Editor’s interest in old commercial vehicles is not entirelv misplaced. because the Editorial in The Veteran Car Club Gazette, Summer 1956 edition, commends them and emphasises that pre-1918 examples are welcomed in the VCC.
MCC Silverstone (June 30th)
The Motor Cycling Club’s unique car and motor-cycle event was once again held at Silverstone on June 30th. Cool, cloudy weather prevailed.
In the one-hour trial for cars the following were given first class awards : KS Crutch, PC Scriven (Austin-Healeys), G Wood (Jaguar), JH Huntridge (Austin), Miss P Burt (Aston Martin), DW Stewart (Standard), HG Cutlet (Healey Silverstone), and RP Stanbridge (AC Ace). In the first 5-lap handicap, Tomei and Reid, in MG TC and MGA respectively, started off together, later to be caught by Wilson-Spratt, who took the lead on the last lap. A good third behind DJT Randall in the ex-Piper MG J4-engined Mk VI-type Lotus was JB Naylor in the Maserati-engined Mk XI Lotus, who had started from scratch and had made up 17 places in the course of the race.
In the first 10-lap handicap, Lisle, in the lovely blue Amilcar sports, cruised round happily but was stopped by the black flag for a moment while the Clerk of the Course had a chat with him for baulking. APH Vincent and JM Uren in Ford Anglias put up a good show, but Bradley’s Bentley got into difficulties and had, to reside at the outside of Woodcote on lap seven, later having to be pushed into the paddock. Almost another casualty was I Walker’s Ford Prefect, which began producing smoke from the underneath shortly before the finish and by the final lap a positive smokescreen was emanating from the works as the car disappeared into the paddock.
Leading car from start to finish in the second 5-lap scratch race was Naylor’s Lotus-Maserati, which returned a speed of 75.61 mph. Stanbridge’s AC Ace was being chased by Marriot’s Lotus and Pat Burt in the DB2/4 was hard put to stave of Banks in the Lester-MG, Stanbridge took second place, Marriot third.
Almost up to the traditional production-car race standards, the second 5-lap handicap began with an unusual sporting car first round Becketts, the Singer 11/2-litre roadster of RM Barford, closely followed by Uren in the Anglia and Walker in the Prefect, both lifting inside rear wheels and performing other antics for which these cars are well known. Lisle’s Amilcar almost disappeared under the tail of Stewart’s Standard Vanguard and Le Clair’s Frazer-Nash lost a chain on the fourth lap, but limped round to collect it after the race just as a marshal had come to the conclusion that it would fit his Vincent admirably !
The second 10-lap handicap event was an unspectacular race won by Randell in the J4 MG, with Banks in the Lester MG second. Marriot was well in the lead until his engine started missing and he retired on the eighth lap. Naylor in the Lotus-Maserati was in second place by lap five, having started from scratch, but had to take the escape road at Becketts before returning slowly to the paddock with no brakes, the pads having fallen out of the rear disc brake mechanism.
Finally came the Motor Sport Trophy Handicap event. Barford’s Singer and Walker’s Prefect held the lead for the first four laps and then things happened quickly. Naylor’s Lotus steamed past the smaller fry on the last lap and came in first. Wilcocks’ TR2 second and Reid’s MGA third. Pat Bart’s DB2/4 blew up on the last lap. PJE Binn’s and JB Naylor are equal with six points each for this trophy at present ; the next meeting will be the Peterborough MC event on September 15th when the winner of this year’s trophy will be decided, –IG.
“The Ferodo Story”
A new film has been produced by Ferodo Limited showing the development of brake and clutch linings through the past half century. The film, in Eastman colour, was originally produced to assist overseas sales staff to present the company’s products. Herbert Frood, the founder of the firm, began experimenting with brake linings at the turn of the present century in the hilly Peak District of Derbyshire and the film traces the growth of the firm from these early beginnings to the production of the wide range of friction materials for use in industry and transport throughout the world today. 16 mm or 35 mm copies of the film are available on loan to clubs on application to the Public Relations Officer, Ferodo Limited, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Stockport.—IG.
There has been some recent activity in the held of record-breaking.
At Monza, a 747-cc Fiat-engined Abarth, driven by Maglioli, Poltronieri. Cattini and Thiele took International Class H records as follows : 3,000 km at 98.55 mph. 24 hours at 96.92 mph. 4,000 km at 97.16 mph.
Also at Monza, Taruffi broke the International Class E records for 100 miles (140.3 mph), 200 km (140.11 mph), and one hour (212 km 543 m), driving his twin-boom, Maserati-powered Tarf II and Lurani’s new Nibbio II with 350-cc Moto-Guzzi engine, set the International Class three-hour record to 81.52 mph.
Concours Competitors’ Association
The secretary of the Concours Competitors’ Association, 19 Seymour Street, London W1, would be glad to hear from anyone who is organising a convours d’elegance this year; the names and addresses of organisers of all such events would be of great assistance to members, all of whom are keenly interested in this type of competition.
The Jaguar Drivers Club was formed early in June with the object of promoting sporting and social events among Jaguar owners and enthusiasts. At an inaugural meeting held at the Milestone Hotel, Kensington on May 15th, Mr Raymond G Playford of Sudbury, Suffolk, was elected chairman, Mr Stuart Lightfoot of London was elected competition secretary, and FG Brown of 34 Onslow Gardens, South Kensington, London. SW7, secretary and Treasurer.
Hearing aid not needed
From a race report in a contemporary : “Roy Salvadori very tall, very brown, took cotton wool from a hold-all and stuffed it into his ears, then went into earnest consultation with John Cooper, whose 1,500 cc car he was driving. having won in it at Oporto the week before.”
Try whispering, John